Monday, December 12, 2011

What Is Luxury? Part I

A weekly delivery of a Christian Tortu bouquet in a vase of his design (of course). Pure luxury, n'cest-ce pas?
Donnez moi votre definition du luxe s'il vous plaît.

Is it an accumulation of the most expensive things money can buy? Perhaps. Sometimes. Not always. Never? Or, does it have a completely new meaning these days.

Since the morale of almost everyone, on both sides of the Atlantic, seems to be at an all time low I thought it would be interesting, maybe even edifying, to pose that simple question:  "Please give me your definition of luxury." 

I asked 20 French women between the ages of 40 and 80 what the word -- the concept -- of luxury means to them.  My sole caveats were:

1.) Try to think of something you could actually have or experience (as opposed to a 28 carat pink diamond ring from Cartier for example).

2.)  Puh-leese do not get too ostentatiously philosophical.

Et merci par avance, of course.

You will see there was one obstinate exception to the rules of my game.

Here is Part I of what they told me:

How about "French Impressions" by one of my best friends? It's a luxury that keeps on giving. It's beautiful on a coffee table as an objet and it's filled with historical tidbits and decorating ideas.

Jacqueline:  "Something unexpected; something I hadn't even thought of desiring like a friend giving me a book she is certain I will love; a bouquet of flowers from my husband for no reason -- just because.
Edith:  "For me luxury corresponds to a certain concept of chic I have in my head.  I've worn Shalimar perfume for as long as I can remember and recently I discovered Guerlain makes Shalimar in a bath gel.  Now I use it every day. When I step out of the shower I'm enveloped, caressed by a cloud of my favorite fragrance.  It makes me happy for the rest of the day."

Caroline:  "A simple, delicious dinner with a good wine chez nous with close friends."

Sophie:  "Dinner in a little restaurant tete-a-tete with my husband.  It's romantic and I don't have to cook."

Christine:  "An aroma therapy massage; or one hour just for me when I can do anything I wish."

Christel:  "I know this is probably a fantasy, but it's my luxury:  I would like to live without anything; just the bare necessities of life, to be satisfied with very little and not constantly wish for more 'things'.  Someday I hope to arrive at that place."

Christine-Marie:  "Jogging for an hour, alone, by the sea."

Claudine:  "I am happiest sitting in my salon with the sun streaming in the windows thinking about how lucky I am to be living my life.  You call that cocooning don't you?  Yes, that's what I love."

Patricia:  "I just bought a huge bath towel made with bamboo fibers.  It's incredibly soft and more absorbent than any towel I have ever owned.  It is pure luxury."

Danielle:  "Dinner with George Clooney."  (Not to disillusion her or anything, but on the outside chance he's booked on the night she's free I suggested she give me a second choice.  She demurred.)

And my luxury?  Always knowing there is a bottle of chilled Champagne at the ready for unexpected  moments of chagrin, consolation or celebration.

Do tell: What is your definition of luxury?  No rules apply.


vicki archer said...

Time for myself... without pressure... where I can just be! Lovely post Tish and I linked to you today by the way.... xv

ParisGrrl said...

This year, for me, it's cashmere sweaters. They're a pain to hand-wash, but they're so soft and are just perfect for the changing temperatures here. I can justify them for the climate, but the fact is they're simply a pleasure to wear.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

A week at Glenapp Castle in Scotland.
An hour long pedicure.
Freshly starched linen sheets.
Sleeping by the sea with every window open.
Another week at Inverlochy Castle in Scotland.

coffeeaddict said...

Luxury is first and foremost a sensory experience. It isn't about things and definitely not about money. Luxury is experiencing pure joy and comfort and a sense of being in a moment that feels like eternity.

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

I like jacqueline's definition...something unexpected that I would not be able to do for myself...this coming weekend I have been blessed to receive a weekend in a 5 star hotel down town San Antonio on the Riverwalk...I got this because I was selected as one of the most fascinating over 50 people in the city...this surprise and the upcoming weekend to me is luxury!!

California Girl said...

At present, our home is without the deep soaking tub we had in our last home. I miss long hot baths. They were always something to look forward to; relaxing alone with a book, candles and scented water. It is luxury indeed.

helen tilston said...

Hello Tish - so many things come to mind and I have difficulty picking just one
1. An entire day painting outdoors at the beach or in Tuscany or Venice or Ireland or England or a place in the world to be discovered.
2. A hot stone massage

3 An evening a the opera - La Fenece

4. Looking forward to all my blogging friends coming to my dream party

5.Reading the writings of my favourite blog followers.

I could go on and on. A wonderful subject as usual, dear Tish


concretenprimroses said...

I agree with coffeeaddict and that emcompasses many things.
I would only add: setting my own schedule, all day, every day.

kathy peck said...

Arriving home last night, after a long and tiring trip to NYC - felt like pure luxury to shower and slip into my own bed.
And, I'm imagining feeling slim enough would feel very luxurious right now too.

déjà pseu said...

What a wonderful roundup! Luxuries I enjoy the most are a soft cashmere sweater on a chilly day, a spritz of favorite parfum (right now it's original Chanel no19) a cup of *really good* coffee, and especially TIME. Time to just read, write, daydream, noodle around in Pinterest.

Ms. M said...

I was just thinking of this last night as I was doing my laundry and folding my bath towels. I knew I could just throw a towel over the towel bar to use for my next shower, but I went ahead and folded it, because it feels more luxurious to reach for a nicely folded towel after my morning shower.

labergerebasque said...

Luxury is having what money cannot buy:
3. Sensory awareness
4. Delicious fromage de brebis from a lone herder in St Michel.
5 meal prepared with fresh "known how they are grown" ingredients.

andiamo! said...

To me luxury, like coffee addict, is sensory...the feel of silk and cashmere against your skin....the feel and taste of an amazing chocolate in your mouth, a cloud of exquisite scent that follows in your wake, a snowflake against your skin and the sun on your face. It is an extraordinary moment that heightens your joy of living!

Patty said...

indulging my senses with something more than the ordinary.

Patty said...

indulging my senses with something more than the ordinary.

Chicatanyage said...

A night at the opera, preferably at the Royal Opera House London and that is where were have been invited to this evening to see La Traviata. What luxury

Anonymous said...

Having the time to indulge in something that brings pleasure to my senses. It could be something as simple as a chocolate flavored cup of tea or more extravagant like a cashmere sweater.

Frugal Scholar said...

some strong coffee just when you need it

Anonymous said...

Christel could not have said it any better! I believe true luxury would be the wisdom and ascendance to simply be so full of soulful enlightenment that no earthly thing other than that which God has designed for us would be necessary.

Marlaina said...

A two hour foot massage, which is a ritual, part of my yearly medi-vacances to Asia. A steaming cafe au lait, heavy on the lait, watching the world go by - anywhere.

Claudia said...

Time. Pure luxury.

Tricia Rose said...

What a rich question! I didn't want to repeat any of the intriguing things already suggested so here is one of mine: when I get a commission to work somewhere I have always wanted to go, and add a couple of personal days if possible. I love the element of surprise, and the hotels are always better than I would have paid out for, being notoriously frugal!

Lorrie said...

"Le luxe n'est pas un plaisir mais le plaisir est un luxe."

I read the above somewhere not too long ago and love the concept of pleasure as luxury. Pleasure in the small things, like a candle on the breakfast table, or the bigger things, like a dinner out with my husband.

After all, if I have the most exquisitely appointed home, a designer wardrobe, and Veuve Clicquot every day, and it all becomes humdrum, taken for granted and lacking pleasure, is it really luxury?

maryb said...

Luxury in the material sense for me would be - freshly ironed crisp white sheets changed daily, a massage twice a week ( I have one every fortnight), the biggest tub of Creme de la Mer ( you might have a better suggestion here!) and a bottle of Cristal champagne. In the non material sense it would be simply being with my husband ( and son for a while) by the sea...... Even though we live 40 minutes from the sea he doesn't like the beach so what can I do!!
Mary from Brisbane AU

maryb said...

Luxury in the material sense for me would be - freshly ironed crisp white sheets changed daily, a massage twice a week ( I have one every fortnight), the biggest tub of Creme de la Mer ( you might have a better suggestion here!) and a bottle of Cristal champagne. In the non material sense it would be simply being with my husband ( and son for a while) by the sea...... Even though we live 40 minutes from the sea he doesn't like the beach so what can I do!!
Mary from Brisbane AU

MAZL said...

Living in the, at present, wet and windy, cold North of England the ultimate luxury would be some warm sunshine.

Eva Sorribas said...

Luxury is having time for yourself, take a plane to Paris and spent four days just for you!. Shopping at Dior, Chanel and Hermes, go to the Place Vendome and by Van Cleef and Arpels come out with something wonderful. Sleeping at the Plaza, eating sushi and a glass of Mumm. Walks for Saint Germain or the Marais, Saint Sulpice, Jardin du Luxenbourg,Montmartre ecc. Go to Louvre&Orsay.
This is luxury for me, Paris is a luxury for me!.
Eva from Rome.

Ginger said...

Luxury is a bootle of my favorite Frederic Malle perfume--right now, that's Dan Te Bras.

Debra said...

For me, it would be having all of those that I hold dear- completely fulfilled and happy. That, and a flute of wonderful champagne each evening with my husband.

Cathi said...

Having time to just relax.

Carolyn C. said...

I agree totally with many of the comments above... time, simple quiet time..

Francesca Muir said...

Luxury for me is time out - to read, walk Milo with my daughter, spend an afternoon with my camera.
Great post thank you - am planning my luxury time out now.
Francesca x

Anonymous said...

Luxury seems to involve immaculate cleaness, tidyiness and tastefulness (i.e. in a nice restaurant, shop or hotel).

Also, getting the details exactly right, nothing letting the side down.

And good quality and craftmenship in whatever it is (food, furniture, clothing etc).

Great question! Cheers,

Carol said...

The first sip of champagne at the end of a difficult week.

Sun dried crisp white bed linen sweetly scented with a gentle hint of lavender.

NYC, Style and a little Cannoli said...

tea at the plaza hotel in NYC is quite a luxury time well spent!! love your blog and looking forward to more posts!!

Elizabeth Eiffel said...

Apologies for this late comment - just catching up on posts I've missed while doing the Christmas thing!
Great post with an eclectic collection of responses. I would have to concur with all of them.
When I look at the elderly, I think that to have good health (mental & physical) and love in our twilight years would be pure luxury! Bisous

Susan Tiner said...

That one philosophical response made me laugh.

I am a simple one. For me, luxury = snuggle time.

Anonymous said...

1) Fresh flowers
2) Big vintage mirrors
3) Great linen
4) Linen spray
5) Beautiful flatware, glasses, pots and cook ware etc
6)Fresh ground coffee
7) Shopping at local farms etc...
8)Going to a bakery for your bread, cupcakes etc..
9)local honey
10)Anything by L'OCCITANE en Provence
11)Real plants
12)Sunny rooms and high ceilings
13)Original art by whomever.
14)Herbs you grow and cook with. Inside potted herbs.
15)High grade cotton
16)Pandora radio
17)Criterion films
19) screened/glassed in porch with electricity and fat sofas and chairs
20)Built ins for storage-customized.

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