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Revisiting Chris Burch’s Hotel Particulier in Senlis with New Details

by habituallychic

06 . 01 . 21

I apologize for the lack of blog posts since last week. Hopefully, this one will make up for it. I spent the cold and rainy long holiday weekend falling down rabbit holes after searching for more information on a certain hotel particulier in Paris. More on that later. But while I was searching, I came across an old article in The New York Times, Near Paris, a Mansion Marked by History, from August 2013. It mentioned a hotel particulier that was for sale in Senlis, France. I had heard of Senlis before and realized that it was the house that Christopher Burch bought and renovated which was featured in Architectural Digest in 2019.

Around 2013 or 2014, Burch was in Paris visiting friends Marco Scarani and Jamie Creel, the purveyors behind the beloved Manhattan curiosity shop Creel and Gow, and the three men took a day trip to Senlis, a cobblestoned village outside the city. Scarani and Creel had always been tickled by the idea of having their own house there, and having been told by a friend that a majestic 1608 hôtel particulier was for sale, they went to see the place with Burch in tow. “It was absolutely stunning,” says Scarani, “but it was too big for us and too much work.” Burch, on the other hand, was sold. “It needed renovation; it needed everything,” he concedes. “But you could just feel it was wonderful.” As the father of six children, Burch hoped the home could one day serve as a family respite. Says Scarani, reflecting on what admittedly began as an impulse buy: “Chris is very spontaneous. It’s part of his secret to success.” via Architectural Digest

From The New York Times, “It has been 85 years since the Carters, a U.S. family that had been established in Paris for decades, first came to Senlis looking for a weekend house. They settled eventually on an 18th-century hôtel particulier, or mansion, tucked behind high walls off the quiet tree-lined way.”

“If the house, with its cream-colored shutters, trellised roses and mansard windows, looks like it could be in the movies, and it was — several times. The most recent appearance was in the 2003 film “Le Divorce,” directed by James Ivory, based on the novel about an American’s love affair in France by Diane Johnson.”

That’s Leslie Caron above who plays the French matriarch of a family that includes Americans by marriage in Le Divorce. If anyone knows what other films were shot on location at the house, please let me know. There are some listed here that were filmed in Senlis but they strangely don’t include Le Divorce.

A 17th-century gated wall surrounds the garden, which was designed by Tania Compton. The most noticeable change are the addition of conical yew topiaries. They remind me of the ones that line the cour d’honneur at the Archives Nationales in Paris.

The French and American families descend on the house in Le Divorce from 2003 in the look at the entry.

A view of the entry and staircase upstairs from Chris Burch’s Instagram account @jchristopherburch.

From The New York Times, “With high ceilings and long, wide windows, the ground floor rooms are bright and airy. The front hall, with its black-and-white tiled floor, is flanked to the right by the dining room and to the left by a book-lined study and further on, a drawing room with a large mirror over the fireplace.”

Here is how the book lined study looked in Architectural Digest. A Braquenié linen blossoms on the chairs, sofa, and curtains in the petit salon. The cocktail table incorporates 19th-century coromandel lacquer; antique Persian carpet; floor lamp from Dutruc Rosset. Make note of the needlepoint pillow on the chair.

In Le Divorce, Stockard Channing checks her makeup in the exact same room. And the exact same needlepoint pillow is on the chair. It says, “Old friends are the best friends”. I assume it was a gift from the previous owners or bought along with some of the furniture.

In the grand salon, antiques include an 18th-century chandelier, the cocktail table’s pietra dura top, Delft ceramics, and a Louis XV console. The sofas and chairs wear Braquenié prints.

The grand salon, as seen in Le Divorce, features a green and white fabric that perfect complements the green outside. The house has an enfilade between rooms which means you walk through each room to get to the next but also means that the house has large French windows on the front and French doors along the back of each room.

The elegant grand salon as seen in The New York Times. “The furniture, a mix of Old World chic and New World comfort, so suits the house that the owners are willing to include some of it in the sale.”

“The boiserie, or wooden paneling, in several rooms and the stone mantelpieces throughout the house were installed by Hope Carter, wife of Bernard, who made the house a lifelong project.”

“Before the Carters arrived, the house was known as the Hôtel Germain, and the little square out front was called the Place du Marche-du-Samedi. Some historians say that the first house on the site, built in 1608, belonged to a secretary to the French king (some elements of that 17th-century house still remain); it is said that Louis XVIII slept there in 1815, upon his return to France.”

Another look at the grand salon, as seen in Le Divorce. I love how the characters were dressed to coordinate with the room decor.

@nicolocastellinibaldissera posted this other look at the grand salon on Instagram in August 2020.

The curtains and pillows in the tv room as seen in AD are fashioned of Madeleine Castaing fabrics and a Pierre Frey velvet lines the walls. The sofa is clad in a fabric from Edmond Petit and sits in front of a vintage cocktail table and MC pots sit in the fireplace.

While Leslie Caron is wearing a robe and this at first glance looks like a bedroom, it also served as a tv room in Le Divorce. I love the fabric in this room and that it is used on the wall, curtains, and sofa. What’s funny is that there is a dog bed but no dog in the film.

This scene in Le Divorce reveals another grand salon room behind it.

This room either sits just before the connection to the Orangerie building or is the connection. I figure this out because the door panels match those in the current tv room but this room was not included in AD. I suspect that the gilt was removed but cannot confirm. I also wonder if these fauteuil chairs were bought and reupholstered for the first grand salon.

To the right of the entry lies the dining room. Antique Joseph Dufour et Cie wallpaper panels the room. The chandelier is 19th-century French and Directoire chairs cushioned in a Le Manach cotton and Passementerie Verrier trim surround the table. You get a good look at the enfilade here down to the tv room.

French architect and decorator Michel Pinet, something of a national treasure for his masterly work restoring several of the country’s most prized monuments historiques, Château de Versailles among them was hired for the job while Marco Scarani acted as a creative director for the house. He is also a specialist in the field of antique wallpapers and fabrics, many of which he and Scarani used to outfit Burch’s Senlis abode.

The most historically significant papier peint, though, had been secured before Pinet came onto the scene: a complete set of Joseph Dufour’s 1805 scenic panoramic depicting the voyages of Captain Cook, which Scarani spotted in a Christie’s catalogue. Burch, he says, “bought them for nothing.” Stunned by the acquisition, Pinet redesigned the original moldings and columns in the formal dining room to perfectly frame the panels.

The dining room as seen in Le Divorce had wood paneling. Since the petit and grand salons on the other side of the entry had wood paneling, the change to wallpaper was a lovely choice.

Another look at the current dining room.

Another view dining room as seen in Le Divorce which also stars Kate Hudson.

The 10,000-square-foot house has the rare distinction of being landmarked on both the exterior and much of the interior. As such, it still possessed many of its 17th- and 18th-century floors, paneling, and beams. Yet it had also undergone patchy renovations over time. “We wanted to bring it right back to the way it had been,” notes Burch in Architectural Digest.

The table is set with vintage silver, glass, and china from the Saint-Ouen flea market in Paris as seen in Architectural Digest.

The table set for Christmas in December 2018 via @marcoscarani.

The kitchen sits behind the dining room.

“The nine bathrooms and two kitchens, which had undergone “horrible” renovations in the 1950s and ’70s, were reimagined as they might have existed 300 years ago, save for brand-new plumbing. In the main kitchen (which, Burch admits, “I haven’t stepped foot in”), Scarani and Pinet reproduced antique tiles and sourced ancient stone. The fabric cushioning the rustic chairs is an antique Braquenié check dating to the 1700s; Pinet had just enough in his archive to cover the eight seats.” via Architectural Digest

A pineapple-print wallpaper from Atelier D’Offard enlivens a powder room as seen in Architectural Digest.

Leslie Caron is seen on the phone in another room of the house in Le Divorce. Not sure if it was downstairs or a bedroom upstairs.

To say that everything has been executed with scrupulous accuracy would be an understatement. Yet the atmosphere is relaxed. “It’s definitely not precious,” Burch says. “That’s one thing I don’t like at all.” Scarani was of the same mind-set. “Usually French is formal and uncomfortable,” he observes. “I said to Chris, ‘You want a home that looks like it’s been there forever, like you’ve lived in it.’ ” Burch leans toward the cozy English country look, which is expressed in furnishings you can sink into, though here, there’s not a chintz in sight. French textiles seulement. “There are no flowers,” Scarani emphasizes. “Chris is a man. That’s why in his bedroom we used the Tree of Life, which can be feminine or masculine.” via Architectural Digest

In Burch’s bedroom, a Braquenié cotton is used en suite, from the Michel Pinet bed to the Louis XV chaise longue.

Via The New York Times in 2003, “The bedrooms upstairs, some of which could use freshening, have views onto the back lawn and a stand of old trees, all enclosed by stone walls. The house has 10 bathrooms, some furnished like small sitting rooms to give them a special charm.”

The master bathroom has cerused oak paneling and vanities. The sconces and antique French and the above-mirror lighting is by Dutruc Rosset while a vintage Serge Roche table adds more room for toiletries.

Le Manach cotton brightens the bed, canopy, headboard, and bergère in a guest bedroom.

An Atelier d’Offard wallpaper in stripes lines a guest bath. The tub is antique and brass lamp and table are vintage.

A cozy 18th-century Lit à la Polonaise combines fabrics by Le Manach and Braqueniéwith antique linens. The nightstand is Louis XVI.

@nicolocastellinibaldissera stayed in this room in August 2020 and shared two views on Instagram.

Another view to the door of the room by @nicolocastellinibaldissera.

The main house is separated from the Orangerie with a hedge that hides parked cars that enter through another porte.

In Le Divorce, the families eat Sunday lunch outside of the Orangerie. I have no idea how they would have hung that canopy for shade so maybe it was movie magic.

From The New York Times, “After Mr. Carter’s death in 1966, his wife continued to live in the house, eventually sharing it with their son David, also a Paris-based J.P. Morgan banker, and his wife, Pauline, daughter of a prominent local French family. The couple met on the Carters’ tennis court, behind the house.” This is why I assume there are two kitchens because each of them lived on one section of the L-shaped house.

A slightly extended version of the same view by @marcoscarani with more pots.

In the breakfast room, Windsor chairs flank a Michel Pinet table topped with MC pots via Architectural Digest.

You can see a view into the second kitchen in this Instagram photo by @marcoscarani.

Some liberties were taken, as with the curtains of a Madeleine Castaing climbing-vine pattern that frame the breakfast room windows. “They’re 19th century,” Scarani says, “but so iconic of a French interior.” They’re also a nod to Burch’s daughter Louisa, a classicist with a soft spot for the late grande dame of design. The businessman relays that the house has become a beloved gathering place for his three daughters. “My sons [by former wife Tory Burch] fell in love with the surf resort, so now I have something for my girls.” via Architectural Digest

Another set table in the breakfast room via @creelandgow.

In his Instagram post from June 2019, @marcoscarani calls this room the green gallery. I am guessing that it might be located on the second floor of the Orangerie due to the stairs at the end of the room. Perhaps it’s a room for gatherings or workouts like yoga.

@cjchristopherburch posted a look at the other end of the room in June 2018.

A view of the house from the tennis court that was added by the Carters. They also “bought adjacent land that includes an old-fashioned French vegetable garden, an orchard and several small dwellings, which in time were taken over by family members and are included in the sale.” via The New York Times

A view of the furniture on the loggia posted by @cjchristopherburch in June 2018.

“In the pre-war years, the Carters, avid golfers who played at the nearby chic club Golf de Mortefontaine, began to make the house a gathering place for a collection of diplomats, journalists and members of the Parisian beau monde.” via The New York Times

“Lunch, often served at a long table set up on the lawn, began with Mr. Carter’s famous mint juleps and ended with a signature dish, a molded dessert called bavarois à la vanille, served with a raspberry coulis and fresh berries.” via The New York Times

Chris Burch with his daughters (from left), Izzie, Pookie, and Louisa in Architectural Digest.

A view of the garden by @cjchristopherburch in June 2019.

English landscape designer Tania Compton handled the gardens, with French topiaries giving way to a wild meadow. There’s a vegetable patch, pear and apple orchards, chickens, and even a rabbit. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gone from loving the ocean to loving the earth,” Burch says, adding that at Senlis, “I wanted to really make an effort to do things the way they were done a long time ago.” via Architectural Digest

Another view of the garden by @cjchristopherburch in June 2019.

There’s a side door from the front of the house to the garden.

A view of the front façade taken by @cjchristopherburch in June 2018.

Another view of the front façade taken by @cjchristopherburch in February 2018.

A frosty morning photo by @marcoscarani in December 2018.

A photo @marcoscarani took in April 2017 gives you a better look at the Orangerie.

So beautiful here in the Fall is what @cjchristopherburch posted in November 2018. While April in Paris gets all the raves, fall in France is really beautiful. I hope I can finally go this autumn.

This Google satellite view gives you a final overview of the property.

Photography by Miguel Flores-Vianna for Architectural Digest, The New York Times, @cjchristopherburch, @marcoscarani, @nicolocastellinibaldissera, and @creelandgow. Also, screenshots were taken by me from Le Divorce.