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The Paris Café?

Café Parisien on Titanic by

The Café Parisien has always been widely considered to be a Parisian-style cafe, replicating the fashionable sidewalk coffee shops of Paris and all the Edwardian elegance that goes with that image.

What if i told you this is not technically why its called the Café Parisien?

If you've ever been to Paris, you'll know the sidewalk cafes do not look like Titanic's Cafe Parisien and never has.

The exterior of an actual Parisian cafe (1910). Rows of chairs facing the sidewalk for people to people-watch and enjoy the weather. Wooden cane chairs with small marble top tables.

Fernard Lungren - The café 1882

Robert Koehler - At the cafe 1887

An actual Parisian cafe is usually decorated in dark polished woods, tiled floor with wooden cane chairs and marble top tables. Often large windows allowing light to flood in with velvet sofas underneath and along the outside walls of the room. Outside, they usually have tables facing out onto the street, all lined up with chairs on one side of the tables so people can 'people watch'

Very different to the layout of the Cafe Parisien on Titanic.

The Cafe Parisian was a new addition to the Olympic class, first introduced on Titanic.

When Titanic lost her B deck promenade to make more spacious first class cabins, and second class lost one half of their B deck promenade to the newly extended first class À la Carte Restaurant. This left the other side of the restaurant unusable.

The designers could have left it as the second class promenade, but this would leave the promenade unsymmetrical.

The first class restaurant on Olympic was originally looked on to the second class promenade, First class passengers would complain about second class children peering in as they ate. The designers were reluctant to keep the space as second class.

Olympic 1911 2nd class B Deck promenade

Designers could have just extended the restaurant to the full width of the ship, but White Star didn't want the restaurant to compete with the main dining room, or to take away from its exclusivity in having more availability.

It was originally decided to keep it as a first class promenade with direct access for the restaurant to use it as an outdoor terrace.

This idea quickly developed into an outdoor cafe, to boost sales for the restaurant during the day.

Edwardian's loved the outdoors and were encouraged to be outside whenever possible, with strolling on promenades or a picnic in the park or tea in an English garden. The outdoor space was just as important as the interiors.

Of course the original design of the Olympic and Titanic had the two Verandah Cafes on the A Deck promenade deck, so the designers had already catered for this trend. But those cafes were weather dependent and included within the ticket price. The new cafe idea was an extra revenue opportunity as well as being operational in all weather.

Designers wanted to decorate the space to separate it from the ordinary promenades and give it a much more garden-like design. With the Titanic already built, not much could be altered in terms of structure and the space had to be decorated around existing, and possibly unwanted structures.

The designers came up with the idea of turning the space into an English garden with the use of trellising and plants. The style of trellising used was the Paris trellis of Versailles.

Paris trellis was very popular at the time in country gardens and conservatory cafes in both England and France. It consisted of creating classic architectural shapes with the trellising and encouraging plants to grow using the trellis. Archways were commonly created as well as urns and columns.

Usually painted a muted cream or a pale green, the trellis was stylised to created a structure or a man-made garden.

Paris trellis at Versailles

Example of Paris Trellising style

Paris Trellising style

The Titanic designers used Paris trellis to hide the bare steel walls using arches and circular motifs. They encouraged plants to grow up the trellis to further hide the steelwork.

The bay window of the restaurant adds to the style and was covered in Paris trellising, as well as the ceiling and beams.

Garden furniture of wicker were added to emphasise the garden-like feel and pastel colours of pinks and greens were used to upholster the cushions and table tops with a full length carpet running down the cafe to all mute echo.

Designers would refer to it as the 'Paris' room, just like they did with the 'Regency room' or the 'Queen Anne room'. This influenced its eventual name.

Titanic Cafe Parisien 1912

So, the reason it is called the 'Café Parisien' was because of the Paris trellis of its design and not because it replicated a cafe in Paris.

The cafe proved very popular on Titanic, especially with the younger and single travelers. Shortly after the loss of the Titanic, a Parisien cafe was installed on the Olympic and was very popular too. Later in her career, the room was turned into a cocktail bar with direct access from the Restaurant.

Olympic Cafe Parisien (Top) 1930 cocktail bar (Bottom) 1913 with green Paris trellising

Do you find this interesting? Let me know what you think.

Written and researched by Chris Walker from RMSTitanic.Design

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