Caroline has been a dear friend and sensei for me in Paris, guiding me through French lessons, where to shop, eat, and hang. She grew up in the south of France but has settled for the past 15+ years in the 2nd arrondissement. Taking time to dive deeply into Caroline’s classic French style and sincere, unvarnished (+ unabashedly French) attitude was refreshing and inspiring. Shooting her amazing apartment was a bonus… as was hearing her pov on must-have classic items in a closet (I nearly broke a pencil with my energetic notetaking on that one). Enjoy!
Tell me about your apartment. Where is it located?
I love my neighborhood, Sentier, for many reasons. It’s in the central heart of Paris, located in the triangle between L’Opera, the Louvre, and Bourse de Paris (the stock exchange). It’s an ancient Jewish neighborhood of Paris. Settlers originally came to the city to sell textiles in the late 18th century. All of the apartments in my building were formerly atelier workshops. Since the ceilings were high, they could house giant rolls of fabric. The parquet wooden floor is original – over 300 years old!
In the 1990s, the neighborhood declined. Several buildings in the area were largely abandoned despite their location in the heart of the city.
We purchased the apartment 10 years ago. When we started the renovation, the floor was covered with linoleum. (the parquet floor was hiding underneath) The value of the apartment has doubled in 10 years. Now it is becoming impossible to buy property in Sentier and I’m so grateful to be here.
How do you maintain an all-white apartment with a young child? I was blown away the first time I came over. Many parents bid farewell to white furniture once kids enter the scene.
I like white because it’s a good canvas on which you can add anything. It’s easy, minimalist, and super bright. For some people, white makes them nervous… maybe it gives them a clinical, hospital feeling. Not me… I find it to be peaceful and soothing.
It’s funny you ask about the practicality of white because I’ve found white furniture and walls to be easy to clean and low maintenance. The sofa is leather, so all you need is a wet sponge with a bit of Savon Marseilles to clean it off and you are all set. I’ve had this sofa since my daughter was born 5 years ago and it’s in good shape… Contrary to popular belief, white is easy to maintain.
I am very into black & white photography, and it led to me this idea of using white with touches of black throughout the apartment. It might be a bit 90s, but to me it is classic and it looks good in a Parisian apartment.
Sofa: Roche Bobois. Table: Habitat.
Can you tell us about some of your favorite pieces?
Honestly the parquet floor is the most precious thing in my apartment! It is very rare to find a parquet floor in its original condition. To me, it is like a beautiful piece of ancient / antique furniture. I didn’t need much else in my apartment with this lovely floor.
I try to collect an eclectic mix of modern and ancient pieces. For instance, the armoire is German. I bought it at a flea market in Hamburg and painted it white myself. The table and chairs have a 70s vibe. The sofa is 2000-something. I like the idea of starting with a sofa and then layering everything else on. It’s important to create a space where people can feel relaxed. I also have a lot of friends who come and stay – and they sleep on my couch!
Tell us about your library. You are an avid reader, and I love the color coding there. (note: playing with color coding is a fun bread crumb to follow)
I’ve read every book in my bibliothèque, nothing is there for decoration. I have a lot of books and I hate storing or giving them away. I like to take a book that I read 10-15 years ago and re-read it. It’s like looking at a photo. It makes me revisit a previous stage of my life…re-trace my past. What we read defines who we are and what we care about, and I think you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their books. I had always dreamed of having a bibliothèque in my home that framed a doorway, which is why I set mine up this way.
And your art? If I’m not mistaken, it has a feminine, subversive twist.
Yes! Most of my art is from the artist Iris Demouy. Her work is naïve and at the same time a little bit naughty. It’s very French in style. I also have a very old original illustration from The New Yorker signed by the artist, and an ancient map of Paris which was not original but I liked it.
I just learned that is no real translation for the word “tantrum” in French. And from what I can see, French kids are generally calm, polite, and impeccably dressed. Why do French kids seem so well behaved in your opinion?
That’s a myth! A legend. The only difference I can see potentially with French parents is that they don’t feel a need to please their children, and they don’t have any interest in shielding them from frustration. With my own daughter I think: if she’s frustrated, good! I need her to learn frustration. The sooner she learns, the sooner she will learn how to deal with negative feelings constructively.
The French style of parenting is also super strict. I try not to justify decisions I make as a parent…you have to do it, period. There is little place for negotiation on everyday matters. We are taught that you can be super strict but loving & close at the same time – that they are not mutually exclusive.
How would you describe your (fashion) style?
Probably modern classic. I don’t think of myself as having “traditional” style, but rather I am minimal and simple. I’m drawn to classic colors: black, white, and gray. I love gray. Even my cat is gray.
What is classic to you?
For me, a classic can’t be identified by an age. I don’t want my clothes to have a 50s, 60s, or 70s etc vibe, I want them to be timeless. A trench coat is the quintessential classic for me. Also:
Black high-knee boots or black stilettos.
A camel coat.
Super well cut blue jeans.
A gray cashmere sweater with a v-neck.
A nice black blazer.
A cashmere cape over a dress or jeans with high boots (a few of her favorites shown below).
Even a pair of white low converse are very classic.
Within your closet, what are your favorite brands?
I love Chloé, A.P.C., J. Brand, B$ash, Maje, COS, and &OtherStories.
I haven’t stepped into a Zara in so long because it makes you feel like you want to buy everything. You buy a fortune and it’s all ruined after you wear it twice. You get lured in because think it’s inexpensive. But if you buy it and only wear it a couple of times and throw it away, it is expensive! It is better to buy less and invest. I also find it fun to buy designer items secondhand at depôt vente stores, or online at videdressing.com or Linda’s Stuff.
In your spare time, what are your favorite blogs (besides this one, of course) or podcasts:
I love the podcast La Poudré. It is focused around femininism and strong female figures. I also love to listen to Ester Perel’s “Where Should We Begin” which includes real recordings of couples therapy. VLAN is another interesting podcast I listen to frequently to learn about marketing and new technologies.
(and they were…. I got sucked into hours after she provided that tip)
Are you a minimalist? Check out Emily’s amazing style and equally insightful perspective here
Happy to report we also have insider tips on where to hang in Paris from Caroline? Check this out