Aileen Bordman would like you to stop and smell the roses. And the azaleas and columbines, the dahlias, fuschias and geraniums, too. And of course the poppies, snapdragons, water lilies and zinnias. That’s what Claude Monet would have done.
Bordman, a resident of Verona since 2003, is building a second career around the lifestyle that the Impressionist painter cultivated in his home and garden in Giverny, France. But Bordman is no garden-variety Francophile. She has spent most of her adult life deeply immersed in the colors, flowers and objects that were so essential to Monet. Recently retired from a career on Wall Street, Bordman has just released a second book on Monet and has big plans for Monet’s Palate, a Verona-based business devoted to Monet’s appreciation of beauty, food, gardens and entertaining.
“It’s become what I am passionate about,” Bordman says of Monet’s Giverny. “I feel very blessed to have been so close for so many decades to the masterpiece that Monet created. I pinch myself.”
Close hardly begins to describe it. In the decades after Monet’s death in 1926, his beloved gardens northwest of Paris fell into decline. In the late 1970s, an American philanthropist began a campaign to revive Giverny and Bordman’s mother was tapped to be one of the leading American volunteers at the garden. When Helen Rappel Bordman sent her daughter a small sachet of lavender from Giverny, Aileen Bordman knew that her future would involve much more than being a financial advisor.
Her first Monet project was a documentary film, Monet’s Palate: A Gastronomic View from the Gardens of Giverny, that was narrated by Meryl Streep. Bordman followed that with the Monet’s Palate Cookbook, with recipes based on Monet’s two-acre kitchen garden. Now, she has released Everyday Monet, a gardening and lifestyle guide inspired by Giverny. Her goal is not to recreate Monet’s life, Bordman explains in the book. “Instead, we are going to pull beautiful threads from Monet’s style and weave them into your home.”
Bordman has kept her Everyday Monet tips simple and easy to replicate, even in suburban New Jersey. Monet painted many views of Dutch irises, but the irises that Bordman placed in a vase for a photo in the book were grown outside her Verona home. “You can even get orchids in a supermarket these days,” she notes, referring to another favorite Monet flower. There are tips in the book for using paint company apps to capture and replicate the wall, accent and garden colors that dominate Giverny. The book also devotes an entire chapter to creating an at-home water lily garden, albeit not on the scale of Giverny. “It doesn’t have to be something elaborate,” Bordman adds. “You can put it in your backyard or on a deck.”
The next step for Bordman will be to grow a Monet lifestyle business, which may not be as quixotic as it might first seem given that the brand’s icon has been dead more than 90 years. As a painter, Monet certainly still has his fans. In May, a water lily painting that had been part of the Rockefeller collection sold for a record $84.7 million; in June, a Monet painting of a Paris train station sold for $32.8 million.
Bordman won’t be selling paintings, but she will have the guidance of someone with substantial lifestyle company experience as she builds out her product lines: Charles Koppelman, the former chairman and CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. “He has taken me under his wing,” Bordman says, “and I am happy to say that we have signed a number of licenses, which will be revealed in the first quarter of 2019.”
There will be a book signing for “Everyday Monet” on Tuesday, July 17 at 7 p.m., at the Barnes & Noble at Broadway and 82nd Street in New York City. At the book signing, the French government will formally present Helen Bordman with its Chevalier Ordre des Arts et des Lettre award, in recognition of her work at Giverny.
Photos copyright Aileen Bordman. Used by permission.