Thursday, July 30, 2009

Shore Front Villas and Cottages

Typical of the turn of the century villas along the Esplanade du Général Leclerc is the building composed of three attached houses: Le Tourbillon, Le Crépuscule and Clair de Lune.

The slightly elevated ground floor provides for a small terrace as well as windows bringing light into the basement kitchens and servants' quarters in true "Upstairs, Downstairs" fashion. Below is an image of the interior of a Mers villa showing the dining room fireplace flanked by a dumbwaiter to the right.

The various levels articulate the social status of the occupants. The servants were lodged in either the basement or the garret. The levels below the garret were for children and guests, below them were the parents and the ground floor was used for reception and living areas. The master bedroom is marked by an arched and carved bow-window. In addition to the carved and painted wooden details, the decor of the façade is made up of colored bricks and applied architectural ceramics such as the cartouches with the names of the villas and the cabochons below the windows.

Villas along the Esplanade du Général Leclerc.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


My first visit to Mers-les-Bains was in the fall of 1986. At that time it was a town that had seen better times: the paint on the carved wood trim of the Belle Epoque shore front villas was pale and peeling. Nevertheless, I was strangely attracted by the faded colors and the past glory and we returned regularly to visit, if only for the supremely fresh and delicate Channel sole of Mon P'tit Bar at Le Tréport.

Mers is one of three "sister" towns on the border of Normandy and Picardie at the mouth of the River Bresle, the other two being Le Tréport and Eu.

Although Le Tréport and Eu can both claim origins in the Middle Ages, most of the buildings which make up the historic district date of Mers date from the last quarter of the 19th century and the early 20th century. Villa Parisienne and Villa Française are from this period.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Villa Parisienne

For some time now we've been talking about renting a place on the Picardie Coast and now we have found it: Villa Parisienne.

The Villa Parisienne is located in the seaside resort town of Mers-les-Bains on the French shore of the Channel. It is one of two sister buildings, the other is Villa Française. Built sometime between 1902 and 1907 for Edouard Desportes, a hôtelier in the nearby town of Le Tréport, the buildings were designed by Parisian architect and interior designer Edouard-Jean Niermans. Niermans' better known works include the Angelina's on the rue de Rivoli, the Brasserie Mollard across from the Gare Saint-Lazare, the Moulin Rouge, the Folies Bergère as well as other several theaters in Paris, the Hotel Negresco in Nice and the Hôtel du Palais in Biarritz.

Mers-les-Bains is located on the border between Normandy and Picardie. Prior to the mid 19th century it was a small fishing village. The construction of the Paris-Le Tréport railroad ligne brought the town within a three-hour reach of well-to-do Parisians who wanted to indulge in the newly popular fashion of ocean baths. The second half of the 19th century saw a boom in construction of shore front villas decorated with brightly painted and carved wooden balconies and trim, bow-windows and architectural ceramics.