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Calm, Protective, and Rosy: 12 Ideas to Steal from a Paris Cafe By Gesa Hansen

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Calm, Protective, and Rosy: 12 Ideas to Steal from a Paris Cafe By Gesa Hansen

February 23, 2022

Since 2014, when we first met Gesa Hansen, we’ve been following her around, from her Young Designer in Paris Digs to her High-Style Rustic House for Her Family of Five. Gesa, who is Scandinavian and German and studied in Japan, runs her own interior design firm and furniture line, The Hansen Family, produced by her parents’ wood workshop in Germany. She recently updated us on her latest project: the newly opened Café Compagnon in Paris’s Sentier neighborhood in the 2ème, which she designed for her restaurateur husband, Charles Compagnon.

The morning-to-night cafe-bar-bistro came to be at a fragile time, and Charles’s request was that Gesa create a gathering space with a “light, calm, protective feeling.” She took that directive and ran with it, orchestrating a three-seating-area dining room that is both rigorously planned and filled with personal touches. “The idea was to create an homage to Charle’s late grandfather, sculptor Carlos Ferreira de la Torre,” Gesa tells us. And also to infuse it with a home away from home feeling: “in Paris, the apartments are often so small that your favorite restaurant becomes your living room where you also work, and where you have all your lunches and dinners. That’s why I put sockets everywhere.” Join us for a look at a dozen details worth noting—and borrowing when creating your own place to linger.

Photography by Nathalie Mohadjer, courtesy of Gesa Hansen.

1. Make an entrance.

cafe compagnon is located on a quiet street close to the palais royal and the l 9
Above: Cafe Compagnon is located on a quiet street close to the Palais Royal and the Louvre. Gesa applied rosy and ruddy shades throughout starting with the bistro chairs and the beckoning checkered entry curtain. For bistro chairs sources, see 10 Easy Pieces.
cafe compagnon paris gesa hansen design nathalie mohadjer photo 3
Above: The curtain at the entry adds “two important elements,” says Gesa, “warmth—both literal and visual—and a touch of theater.” Gesa is designing a furniture collection for Pierre Frey and used the company’s textiles throughout, including  the checked curtain and Pampelune, the chenille velvet, on the banquettes.

2. Animate your rooms with art…

café compagnon is charles&#8\2\17;s third paris restaurant—he a 11
Above: Café Compagnon is Charles’s third Paris restaurant—he also owns Le Richer and 52 Faubourg Saint Denis. Gesa celebrated his grandfather’s large metal sculptures by “turning them into two-dimensional wooden sculptures, like Corbusier did: I had to find an easy version that works on a wall.” Gesa sketched the designs and had their contractor fabricate them.

3. …and dynamic furniture, too.

&#8\2\20;i like using wood in ways that make it look softer, almost like a  12
Above: “I like using wood in ways that make it look softer, almost like a textile,” says Gesa. “It’s nice to touch.” Her twisted oak tables were made for the restaurant by The Hansen Family, which offers several of Gesa’s designs, from shelves to a Skagerak Bench, with rope-style supports.

4. Foxed mirrors = flattering.

you might think that weathered mirrors are hard to come by, especially in large 13
Above: You might think that weathered mirrors are hard to come by, especially in large panels. Not so, says Gesa: “you can order them with this old look in any mirror atelier. I always use them because they make everyone look good.”

5. Why stop at one?

the ceiling is filled with a constellation of lights (the etna design in copper 14
Above: The ceiling is filled with a constellation of lights (the Etna design in copper by Mawa). “They’re on two dimmers, so we can turn them on in a chaotic way, like stars.”

6. Frame your view.

enclosures add order and cohesion, which is why gesa, uses them everywhere: &am 15
Above: Enclosures add order and cohesion, which is why Gesa, uses them everywhere: “I love to frame walls from top to toe with wood, it makes them feel immediately more calm. I frame everything in wood, even the wall lights.” These oak details in the restaurant’s back room work well with the 1950s Henning Kjaernulf oak Razor chairs—Gesa bought them from HDC Antiquités at Paris’s Marché aux Puces de Saint Ouen.

7. Go a bit soft.

contrasting textured surfaces make the space more interesting and cozy: gesa pa 16
Above: Contrasting textured surfaces make the space more interesting and cozy: Gesa paired Pierre Frey’s Baltazar Ocre, a smooth gold velvet, with the aforementioned Pampelune chenille velvet: “I used the wrong side because it’s more rough.”  The linen wallpaper is Pierre Frey’s Assouan.

8. Make a statement with stone.

cafe compagnon, paris, gesa hansen design. nathalie mohadjer photo. 17
Above: “I prefer to use colored stones as colors instead of painting a wall, says Gesa explaining her choice of Rojo Alicante, “one of the cheaper marbles” on the wall with a view into the kitchen. Set off by white surfaces, the various reds co-exist harmoniously.

9. Crenelation isn’t just for castles.

inspired by brancusi sculptures, gesa topped the banquettes with zigzag edging: 18
Above: Inspired by Brancusi sculptures, Gesa topped the banquettes with zigzag edging:”I wanted to make them look like a brutalist sculptural centerpiece.”
gesa finished the bar in wooden demilunes: &#8\2\20;for bar fronts and kitc 19
Above: Gesa finished the bar in wooden demilunes: “for bar fronts and kitchen islands, I think it’s always nicer to have a texture than a flat surface. Here, I again chose a texture that makes the wood look soft.” As for water resistance, she says: “If it’s oiled, there’s no problem—my kitchen is in massive wood.”

Some of the wines on offer are from Charle’s own vineyard in Beaujolais. And to make sure his establishments serve memorably great coffee, Charles spends hours roasting organic beans in a roaster he installed in an old barn at their family home in Courances, south of Paris.

10. The everyday can be eye-opening.

the hallway to the bathrooms is lined in what gesa describes as &#8\2\20;ty 20
Above: The hallway to the bathrooms is lined in what Gesa describes as “typical facade bricks used on a lot of houses in the 15th”—they’re by Rairies in a color called Montlouis.” In addition to being affordable and contributing texture and color, they’re extremely durable, a plus, Gesa notes, for hallways where walls get often damaged.

11. Wine works in a small bathroom.

the bathrooms shift to dramatic glossy tiles in a claret red from fifth generat 21
Above: The bathrooms shift to dramatic glossy tiles in a claret red from fifth-generation workshop Céramiques du Beaujolais. The Bordeaux-colored sink is the surface-mounted Artis basin that Gesa designed for Villeroy & Boch. The Braided Laundry Basket is from Ferm Living.

12. Handmade details are welcoming.

we can all benefit from some softness these days. to lend the establishment the 22
Above: We can all benefit from some softness these days. To lend the establishment the requested protective feeling, Gesa hung linen curtains that she had her brodeuse friend Audrey Demarre embroider with “tiny icons of coffee making.”

Cafe Compagnon is at 22-26 rue Léopold Bellan in Paris’s 2nd arrondissement.

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