Looking southwest across the park to the Boulevard des Invalides. June 21, 2007. Photo: JH
My relationship to Paris has never been quite like a Cole Porter song – “Paris when it drizzles, sizzles, loves lovers, etc.” I first visited only ten years ago and even though I was not unimpressed, neither was I impressed. It was as if: okay, so …?
That was ten years ago. I’ve been back more than a half dozen times since. I had to learn for myself that Paris grows on you. And grows and grows. It tugs, and nudges, then nuzzles, then … pow! So now the songs are about enchantment and fascination, about beauty and wonder.
In my travels there I’ve stayed in one of those tiny little hotels that Paris is famous for. I’ve stayed in the very grand Plaza Athenee that Paris is famous for; and I’ve stayed in one of those sprawling 19th century apartments that I didn’t know about until I was a guest. All of it was charming and all of it made me wish I could visit more often and even maybe … live there … for at least just a moment …?
Gonzaques Feltz of Paris 1930
Now I keep on my computer screen this lead photograph that JH took on our last visit (for the American Friends of Versailles week) of the buildings that run along the Rue Fabert, across the park from Les Invalides. It’s a beautiful day with huge rain clouds threatening. The apartment houses, eight and nine storeys are stately and elegant. The lawn of the park and the shrubs and the trees are green and elegant.
I often look at those buildings, which are clearly residential, and imagine what it must be like to live there, to look across the park, across the city, the river, to gaze at the City of Light.
I now know quite a few people for whom Paris has settled into their psyches – Americans who make it their second home, their home away from home. I’m always surprised by the mix, age-wise – young, not-so young, middle-aged and not so-middle aged.
Now it so happens quite coincidentally that we have an advertiser on the NYSD – PARIS 1930 is the ad. The firm is a Paris realtor, one Gonzaques Feltz – Zack to his friends and associates – who specializes in Art Deco style apartment buildings and houses. The last time he was in New York we went to lunch and I asked him about his business, and why Art Deco?
ARTIST STUDIO, RUE DU BELVEDERE IN BOULOGNE
Zack, who was born in Paris but brought up in Bordeaux, is a thirty-something fellow who after under-graduate and London School of Economics, started out professional life working in Equity Sales – in London, for Merrill Lynch.
It was there that he found himself intrigued by three different people who were crazy about the architecture of the 1930s. They emphasized the advantages of the quality of the work. It had a natural appeal to a man who liked the beautiful and the well done – be they shoes, clothing, or collecting.
AV HENRI MARTIN, 16TH ARRONDISSEMENT. ARCHITECT, MICHEL ROUX SPITZ
After a few years he found himself getting bored at M-L, and being an entrepreneurial personality, and a man of his time, he was drawn to the business of real estate. His research took him back to Paris, a city “with a great collection of hidden architectural treasures, gems of buildings.”
He discovered that the 1930s was, in his judgment, “the last period of that level of craftsmanship,” that Paris is famous for – the crossroads between the old – the Hausmann buildings of the 19th century, and the modern, most notably Art Deco.
The 1930s was a period of architectural innovation, of the use of concrete. Compared to the old, the Art Deco buildings, although made of the same materials, had better floor plans, with more light and fewer load-bearing walls, and were more spacious. The first apartment he chose for himself, unbeknownst to him at the time, was in an Art Deco building. He had chosen it for the light and space.
THE WALTER BUILDING BY THE BOIS DE BOULOGNE, PARIS 16TH ARRONDISSEMENT. ARCHITECT, JEAN WALTER
In his research of the business, Zack discovered that there were only two brokers in all of Paris who dealt in Art Deco residential buildings, and neither specialized. He also found when asking people which buildings they liked the most, that the response was often a 1930s building.
The entrepreneur saw opportunity, a niche that could be filled. His first inquiries came from Americans living in Qatar, looking for a place in the Art Deco style in Paris. These were wealthy clients and so a great opportunity for a first time out broker. He did his research, writing to the owners of all the important Art Deco residential buildings in Paris. After furnishing his clients with his findings, six months went by without a word from them. Then came the call, and soon after the purchase.
QUAI D ORSAY (BY THE SEINE RIVER), 7TH ARRONDISSEMENT (LEFT BANK). ARCHITECT, MICHEL ROUX SPITZ
ARTIST STUDIOS, AVENUE VICTOR HUGO, 16TH ARRONDISSEMENT
RUE DU CONSEILLER COLLIGNON, OECD AREA, 16TH ARRONDISSEMENT
ARTIST STUDIO, AVENUE FOCH, 16TH ARRONDISSEMENT
Americans, Zack points out, love the historical. Zack and Paris 1930 are well prepared for (and well respecting of) that. The interest has grown with Zack’s business. Last year, (although not a client) former US Treasury secretary Robert Rubin purchased one of the top five Art Deco properties in Paris, the magnificent Maison de Verre of architect and designer Pierre Chareau.
To this American ear, it was fascinating to hear this man, aesthetically, artistically impassioned by his business, speak of his product the way a collector embraces his collection, or a curator might discuss an exhibition or a designer might regard his lifework; or the way some of my American friends rhapsodize about their treasured getaways. Paris 1930.
ARTIST STUDIOS BY THE PARC MONTSOURIS, 14TH ARRONDISSEMENT (LEFT BANK). ARCHITECT, MICHEL ROUX SPITZ
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MALLET STEVENS TOWNHOUSE, RUE MALLET STEVENS, 16TH ARRONDISSEMENT