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The Private Mansions Of Paris

The sun is gloriously shining in my windows, the geraniums that slept all winter in their bubble-wrapped cocoons are finally showing buds of red-headed flowers, workers are tapping away on the stone facade of the building opposite mine making a gentle, rhythmic sound and I’m happy to be home again.

In the 16th-century, when Le Marais was suburbia, “Hôtels Particuliers” such as the one that my own apartment is part of were grand homes constructed for one family, for the sole purpose of city life. As I drove through the Hamptons in Long Island last week, admiring the large estates on large lots, I was reminded of what the Hôtels Particuliers of Paris must have once looked like, before the land between them was filled with more modest “houses” designed to house many families.

Some characteristics of a Paris Hôtel Particulier remain consistent among all of them — normally open to the street by a large door leading to a carriageway which then leads onto a courtyard and often a garden. The enclosed spaces were designed for the life of the highest of society, often including private chapels. They were important elements to the medieval city…formerly the districts around Le Louvre and Les Halles were filled with them, but changes to the city forced them to almost entirely disappear. In today’s Paris, we think of them mainly in the faubourg Saint-Germain and Le Marais. Le Marais, because in the middle of the 16th-century was a vast field with flat ground and rectilinear new streets, affording the space and wherewithal to build these magnificent private homes.

The principal component of these residences which surfaces as common among them is symmetry…that famous plan between outdoor living space of courtyard and garden and indoor living space of grand salons, bedrooms and servants’ quarters. There were two particular architectural evolutions of note in the design of Hôtels Particuliers — the time of “simplicity” and “subtlety.”

Those constructed in Le Marais, during the time of simplicity, from the Renaissance to the reign of Louis XIII, possessed three simple and clear characteristics:

1. The main building surrounds a courtyard and garden, a certain distance from the street is required, but especially, the home is built on a centered axis, symmetrical.

2. The main building is simple in width…one room width which opens to the courtyard and garden.

3. The distribution is simple and juxtaposed — high with up to five levels, cellars, half underground, the first level slightly raised, a level of nobility and divided by gender…the gentleman on the ground level, the woman on the second level.

During the period of subtlety, under the reign of Louis III and during the Mazarin period, a series of improvements which, one complimenting the next, renews the art of living and affected the general distribution of interior space.

They can be classified into four groups:

1. The control of space to be both symmetrical and utilitarian.

2. The concept of a simple main building was abandoned for a more in-depth double main building, to enlarge the apartments for more convenience…a series of parts opening to side courtyards and gardens.

3. Changing roofs, where one roof can no longer cover these larger expanses. Progress in construction led to the gabled roof called a “comble à la mensart.”

4. Lastly, the “plan désaxé” (offset plan) was the most decisive change in the evolution of the Hôtel Particulier between 1630 and 1640 This eccentric plan consisted in creating not one, but two courtyards side by side — a grand courtyard and a lesser common one, preserving the main building behind one garden. Thus, the axis of the entrance and the principal frontage onto the main courtyard is more similar with that of the frontage onto the garden.

Some of the Hôtels Particulier in Le Marais of special note are: l’hôtel d’Angoulême (Lamoignon), l’hôtel des Archevêques de Sens, l’Arsenal, l’hôtel Aubert de Fontenay (Salé), l’hôtel d’Aubray (de Brinvilliers), l’hôtel d’Aumont, l’hôtel de Beauvais, l’auberge de l’aigle d’Or (de Berlize), l’hôtel Bouthillier de Chavigny, l’hôtel Hénault de Cantobre, l’hôtel Carnavalet, l’hôtel Coulanges, l’hôtel Fieubert, l’hôtel Génégaud, l’hôtel Libéral Bruand, Maison dite de MARIE TOUCHET, l’hôtel Marle, Maison d’Ourscamp, l’hôtel de Sens and l’hôtel de Soubise.

Today many Hôtels Particuliers can be found for sale in Paris and many apartments within what once was one family home, much like my own. In today’s Paris Property Picks, we offer you three of the many one can find today to get you dreaming about aristocratic life, even in the 21st-century. Note, that no prices are advertised…these properties are for special clients, indeed.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
[email protected]

P.S. Jocelyn Carnegie, our French Property Consultant, can help you find properties like these and even the smallest pied-à-terres that fits your specific needs. For more information, contact him at [email protected]


Each week Paris Property Picks features a range of properties which we believe are on the market at the time of writing. These properties are featured in order to give readers a sample of what is currently available and a working example of prices being asked in various districts of Paris. As we are not a real estate agency, these properties do not constitute a sales listing. For those readers seriously interested in finding property in Paris or France, you can retain our services to do the whole thing for you. For more information, visit /frenchproperty/insider/propertyconsultation.html
or contact Jocelyn Carnegie at [email protected]

Hôtel Particulier – Paris 3rd Le Marais

Remarkable hôtel particulier constructed by Libéral Bruant, architect of the Salpêtrière and Invalides, for his personal use, is classified as a Historical Monument. The habitable space is 885 m2 and is comprised of an elegant principal building surmounted by a carved pediment and niches with busts of Roman emperors and by a wing off the main courtyard of 53 m2 and a charming garden of 300 m2. The ground floor consists of reception rooms with beautiful woodwork. The first level has high ceilings, is open to the courtyard and private garden, and offers a terrace overlooking the courtyard. The second level is covered by a mansard roof. The cellar is beautifully arched. The home affords servants’ quarters and garages.

Hôtel Particulier – Paris 7th

Habitable space of 650 m2 with private entry and garden of 290 m2 at the foot of the Eiffel tower on the sunny side. Accessible directly from the street, the entry is a long sumptuous hall with a monumental staircase from the ground floor. Large reception rooms are lined by a garden with a large living room of double-height ceilings, an overhanging library in a rotunda on the first level. The first level also consists of a master bedroom, playroom, office, three bedrooms, three baths. In the basement, there are three rooms with three bathrooms, a den or movie room and laundry room. It is air-conditioned, has a private elevator, cabled for TV and Internet, has four servants’ quarters and two parking spaces nearby.

Hôtel particulier – Paris 5th

Within steps of the Panthéon, sheltered from view between the courtyard and garden, this private mansion of the 18th-century of approximately 500 m2 is registered with the l’Inventaire des Monuments Historiques, has a garden of 400 m2, a ground floor plus three levels, an elevator, splendid independent workshop on the garden with a sic-meter high ceiling. Six to seven rooms, seven baths and in exceptional condition.


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