In the summer of 1929, during a time of particular success on the part of Anaïs Nin’s banker husband, Hugh Guiler, the couple rented a lavish apartment at 47 boulevard Suchet, in a fashionable (and extremely expensive) part of Paris. Guiler would later say that this move was among their most foolish, but that may be due more to the Wall Street crash, which would occur only a few months later, prompting their move in 1930 to the less expensive Louveciennes, just outside of Paris.
Nin was inspired to make the Suchet apartment a work of art. In her Early Diary, Vol. 4, in July 1929, she says: We moved Wednesday, July 17. House not finished and full of workmen. Until Sunday I never sat down except for my meals, which we ate at a pension almost next door… First night—just the bed made. No hot water, or telephone, or gas, or light. I was worn out but cheerful and hungry, and I felt a great sense of power because the whole thing was done with order and a thousand obstacles were overcome… Physical exhaustion but mental elation at the feeling that I am using my force, fully at last, on tangible work… On this homemaking I am using imagination, sense of color, of form, of comfort, of beautiful living… I have learned to mix colors and create some which surprise the painters. I have designed furniture, have quickly caught on to the proportions, etc. I can figure out how much wood it takes to make a closet (and I never passed an arithmetic class!). The men who have to work for me are surprised that I understand all their trades, that I never change my mind, and always know exactly what I want.
Recently, a blog post by Yolanda De Leon commented on Nin’s sense of décor, and in it is an excerpt from Early Diary 4, which says: While sewing gold thread on a sapphire-blue pillow I thought about the spiritual value of Decoration. Through it, I realize, I have gained in assurance, audacity, authority… Besides all the keen, profound delight I get from an assembling of color, stuffs, wood, and stone, I feel the joy of a visibly beautiful work. The immense studio is already painted, turquoise blue with more Veronese green than usual so it will harmonize with the blue and gold fireplace. The large Hindu lamp is hung. While the sawing of wood, hammering, and painting are going on, I make pillows or I paint room designs on the paper I should be using for that famous Novel.
After reading this passage, it occurred to me that I had seen some of these very drawings Nin mentions, in a folder that was tucked away at her Silver Lake house in Los Angeles. Nin is often criticized, sometimes without substantiation, for embellishing events in her diary. However, this is one case where the evidence seems to bear out her claims. I have scanned a few of these drawings (sometimes collages interspersed with photos) along with pictures taken inside the apartment. One can plainly see Nin’s visions put into action in the décor of this elegant apartment occupied for only a year.
By August of 1930, the effects of the crash forced Nin and Guiler to Louveciennes, the future “laboratory of the soul.” Nin’s comments reflect her mixed feelings: Yesterday we signed the lease for our House in the Country! I came home, and as we sat talking about it, my eyes wandered off to the turquoise walls, so high and spacious, and I began to cry…intolerable pangs of regret for my beautiful, beautiful place. Yet the other house is lovely, in a different way…
For more information on the Suchet apartment, refer to Britt Arenander’s Anais Nin’s Lost World: Paris in Words and Pictures, 1924-1939, which includes a detailed description and an interactive map.
To see a sample or to purchase Anaïs Nin’s Lost World, click here.
To view a sample interactive map drawn from the book, which includes 47 blvd Suchet, click here.
Visit our Anaïs Nin e-bookstore here.