Houses, like hearts, sometimes require a second chance encounter to fall in love. This was the case for Leila Brink and Niels van Beusichem, a Dutch couple living in London, who decided to return to the continent due to Brexit. They chose Paris as their new home because it was close to their summer place on Île de Ré and would be convenient for van Beusichem’s work as a banker. Their search for a new house led them to a unique triplex in an 18th-century building on the Left Bank. Despite its charm and tranquility, they decided to continue their search.
A year and a half later, they learned about an apartment for sale through a friend. It was the same triplex they had previously visited. With a bit of imagination and some tender loving care, they saw the potential for it to become their dream home. They purchased the apartment in early 2020, just before the Covid pandemic began, and enlisted the help of Maria Speake and Adam Hills from Retrouvius, a London-based firm specializing in reuse.
Brink and van Beusichem had previously bought eco-friendly items from Retrouvius for their home in London, such as repurposed doors made from old school desks. They appreciated how Retrouvius gave new meaning to materials that had been used for something else. Brink also valued the beauty of simplicity in home decor.
When Speake visited the triplex in 2020, she agreed with the couple’s idea to move the primary bedroom to the basement level next to their daughter’s room, while the kitchen and living areas would be relocated to the top floor. The two boys’ bedrooms were moved to the central ground-floor level, and the dropped ceilings on the top floor were removed to reveal the original plaster cornices and increase the room height.
Once the layout was finalized and the plasterwork and oak parquet were restored, Hills brought his expertise in salvage materials to the project. He regularly received calls from people looking to dispose of various items, such as paneling, display cabinets, doors, old floors, and lights. Hills and Speake would offer these materials to their clients, who were often thrilled to incorporate them into their designs.
For example, salvaged oak parquet floors were used to create cabinet doors in the kitchen. Beds for the sons’ rooms were made from reclaimed pine from a dismantled British army barracks. Vintage basins from Turkish hammams were transformed into bathroom sinks, and mirrored cabinets with frames from the Victoria & Albert Museum were used to house textile collections.
The majority of the furniture in the apartment, which leans towards Scandinavian midcentury style, came from the couple’s previous home in London. The color palette chosen by Brink consisted of soft and calming earthy greens and buttery yellows. Vibrant pops of color were added through their art collection and textiles, such as dandelion-print curtains made from light Scottish wool by Timorous Beasties, a Glasgow-based studio Speake and Hills were familiar with from their student days at the Glasgow School of Art.
Brink and van Beusichem are delighted with the final result. Through simplicity and reuse, they were able to restore the apartment to its most beautiful form, proving that old can indeed be beautiful.