Slow living near the city – At home with the designer Gesa Hansen
We leave Paris and head southeast. Before long, we have left the city and its suburbs behind us and are immersed in a diverse landscape of fields, meadows and woods. We reach our destination after about 50 km – Courances. The designer Gesa Hansen has found her very own private refuge in this idyllic village where she lives with her small children and the restaurateur Charles Compagnon. The country house, boasting eight rooms and five bedrooms, was renovated according to their plans and now combines their own Nordic style with the historical style of the 19th century house.
The small commune of Courances lies in the Île-de-France region, not far from the well-known forest of Fontainebleau. The atmosphere here is simply magical. Leaf trees flooded with light in a play of shadows, soft green grass that moves gently in the wind and water flowing everywhere. Small streams dam up every now and then, leaving the calm lakes in burbling cascades. Perfect for Gesa Hansen, who herself names water as one of the most important sources of inspiration for her work.
Before you get to the actual centre of Courances, you go past a château, built in the 17th century, nestled in the heart of an impressive park. In the village itself you see old farmhouses and modern flats coexisting in harmony. At first glance, the stone house where Gesa Hansen lives with her family looks sleek, huddled inconspicuously on the frontage.
An inspiring home
When Gesa Hansen opens the large door with one of her children in her arms, she makes us feel welcome straight away. “We were looking for a house outside of Paris because Paris has this typical, quick rhythm of life and work and I need a place where I can find myself again,” she explains. “As soon as I saw this house, I knew I was going to buy it. I just felt it had a soul.” It also has an idyllic garden with mature fruit trees and beds of flowers and herbs as well as a former stable, which was renovated and where Charles Compagnon turned his idea of having his own coffee roastery into a reality.
Old and new in harmony
The house is built of coarse, clear material. “As an interior designer, it provided me with the perfect playground for the renovation,” Gesa Hansen says, beaming. She carried out the refurbishment and redesign with great sensitivity and tact. “The most important thing for me was not to get rid of all the existing elements, but instead to preserve them in their own special way. I deliberately combined old and new together to unearth the soul of the house.” And that with great success, down to the last detail.
The old horseshoes, for example, which turn up in many places – hanging on the garden gate or the window shutters – as decorative elements, reminiscent of a four-leaved clover, depending on their composition. Or the wooden door signs that adorn every room with their own flower or plant. Or the old stone floors that distinctly show the ravages of time. Lovingly revamped, they perfectly match the modern handmade furniture Gesa Hansen designed herself, “My furniture is very Scandinavian, minimalist,” Gesa Hansen says, “and the house with its pure, understated flair is the perfect backdrop.”
Two bathrooms, two styles
We continue towards the bathrooms. There are two and Gesa Hansen has customised both, “I also wanted to combine the two styles in the bathrooms. That’s why I gave one bathroom a contemporary look, more of my own personal style, and the other one is influenced by the style of the house.” Her aim had been to give both versions the warm atmosphere of a living room and she has hit the mark perfectly.
Clear forms meet soft colours
The guest bathroom is completely furnished in Gesa Hansen’s style, with clear forms and soft colours. The delicate, pastel blue of the walls blends in with the patterned floor. The centrepiece is the square Artis washbasin in the colour Fog, which is part of the colour concept Gesa Hansen created exclusively for Villeroy & Boch. “The washbasins are very fine and delicate and the geometric forms are a perfect representation of minimalism. I created soft colours to overcome the coldness and hardness of the ceramic. Nature and the seasons in Paris were my inspiration.”
The bi-colour washbasin is shown off to its best advantage on the Legato vanity unit with a light wooden surface that captures the hue of the mirror. The bright Squaro Infinity shower tray in the spacious niche next to it is just the thing for a relaxed, feel-good experience.
Homage to bygone times
Gesa Hansen chose Villeroy & Boch’s Hommage premium collection for the “historical” main bathroom, “The classic design of the collection perfectly matches the house and yet it is still very modern.” This bathroom also comes with a classic colour scheme – elegant black meets pure white to blend into different grey tones. The LaFleur classique taps & fittings collection adds a modern twist to the traditional star knob without looking nostalgic.
The Hommage washbasins – whose strong lines invoke style elements from the turn of the last century, adding early 20th century flair to the bathroom – are embedded in a sleek concrete panel, which looks light and bright and not at all like concrete at first glance. Add to that the sleek oval Cetus bath where Gesa Hansen likes to relax and the kids like to have fun.
And even the separate toilet, which is quite common in France, has a cistern tank that reflects the style. A true eye-catcher – the wallpaper with a lush green plant pattern. In fact, Gesa Hansen has used tiles very sparingly, if at all, on the bathroom walls to make it feel cosier.
Find yourself and new inspiration
The large living room with a wooden table Gesa Hansen designed herself provides plenty of space for get-togethers with family and friends. Just the thing for short breaks, especially when her father Hans Hansen visits and the two swap ideas over a cup of coffee. Used often – the historical yet timeless – décor of the Old Luxembourg tableware. Who said that you could only use good tableware for special occasions? “I think more and more people are embracing the slow living trend,” Gesa Hansen states. “It’s all about living more consciously, taking time – for others as well as for yourself. This house and the natural surroundings really help me to find myself and new inspiration.”
About Gesa Hansen
Gesa Hansen was born in
Arnsberg in 1981. After graduating in design from
Bauhaus Universität Weimar,
she worked in Paris in the studio of the famous architect Jean Nouvel, in the
graphic studio H 5 and at NDC in Tokyo. She has been working as an independent
designer in Paris since 2007. She is also the art director at Hans Hansen, her
father’s company bearing
his name, which makes working, living and object furniture out of high-quality
materials. Gesa Hansen has received several international design awards for her
work, including the Red Dot Design Award and the International Good Design
Award from the Chicago Athenaeum. She has been working with Villeroy & Boch
since 2014, e.g. she has created colour concepts for washbasins and kitchen
sinks. She lives with the restaurateur Charles Compagnon and their children in