Categories
Architects Architecture Design People Town Houses

Nancy Mitford + 7 Rue Monsieur Paris

Love in a Temperate Climate

She adored Derek Hill (the painter) and couldn’t stand Le Corbusier (the architect). She wrote the biographies of Madame de Pompadour, Voltaire and Louis XIV. She was the cousin of Clementine Lady Beit, last doyenne of Ireland’s great house Russborough. Her nephew Desmond Guinness co founded the Irish Georgian Society. She had a pet chicken and cat. She wrote bestselling novels Highland Fling, Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love among others. And she loved Paris. Enter Nancy Mitford, our favourite female English novelist.

She lived in the 7th Arrondisement on the Left Bank. “A very charming flat between the courtyard and the garden,” was how she described her French home. “The days go by and I have no desire to move from my house and garden.” Her sister Diana Mosley said, “As soon as possible, in 1945, she got a flat in Paris, where she lived for 20 happy years.” She never lived in England again. Nancy wrote to her mother, “I am so completely happy here… I feel a totally different person as if I had come out of a coalmine into daylight… Oh my passion for the French!”

It was a charmed existence. “The houses she visited ‘glittered like miniature Wallace Collections’ and the women were generally ‘glittering with jewels’,” records Harold Action in his 1975 biography of Nancy Mitford. He offers tantalising glimpses into her Parisian life: “Highly diverted by the difference of French and English social conventions, full of admiration for General de Gaulle, enchanted by the details and incidental episodes of the Parisian scene, she became ardently Francophile, yet she remained English to the core.”

“For the next 20 years, the happiest of her life, Nancy settled in Paris. Even before settling there she had put these words into the mouth of her hero Fabrice: ‘One’s emotions are intensified in Paris – one can be more happy and also more unhappy here than in any other place. But it is always a positive source of joy to live here, and there is nobody so miserable as a Parisian in exile from his town. The rest of the world seems unbearably cold and bleak to us, hardly worth living in…”

“Always a strenuous walker, Nancy was able to familiarise herself with the intimate old Paris behind the boulevards and the Hôtel de Ville, the quays and narrower streets with high roofed buildings, with the venerable Place des Vosges and the classical mansions on the left bank of the Seine so long inhabited by French nobility whose names had inspired Balzac and Proust. Balzac’s Madame de Sauve might even have suggested Nancy’s Sauveterre. The British Embassy was full of her friends. Our Ambassador Duff Cooper and the glamorous Lady Diana made it sparkle as never before with poets, painters and musicians.”

“Before the end of 1947 she had the good fortune to discover an ideal apartment, the ground floor of an old mansion between courtyard and garden in the Rue Monsieur, which she referred to henceforth as ‘Mr Street’. ‘I’ve got a perfectly blissful and more or less permanent flat,’ she informed in December 1947, ‘Untouched I should think for 60 years. I spent my first evening removing the 25 lace mats with objects on them mostly from Far Japan (dainty). The furniture is qualité de musée – such wonderful pieces, now you can see them.” Her character Cedric sounds positively autobiographic in Love in a Cold Climate: “In Paris I have an apartment of all beauty. One’s idea of heaven.”

Little wonder Nancy was a Francophile and honorary Parisian. Aren’t we all? Rue Monsieur is the Lad Lane of Paris. A tranquil oasis surrounded by all the action. Where Rue Monsieur tips the louche sounding Rue de Babylone to the north of Nancy’s pied-à-terre is the intriguing looking La Pagode. Under wraps for now, this oriental building was built as a community hall in 1896 to the design of architect Alexander Marcel before improbably becoming a cinema in the 1930s. Presumably our favourite female English novelist caught the odd matinée at La Pagode.

Categories
Architecture Luxury People

Elisabeth Visoanska + Place des Vosges Paris

Fortune Favours the Few

Place des Vosges Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

She may have one of the hottest addresses in Paris (Place des Vosges is of course Henri IV’s early 17th century grande projet of arcaded shops with residences above fronted by four palatial façades set around a garden square in the style of an Italian Piazza) but Elisabeth Visoanska, the glamorous Founder and President of the eponymous haute cosmétique company, loves to travel. In a revelatory exclusive, Elisabeth shares, “Travelling provides the opportunity to witness natural marvels and wonders, expanding our understanding and appreciate of this world.”

Elisabeth Visoanska Paris © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Elisabeth Visoanska London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley