my stylish and – almost – french girlfriend … Betsy

by Sharon Santoni
Today is the start of a new series of posts on MFCH.   You have told me that you liked to hear about my stylish French girlfriends, but there are many other friends I’d like to tell you about who live here but who weren’t born in France.
Women who have crossed continents and oceans, sometimes alone, sometimes with their families, to create a new life for themselves in France.  Women who live exciting and creative lives, and who are fully integrated into French life  … for many people they are living a dream.
Let’s see what you think!
Betsy is American, I met her in Normandy, where she has a weekend country home.  I was immediately charmed by her sense of style and her friendly, open approach.  Even more so when I met the whole family and found out about the business that she and her husband have created in Paris.
I tried to ask her the questions that you would like to hear ….
Hi Betsy, thank you for letting MFCH take a peek into your everyday life.  First of all I have to ask you:     What made you move to Paris?
We were already living in London with our young children. I was working in public relations, and my husband in banking.  We started coming to Paris for weekends, we made new friends here, and quickly found ourselves spending more time in Paris than in London.
We bought a little ‘pied à terre’ apartment in the 7th arrondissement, our favourite part of Paris. We had a lot of good ideas for improving the flat, and that was really what gave us the idea of moving here and starting our own business.  
We packed in our London life, moved here full time and opened our office buying small apartments in need of renovation, doing them up and selling them on to foreigners like ourselves who wanted a base in Paris … loaded with charm but with decent plumbing and a great kitchen! 
 That can’t have been easy!  Where did you start?
Well we knew that we only wanted to work in this part of Paris, so we found an office on the rue de l’Université, and started looking for apartments to rework.   To begin with we couldn’t take on very many projects because we didn’t know enough people in the building industry to work on site.
Today we work with about 30 really reliable craftsmen, specialising in antique wooden flooring; kitchens; or intricate plaster work, who have their teams at work on our renovations.  This means we can take on several projects at once, and because they are all in the Latin quarter, near our office, we can get round to every site each day on foot!
Did you already speak French when you came here Betsy?
No, I really only had high school French, although my husband could get by already.  But you know, people are friendly here; they could see that we were trying hard, and they were patient, so I have learnt as I’ve gone along.  Today we have been here full time for nine years, and I still can’t pass myself off as French, but I can get by in most situations.

I can tell you really love this part of Paris; would you share a couple of your favourite addresses?

Oh sure!  wow! there are so many places I love to go here, but I guess that for food shopping, my favourite address has to be La Grande Epicerie in Le Bon Marché.  When I want to buy myself something special to wear then I head to Irié, rue du Pre aux Clercs,    and at the moment my favourite place to eat is the restaurant Cinq Mars, rue de Verneuil 


The idea of renovating old property in Paris sounds like many people’s dream!  What do you enjoy the most?
Well I love the fact that we have access to 18th and 19th century buildings, and that with some careful planning and attention to detail, we manage to make them into stylish, comfortable and modern flats that stay in keeping with the original architecture and style of this part of Paris.
And of course there is always the unexpected, like in this first floor apartment we are currently working on:  behind the bright yellow walls in the living room, we have found stunning original oak wood panelling on the walls. This is going to be the most beautiful room when we have finished, but when I first saw it with yellow walls and old blue carpeting…. well let’s just say that its appeal was well hidden!
Betsy showed me around several of her current projects.
We only purchase and renovate flats that we could see ourselves living in.  There has to be a real ‘coup de cœur’.  The layout of an apartment is often altered, but the bones have to be good.  I love the surprises in my job like when we discover beautiful beams behind a patched up wall 
There must be a lot of people offering pied-à-terres in Paris, why do your clients come to you?
People tell us that they love our streamlined and well-finished approach to our renovations.  All our apartments are delivered  with the original charming window frames and hardware, but with double glazing to keep out any dust and noise.  We also install air conditioning which is unusual in Paris and we soundproof ceilings, floors and walls.
And what about your own homes, in Paris and in Normandy?
Well, we have applied the same principals there as to the properties that we sell. We like light, airy interiors that respect the character of the old buildings, but that are practical and comfortable to live in.
Sometimes a renovation requires some serious lateral thinking, like the kitchen in our Paris flat, when we first visited, it was a very messy pink bathroom, today it is a sleek and practical kitchen!
The house in Normandy is a different style but still designed to be welcoming for family and friends, and to be bright and restful to give us the space and time to relax.
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Thank you Betsy!
I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed meeting up with Betsy in Paris last week, and visiting her home and the properties she is working on.
If you are dreaming of finding your own pied à terre in Paris, then I highly recommend taking a look at Betsy’s website or her blog  and giving her a call.  You’ll find the welcome friendly and the portfolio just stunning!


