Florence Mars and her husband left France for New York a few years ago. A decision that she wasn’t particularly thrilled about at the time. However, today, more radiant than ever, she welcomes us to her fabulous four-floor townhouse in central Brooklyn. A neighbourhood that the managing director of Bonpoint USA has enjoyed scouring, from antique shops to second-hand stores, to throw herself fully into her new adventure. Her own American Dream Open and firmly focused on family. It is for her family that this Frenchwoman has designed every corner of her home which dates from 1851. She has taken particular care to preserve the original features, such as the bricks and arches, and the different ambiances. Sometimes industrial, sometimes effortless, with a Parisian je-ne-sais-quoi, they sit side by side harmoniously in the modernised spaces of the house. It’s a treat for her three children and Shibuya Station, the newly arrived puppy, who can grow up there at their own pace, nurtured by their two cultures.
Florence, how long have you and your husband been living in Brooklyn? Why did you choose this neighbourhood?
We’ve been here for six years. We ended up in Park Slope more or less by accident. And then, when we realised that we would be staying for more than two years, we found this house. Here, in Brooklyn Heights. It’s perfect because it’s really near the buzz of Manhattan, but so quiet you could be in the countryside. At night, you can even hear the sirens of the boats going up and down the river.
What’s your typical day as a mum?
Like all mothers’ days, my typical day is a sort of race against the clock. Let me explain…
For some months, my days begin around 6 am with our dog, Shibuya Station, who howls his head off every morning as regular as clockwork! The challenge is then to make sure he does his business outside rather than inside the house. Then I make my gluten-free breakfast – I’m rather ashamed to say – while I read the news. I wake Louis, Alice and Blanche at 7 am. They need to be ready to catch the school bus at 8 pm.
I try to string things together by doing 45 minutes of yoga before I leave for the office. I manage to do it about twice a week. Well, actually once a week… But that’s because I try to fit in twelve hours work between 9 am and 6 pm, if I’m not travelling to Los Angeles, Miami or Houston. My working day revolves around answering emails and dealing with emergencies, then meetings and finally visits to the shops.
After that, if we’re not going out, I never get home after 7 pm. I check Blanche’s homework – she has a gift for mixing French and English – and we give the children their dinner. My husband takes care of putting the kids to bed while I settle down with a book.
How would you describe your style in terms of decoration?
It’s an American twist on laid-back French chic. With a bit of vintage and industrial pieces straight from Brooklyn. Overall, I’d call it: When Brooklyn meets Paris!
Is it easy to reconcile with family life?
Yes, really easy. If you don’t mind a muddle! As they say here, it’s been “challenging” for me. However, we have a fairly simple but unbreakable rule that works: the toys stay in the kids’ bedrooms or the playroom. Books, on the other hand, find their way almost everywhere in the house!
It's an American twist on laid-back French chic. With a bit of vintage and industrial pieces straight from Brooklyn.
Did you do your own interior decorating? Where do you get your furniture from?
Me and my husband did all the decorating between us, yes! We didn’t want the very impersonal style of American interior designers, who tend to opt for everything beige, everything boring. And we didn’t want to reproduce the style of our Parisian apartment either. We wanted industrial-style lighting and bricks, so we could feel like we were in Brooklyn, even indoors.
What are your favourite shops, either in Brooklyn or online?
The Brooklyn Flea Market and the antique shops in this neighbourhood, like The City Foundry, were the mains suppliers of our furniture, along with ABC Carpet and Home. I also really like Holler and Squall. As for Manhattan, which isn’t very far away, I like going to John Derian and Olde Good Things. Olde Good Things has five shops in the city, but my favourite is still the one in the Bowery.
What things do you still need in your home?
Oh God, loads of things! A parasol, cushions and a barbecue for the terrace, rugs (they’re all in the basement because of the dog, some nice chairs for the kitchen – we’ve had the “temporary” ones from Ikea for nearly three years -, mirrors, shelves and some pictures for the guest room – which looks like a monk’s cell at the moment-, lamps for the kids’ bedrooms, a new bed for our room, probably more coat-hooks in the hallway and lastly, a wooden kennel for Shibuya!
Do you think you might stay in America for good?
No! I really hope to return to France. I’ve given my husband two more years and then we’re going home. I really miss my home country and, even though I am gluten-free, I’ll never really get used to the pace of life in New York.
Where’s the best place for family holidays?
We love New Orleans. The architecture there is crazy, the food is delicious and the music…
There’s a way of life and of celebrating that’s unique to Louisiana. The authenticity and simplicity of the people is also very refreshing when you live in New York! As for the children, the crocodiles in the bayou are an irresistible reason to go there.
What are your plans for the future?
We’re thinking of spending Christmas in India and I’m absolutely overjoyed at the thought of getting ready for the trip! My husband’s startup, Epic Foundation, finances charitable organisations all over the world and particularly in India. So, I’m really looking forward to visiting some of them with the children.
Credits : Constance Gennari @thesocialitefamily