March 08, 2017

For the past few years I have been watching a dream unfold for my friend and former shop manager Elisa Marshall. After working together for two years at a high end clothing boutique in our hometown, we parted ways and Elisa went on to meet a French man named Benjamin. They fell in love, moved to the big apple and opened up several classic French cafés in the city and one in Toronto called, Maman.

Maman is every francophile's dream. The menu will make you feel like you are in a traditional boulangerie in France, yet the decor will have you thinking you've just walked into an Elle Decor set. I knew after seeing how gorgeous these cafés were I wanted to take a peek inside Elisa and Benjamin's abode.

Elisa and I share a passion for all things French, including food, wine, design and men...bien sûr! When I first laid eyes on her gorgeous loft it reminded me so much of Provence, I was so surprised it was smack dab in the middle of Manhattan. She has such a subtle way of making her home look styled and chic, but with a lived in appeal. Her eclectic mix of antiques and miss matched furniture and accessories are so beautifully styled, it's not wonder it is one of the most photographed lofts in NYC.

I was lucky enough to get some time out of Elisa's busy schedule to ask her a few questions about her style, inspiration and advice she has for interior design.

Your loft looks so unique compared to other New York apartments. What drew you to this space and did it take you a long time to find this beautiful loft?

It did take a while to find our space and we are very glad we were patient, I was also very picky. Our ‘rules’ were nothing new and it must have charm, exposed brick walls and big windows with lots of light. We actually saw another apartment in the same building originally that I fell in love with until we realised it didn’t have a kitchen…(yes that is a thing in NYC!). The street, floor plan, everything about it was perfect, except for that one (major) detail. The agent knew how much I loved the space and about a month later, when another unit became available in the building before it was even listed he contacted us, and we took it right away! It is a super competitive market in NYC for apartments and we are very lucky to have found ours! 

Where do you source your inspiration for design and creativity from?

I source it from all over, never one single piece. From window displays while walking on the street, an amazing colour combination on someone’s outfit to my 100’s on Pinterest boards, I am always inspired by so many things. I think one of my favourite sources of inspiration are from individual pieces – I love antiquing and finding one amazing piece that will inspire a full room around it or a great plate that will inspire a new tablescape! Inspiration is everywhere if you are open to it!

Like you I have made a big move Internationally and I know how important it is to hang onto very special pieces and rid yourself of the rest. What are some of your most cherished pieces that you will never let go of?

I think that is one of the most important (and difficult) things to do. I have so many and I wish my favourite ‘special pieces’ were ones that fit into a suitcase, but that isn’t always the case! I have many items that I have actually shipped with me on all my travels. One of my favorites would be a set of Fendi suitcases that I bought at a garage sale when I first moved to Montreal. I remember that beautiful day specifically, and the wonderful story the seller told me about them – they seemed to be a very important part of his life & and had so much beauty and history to them.

I love how each piece in your home looks like it was carefully selected for the space. Where did you find all of these unique treasures?

All over to be honest. I don’t like going to a store a buying a piece that anyone else can have or buy. It is too easy and lacks character in our home. I like each important piece here to have a story and a memory attached to it. We have many pieces we bough from antique markets and weekend road trips we took together (our dining room set and many or the small details), items that we made together (our pallet couch, our headboard, our lighting) and some of my fav pieces to be honest…we found in the garbage! No lie. From chairs to a beautiful white vintage trunk, to a huge china hutch, we have some sort of strange luck being in the right place at the right time when someone puts something out on the curb. I am a strong believer in one persons junk is another person’s treasure!

How would you describe your interior style?

I would say feminine industrial and opportunistic... that's a tough one!

What advice would you give on how to make your home look styled and chic, but with that lived in appeal?

I would say most importantly it’s to surround yourself with things you love and things that make you happy to look at every day. Maybe a great antique find or a piece you can’t live without from the store, make sure it is something you enjoy, and don’t settle on an object just because you need one. I think sticking with that rule, a defined colour palette and not being afraid to mix and match objects in your home is a good recipe to make your house a home and give it a styled yet lived in feel!

Having a French partner do you ever have a desire to pack up everything and move to the land of cheese, wine, and baguettes?

Funny, we were actually just talking about that an hour ago! How we should sell everything and move to a little cabin in Megeve in the middle of the woods, have dogs and babies and a good simple life. (Wine cheese & lots of bread of course too!)

I have yet to treat myself to a cup of their famous lavender hot chocolate, but I am looking forward to stopping by Maman the next time I am in Toronto. Thank you so much Elisa for your design inspiration and sharing with us a peek into your beautiful life. Watching your journey has been so inspiring and really teaches me that with a big dream and through lots of hard work and dedication anything is possible. Congratulations on all of your amazing success!

(Photos by Nicole Franzen)

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