Kimberly VanDyke January 28, 2013 - 2:32 pm

I love this post and cannot wait to read more about your French Friends or almost French Friends. The pictures were amazing. They made me just want to move right in.

Marta Morer i Esther Fornell January 28, 2013 - 2:34 pm

Que maravilla poder trabajar con estos espacios.
Nos encanta tu blog.
Saludos de Ripoll

Naperville Now January 28, 2013 - 3:14 pm

stunning interiors

Pat@Life At Lydias House January 28, 2013 - 3:31 pm

Wow! What a dream job although I am sure that it is very challenging! Thanks so much for introducing us!!!

Catherine January 28, 2013 - 4:05 pm

What a fantastic post! Thank you. I loved hearing about your friend and her business. The pied-à-terres she has renovated are just beautiful!!!

kerry January 28, 2013 - 4:20 pm

i sooooo enjoyed this story!! your friend seems like a really cool and organised gal. living in Paris has always been at the top of my "dream" list so can not wait to check out the website and get dreaming. the last time i visited Paris we rented an apartment in the 7th and it was wonderful. a few days of feeling like a Parisan…ohhhh la la!

Sophia Home January 28, 2013 - 4:31 pm

Loved this post Sharon! Stunning apartments, and so interesting to read about Betsy's business – I shall look forward to reading her website too. As a designer who too renovates properties for clients, I know the hard work, perfection and often stress that goes in to each and every project – but to set up a business in a foreign country with a limited knowledge of the language originally, is a brave and inspiring thing to do! I am full of admiration.

Inside a British Mum's Kitchen January 28, 2013 - 4:48 pm

What gorgeous apartments – so great Betsy and her husband have succeeded in their business

Corrine January 28, 2013 - 4:56 pm

Thank you for this lovely post. As usual, I am in a swoon!

lilysgrannie January 28, 2013 - 5:01 pm

What an interesting post today and what gorgeous apartments. The pink flowered kitchen's transformation was amazing.

hostess of the humble bungalow January 28, 2013 - 5:04 pm

It was great meeting Betsy and reading about her company.
I'd love a place in Paris but unfortunately that is just a dream.
Thank you for sharing her with us

Wild Oak Designs January 28, 2013 - 5:32 pm

What a delightful person! You give such a wonderful window in the lives of yourself and others. Thank you for sharing…

thefarmfiles January 28, 2013 - 5:37 pm

Yay for your new series! Fantastic idea. I enjoyed reading about Betsy and look forward to "meeting" many more of your friends. Such a fun peek into french life!

Stacey Snacks January 28, 2013 - 6:14 pm


Kristie Franklin January 28, 2013 - 6:24 pm

This is a fantastic post, Sharon, I really enjoyed it. Betsy sounds like such a warm and friendly person and she definitely has a great design style! 🙂

Amy January 28, 2013 - 7:01 pm

She's doing beautiful work – what a dream come true!

I love the idea of this series of your friends who weren't born in France, but who are living the French life. Can't wait to read more!

Curator January 28, 2013 - 7:02 pm

Fantastic post Sharon! Betsy has a wonderful life in Paris. Will happily swap with her!

Denise at Forest Manor January 28, 2013 - 7:22 pm

I loved seeing these charming Paris apartments! I took four years of French in high school and dreamed of visiting one day; but at this time, I have yet to get there. Maybe one day. I LOVE the gorgeous plaster trim, the ceilings, windows, and wrought ironwork on the windows, french doors, and balconies. Her home in Normandy also looks lovely.

I look forward to your next post in the series.


Blondie's Journal January 28, 2013 - 8:06 pm

Wonderful interview and pictures. I am so happy that Betsy and her husband are so successful in their endeavors. It sounds like a very interesting occupation!

I just know I'm going to enjoy this series. Keep the posts coming!


Sheree January 28, 2013 - 8:35 pm

I love it! My husband and I love Paris. If our children move there we will, too.

Karen Albert January 28, 2013 - 8:38 pm

Dear Sharon I do hope you keep writing this series.
It is amazing to hear how peoples lives are formed! Betsy is astounding in her eye for renovation and detail.

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Faux Fuchsia January 28, 2013 - 9:04 pm

Loved this. Betsy is living the dream. And how nice is her hair? X

Today's Treasure by Jen January 28, 2013 - 9:06 pm

Thank you Sharon, for introducing us to Betsy. She is indeed talented and fortunate to do work that she loves. It is a reminder to all of us… do what you love and love what you do! xo ~Jen

French Heart January 28, 2013 - 9:14 pm

LOVE Betsy's clean lines and respect for the architectural details. I managed $1B in design-construction throughout the US myself, last project $35m renovation of world HQ for top 10 law firm, until career change. So fun to peek back into a world I love.

