After dallying with the Marais, Connie Beaudoin and Peter Berley fell in love with a characterful Haussmann apartment in the 8th arrondissement
FRENCHENTRÉE MAGAZINE:What drew you to the 8th arrondissement?
CONNIE BEAUDOIN: When we visited Paris, we would often stay at Le Pavillon de la Reine on the place de Vosges in the 3rd. We loved this romantic refuge in the vibrancy of the Marais. We initially thought that this area would be a good fit for us. The Pavillon de la Reine is where we met with our realtor, Susie Hollands of VINGT Paris, who was most helpful and informative.
Based on our preferences, she took us to see many different apartments all around Paris. There were qualities of each arrondissement that we liked, each having its own unique feel. But when we walked into the apartment in the 8th, it felt like home. The apartment is on the first floor, or the ‘noble floor’ (étage noble), which provides uswith the dramatic high ceilings we love. And we are blessed with three original working fireplaces, which we use often.
We love to walk around Paris and the 8th is a great location for this. It is near the Champs-Elysées, the Arc de Triomphe, the place de la Concorde, the Grand Palais, and just around the corner from the President of France’s official residence, the Elysée Palace. This makes it a very secure area as well as being central for visiting the city’s museums, parks, hotels and restaurants.
FE:Why Paris? Did you consider moving to the suburbs?
CB: We did not consider the suburbs at all. We are in love with Paris. We love the soul and sound of the city. Paris has always been a dream of mine.
Peter’s love affair began when he was in college. His father lived in Paris for 14 years and Peter was a frequent visitor. He came to appreciate early in his life the delights of Paris and always had a desire to return. Peter’s brother, who is a journalist, was stationed in Paris for a time, and both of Peter’s nieces were born in Paris.
FE:Is this your first French property?
CB: Yes, this is our first French property.
FE: What was your main challenge when you bought the flat?
CB: We would say our main challenge (or opportunity) was time. Paris moves at Paris’s pace. Patience is key. The processes in France are different from what we are used to.Things move more slowly than in the States. Whether it is the closing for the purchase of an apartment, the opening of a bank account, getting the wifi working… It all requires steadfast patience.
It reminds us of the qualities that we love and admire about the French way of life. There is a fierce reverence for quality of life in France and if that means that things take more time, then so be it. Besides, we can all stand to be a little bit more patient and understanding with people.
FE: Did you renovate the flat? If so, how did you approach the renovations?
CB: A major renovation had already been done, but we did change out all the windows that face our main street to double-glazed glass. This was a major undertaking, that our designer, Alexandra Hoffman, also oversaw for us. This made the apartment much quieter and enjoyable along the street view.
FE: What previous experience, if any, did you have with renovations and remodelling interiors?
CB: Peter has been through many major renovations of homes previously owned in the US. It is a process he enjoys, even when things are difficult or complicated. He is good at creative solutions and that has served us well in this process. I have always had a love of design and a value for how an environment can both make one feel and can be a reflection of their inner self. We value re-purposing, natural beauty and we love taking care of things.
When we consciously care about something, whether that is a window that needs replacing or floors that need restoring, we reveal an innate beauty and goodness. It is the magic of love and care. In Buddhist teachings there is a wonderful word for this, Metta, which means loving-kindness.
FE: Who did the planning and design?
CB: It was a collaboration. We knew that we wanted to honour the original architecture of the building and the interior. There had already been a renovation to the apartment just recently, which was taken on by the former owner’s daughter, Alexandra Hoffman, who is a designer in Paris. She did a brilliant job of opening the space up and modernising it, without losing any of its gracious history. We worked with her while we were in Paris and also long distance when we were back in the States. She found all sorts of treasures for us, was a dream to work with and really helped to bring our vision to life.
Peter and I also did a lot ourselves. We loved going to the Marché aux Puces, the market in the 14th. We discovered an exquisite large antique alabaster Buddha there, which is a centrepiece in our apartment. We also picked up some of our lighting, tables and chairs there. Our friend and master concierge, Rik Gitlin, of Pariscopia, accompanied us many times and helped us to negotiate prices and arrange for storage and delivery of many of our purchases. He is amazing.
FE: What was your inspiration for the look and feel of the interiors?
CB: We are inspired by space and light. But the main inspiration is sacredness. This is a sacred space. Which is why the Buddha is the central part of the apartment. You see it as soon as you walk in the door. Immediately upon entering, you feel a serenity and a softness. That was important to us. There is a beautiful light that shines through the apartment. And the space that is offered through the high ceilings is accentuated by simple and carefully-chosen furnishings and natural tones that invite a quiet conversation, a deep meditation, a pause… Or even a nap. Which often happens in front of a roaring fire.
We layered with accents of candles, soft rugs and faux fur. We also filled the apartment with books from many, many trips to used bookstores around Paris. We both love to read and our books reflect our broad interests of history, spirituality, art, music, philosophy, poetry, dogs, wine and French culture.
We have also sprinkled the apartment with small treasures we have picked up from our travels through Bhutan, the Maldives, Italy and Morocco.
FE: What advice would you give to anyone thinking of buying a property in Paris and relocating?
CB: Do your research when working with a realtor. It can be a complicated process, but it does not need to be stressful. Find a great concierge who is skilled in all things Parisian and understands who you are and what your intentions are.
Be willing to stumble and make mistakes. It is how we grow and change. Stay open, interested, patient and tolerant. Allow the lessons that opening to a new culture, language and experience can teach you. Be grateful for the opportunity to immerse yourself in such a beautiful city filled with so much history and so many delights.
Connect with everyone you meet. You will be surprised at the gifts you find! We have become good friends with the person we bought the apartment from, his daughter (our designer), our concierge, our realtor and just
about every other person that we have met through this experience so far.
FE:Are there things you would do differently?
CB: We can’t think of anything that we would do differently – except maybe doing this a long time ago!
You can read more about Connie and Peter’s journey towards securing their dream Parisian pied-à-terre, their relationship with their estate agents and their ways of embracing the capital’s pace, and see more of their interior design choices at vingtparis.com