Explore Florence Mars' Parisian Chic-Meets-Old School NYC Brownstone
Photos: Julia Elizabeth
When Florence Mars stepped into a four-story Brooklyn Heights brownstone, she immediately shook her head "no." On the hunt for the perfect home to relocate her family of five from Paris to New York City, Mars found the process tedious at best and urged her real estate agent to take her to the next property.
The agent urged her to look past the home’s dated interiors — like the gilded wall sconces and heavy floral curtains hugging the walls — and use her imagination. After all, a brownstone built in 1851 is hard to nab in the city and this house did have good bones. It took five visits to convince Mars (a Fashion Mamas NY member, author, and former Vice President of the chic Parisian children’s label Bonpoint) to take a gamble on this property and transform it into the perfect home reflecting her French aesthetic.
Over six months, Mars worked with a contractor to breathe fresh life into an antique home that had been in one family for nearly 40 years. A simple monochromatic color palette and the introduction of industrial lighting made the home feel modern and inviting, exposed brick walls provided texture, vintage furniture along with trinkets found at flea markets honor the past, while fresh landscaping created a beautiful outdoor oasis for the family to relax.
Mars, along with her daughter Blanche, gives us a glimpse into their craveworthy modern, classic Brooklyn home — scroll through the gallery above for a peek inside and read on below to learn about what inspires Mars' interior design aesthetic and more.
Where do you live and who do live with?
I live with my husband Alexandre [who is] also French and we have three children: Louis who is 13, Alice 11, and Blanche 7.
We live in Brooklyn Heights, a very quiet neighborhood just across the Brooklyn Bridge. We love Brooklyn so much: it is New York without the hassle, noise, or smells. It is incredibly green and very kid friendly. When I’m in Brooklyn, I noticed people in Brooklyn walk more slowly smile way more than in Manhattan.
Describe the aesthetic of your home and why it was important to incorporate certain elements.
I think it is French, simple, and vintage. The French aesthetic is very hard to describe. I would say it is quite traditional but with an eclectic style — mix and match of modern furniture, 18th century French antiques, wood floor always, and the use of colors to define spaces.
It is important to us because it feels right, it feels like a place that is welcoming and where we can live. I see a lot of beautiful American interiors and it is always extremely impressive, the art is incredible, and everything matches. It is picture perfect, but there is no way I could live there. I don't want anything impressive in my house; I want to give a feel that everybody is welcome.
What are the most sentimental items in your home?
There are three old trunks from Paris, one belonged to my great Aunt and two that I bought when I was a teenager (I was already quiet obsessed with old stuff). Those trunks have been with me pretty much everywhere. Lots of good memories in them. [And of course] I also love the smell of them.
What kinds of items do you love to surround yourself with and what is it about them that resonates with you?
I need to be surrounded by old things, I spend my weekends at the flea market and really cannot find any charm in brand new things. So apart from our sofa (ABC Carpet) the rest is vintage.
I love the smell of old things. I love that it has been used before — for 10 years or maybe for a century, by someone else and that now I have the custody of it for a while. I don't see a lot of charm in new things. Even at ABC carpet where I love to shop, I rarely fall in love the way I do in a flea market. New things to me are purely functional.
Where do you shop for home decor items?
What is your favorite place in your home?
There is a little nook in the kitchen on top of the radiator and in front of the window where we all love to read. I had a pillow made on measure and now we all fights for this little spot!
How have you translated your aesthetic into your child’s room?
Well I think the children’s rooms have a very Bonpoint aesthetic — and by that I mean simple, chic, poetic and French! I started to work for Bonpoint after the renovation, but I need to admit that this brand has always been a big inspiration for me. My friends were making fun of me because the girl’s rooms looked like Bonpoint display!
What do you love about your children's rooms?
The light and the view of the garden from Blanche’s bedroom. The wall with all their drawings is my absolute favorite thing, it brings so many happy memories of their early childhood. I am happy I kept so much of their art.
Tell us more about the pieces in their rooms and where they come from.
Where do you and your family spend the most time?
In the kitchen! We spend so much time [there] it is insane. The room is very bright and there is this gigantic farm table for us to have lunch and dinners; but we also use the space to work and hang out.
Every night, during dinner, we share the fun, sad, surprising things that happened to us during the day.
Nara Walker is a Fashion Mamas LA member, producer, writer, and mother to sons Kai and Odin.