In Paris, at the intersection of Rue Bonaparte and Rue Jacob is a well-known tea room and patisserie called Ladurée. Known worldwide for its macarons, their delightful pastries were featured in the 2006 historical drama Marie Antoinette and more recently in the TV show Gossip Girl. Before becoming a luxe bakery, the address also once housed famous French decorator Madelaine Castaing’s antique shop—a legend in its own right. But in master miniaturist Tom Roberts’ mind, 21 Rue Bonaparte will always be Voyage Autour de Ma Chambre, which in French means “Voyage Around My Room,” the title of this exceptional room box. Many of his pieces display addresses, which Tom says are real street names, but he chose not to explore if there were actual establishments at the locations admitting they are all pretend–that was the pleasure for him. Truly, the pleasure is all ours.
Tom is as devoted to French culture as I am to anything British. And he does it like no one else. His scenes depict kitchens, attics, shops, museums, offices, and living quarters—each room offering surprises at every turn. Most of the items Tom collected for himself and kept packed away. Voyage Autour de Ma Chambre, he says, came about because he had amassed a large and varied assortment of French furnishings. When I acquired this room box in 2012, Tom sent a handwritten letter with it explaining his muse, “I didn’t want to do a typical Louis-style room. In my mind, this setting is a grand showroom of beautiful real and pretend French furniture and accessories. I wanted the viewer to look from item to item, hence ‘voyage’ in the title.”
It is, indeed, a voyage when looking into this room box. Tom admits he would like to live in the space where he would be surrounded by works of some of his favorite artists: wall sconces by Bill Robertson, dragon ewers by Harry Smith, busts of Napoleon and Mozart by Le Chateau Interiors, and tables by Neil Bateson. A pair of hand painted silk chairs (one pictured left) was created by Maritza Moran, who, herself, was inspired by Tom’s work when she started out. In fact, she lists her all-time favorite piece as his Plaisir de Venise, a kitchen, restaurant, and chef’s quarters room box which also makes its home in the KSB Miniatures Collection.
Other artists’ work in Voyage Autour de Ma Chambre includes a chandelier by Scott Hughes, candlesticks by Tony Knott, urns by Suzanne Crowley, and leather bergère chairs by Don Martin (one pictured right). The children’s furniture in the front was created by Jack Cashmere. Tom had initially thought to put the half-scale pieces on a table, but then decided to display them prominently in the foreground because they were so perfect.
“Perfect” in Tom’s mind can mean many things. In his 70 years of making miniatures, he has a reputation for combining classical elegance with the likes of offbeat and fun. It always works with the same inviting ease he used in decorating his own 1880s San Francisco Victorian before he downsized—an eclectic mix of urns, statues, and architectural engravings combined with Asian art and modern paintings. Madame Castaing would have applauded his style. As the designer who once said, “Perfection is boring,” I believe she and Tom share the same sense of “perfect” that 21 Rue Bonaparte once depicted in real life and does today in miniature. Enjoy your voyage!