Tag Archive - french

A Look Into The Past – An UNTOUCHED (1942) Paris Apartment

My brother sent me the most fascinating article last week about an apartment discovered in Paris that had not been touched in 70 years!  I studied the pictures taking in every detail, and I knew I had to share it with you!  You can find a few articles online about this amazing real estate find, but after a little research, I found there was quite a bit of incorrect information floating around.  Therefore, I got to googling, used lots of Google Translate to help me decipher the articles in French, spent a ridiculous amount of time on French genealogy sites, and have for you all of the information there is to know.  I believe this article to be the most comprehensive available in English, so enjoy!

The discovered apartment in France is near the Gipalle Red Light District (where Moulin Rouge is located), in the ninth arrondissement (this basically means “district” – Paris is divided into twenty districts, and you can tell which one you are in by the last number in the zip code – Paris goes from 75001 to 75020).  Marthe de Florian was the apartment’s owner in what is called The Gilded Age (1870′s to turn of the century), which was a time of great growth in the arts.  In fact, the great find of the apartment after it was opened was a beautiful original painting by the legendary artist, Giovanni Boldini.  The muse?  Marthe de Florian herself.

So who was she?  Well, many will tell you she was an actress, and she may have been, but the reason she had great wealth was because she was in a group referred to as demimondaines. (also sometimes called courtesans)  Demimondaines were basically elite prostitutes.  They didn’t live on the streets, but in fancy apartments and hotels.  Known for drinking, gambling, and excessive spending, they always had the highest of fashion and a long list of well-known and wealthy lovers.  (Side Note:  Have you ever seen the movie Gigi?  I believe Gigi was being trained by her aunt in the movie to be a demimondaine, like she was.  In the end, Gaston, of course, decides he would much rather have her as his wife than a mistress.  So he marries her, and they live happily ever after.  No wonder I never really understood this movie as a child, geez.  My husband would probably liken this to the fact that I used to think “geisha” meant “princess”.)

The painting was identified as being an original Boldini, known as the “Master of Swish” for his flowy style, and it collected a cool  2.1 million pounds (or $3,454,080 USD) at auction.  Because of love letters found in the apartment from Boldini to de Florian and a reference to the painting by Boldini’s widow in an old memoir, historians pieced together that the woman in the painting found in the apartment was indeed Marthe de Florian.

artist, Giovanni Boldini

Marthe de Florian was born on September 9, 1864 in Paris.  Actually, her real name is Mathilde Heloise Beaugiron.  (she probably took Marthe de Florian as a stage name)  A record from 1882 shows she was a seamstress (she would have been 18), but of course, that did not pan out.  She never married, and I cannot find a death record from anywhere, but she did have a son; rather, she had two.  Marthe de Florian had a son and named him Henri in 1882, and he died in 1883.  (so she would have been a seamstress at the time)  In 1884, her second son Henri was born.  He lived until 1966 and died in Paris, and many have thought he did not marry nor have children.  However, he may have fathered a child named Solange Beaugiron.  (read on for more details)  Something interesting about the second Henri is that the midwife recorded that his mother was Mathilde Vaugiron with no known occupation.  In 1889, an addendum was made that said Mathilde Beaugiron had recognized the boy as hers.  It is unknown why there was a discrepancy, it could have been a simple mistake or a cover-up for having a child out of wedlock.  And perhaps she went from seamstress to demimondaine because she had a boy to support??  The above Boldini painting was said to have been painted when Marthe de Florian was 24 years old, which would have been 1888/1889, when Henri was around four or five years old.

So how did this apartment stay locked up for seventy years?  Well, there is some mystery here, and I have not been able to decipher what exactly happened, but here’s what I know.  The apartment had been passed down to the granddaughter of Marthe de Florian (referred to in the press as Madame de Florian), and she lived there until 1942, when the Nazis invaded Paris (“The Fall of France”).  She never returned, but continued paying for the apartment until her death at the age of 90 (some articles say 91) in 2010.  The apartment was deeded to her estate, and when some evaluators were sent to check out the mysterious real estate, they found the space untouched, “smelling of old dust”, and full of exotic taxidermy (a sign of wealth at the time),  representing a life nary a fingerprint since World War II.  (notice the Mickey Mouse!)

