San Francisco designer Audrey Brandt is an artist and international traveler at heart. She began her professional career in residential interior design in Tokyo of all places and currently designs homes with an international range of styles and motifs, including recent projects in Australia, France and Japan. She details her travels and international design projects on her blog, Destination Design.
Audrey walks us though her family’s vacation home in Paris for our monthly designer house tour. This stunning duplex apartment borders the Seine on the Left Bank of Paris and boasts spectacular views of Notre Dame Cathedral, Ile de la Cité and Ile Saint Louis. Housed on the third and fourth floors of a beautiful 18th-century building, Audrey totally renovated, refurbished and decorated it to stunning results. The level of craftsmanship and the design work are superb.
Audrey says: We thought a home in Paris was a good investment for us as a family, and I love the idea of having something passed on to our children. My daughter has been going to the French international school since she was four and is fluent in French. She loves the international lifestyle, and we hope she’ll enjoy this home when she is grown.
When I walked into this major fixer-upper, I learned that one level was built in the 18th century, while the other came about in the 19th century. I saw such potential and couldn’t wait to see the results. In the meantime, floors had to be completely gutted, walls refinished, a major kitchen and bath update was required, and of course, an epic shopping assignment awaited me.
When working on these types of gut-job projects you need to have a reliable contractor you can trust, sub-contractors who value their craftsmanship and you can never assume they understand everything. It’s especially tough when they are in another country! In all of my projects – international or national – I’m always reaching out to make sure we’re all working toward the same goal.
On the first floor of the apartment is a spacious, well-proportioned room with a sitting and dining area. With its original fireplace, herringbone parquet floors (the first thing we tackled during the whole remodel), ten foot high ceilings and an exposed beam wall, this room speaks to the early foundation of the apartment. It’s more Marseilles than Versailles. We uncovered the fantastic beams during the renovation. Leaving them exposed creates such a warm and inviting effect. A white and beige color paired with the Louis XIV style furniture lends a sense of serenity and ensures the home is welcoming – not snooty. I love designing my own furniture as well as curating special treasures found around the world. The small side table is a piece I designed to match the Louis XIV style furniture I had procured.
I scoured Parisian antique dealers for glamorous accents such as an antique gilded mirror (circa 1850), crystal chandelier and restored antique doors. Three large windows draped in silk curtains look out to the Notre Dame across the River Seine. All of the art is by American artist Robert McCurdy.
The rest of the house is found on the second story. The master bedroom has two large windows offering a romantic view of Notre Dame Cathedral – you can see the cathedral from almost every room in the apartment. As much as I love scouring the world for one-of-a-kind delights, I’m happy to admit that I found the bed linens at Restoration Hardware.
The kitchen was the most dated and worn part of the remodel. If you’d have seen it pre-reno, you would have shuddered. Now, I love this kitchen! I imagine Julia Child tearing through traditional French recipes in here. This building is very old, so we had to completely renovate the space to accommodate modern living. It’s contemporary without distracting from the traditional feel of the rest of the house.
My daughter’s bedroom is my absolute favorite room in the entire house. The Provencal yellow walls mixed with the French lavender accents is tres charmont. I found two twin beds with antique headboards and footboards and the handmade white French quilts. Many homes in Europe don’t have built-in closets (rooms are taxed individually and a closet counts as a room), but we chose to add them during the renovation to ensure ample storage.
We love our home in the City of Lights. It’s warm, energizing and provides the perfect space for a culturally-infused holiday in our favorite city. When we are away from France, we rent it out. And I’m always tickled to hear the names of celebrities who love staying there as much as we do!