At home for Christ­mas


Cather­ine Turner and her hus­band Jonathan have lived in France with their two chil­dren – Wil­liam, aged seven and four-yearold Emilia – for four years, their home a 130-year-old apart­ment right in the heart of Paris. Cather­ine runs her own busi­ness, BEG Bi­cy­cles ( beg­bi­cy­, and Jonathan works in phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals.

“Four years ago when my hus­band Jonathan first broke the news that he’d got a job of­fer in Paris it was a com­plete shock, but I knew we just couldn’t say no to the op­por­tu­nity,” says Cather­ine. They first lived in Cather­ine’s home­town of Cam­bridge and then moved to Maida Vale in Lon­don, where they stayed for 15 years. Both felt it was a good time to try some­thing new be­fore Wil­liam and Emilia started school. They loved Lon­don for its ur­ban vil­lages and knew this was what they wanted to find in Paris.

“Luck­ily the city is all about lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties,” says Cather­ine, “and with its very dis­tinct quar­ters it has even more of a vil­lage feel than Lon­don ever had.”

Their big­gest is­sue was how they could pos­si­bly take time out to find an apart­ment with Jonathan work­ing out the no­tice pe­riod of his pre­vi­ous job right up to the last minute and Cather­ine look­ing af­ter their two small chil­dren?

“We ended up us­ing a re­lo­ca­tion agent in the UK to help us nav­i­gate un­charted ter­ri­tory,” says Cather­ine. “They were really good and were very thor­ough with all our re­quire­ments. I think we would have been really out of our depth oth­er­wise.”

Af­ter look­ing at a va­ri­ety of apart­ments, many of which were not in quite the right area or wouldn’t suit their fam­ily life­style, they even­tu­ally found the per­fect Parisian apart­ment. Lo­cated in the 7th ar­rondisse­ment, an af­flu­ent area of the city very pop­u­lar with fam­i­lies, the clas­sic Hauss­mann pierre de taille (dressed stone) apart­ment had high ceil­ings, par­quet floors and huge win­dows.

“The lay­out of the apart­ment really ap­pealed to us as a fam­ily,” says Cather­ine. “It’s all on one level with a large hallway and long cor­ri­dor con­nect­ing to each of the rooms, giv­ing the chil­dren loads of space to play freely. We don’t have that sense of feel­ing cooped up here as the huge win­dows make it so light and airy.”


At the be­gin­ning of 2009 the fam­ily moved lock, stock and bar­rel out of Lon­don into their new home, which at that time was an empty shell. “There was ab­so­lutely noth­ing in it,” re­calls Cather­ine. “There was no kitchen or bath­room, and it didn’t even have any cen­tral light fit­tings. “It was just the bare walls, pan­el­ing and ex­quis­ite fire­places.”

Much of the work that needed to be done was cos­metic. There were no prob­lems struc­turally and cen­tral heat­ing had al­ready been in­stalled. The big­gest job was to tackle the kitchen and bath­room.

“We had to buy the kitchen hav­ing seen the room only once and ended up pur­chas­ing it in Lon­don and bring­ing it to Paris in a re­moval van, a rather hair-rais­ing jour­ney to say the least,” says Jonathan.

Within three months they had all the ba­sic el­e­ments in place. The kitchen and bath­room were fully fit­ted, and ex­tra stor­age cup­boards were custom built to tie in with the pan­el­ing and mould­ings.

“Parisian kitchens are no­to­ri­ously small in size so we kept ev­ery­thing min­i­mal and as stream­lined as pos­si­ble to max­imise our space,” says Cather­ine. “We wanted a fam­ily home as well as a stylish, clut­ter­free en­vi­ron­ment. The fam­ily mantra is to have out only what you love and need most and ev­ery­thing else store away so the large clos­ets fit­ted in ev­ery room make sure we stick to that.”


“Dec­o­rat­ing the apart­ment was an ab­so­lute plea­sure,” says Cather­ine. “In the UK we’d al­ways had very con­tem­po­rary in­te­ri­ors so the cool white­ness of the rooms and the de­tail­ing of the plas­ter­work on the walls really ap­pealed to my taste, and formed a

fantastic back­drop for all the fur­ni­ture and ac­ces­sories I chose. I’ve kept the win­dow treat­ments as sim­ple as pos­si­ble to max­imise the light com­ing into the rooms all the year round. We put up cur­tains in most of our rooms but dressed them very sim­ply with a pinch pleat or eye­let head­ing and when drawn back they sit be­yond the win­dow’s edge. The blinds are a pale grey sheer which blends with the walls and al­lows light in when closed.”

Cather­ine likes to mix her more mod­ern fur­ni­ture with or­nate French vin­tage pieces and ac­ces­sories. “In ev­ery room I’ve tried to get a good bal­ance of prac­ti­cal­ity and style that also blends well with its ar­chi­tec­tural fea­tures,” she says.

“I also love us­ing tones of grey, beige and taupe that work really well in our home com­bined with the oc­ca­sional flash of bolder colour, es­pe­cially in the chil­dren’s rooms.”

The liv­ing room, din­ing room and mas­ter bed­room were eas­ier to dec­o­rate as Cather­ine could in­cor­po­rate her own tastes, but the chil­dren’s rooms needed an in­jec­tion of their own per­son­al­i­ties. The unusual raised bed in Wil­liam’s room and the bold red cup­boards tie in well with his vi­brant and ad­ven­tur­ous spirit, while the vin­tage white metal fur­ni­ture with pink cur­tains and pretty patch­work bed­spread is a per­fect match for lit­tle Emilia’s tastes.

The more unique fin­ish­ing touches Cather­ine has added to the apart­ment, such as the bow-fronted con­sole ta­ble and leather swivel chair, have all been bought in France. “Paris is full of lit­tle ate­liers and de­sign­ers which I’m al­ways on the look­out for when I’m cy­cling around the city,” she says.


Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions are done in a sim­i­lar way. A sim­ple, co­or­di­nated colour scheme of white, sil­ver, hot pink and nat­u­ral tones

“The chil­dren and I al­ways fin­ish off our dec­o­rat­ing by buy­ing spruce branches and eucalyptus from the lo­cal flower mar­ket”

“There is noth­ing bet­ter for me than sit­ting at my lit­tle desk in the cor­ner of the din­ing room look­ing out onto our cob­bled mews and court­yard lis­ten­ing to the gen­tle buzz of Paris”

is com­bined with a mix of el­e­gant vin­tage, rus­tic and mod­ern-look­ing baubles.

“I like to keep the Christ­mas dec­o­rat­ing as sim­ple as pos­si­ble so I can get the chil­dren in­volved. It’s turn­ing into a bit of a fam­ily tra­di­tion now,” says Cather­ine. “The chil­dren and I al­ways fin­ish off our dec­o­rat­ing by buy­ing spruce branches and eucalyptus from the lo­cal flower mar­ket and cut­ting them into small sprigs, which we scat­ter about the man­tel­pieces and tables. They look and smell so Christ­massy. Emilia then adds our quirky lit­tle owl dec­o­ra­tions to the Christ­mas tree as a fi­nal fin­ish­ing touch,” she says. LIV­ING THE DREAM

Hav­ing now lived in France for al­most a decade the fam­ily seem very set­tled and es­tab­lished in their home. “I love Paris – it’s so mag­i­cal, es­pe­cially at Christ­mas time,” says Cather­ine. Liv­ing here has given them a fantastic life­style as well as a new busi­ness ven­ture. In­spired by the French cap­i­tal’s cy­cling cul­ture and chic peo­ple, Cather­ine started her own on­line busi­ness sell­ing vin­tage bi­cy­cles and ac­ces­sories, some­thing she never imag­ined she would end up do­ing.

“There is noth­ing bet­ter for me than sit­ting at my lit­tle desk in the cor­ner of the din­ing room look­ing out onto our cob­bled mews and court­yard lis­ten­ing to the gen­tle buzz of Paris, and talk­ing with cus­tomers about one of my favourite pas­times. It’s bliss,” she says.

Left: Cather­ine’s bike is used as a quirky Christ­mas prop in the hallway, which is light and airy thanks to the neu­tral wall colour and large win­dow

Above: Fes­tive green­ery adds colour and Christ­mas spirit to the white fit­ted kitchen, which has been kept as min­i­mal and stream­lined as pos­si­ble to max­imise spaceTop right: The fam­ily re­turn from an early evening walk around the lo­cal food and flower mar­kets with Christ­mas fo­liage to dec­o­rate the apart­mentBot­tom right: Son Wil­liam’s bed­room is large enough to ac­com­mo­date a strik­ing raised bed/den, while bas­kets on wheels for his toys keep the space tidy

Above: The fire­place in the din­ing room has been dec­o­rated with fresh spruce sprigs

Bot­tom left: Emilia en­joys read­ing by the Christ­mas tree

Left: Hot pink is a dom­i­nant colour in daugh­ter Emilia’s bed­room

Bot­tom right: Cather­ine chose shell pink and grey tones for the mas­ter bed­room

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