You may be wondering, like me, why the name of the granddaughter that kept ownership of the apartment has been shrouded since her death in 2010?  Apparently, France has very stringent family privacy laws, and most everyone is keeping their lips sealed.  I did translate an article, however, that suspected Marthe de Florian’s granddaughter may have been a woman named Sonlange Beaugiron.  She was a young playwright, and at age seventeen (1938), and under the pseudonym “Solang Beldo”, wrote and submitted a play called “Miss Mary”.  She was later quite upset when she found her manuscript was copied and turned into another successful play called “Heat Breast”.  The case was eventually settled between her father (since she was not of age), and the theater company, and all was well.  (In the article, her father was stated to be a pharmacist – perhaps Henri Beaugiron???) 

Something I thought was interesting when looking through all of these articles that I did not see mentioned in any of the American news stories was that Marthe de Florian kept her lovers letters together by a colored ribbon system – a different color for every lover.  (a woman after my own heart – she likes pretty organization!) Her son and granddaughter kept them together just as she had left them all those years ago.  Wouldn’t you love to read them?

Looking at these pictures is like looking at a history book, you can almost see storylines in the dusty papers and peeling gilt.  A seamstress turned demimondaine supporting a son hidden away that she desperately loved…Amidst the string of wealthy politicians and businessmen and artists she entertained, Boldini was her one true love…She may have died of a broken heart, and her scented perfume still lingers in the apartment she lived her life so long ago.  Long ago in Gay Paris.  Of course, these themes are just my musings, but I would love to know more of the story, wouldn’t you?

This is the ninth district in Paris today. The apartment is suspected to be in one of these buildings.

Since the apartment belongs in the de Florian/Beaugiron estate, it still exists somewhere in Paris, securely sealed, left exactly as it was found when it was opened for the first time in nearly seventy years in 2010.  Of course, the Boldini painting has been sold at auction, but everything else remains there, untouched and “smelling of old dust”.  As of now, there are no plans to open it to the public.

Sources:

Geneology of Marthe de Florian

Mistress Mystery Q&A

1942 Time Capsule

Art Gallery Listing

An Apartment Discovery

Michelle Gable  (Michelle Gable has actually written a ficticious book called “The Paris Apartment” due out this year.

Collar City Brownstone – Article One, Article Two

Written by Grace

Gebhardt Guest Room/Office

**If you’re here for the first time, WELCOME!  I would love to know you, and if you would like to, please subscribe to “A Storied Style” by entering your email in Subscribe box in the sidebar.  Feel free to leave a comment and introduce yourself!**

You’re in for a treat today!  Aren’t room transformations THE BEST?!!

If you have been reading the blog for awhile, you have already seen two rooms come together in the Gebhardt home – the formal living and the casual living.  Since Sabrina is a beautiful photographer, she needed an office that would be colorful and happy and inspiring.  But because this room would do double duty for guests, it needed to be accommodating and inviting, too.   Of course, I was happy to help!  (repeat clients are my biggest compliment!)

Sabrina deemed this room “her hot mess”, and it was full of hodge podge furniture and…stuff.  (after moving two years ago, I still have a space – or two – like this, sigh)

Here are some before pics.

The room could use some love, but the dog is cute, right?

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Sabrina bought the desk super cheap off of CraigsList when they got into their new-to-them 1920′s home; mainly out of desperation for a workspace amidst the chaos of moving.  We pondered getting something different but ended up with a “is that the same desk?!” transformation.

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Because this was essentially Sabrina’s space when guests were not in town, I was given permission to “girl it up” if I felt so inclined.  Carefully listening to my clients is very important to me, so I made sure I fulfilled her requirements of “pretty”, “lots of color”, and “functional”.  Of course, I needed a jumping off point, some inspiration, and I knew immediately what it was.

Designers Guild, Orangerie Rose Fabric

Designers Guild, Orangerie Rose Fabric

Ah, the ever-spectacular Designers Guild “Orangerie Rose” pattern.  I have loved this watercolor-y floral fabric for years.  It runs about $150 USD a yard so it was merely a dream.  Until…I snatched up four yards on Ebay for around $200.  I was so excited!  I saved it for just the right client, and I knew when I saw the room, and pondered Sabrina’s color story for the space, that she would love it.  Therefore, with this fabric in mind, I designed the room, and presented Sabrina with this design board.

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We started from scratch with this room except for the french provincial side tables, a brass swing arm floor lamp, a mission style bench, and an old Ethan Allen wing chair.  Sabrina did a lot of the legwork on this room herself, taking the board and running with it, but I really enjoyed working out all of the details with her and styling the room.  So without further adieu,

Welcome to the Gebhardt Guest Room/Office.

I have to tell you, this is one of my favorite viewpoints of the space.   You get a little sneak peak from the hallway, and I think one just feels drawn into the room.

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The gorgeous campaign dresser is a Scout Design Studio find, and we painted it in Rustoleum’s Safety Red, a high gloss orangey-red hue.

AStoriedStyle.comIt turned out pretty killer.  One of Sabrina’s main storage requests was somewhere to put all of her kraft paper boxes she uses for presentation of her client’s photos.  This long but narrow depth dresser fit the bill perfectly.  Brass hardware like this slays me.

AStoriedStyle.comWe styled it with books, sentimental wine corks, and some pretty water and glasses for guests to feel right at home.

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Besides the fabric, my favorite feature of the room is this interchangeable art/photography wall.  Using vintage frames Sabrina already owned, plus a few purchased from a local salvage store, we fashioned this interesting collection by nailing large metal binder clips into the center of each frame.  It will be so easy to alter the photos and artwork as desired.

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The vintage bamboo pair of chairs are one of Kristen’s Gypsy Soul Interiors finds, and we had the seats upholstered in the Orangerie fabric.  They. are. stunning.  The green and white flocked trellis pillow is from Etsy.

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Sabrina says this is her favorite photo of the space, and I love it, too.

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The vintage round ottoman was a CraigsList purchase.

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Since the bed was in front of the pretty windows, I didn’t want to cover too much sunshine.  Therefore, I searched for an iron bed until I found this one (from Pottery Barn) at an estate sale for $150.  We sprayed it in Rustoleum’s John Deere Green.  (I’m loving that little cutie’s pjs in this photo!)

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This little princess likes the bed, too.  How precious is her little dolly sleeping next to her?!

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The bench at the end of the bed looked like this before.

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Using some not-being-used-by-me-anymore World Market gray velvet curtains I had edged in white linen, we had it reupholstered and tufted.  How very Maria VonTrapp, ha!

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The beautiful Orangerie fabric was used for long pillows for the bed and a bolster for the bench.  Yellow silk fabric was used for piping.

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Are you loving the rug as much as I am?!  There is nothing like an old rug to bring a wonderful sense of age and character to a space.  Found on Ebay from this seller whom I have used many a time – I highly recommend him!  (I can hardly look at his rugs without wanting at least twelve!)

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We used one of Sabrina’s french end tables she already had on one side of the bed, and placed this grasscloth one (another Gypsy Soul Interiors find) on the other side.

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The lampshades were edged in pretty trim.

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Sabrina had previously purchased this curvy shaped Ethan Allen chair for a great price off of CraigsList, and we had it reupholstered in this crisscross gray fabric (“Hector” from Cutting Corners).  The pillow is another Etsy find.  The curtains are linen from Ikea, edged in a yellow Greek key trim.

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For printer and office supply storage, this bamboo shelving unit was purchased off of CraigsList.  I love to make useful items display nicely.

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The desk turned out so great!  We painted it in Benjamin Moore’s Wedgewood Gray reduced 50% and added the dainty brass knobs.

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The corkboard was purchased at Home Goods, and Sabrina painted the frame gold, and added the chevron fabric (Premier Prints) and red trim.

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Light, bright, and beautiful, just what Sabrina wanted!  She sent me these thoughts about her new room, and it made me so happy!

Oh Grace. I cannot even describe how perfect my office space is. It is my new favorite room in the house. And I am so glad that it is because I spend so much time in there! Even my daughter says, “Mommy, I love your new work room”.

Before we started, this space was a complete hot mess. It was the office. The guest room. The unorganized catch-all. It was ugly, stressful and the most unproductive and unwelcoming room in our home. I spend 3-5 hours a day in my office and I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I wanted to love the space. I wanted guests to love the space. I wanted to get organized. I wanted to feel good about walking into the office and not an overwhelming sense of dread.

When we started the project, I told you that I wanted color and inspiration but that it also needed to have a calming effect so that our guests would feel comfortable too. I basically gave you free reign on a lot of things and your ideas blew me away again. This room is so perfectly me in every way. I love every single thing about the space. The color. The patterns. The texture. The organization. The coziness. The drama. All of it. And most of all I love that you were able to wrap it all up into one perfect space.

Again, thank you so much for your vision and patience and creating such a wonderful space for our family to enjoy.

It is truly my pleasure to create spaces that are loved and lived in.  A big thank you to Sabrina and family!!

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What is your favorite feature of this room?

If I can pull it together this weekend, I should have some of the “troubled spaces” up next week!

**many many thanks to Sabrina of Sabrina Gebhardt Photography (head over to her site and check out the GORGEOUS family and child photos on her blog) for the lovely images in this post**

Written by Grace

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