October 17, 2021

Dare Quill

The Real Estate Maniacs

Stripping Away History’s Layers, and Revealing a New Museum

6 min read

PARIS — It was a storehouse for the furnishings, artwork, rugs and treasured jewels of France’s royal home. It is where by Marie Antoinette’s loss of life certificate was signed, Napoleon I and Josephine celebrated their coronation ball and the act abolishing slavery in France turned regulation. It was the headquarters of France’s Navy for much more than 200 years and, for the duration of Planet War II, of a division of Nazi Germany’s.

The Hôtel de la Maritime, the eagerly awaited new Paris museum that opened to the general public this month, is layered in background. Now, the grand neoclassical palace on the Put de la Concorde is on view for the initially time in nearly 250 a long time following a $157 million, four-yr renovation that included about 200 of France’s best artisans in the painstaking work of eliminating the several alterations made to the creating over time and restoring it to its former splendor.

“It was a kind of restoration that hasn’t been previously carried out by the French administration,” mentioned Joseph Achkar, an authority on 18th-century structure who oversaw the undertaking with his husband or wife, Michel Charrière.

“Usually you might strip back a wall in 1 location, for illustration, to discover the initial color, then every thing is repainted that way,” Achkar claimed. “What we did was to restore every element as you would restore a painting, uncovering layer by layer and recreating the authentic hues, fabrics, woodwork, with the exact strategies that were employed in the 18th century.”

Various additions were being manufactured to the initial framework about the generations, said Christophe Bottineau, the architect in cost of France’s historic monuments. The original developing provided a deluxe 14-home apartment, provided for the steward of the king’s collection, as effectively as grand reception rooms, storage regions, places of work, workshops and lodging for the employees. Immediately after the French Revolution in 1789, the navy took over the developing, including new floors and altering the interiors to accommodate its offices.

“It was a renovation that associated getting items absent relatively than adding them,” Bottineau stated.

The restoration of the condominium was vastly aided by a remarkably distinct stock of the authentic furnishings and décor. “There were being 900 web pages that observed the tiniest details of cloth, furniture, paint colour and gilding,” Achkar explained.

While Achkar and Charrière sourced primary furnishings, artworks and textiles, some of France’s most specialized craftspeople labored on the renovation. They sewed hundreds of yards of curtains by hand, taken out 18 layers of paint from the walls, restored woodwork and gilding, and painted wallpapers by hand.

Listed here is a near-up look at some of their operate.


This was the unique bed, and the primary bedding, used by Marc-Antoine Thierry de Ville-d’Avray, the next (and last) steward of the king’s possessions, reported Achkar. The silk cloth was frayed, he explained, and the embroidery reworked applying an 18th-century needlework system.

All of the missing moldings and wood carvings on the walls have been remade and completed with gold leaf or patina, mentioned Alexis Boutrolle, the director of operations for Asselin, a French carpentry firm that specializes in historic restoration, which carried out the function.

“The primary goal of this work was to be historically correct, but also produce one thing that feels lived in,” Boutrolle stated. “When you do this by hand, in the previous-fashioned way, the patina is really subtle and entire of nuance.”


These tiebacks, each with an ornate hanging tassel, consider about 150 hrs to make, stated Eléonore Declercq, of Declercq Passementiers, a decorative trimmings firm.

The process commences with matching the threads to the curtain color. “It’s like mixing paint, but employing thread,” she explained. The tieback cable is developed by twisting the threads as they are slowly pulled by way of a loom, and the “skirt,” or hanging element of the ornament, is produced by hand, usually which includes decorative components, like the tiny fruits on the yellow tassel right here.

“Each decoration requires numerous unique kinds of specialised jobs and procedures,” Declercq claimed. The company produced 54 decorative tiebacks for the Hôtel de la Marine.


It took 6 months to sew these draped curtains by hand, mentioned Lucas du Pasquier, an upholsterer for Alexandre Phelippeau, the corporation that produced them. Working with a device “actually makes tighter stitches, and is much better, in a way,” he stated. “But the determination was to do things as they had been finished at the time.”

To pin the material and connect the sides of the draped curtains to the wall, the curtain-makers used an 18th-century hammer with a magnetic back to which the nails are preset. Then they are tapped into the wall and coated with material. “My colleague has the nails in his mouth, and is in the center of correcting the material,” du Pasquier claimed. “It’s quite challenging.”


This enormous tapestry is not the first 1 that hung in this location — that now hangs in the French Embassy in Rome. Achkar and Charrière made a decision to use a tapestry from yet another room, designed all over the same time, but it wasn’t the right dimensions. “Then we located a border that was essentially from the identical workshop as the first — a miracle!” he explained.

“We had to minimize absent the harmed sections and locate a way of putting it collectively that would look seamless, without the need of making use of any present day tactics,” du Pasquier claimed. “It’s the initial time I have at any time worked like this and I never know if I will at any time do it once more.”


For his place of work, de Ville-d’Avray commissioned a parquet ground manufactured of a few kinds of uncommon woods: sycamore, amaranth and mahogany. “It’s an remarkable feat of craftsmanship — it virtually feels a few-dimensional,” explained Achkar. The floors had been restored about 20 many years back, but a lot of the wood paneling experienced to be painstakingly recreated, stated Boutrolle.

The dining area has been set up to “create the atmosphere at an conclusion of a food, as if the visitors have just left,” Achkar stated. He included that creating the ambiance of a lived-in apartment was an crucial aspect of their solution. “We did not want it to glance like a museum, with numerous pieces identified by minimal cards, but a lot more like a dwelling entire of all kinds of items,” he said.

The sumptuously embroidered 18th-century cloth of the tablecloth is “magnificent but very fragile and time-consuming to work with,” Achkar included.


The opulent reception area dates from the 19th-century and wasn’t aspect of the current renovation, but it will be an information heart for readers and will offer entry to the big balcony that appears to be in excess of the Place de la Concorde.

Acquiring the lights appropriate in both equally the 18th- and 19th-century sections was all-crucial, said Régis Mathieu, whose workshops repaired or recreated all of the lights for the building’s inside and exterior.

“In the 18th-century, the lights was additional refined: The chandeliers have been primarily crystal with much less candles,” he claimed. “It was a pretty difficult activity, as the lights had to be ideal for a present day museum but real to the era.”

In the 19th century, he included, the rooms have been even bigger and extra gilded and ostentatious, with massive chandeliers. “When you see it from outdoors, all lit up, you feel like there is a grand ball that you’d like to go to,” he claimed.


“We redid a thousand home windows and doors on the outside and within of the building,” said Boutrolle. “Because it is a landmark, every thing experienced to be traditionally right, which includes the components, manufactured from iron and bronze, or even leather-based.”

“In France you have a good deal of great craftspeople with fantastic instruction,” he added. “There is a true prosperity of savoir-faire.”

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