It’s with these two talented people that we know so well that we conclude our series dedicated to the most beautiful festive tables! Gesa Hansen and Charles Compagnon are part of our everyday life. In Paris’ 10th arrondissement, a quarter that we at The Socialite Family hold most dear, the chef’s establishments are deservedly well-reputed, and over the years have always delighted us. As for Gesa, she is a talented designer who dreams up for The Hansen Family, the Danish family workshop, immaculately-finished Scandinavian-influenced furniture. Which of course we were expecting to find in their latest acquisition, a former post-house in Courances. Decorated with exquisite taste, the house is a real playground to which the family try to get back each weekend, to recharge their batteries. With Christmas on the way, time is as if suspended. The soft lighting plays on the stone walls, and a log fire crackles in the hearth. The children, shod in wellington boots, come running and finally snuggle up on the laps of their parents, who are busy setting out a Nordic banquet in what looks like an old barn… Just beforehand, Charles revealed to us one of his secret recipes. A few oysters opened with the help of an Opinel knife, a glass of champagne… almost enough to make the leprechaun Tomte Tummetott jealous!
Gesa, Charles, who are you? Can you introduce yourselves?
I am a furniture designer, I studied at the Bauhaus, and I came to Paris because I was working for Jean Nouvel. I have never left Paris, but I wanted to work on my own account and not just design furniture but also to be able to produce it, to have control over the whole manufacturing process. All our furniture at The Hansen Family is made of solid wood with certified timber, of which I know the origin.
I’m a restaurateur. I established Le Richer 6 years ago and 52, Faubourg Saint-Denis four years ago. I am also a sommelier and coffee roaster. I love cooking, and I am passionate about the whole world of gastronomy. I started at the Paris hotel school at the age of 15, and since then the passion for this wonderful profession has never left me.
How do you prepare for the Christmas and New Year holidays at home?
I like big long tables! Fortunately, we are a very large family, at least 20 people at the table on Christmas Day! I have kept the Danish rituals alive, like the rice pudding that is given to children with an almond hidden in one of the bowls, and the one who finds it has won. It’s a bit like the tradition in France with the Galette des Rois. We also put a small plate in the garden for “Tomte Tummetott”, a little Goblin, who keeps watch over the house. It’s an old Danish folk story. Other than that, we have candles everywhere, even on our Christmas tree. For decorating the tree, I like the traditional German ornaments which are handmade from wood and which come from the Ore Mountains.
Charles, can you give us an exclusive recipe that is easy to prepare and that will make an impact on a beautiful table?
Yes, delicious calamari fritters! The batter recipe comes from Michel Troisgros, a great chef. To make it you need: 1 squid, between 200 g and 400 g, 100 g flour, 100 g Maizena (cornflour), 15 cl beer, 10 cl water, 15 g baking powder, 1 egg yolk and 1 pinch of salt. In a large bowl, simply whisk together the flour, Maizena, the baking powder diluted in the beer, water and egg yolk in succession. Pass the mixture through a sieve to remove any lumps. Cover it with cling film and cool it for a few hours. When you are ready to cook it, whisk the batter quickly before coating the pieces of squid and dropping them into hot oil at 175 degrees for a maximum of 15 seconds. Ask your fishmonger to prepare the squid for you beforehand and to separate the head from the body. Before frying the first batch, just rinse them and dry them well before soaking them in the bowl of batter. The bodies must first be opened lengthwise and then split in half before being cut widthways into strips 2 cm wide and 5 cm long. When they are done, lay your fritters on absorbent paper, salt them lightly and serve them with a slice of lemon.
Do you have any decorative accessories or china that you always take out with delight at this time of year?
I have my “Vieux Luxembourg” dishes from Villeroy and Boch which I love to take out for Christmas and which I like to mix with the Fasano plates from Puglia that I found at Sloweys in Paris. Other than that, I have candle holders that were made by my grandfather, and I mix them with some I made myself and others that I also found at Sloweys in materials like burned wood.
What is the history of your house? How did you find it?
We visited Charlotte Huguet’s house in Barbizon. The day we spent at her home was so beautiful that we stopped at an estate agency on our way back. They suggested three houses for us. Ours was the third one we saw. We liked it so much that we decided right away to buy it!
Time passes much more slowly here. In summer, we spend all day outside. Every month is different, there should be twelve seasons instead of four!
How did you furnish it? How did you want it to be?
I wanted to make almost all the furniture myself, to mix it with designers I admire! As a result, there are, for example, some pieces by Pierre Paulin, 45 Kilos, George Nelson and Isamu Noguchi mixed with others by Charles Freger.
What has this new life in the countryside changed for you, two years after you moved in?
It’s the place where we meet as a family with the children, where we have time to invite friends for several days, where we have each have room for our projects. Time passes much more slowly here. In summer, we spend all day outside. Every month is different, there should be twelve seasons instead of four! My favourite time is when children go out in their pyjamas in the morning and spend their time eating raspberries and blackberries.
But the having the fire lit in the winter is nice too!
What does the future hold for the two of you?
I have just finished my new collection which will be released early next year, and I have some interior design projects that will also start in January.
Photography: Constance Gennari – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily
In collaboration with Opinel