The House Museum ~ Musée Nissim de Camondo, Paris
When I travel to a new city, I always look for a “house museum” to visit. They’re always former private homes whose history or residents were important to the community where it was built. Of course the most famous are popular tourist sites (think Monet’s home in Giverny, France, Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, England or Biltmore in North Carolina).
You can find house museums in small towns and large cities across the US. If you look hard enough, you can even find them in European cities and villages too. Since they rarely make the “Top 10” sites to visit, you usually have the place to yourself. I love being able to look at everything at my own pace and take photos and not have to wait for those pesky tourists to get out of my way!
Musée Nissim de Camondo in Paris, is a well-hidden gem built 1911-1914 in a style reminiscent of le Petit Trianon by Moïse de Camondo to house his collection of 18th century furniture and decorative arts. His goal was to “recreate an 18th century artistic residence.” The result was a modern mansion with all the conveniences available to early 20th century architects and builders.
My favorite room in the house is the spectacular kitchen located in the basement level. The self-guided tour allows you to walk in the space, no velvet ropes here! The large windows provided lots of natural light and could be opened for ventilation. The coal-fired rotisserie and cooking range, made from cast iron and steel were top-of-the-line in cuisine appliances in 1912. The levers on the wall regulated the draught. (Smoke from the range was evacuated under the floor and up the wall.) The rotisserie has two ovens and a spit. I’m getting hungry just thinking how well the family, guests and servants ate.
The entire room is finished with easy to clean porcelain tiles. The gloss white squares on the ceiling and walls keep the room light, bright and airy.
Imagine the number of dishes and pots and pans that had to be washed 3 times a day.
The Salle des gens (servants dining room) is adjacent to the kitchen. Under the window are the numbered lockers for the servants’ personal objects. 12- 15 staff lived in the house including the butler, chef and his helpers, manservants and linen maids.
Lest they forget, an enamel sign reminds the servants which stairway they were allowed to use!
The chef’s phone is another reminder of “modern” technology in 1914.
Next time I will feature some of the magnificent furniture from the collection.