The phone was ringing.
I hesitated, but put down my pen. Lifting the receiver, I said, “Hello?”
My caller introduced himself briefly, and then began speaking with a sense of excitement and urgency.
He said, “I want to build a French house, not an American interpretation of a French house…Do you know the difference?”
“Certainly!” I said, without a moment’s hesitation.
The gentleman calling described a life story with a magnificent vision, as if from many years of patient reflection.
Soaring in scale, authentic in classical details, he insisted on a home in the choicest of materials and craftsmanship. His vision flowed from his life story, that began in hardship but advanced through hard work to a life of very high successes. Those successes enabled many summer vacations to majestic France over a period of 25 years. Those summers gave birth to his love of France and its architecture, and to his acclaimed collection of fine post-impressionist art and French wines. The City of Paris, and the many hours he spent experiencing her cultural life, and walking her streets with his spouse, had forever defined his view of what it meant to live well in the world.
He now wanted to build a very personal work of architecture, one that would celebrate those trans-formative experiences and his life’s work, and he needed expert help.
Though born in the US and working around the world now, I spent my childhood and teenage years in Paris, as the son of young Protestant missionaries working there.
I wandered the City on my days off, and in the evenings whenever possible, exploring the timeless architecture, streets and boulevards of the famous City. Over time I came to know it extremely well; its monuments, history, language and art, including little known places like the belly of the Louvre Museum, where Egyptian mummies are still preserved in cool climate controlled vaults to this day.
The extraordinary phenomena of French art and architecture was beckoning all around me then, and is one of my continuing passions today, along with many other great architectural traditions and design approaches.
“I have the simplest of tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.” – Oscar Wilde
That day, as we shared our fond memories of France, our perspectives on life and our travels, and how I was ready to guide him on this quest, he calmly placed his trust in me. He asked that I help him conceive, design, and build his beautiful new dream home – a unique contribution to the world of fine architecture in its own right, as time would prove.
Today, untroubled calm reigns over his completed masterpiece, framed by a beautiful garden, reflecting a cultured man in its every gesture, detail and nuance, crafted by master artisans and craftsmen. His rare collection of Nabis paintings and Degas sculptures ornament the key rooms. His and his wife’s love of Paris, and their life’s remarkable journey is reflected in every room, every detail in some way.
Their home embodies a memorable life and story, connecting them to people and history with a depth of meaning that only works of fine art seem able to do. Their home is striking to behold and experience with them, an oasis of private beauty and calm in a hectic world, a special place to rest and be restored, to recall and recommit to their values and calling. Here, the architecture and art help them celebrate their life, faith, family, and their close friends and special guests, through carefree afternoons in the house and gardens, in a language of peaceful transcending beauty.