Putting her link on my site for future reference. Also love the 7th where Ludwig Bemelmans set his fab self illustrated Madeline series. What fun. Brava to her and thanks to you Sharon for such a fab piece!

Nantucket Daffodil January 28, 2013 - 10:09 pm

I am adoring the homes Betsy is renovating, as well as her home in Normandy, which looks like something here on Cape Cod!

The enchanted home January 29, 2013 - 12:11 am

Wow what an amazingly fun job..but I am sure its tons of work too. She is very talented, thanks for the intro. Love meeting your chic and talented friends!!

Pat January 29, 2013 - 12:25 am

What a talent,.I love that people can reinvent themselves and folow a dream. I'm ready to move into any one of those renovations.

8)(8 January 29, 2013 - 8:08 am

That window with the view of Eiffel is breathtaking.

Linda C. January 29, 2013 - 8:37 am

Hi Sharon…these posts about your friendsand their lifestyle etc., have always been my favourites. I have been really waiting for the next one,and, this is one is great.
Betsy and her husband are obviously very smart. I think the end results are wonderful, but I think how difficult it must have been in the beginning…getting through all the building restrictions/requirements and red tape in a new language etc. Bravo to them! She is also very stylish.

Karene January 29, 2013 - 8:48 am

I loved this visit with Betsy! Her properties are amazing. I too especially enjoyed that porthole window with the Eiffel Tower view. Thank you, Sharon, for the great post as usual.

Cynthia Mcardle January 29, 2013 - 9:41 am

Wow! Nice home! I like this so much!

Alison @ BaysideVintage January 29, 2013 - 11:07 am

I think Betsy may just have the world's most brilliant occupation! Thanks for sharing! Alison

MINHA VIDA DE CAMPO January 29, 2013 - 12:06 pm

Que trabalho maravilhoso Betsy tem. Amei sua casa da Normandia. Esse é meu sonho, comprar casas e reformar. Mas gastei meu dinheiro comprando 12 pequenas fazendas e faltou para construir as casas. A vida dessa moça é uma ótima inspiração para mim.
Obrigada por compartilhar.
Have a nice day.

Greet Lefevre January 29, 2013 - 12:10 pm

‘Oh dear Sharon,
Thank you so much for sharing the work of your stylish French friend! This is stunning work. I filed the website yet!
I am looking forward to the next of your new series! Gorgeous idea!!’

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Anonymous January 29, 2013 - 4:39 pm

what a coincidence that I check (and thoroughly enjoy) both your and Betsey's blogs daily, and you're good friends. Fun to read about her journey.

Alex January 29, 2013 - 5:55 pm

Sensational post!

SALLY January 29, 2013 - 6:23 pm

Sharon, ohmygosh! What a wonderful post! I can't wait to check out your friend's website! Thanks everso!!

vicki archer January 29, 2013 - 8:38 pm

What a great job Betsy has…as I love France and I love a renovation… that's my idea of heaven…:) xv

Colleen Taylor January 29, 2013 - 11:35 pm

What an adventuresome girlfriend you have Sharon. A woman after my own heart. A renovator myself which I can relate to somewhat. Great post! Thank you

PURA VIDA January 30, 2013 - 12:07 am

This was such an interesting post I can't wait to go back and read later tonight!

Amelia January 30, 2013 - 9:59 am

Love reading about Betsy. She's indeed a very stylish and inspiring. Can't wait to read more about all your wonderful and stylish friends.

Magnolia Verandah February 1, 2013 - 7:12 am

Don't know what happened to my comment but I really enjoyed this interview and look forward to more of the same.

Christine Hooker February 23, 2013 - 1:54 am

I want to be Betsy when I "grow up!"
She's a girl Behaving Appropriately!
xoxo, Chris

gw2 gold March 12, 2013 - 3:04 am

Loved this post Sharon! Stunning apartments, and so interesting to read about Betsy's business – I shall look forward to reading her website too. As a designer who too renovates properties for clients, I know the hard work, perfection and often stress that goes in to each and every project – but to set up a business in a foreign country with a limited knowledge of the language originally, is a brave and inspiring thing to do! I am full of admiration.

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Connie Lew January 8, 2015 - 4:24 am

Very interesting post Sharon! It’s amazing how Betsy turn the very messy pink bathroom to an exquisite kitchen. I would like to try this thing with some of my other condos for rent in Singapore sometimes all we need is to have a creative mind and of course to think of a new ways that you could possibly do on that specific area of your home that will give you a spatial serendipity.

Arkins May 1, 2016 - 12:09 pm

Hi, I’m thinking of moving to Paris at the moment and your post will have influence on my decision!

Thanks for sharing, Sharon 🙂

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