Designer Gesa Hansen and restaurateur Charles Compagnon met eight years ago in one of his Paris establishments. At the time, she was a single mother living a very urban life with her baby daughter—see
A Scandi Furniture Designer’s Apartment on the Place de la République—and he was making a name for himself in the hospitality world (he currently owns three Paris restaurants, including Cafe Compagnon, the subject of 12 Ideas to Steal from a Gesa Hansen-Designed Cafe).
Gesa and Charles now live with their young family of five in an idyllic 19th century stone compound an hour south of Paris in Courances, a village with a moated château and famous garden near the forest of Fontainebleau—aka “the green lung of Paris.” Gesa and two creative friends, all former committed Parisians now living in the same rural vicinity, recently teamed up to produce
Coming Home to Nature, a just-published book celebrating “the French art of countryfication.” In our July 4th Required Reading post, we featured Gesa and Charles’s garden party from the book. Today, we’ve moving inside to offer a look at the restaurant-inspired rustic kitchen and its surroundings, designed, of course, by Gesa.
Photography by Stephanie Füssenich and Nathalie Mohadjer, unless noted, courtesy of Flammarion and
Gesa Hansen from Coming Home to Nature. Follow the book @countryfication.
Above: Morning in the courtyard. Gesa is a furniture and interior designer who comes from a long line of Scandinavian and German designers. She studied in Japan and at the Bauhaus University in Germany, and in her early years in Paris worked for Jean Nouvel Atelier; she now runs her own studio, Gesa Hansen, from Courances, and works with The Hansen Family, her parents’ furniture company. Photograph by Bellero. Above: Charles, Romy, and Finn prepare to make their homemade nutty granola (recipe on page 152 of Coming Home to Nature). The kitchen came with its grès cérame stoneware checked floor; all else is new. Above: “Since Charles is used to restaurant kitchens, he always wants open storage, so that he knows where everything is,” says Gesa, noting that the only tools left out in the open are the ones that get used and cleaned frequently: “If you cook as much as we do the grime doesn’t have time to settle.”
The all-stainless range is by Smeg and has an induction cooktop—Charles initially wanted gas, she notes, but induction is much more energy-efficient not to mention better for the environment, and the latest models are now so high-functioning that all of Charles’s restaurants use induction. The backsplash tiles are
zellige. Above: The cabinets are solid oak designed by Gesa in collaboration with cabinetmaker Emiliano Schmidt Fiori, who lives in nearby Barbizon and is married to stylist Charlotte Huguet, one of the co-authors of Coming Home to Nature–their hand-rebuilt family house starts the book.
The fridge is at the left end of the counter and the sink and dishwasher are opposite the stove.
Above: Dowels under the open shelves provide extra storage for key items, including enamelware mugs—Gesa designed and had these made for the nearby Polo Fédéral Courances, a club and school where she herself plays polo. The mugs hang from Japanese S-hooks sourced from Swiss “working goods” emporium Fabrikat. Photograph by Momo Mexico Studio. Above: Gesa and Emiliano made the room feel much more spacious by removing the dropped ceiling and painting it Farrow & Ball’s Strong White, Gesa’s go-to white, : see it in Architects’ 10 Favorite Warm White Paints. The window is original and the table, chair, and stool are straight from Gesa’s childhood home in the German countryside: “my father bought them; they came out of an old pub in Ireland.” Above: For pastry making, Gesa inserted a counter section of Rojo Alicante, which she likes for its warmth and the fact that it’s “one of the more affordable marbles”—see her extensive use of it in Café Compagnon. Above: The pub table gets paired with another table for piling with produce and treats: “a cake under a glass dome makes me feel at home,” says Gesa, adding that the family’s au pairs, who help with the children, are often baking. Above: Inspired by a wall storage rack she spotted in a Japanese kitchen, Gesa enlisted Emiliano to build something like it out of oak. The brass S hooks are from Fabrikat. Above: The adjacent dining/living room has its original built-in cabinet and is papered in Juicy Jute, a grasscloth from Philipp Jeffries that comes in 64 colors (this one is Arctic Blue). Above: The oak dining room and benches are a Gesa design from her Remix Collection made by The Hansen Family. The terracotta floor tiles are original. Note the daring indigo ceiling. Above: The foyer has its original stone floor and stucco walls—and a laid-back vibe that Gesa carries throughout. See the outdoor biergarten table put to good use in our Required Reading post. Above: At home, Charles grows all of the herbs and roasts the coffee beans for his Paris restaurants, Café Compagnon, Le 52, and Le Richer. His roastery is in a converted stone barn that Gesa outfitted with a matching counter and drawers. Photograph by Romain Ricard.
Tour the rest of the house in our earlier feature
Gesa Hansen’s Country Style: The Scandinavian-German Designer’s Family Quarters Outside of Paris.
More modern-country kitchen inspiration: