From the very outset, ambassadors to Paris have been pleased to open their residences to the members of “Bienvenue en France.” These are buildings that number among the most elegant private dwellings in the capital, hotels particuliers built over the centuries that have passed through the hands of members of royal and imperial families, aristocrats, and wealthy industrialists.

These sumptuously appointed abodes are not only beautiful residences; they are also a focus for intense diplomatic activity. often better than in the chancellery itself, here, at a reception or around a table with some fine food, the ice is broken and bonds forged, allowing business to proceed more smoothly and agreements to be finalized more speedily. In addition to presenting their breathtaking decors and the interesting events they stage, this book also seeks to cast light on the key roles played by these outposts. Aided and abetted by the team assembled by Flammarion, it has, however, only seen the light of day due to the “open sesame” quality of “Bienvenue en France” and the friendly relations we enjoy.

This book is also intended as a tribute to those many nations with representations in France that do so much to preserve their “homes.” The manner in which they respect what are often jewels of our architectural heritage, maintaining them in accordance with French rules and regulations, is greatly to their honor.

Extracted from Historic Houses of Paris: Residences of the Ambassadors by Alain Stella, with photography by Francis Hammond. Published by Flammarion, £35

  • Historic houses of Paris | House & Garden

    The Quai d’Orsay (French Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    To the garden side, the so-called “King” bathroom that may be visited on open days during the Journées du Patrimoine. It was restored in 1938 for the visit of George VI by mosaicist and glassmaker Auguste Labouret (1871–1964) and decorator Jacques Adnet (1901–1984), who employed materials used at that time on luxury steamers: enamel, black marble with copper inclusions, chromium-plating, and glass mosaic. The glass wall was treated with sand and engraved.

  • Historic houses of Paris | House & Garden

    Hôtel de Bésenval (Swiss Confederation)
    Garden side. A small boudoir, known as the Salon de l’Alcôve, is lined with rare, eighteenth- century style carved wood paneling, and presents, in addition to a porcelain collection from the Nyon manufacture founded in Switzerland in 1781 and lent by the Nyon Museum of History and Porcelain, four medallions painted in the manner of François Boucher.

  • Historic houses of Paris | House & Garden

    Hôtel d’Avaray (Kingdom of the Netherlands)
    Partial view of the great room with Regency-period wood paneling dedicated to the art of music and with overdoors showing pastoral scenes ascribed to François Boucher (1703– 1770), remounted in situ. Today, this hall, opening on to the garden, serves various purposes: concerts, seminars, conferences, and work meetings.

  • Historic houses of Paris | House & Garden

    Hôtel de Charost (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)
    The grand hall graced with six Corinthian-style columns has survived unchanged through the years. In front of the entrance stands a portrait of Queen Victoria at the beginning of her reign, a copy of the original by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805–1873), Her Majesty’s favorite painter. The main staircase leads up to the less formal reception rooms on the upper floor.

  • Historic houses of Paris | House & Garden

    Hôtel de Charost (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)
    The house was owned between 1803 and 1814 by Pauline Borghese, the sister of Napoleon Bonaparte. The appearance of Pauline’s private chamber as she would have seen it has been reconstructed in the Salon Pauline on the ground floor with the original Empire furniture described in the 1814 inventory; her bed surmounted by the imperial eagle was used by British ambassadors until 1982. The room was at one time called the Salon Victoria, in honor of the queen’s sojourns in the residence.

  • Historic houses of Paris | House & Garden

    Hôtel de Monaco (Republic of Poland)
    A single-flight marble staircase built to the stipulations of the owner, the Dutch banker William Williams Hope. In 1841, the press was all abuzz with this “Croesus” moving into the “venerable” Faubourg Saint-Germain.

  • Historic houses of Paris | House & Garden

    Hôtel de Monaco (Republic of Poland)
    The Blue Room, a nineteenth-century creation inspired by the Versailles of Louis XIV, whose grandeur was in much vogue during Louis-Philippe’ s reign. Detail of the decoration on the ceiling.

  • Historic houses of Paris | House & Garden

    Hôtel de Béhague (Romania)
    The small octagonal salon with beeswaxed wood and mirror-glass doors sits between the dining room and the Gold Room.

  • Historic houses of Paris | House & Garden

    Hôtel de Rouvre (People’s Republic of China)
    The main hall, framed by two lions, the guardians of the residence, leads to the reception rooms upstairs. At the foot of the staircase, a “double happiness” screen inlaid with semi- precious stones and jade.

  • Historic houses of Paris | House & Garden

    Hôtel d’Orosdi (Argentine Republic)
    The table set for a formal dinner in the dining room lined with Italian marble and adorned with pilasters and carved overdoors.

  • Historic houses of Paris | House & Garden