When it came to investing in a weekend retreat across the Channel, Zivi Sainsbury and her hotelier husband Mark decided Paris would be the ideal spot. ‘We wanted to be in the area close to the Gare du Nord because in the UK we live near to theEurostar stop in Ashford,’ says Zivi.
‘I wanted somewhere with a fireplace and three bedrooms, in close proximity to the buzz of markets, shops and bars; and ideally, somewhere we’d just buy and move into. We had no intention of doing anything up.’
So of course, the minute she found the ideal place, an apartment spread over two floors in a 1700s building bordering the 3rd arrondissement (remarkably, with the requisite working fireplace), ‘The upstairs needed rejigging, which meant bringing builders in – and before we knew it, the whole thing was gutted.’
The sleeping quarters, which a family of five had previously squeezed into, needed repartitioning. ‘I had no idea where to start,’ says Zivi. So she called in architect Maria Speak from London architectural salvage specialists Retrouvius, with whom Mark worked on The Zetter Townhouse in Marylebone.
For Maria, the Parisian project was much more than just sorting carpet and colours. ‘Zivi is at that stage of her life, post-young children [her three daughters are 14, 12 and six], where she is starting to think about herself as a woman in her own right. To me, this Paris apartment felt like somewhere she could carve out a niche, express herself while also creating a weekend home to share with her family,’ says Maria.
Zivi wanted a colour palette that was ‘warm and enveloping’, so the pair scoured through Maria’s collection of antique and modern textiles to gauge a starting point. ‘I like working with antique textiles – crewel work, embroidery or beautiful prints – because they’re unique,’ says Maria.
From there, they built a palette of intense, interesting shades like saffron yellow and an earthy grey blue, which offset the original tomette floor tiles on the first floor and reclaimed parquet, shipped from the UK, that covers floors upstairs.
Hiring French architect Marie Christine Dorner on the ground was a necessity. ‘My French is terrible, so I needed an English-speaking project manager on-site,’ Zivi says. Marie Christine helped to find great local builders, appease the neighbours and source pieces like the fabulous vintage staircase (to replace the very steep one that came with the apartment).
Along with the space-saving staircase, lots of other clever tricks help the apartment to feel bigger than it is: a cupboard in the upstairs twin room is hidden by a set of lovely old shutters; the tiny but practical kitchen was planned so that everything had its place. ‘We have all the kit we could ever need to cook yet the space still feels generous,’ Zivi says.
A lovely old window works as a mirror in the living room, and upstairs, light flows from bedroom to bedroom via the single shared bathroom’s high-level glass windows, set into the partitioning. They sourced furniture such as sofas and armchairs from UK antiques dealer The French House, recovered in a mix of hand-dyed cotton velvet, antique Hungarian linen and modern wool, all perfectly in scale with the proportions of the apartment.
‘A small space like this can take on some interesting pieces of furniture without feeling overwhelmed,’ says Maria. In the kitchen, tongue-and-groove painted in a forest green – Zivi’s favourite colour – lends the space ‘a holiday feel.’ The splashback is made up of antique, hand-painted Portuguese tiles that Maria collected over many years. ‘Lots of little treasures I’m happy to share, if I know a person’s going to love and cherish them,’ she explains.
Upstairs, complementary colours blur where each room begins and ends – ‘helpful when everything is slightly on the wonk,’ laughs Maria. ‘The funny thing is, I think the apartment is very Parisian but some French friends came around recently and said it was so English. Honestly, we really did try,’ laughs Zivi.
‘So I guess it’s a little bit of England in France. It’s a place to switch off from the minute we arrive and we feel like we’ve been here forever. It’s just perfect.’
[Source:- The Telegraph]