Two worlds, 30 miles apart, one busy and sleek, silvery roof tops reflecting the sun, the streets underneath buzzing with life, the other quiet and calm, just clicking cobblestones and patchy gable roofs. Paris and Courances are the two homes of a couple bursting with inner and outer beauty, deep contentment, and endless creativity, Gesa Hansen and Charles Compagnon.
When two chatty women meet in the kitchen to cook together and notice that there's so much to talk about that they almost forget to chop and stir, they call their men - in case they can cook. That's kind of what the acclaimed furniture designer Gesa and I did. We trustingly handed the main job over to Charles, Gesa's patient husband and restaurateur of three culinary hotspots in Paris, and made ourselves available for the minor tasks of sous-chefs, like grating cheese and opening wine bottles. There's no need to pity Charles, he grabbed knives and chopping boards and turned the patio in front of the vine framed kitchen window into his workspace.
It was a warm afternoon, village silence hanging in the air, broken only by laughter and the popping of wine bottles. We sat on the wooden bench in front of the couple's second home, the prettiest French country house. Washed out rustic stone walls in beige carrying old wooden beams, the shutters painted in gentle grey, Gesa Hansen created a little masterpiece when she refurbished the family's peaceful paradise in the countryside. She has a fantastic feeling for colors, proportions, and materials - coming from a Danish-German family of designers, architects, and carpenters, this doesn't surprise me. Her style incorporates Scandinavian elements, her creative backbone, but she also allows French and Japanese influences to come in.
She's not top-heavy, she lets her intuition be her guide, a characteristic of every good designer. Gesa understood the soul of her 19th century home and turned it into a visually appealing yet totally unpretentious gem.
Gesa and Charles are the parents of three young kids, they decided to split their time between such opposite places to enjoy all the qualities of family life. When they live in Paris, they both take care of their businesses. Charles has three culinary "babies" in the capital, the brasseries Le Richer and Le 52 Faubourg Saint-Denis (http://www.faubourgstdenis.com), and the bistro L’Office. He has a lot of energy and a clear vision, like his wife who started the awarded The Hansen Family design studio (https://www.thehansenfamily.com/) to work on furniture and design projects all over the world.
When they leave Paris, the first thing they do when they arrive in Courances is to go to the gardens of Château de Courances built in 1630 and pick up organic vegetables from their local farmer, then they grab some warm baguettes from the village boulangerie and go straight to their cozy kitchen. In Courances, they slow down their pace and let their minds relax, they let all the inspiration from the city sink in, play with their kids, and roast coffee beans in the barn for Charles' bistros (Coffee Compagnon). Or they pick up tiny yellow apples under the tree in the garden and look after the thyme, oregano, and rosemary plants in the overgrown herb beds. And when their family and friends ring at the door, Charles and Gesa don't wait a second to turn on the cooker and throw together something as delicious as a pumpkin risotto with chanterelles and roasted hazelnuts.