American export Betsy is one half of A+B Kasha, an interior design and real estate agency based in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which she founded ten years ago this month with her husband Alon. The agency specialises in pied-a-terre properties in the Saint-Germain area on some of Paris' most charming streets. After moving to London from New York for Alon's work, they visited Paris for a weekend and fell in love with the city. They decided they wanted a pied-a-terre apartment of their own, so they bought an apartment with beautiful bones, but one which needed gutting and renovating. With the skills and experience they learnt from managing such a huge project, they decided to establish A+B Kasha and move to the City of Lights permanently. Today they create beautiful pied-a-terre apartments - apartments that have all been hand-picked by Betsy and Alon and then thoughtfully and beautifully restored to their natural glory. There is nothing too ambitious for this design duo, which you can see from their apartment below - it too was gutted, renovated and restored, to create a beautiful two bedroom apartment in one of Paris' most sought-after neighbourhoods.
Scroll down to read the interview.
Why did you move to Paris?
I moved to Paris in 2004 from London with my family to start our company A+B Kasha now celebrating its tenth anniversary!
What inspired you to establish your own real estate and interior design agency and how did you get there?
It was more of an evolution than an inspiration. And that’s usually how life is…we had just moved to London from New York when we were invited to use our friend’s apartment in Paris for the weekend. After a great weekend, I knew I wanted a Paris pied-a-terre of my own, and we ended up buying one in Saint Germain-des-Pres that had great style but needed a ton of work.
The process of buying and renovating an apartment in Paris turned into a bigger project than we expected, and showed us all the inefficacies of the Paris market. This gave us an idea that turned into A+B Kasha, The Art of the Pied-a-terre. In essence, we were our first clients.
What words of advice do you have for someone following their own career path and setting up a business?
Trust your instincts, surround yourself with smart and honest people, and be prepared to work all the time.
How long have you lived in your apartment?
We bought this apartment after living (around the corner) for five years. The renovation took a year, and we moved in four years ago.
What were the biggest decorating/renovation challenges?
Our apartment had two glaring problems: (1) the floor plan was impractical and uncomfortable, and (2) the beautiful old herringbone floor was sagging, creating 10cm bow in each room.
First, we completely flipped the floor plan of the apartment; the main bathroom located off the living room became the kitchen; two bedrooms in the back became a large master bedroom and bathroom; and the kitchen and dining room located above the living room became the bedroom and bathroom for our daughter.
Today, the living, dining and kitchen are together and the bedrooms are on opposite sides of the apartment…the flow of the apartment works perfectly for our lifestyle.
How would you describe your interior style?
For me, balance and context are big keys to good design.
In my work, I always choose elements which will be harmonious together, and that make sense for the space. In my apartment, I like order but I shy away from formality. I like to be surrounded by beautiful art, but I am very sensitive to visual clutter. The key is balance.
In terms of context, it is important to stay true to the proportion and natural charm of the space. As stunning as Versailles is - for example - its style and proportion does not work in a Directoire-period apartment like mine. It is a question of respecting the natural beauty of the space and “dressing” it to enhance rather than distract.
Favourite piece(s) of furniture/treasures?
I make it a habit to only keep objects, furniture and art that give me pleasure. But I will single out the metal bookcase in our living room for its sculptural silhouette. It also has interesting provenance…it was designed in the 1920’s to store heavy machinery in a French factory.
The painting over my bed is also special to me. It was painted by artist Cecile Defforey. I think it has a magical quality.
Favourite places/shops to buy for your home?
In addition to the furniture dealers I work with regularly, two of my favourite home stores are Caravane (rue Jacob) for its soft sofas, bedding and accessories and Original BTC Lighting (rue Bonaparte) for its great ceiling, wall and bathroom lights.
Interiors/style that have inspired you?
I love the work of designers Axel Vervoordt, John Saladino, and Alexandra & Michael Misczynski.
What do you like most about the area you live in, in Paris?
I love the energy of Saint Germain des Pres…it has a quirky, village feel. I also appreciate its cultural and architectural history.
Favourite sources for inspiration? (ie Pinterest, instagram)
I often get design inspiration from the most unlikely places. Yesterday it was the floor of an old boulangerie, and the day before, it was a beautiful ceramic pool in a private garden. I always have my phone with me so I just snap a photo and keep it in my inspiration file.
Favourite three social media mavens (could be instagrammer, blogger, Pinterest user)?
My social media of choice is Instagram. I love following the Instagram of the Beach-chic concept store, Pistol and Lucy (pistolandlucy), in Malibu, CA.
I also follow blogger/instagrammer Alexandra Stafford (alaxandracooks); her food photos and recipes are mouth-watering! And I have become a devoted fan of artist Kevin Scorgie’s instagram (kevin_scorgie) as well as his work.
Last good book you read?
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
What’s in your magazine pile?
AD France, Elle Decoration (France), Vanity Fair, and The Week (US Edition)
Go-to alcoholic beverage?
Red Wine, although I rarely say no to Champagne.
Tea or coffee?
Coffee, but only in the morning
Sunglasses, lipstick, liquorice Ricola, Farrow&Ball colour chart, and a tape measure
What do you do to relax?
I am learning how to meditate…
Café: Outside at La Palette on rue de Seine… perfect for an outdoor cocktail or lunch with friends.
Restaurant; It is too difficult to single out one restaurant because there are so many amazing ones. But my new favourite dining spot is Come a Casa on rue Pache in the 11eme. It was introduced to me by my Italian foodie friend, Max, and it has some of the best Italian food I have ever had. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Shop: Honestly, my go-to store is Le Bon Marche…for everything! I am rarely disappointed.