The curved reception desk had come from Aunt Sophie. It had been in the library at the Chateau for years, but Sophie had replaced it with a larger desk with file drawers. She loved the library and used it as her office but found that the little desk didn't serve her needs. She offered it to Renee with the suggestion that she would be happy to have it refinished in any way Renee would like.
Renee and Sophie had become very good friends. Sophie enjoyed having such a creative and imaginative "daughter" and Sophie's warm personality and supportive nature filled a need for Renee. She had never been very close to her own mother and since her parent's divorce several years ago, she saw little of either of them. Philippe's parents, on the other hand, she had grown quite fond of, even though they didn't see them as much as they would have liked. Now retired, Philippe's parents were living a quiet and comfortable life in their country home in Normandy. Philippe enjoyed Sophie also and was very pleased with the growing friendship between himself and his cousin Louis. Renee and Philippe were both only children so Louis had become like a favorite older brother for both of them.
Renee credited her interest in art and history to her grandmother, a lovely woman that Renee had begun to realize had many of the qualities that she admired in Sophie. Her grandmother had always encouraged Renee to see the beauty in life. "Make beauty a necessity, and that which is necessary, make beautiful", was a quotation she was fond of repeating. Her grandmother made Renee feel as if she could accomplish anything. It was she who encouraged her to take the job with the design firm in San Francisco, which in turn set in motion all of the wonderful events of these past few years since she met Philippe in Oakland's Jack London Square.
Since everything was ready for the next day's opening, Philippe suggested they all go to what had become their favorite restaurant and finish their remodeling recitation over dinner. The restaurant was filled with happy diners but a table of four was just taking their leave. In Renee's mind this was the quintessential small French restaurant in Provence. The decor was simple, lace curtains, tile floor, stuccoed walls, small tables, small chairs and soft lights. To her chagrin, she realized it was probably "owner decorated" and did not have the "designer touch." Even with that recognition, she hoped that others in town would need her help and seek out the services of La Cage Atelier. (She would have to do some explaining about the name. Why would anyone call a design studio La Cage?) The little bird cage in her workroom, and the bars in the front doors were an acknowledging nod to La Cage de I'Ile, that first cage structure that would change the course of Renee's career life.
Again it was a question from Suzanne that interrupted her train of thought. Was the furniture in the downstairs salon going to be for sale as well as the accessories and artwork displayed? "Possibly, but not the desk or the beautiful gilt console table and the picture above it." The pink marble and gilt console had been a gift from Philippe. Renee had expressed a desire to have something very special in the middle section of the three arched alcoves instead of shelves which they would keep in the other two. She had seen the elegant console in one of the furniture stores in Paris where they had spent a few days when Philippe had a meeting with his publisher. The next day while Renee was having lunch with a longtime friend from school days, Philippe went back to the store and arranged to have the console delivered to the studio.
The picture above the table was a gift from Sophie and Louis. It too had caught Renee's attention when she and Sophie were visiting antique shops. Later when Sophie saw the elegant gilt console she knew the picture with its ornate gold frame, would be a perfect compliment. Since Louis did not like to give his own work as a gift to friends, he was happy to be a part of this congratulatory gift.
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