Continental Style

A wave of nostalgia has swept over me these past few weeks. I find my mind wandering back to a year ago when Sally and I spent several weeks in Paris and Bruges. While I did make daily Facebook posts while traveling, we have been so busy since then that I haven’t had/made time to write any blog posts about our trip. I thought it was time to change that. During our stay in Paris, we stayed at Hotel Josephine on Rue Blanche in the 9th Arrondissement. Modern/funky appointments, small comfortable rooms and a terrific breakfasts.

hotel josephine, 67 Rue Blanche, Paris

Main Lobby.


Breakfast room in the basement. Loved the exposed stone and the sweep of the wrought iron stair rail/balustrade. Such a tease…


Our room. Closet space consisted of a coat rod behind the small screen on the right side of the picture. (Pack light…)

Hotel Josephine room

Fortunately, it was a corner room on the 4th floor with a terrific street view.

hotel josephine, view of Rue Blanche

On our first morning we took a walking tour of the Marais District. Hi-lights included a visit to Eglise Saint Gervais and Place des Vosges as well as seeing some of the oldest structures in Paris, dating back to the early 1300’s. I love how the building exterior corbels out over the street and then angles back.

early 1300's Paris architecture

14th Century Paris architectural detail; photogrpaher John Kelsey

Eglise Saint Gervais was the first of several churches we visited during our stay. Completed in 1657, it’s exterior is considered to be the first example of Baroque style in Paris, while it’s interior is more Gothic in character. For you trivia freaks, in 1918 a German shell fell on the church killing 88 people, including the niece and favorite model of the painter John Singer Sargent.

Eglise Saint Gervais, source unknown

Eglise Saint Gervais, photographer John Kelsey

Our morning walking tour concluded in Place des Vosges. Built by Henry IV in the early 1600’s, it is considered to be the prototype of residential city squares found throughout Europe today. We went back and hung out there later in the week.

place des vosges; source unknown

Having been told by a friend of the small luxury hotel Pavillion de la Reine we decided to do little exploring. Tucked in a small courtyard, just off the square, it was amazing!!!

Pavillion de la Reine; photo by John Kelsey

Pavillion de la Reine lobby and Lounges; source unknown

We enjoyed the sculpture in the courtyard as much as the hotel’s interior.

Pavillion de la Reine coutyard; photographer john Kelsey

At the conclusion of the tour, our guide suggested we visit the Carnavalet Museum nearby saying, “You can see it all in an hour or two.” (Unless you’re an interior designer interested in studying classical French style as it turned out. We scheduled another extended visit later in the week.) The front door hinted as to the treasures that would follow. I’ll show only a few pictures, as the Museum deserves a post unto itself. It is a treasure trove of the architectural history of Paris.

Carnavalet front door; photogrpaher John Kelsey

The interior court yard.

carnavalet courtyard; photographer John kelsey

One of several interior stairs. Virtually all the components of the French Style foyer are in this photo. Curved wrought iron stair with a curb detail, big lantern, large window, wall sconce, etc. What you don’t see is the black and white check marble floor.

carnavalet interior stair; photographer John Kelsey

 This door and jamb was where I began to confirm my notions about the differences between French and English architectural styles of the same Periods. I was SO excited!!! French interior architecture is so sensuous! I also noticed much more color in the floor tile patterns. I was never able to figure out when the quintessential black and white marble floor we know today became the norm.

Carnavalet interior door jamb detail; photographer John Kelsey

Each day (mostly…) included a nap before dinner. This evening, we had made dinner reservations on a small river boat Calife. What could be better? A romantic dinner on the Seine with jazz playing in the background as we watched dusk and nightfall  steal in over the City of Lights.

Seine River at dusk; photographer John Kelsey

Calife river boat; photo by John Kelsey

Calife river boat cruise; photographer John Kelsey

Calife river boat cruise; photographer John Kelsey

Calife river boat cruise; photographer John Kelsey

Calife river boat cruise; photographer John Kelsey

Calife river boat cruise; photographer John Kelsey

Calife river boat cruise; photographer John Kelsey

Calife river boat cruise; photographer John Kelsey

Calife river boat cruise; photographer John Kelsey

The boat cruise was the perfect way to end our first day in Paris. We saw the skyline, got a sense of the lay of the land while having a wonderful dinner. In fact, if this is all you do, your trip will have been worthwhile!



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Looking for kitchen design inspiration today, I came across a photo of a glorious kitchen – my guess is Paris or similar environ. While not right for what I am currently working on, it was instant kitchen love. I normally don’t like Ghost Chairs. But here, my first thought was Perfect!!! Cabinets become modern sculpture in the space, acting as a foil for the exuberance of the crown molding. Most of the time blue walls leave me cold. If this room gets evening light, I’ll bet the paint absolutely glows and changes color, mimicking the changing evening/night sky. Spot on!!!

Beautiful European Kitchen, Source Unknown

 My regret is I was moving so fast I failed to note the image source or if there was a designer credit.

So if you see this and can help me credit the designer, let me know who it is.



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Our work pace has slowed sufficiently that I’ve taken a few hours each of the past two days to sort and organize images for an update to the Work in Progress section of our website. At one point the realization came to me, “So, this is why there’s been no time to blog these past 5 months!” The sorting and organizing should make it easier to write more blog posts as well.

I thought I’d start with a kitchen/bath and “Oh by the way, I’ve never liked the way the fireplace and closet doors by the fireplace looked.” project that is just ramping up in Charlestown. The kitchen and bathrooms are relatively simple, while the fireplace/closet door problem is more challenging. (And more fun…) Right now, the fireplace elevation looks like two doors in a wall with the fireplace in-between. Overall, the room lacks focus and has no organizing/interesting architectural detail to speak of. The client’s taste leans toward Late 1700’s French Neoclassical and English Georgian (with a little New England sea captain thrown in for good measure…). “Casual elegance” were the descriptive adjectives written in their programming form.

The obvious solution is to build a mantel surround that ties together and conceals the two doors, thus bringing coherence to the elevation and creating a focal point for the room.

With that in mind, I began to cast about for ideas and inspiration. One source I always turn to when paneling is involved is the work of my Belgian friend Greet Lefevre and Lefeve Interiors. What I’m seeing here is how the paneling frames and bridges over the mantel as well as the finish, which is saying casual elegance to me.

Lefevre Interiors, living room paneling details

Here, Greet steps the formality down even further.

Lefevre Interiors, mantel surround paneling

We can’t forget the Georgian, New England sea captain. What a contrast in styles!!! This is an example of the work of American architect Phillip Trammell Shutze.  I can see a connection is aspects of the paneling between this and the image above.

Swan House, Phillip Trammell Shutze

Winterthur never disappoints. Typical of many early colonial homes, one wall would receive paneling while the rest of the walls in the room would be plaster. Both this image and the Swan House image give clues as to proportion and detail when dealing with a lower ceiling height. (My favorite reference book on Winterthur is Winterthur Style Source Book, Traditional American Rooms, by Brent Hull and Christine Franck.)

accent paneled wall, Winterthur

While not necessarily using specific details from any of these images, I created the first of two “cartoons”. The doors by the existing stone fireplace are concealed as full height “wall panels”set within flat stock door jambs. the existing stone mantel is deep enough that I can pad the wall around and above it such that this paneling sit slightly in front of the plane of the door jambs. The full height doors and the long shadow lines created by the trimmed fireplace give vertical lift to the room and create a focal point for the room.

French Neoclassical fireplace surround A, Wilson Kelsey Design

Adjacent to the surround is the kitchen, which will be opened up so it is visually connected to the living/dining room. I have designed the living/dining side of the counter to feel/look like a kitchen island to which one can pull up chairs.

Cartoon 2 illustrates my premise that sometimes you need to draw an idea simply to prove to yourself that it isn’t as good an idea or is an inappropriate solution. The idea was to study the effect of further panelizing the doors and to see what would happen if the counter were to be de-emphasized. Too busy and too weak…

French influence fireplace surround B, Wilson Kelsey Design

The contractor LOVES cartoon 1. The client feels #1 is the best choice, too, but is concerned that it may be too formal. My feeling is with the proper trim profiles (simple and not fussy) and the right paint color (a warm griege with a glaze) the room will snap together fulfilling the goal of casual elegance.

What say you?


John Kelsey, Wilson Kelsey Design

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