There's a charming niche in the center of Paris called the Île-St-Louis that I fell in love with several years ago. It's a teensie island tucked behind Nôtre-Dame, and every time I stay there, I feel like Baudelaire.
This island was actually two smaller islands shoved together and developed in the 1600s as prime real estate, and has a rare, uniform 17th century cohesiveness to its architecture. Every other building has a plaque indicating some famous person lived there: Baudelaire, Pompidou, this doctor or that portrait painter under Louis XIII. It's a glimpse into the Ancienne Régime, back when they still lived in the Marais.
I like how old this neighborhood is (read: Romantic) with its hidden courtyards and exposed beams and patisseries, and before I ever set foot in an apartment there, I had to wonder — who lives there, what do these places look like inside?
I've rented a couple of different apartments over the years, and this time in particular I was completely enchanted. Ok, so it's not the Taj Mahal, but for a hay seed from the middle west, it's fairly exotic — the ceilings, the views, those stairs going up. There's a cluster of cafes on the corner below, with a light bustling energy that feels like the essence of leisure. I'm already ready to go back. But mind the stairs!
- Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter