The chaos of WWII resulted in thousands fleeing their homes in Paris. Germans invaded the city in 1940, forcing innocent civilians to head south and out of the military occupation zone. Only able to bring what they could carry, many left their furniture and other belongings behind in the destructive hands of the war.
One of these unfortunate individuals was none other than Madame de Florian, the granddaughter of a famous socialite. Upon her passing, Madame’s family came to discover that her Paris apartment was still intact and riddled with vintage items that revealed unknown truths about the family’s past.
Time To Say Goodbye
WWII tensions heightened after Germany invaded Poland in September of 1939. France anticipated that crisis might strike, leaving many intent on leaving their home country. The need to leave became evident on May 10, 1940, when the attack finally arrived.
France had already declared war on Germany shortly after they invaded Poland, a French ally. After becoming defeated, refugees fled the country to avoid the German takeover. Madame de Florian was only in her early twenties when this occurred.
Where She Went
This map shows the area that the French had to flee to in order to remain out of harm’s way. The French government left the territory on June 10, 1940. Germans officially occupied the area from June 14, 1940 until August 25, 1944.
For those four years, strict rules were set in place for those still living in the area. This included a 9 p.m. curfew and a rationing of food and clothing, which led to higher prices, and scarce supplies.
Only What They Could Carry
Madame de Florian and her family joined thousands of other refugees in their desperate journey out of Paris. They were all forced to leave their home and belongings behind. This picture shows actual Paris refugees at the time.
Madame ultimately made it to the free zone, which had less military presence and more resources. She made a home there, abandoning her former apartment. For all she knew, the war would destroy everything she had left behind.
A Special Apartment
As it turns out, the young woman hadn’t stumbled upon the old apartment by coincidence. In fact, she had inherited the apartment from her grandmother, Marthe de Florian. Marthe was well-known in Paris in the early part of the 20th century. That time was the height of the Belle Epoque era, the period prior to WWI that was characterized by peace and prosperity.
When Madame had to flee the apartment, it also meant that she had to leave her grandmother’s items and the secrets they contained behind.
70 Years Later
Decades after leaving her Paris apartment, Madame de Florian died at the age of 91. Her family discovered that after all of these years, she still paid rent on the apartment, despite having left it.
Seeing that it had originally been the home of Marthe de Florian, the prized possessions inside would need to be appraised by a professional. An auctioneer named Olivier Choppin-Janvry was then tasked with going through the abandoned apartment. What he found inside shocked the entire family.
Madame’s grandmother, Marthe, was a particularly famous socialite due to her association with ‘les demimondaines.’ This group was known for its lavish parties, wild lifestyle, and celebrity status.
Researchers found that Marthe de Florian was born Mathilde Beaugiron and worked as a seamstress. After having two children, the woman climbed the economic and social latter by becoming an actress. She died in August of 1939, leaving her apartment to Madame just before the German invasion.
‘Til Death Do We Part
Since her grandmother had such a prestigious lifestyle, it isn’t surprising that Madame held onto the apartment and its belongings until her death. What was curious is why she wouldn’t have visited throughout her life.
Madame didn’t even bring her family to the apartment, leaving them all unaware of what was inside. This picture shows the actual key and lock to the apartment. The truly vintage home was untouched right up to the moment that the auctioneer and his team entered.
Peeking Into A Time Capsule
This photograph of the dining room reveals the disheveled condition that the apartment was left in. The furniture is indicative of the early 20th century, and the design of the ceiling is far more detailed than most apartments today.
The detail of the ceiling is mimicked in the furniture, which has intricacies that are not usually seen in today’s more simplistic styles. You’ll also notice wallpaper throughout the home, which has lost popularity in more recent years.
Full Of Mystery
The decadent detailing carries over into this room, which is hard to identify. The fireplace suggests that it could have been the living room. However, the room lacks a sofa and is instead full of miscellaneous chairs.
There is also a vanity in the corner of the room, something that is usually found in a bedroom. Regardless of what the room was used for, it is full of antique items such as the detailed vases on the fireplace mantel.
In the corner of this photo, you can see a little more clearly the extravagance put into the crown molding of the home. If we shift our attention to the large mirror, you can see that the detailing at its top is far from simple, and appears to be tarnishing.
It is also clear that the reflection in the mirror is foggy due to the thick layer of grime over the glass surface. Books and papers are stacked in a small bookshelf and appear as though someone rummaged through them in a rush.
The Walls Are Coming Down
Given that the home is roughly a century old, it’s amazing that it’s still standing. Most buildings that were built that long ago undergo extensive remodeling throughout the years. But here, even the golden curtains are still secure. And after a good clean, the fireplace would look new again.
Even homes that maintain their vintage appearance require extensive upkeep for the sake of functionality. You can see where the wallpaper has peeled off and appears to be damaged.
Cluttered With Memories
Furniture is bundled together as though someone had attempted to package the items. It seems as though Madame was in the middle of organizing her and her grandmother’s belongings when she was forced to flee Paris.
Alternatively, she could have simply been frantic as she decided which things she would have to part with. Chairs are grouped together nonsensically and are topped with paintings and books. It’s difficult to imagine what the home looked like in its prime condition.
Blast From The Past
The vanity is one of the more telling items in the home due to the small and personal items still resting on top of it. Several hairbrushes are neatly arranged along its surface.
Glass bottled are caked with dust at the base of the mirror. Four candles are arranged at either end and are burned nearly down to their holders. Some sort of box, perhaps for jewelry, is placed on one side; something valuable could be inside.
A Room Fit For A Queen
If you thought that the other rooms evoked an air of extravagance, then you definitely will recognize the grandeur of this bedroom. The fou-poster bed is topped with a thick-fabric canopy that adds splendor to the interior design.
If that weren’t enough, the canopy matches the curtains over the large windows. The design on the wall above the dresser is practically a work of art. Two chairs at one window and two chairs at the foot of the bed offer more seating space than you typically see in a bedroom.
Is That An Ostrich?
That is in fact an ostrich, but don’t fret. It isn’t alive. The item appears to be a replica of the flightless bird. We can only speculate why Madame, or possibly her grandmother Marthe, obtained such an unusual item.
One prospect is that the item was valued for its symbolism. Some believe that there is meaning behind the large bird, as an emblem of wealth, abundance, and fertility. Such a meaningful symbol would certainly fit in this apartment.
Original Disney Characters
Sitting at the feet of the ostrich are vintage Mickey Mouse and Porky Pig dolls. The character of Mickey Mouse was created in 1928. That’s only a decade prior to Marthe’s death and around the early years of Madame’s adolescence.
Porky Pig was created in 1935, only a handful of years before Madame took over the apartment. It’s likely that she was the one to bring these items into the home since they came into existence long after Marthe’s childhood.
Meet Marthe de Florian
One of the most exquisite items found in the home was a painting of Marthe de Florian. The painting shows Marthe in a voluminous pink dress. As she was born in 1864, the picture likely depicts her around the turn of the 20th century.
The image evokes her carefree disposition. Many images of women at this time show them having a more modest demeanor, but Marthe wears a slight smirk and has her shoulders pulled back. The question is, who was the artist behind this lovely portrait?
Telling Love Letters
The auctioneer, Olivier, and his team rummaged through the drawers and papers, looking for a clue into the mysterious painting. They discovered a stack of letters tied with a ribbon, resting in a desk drawer.
These letters revealed a string of distinguished boyfriends, which was characteristic of her socialite group. In fact, neither of Marthe’s two children had a father identified on their birth certificates. One of her presumed lovers was none other than the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini.
Giovanni Boldini, seen here in a self-portrait, was not immediately confirmed as the artist. The painting was void of a signature and there wasn’t a record of the piece. However, the item was mentioned in a memoir written by Giovanni’s wife.
According to the book, the painting was created in 1898, which would mean that Marthe was only 34 years old when it was made. The letters confirmed that it was an authentic Boldini painting, and it was sold at an auction for an astounding €2.1 million.
Another French Actress
Similar to Marthe de Florian, Cecile Sorel was a French actress. She was born just nine years after Marthe. Cecile is pictured here smiling while putting on lipstick in her Paris apartment, circa 1930.
Her home does not appear to be as extravagant as Marthe’s. She also has a vanity, but one without the intricate carving we saw in the furniture at Marthe’s. However, the fireplace appears to be quite similar, as though this apartment were in the same Paris building.
This photo of a bedroom was captured in 1935 and is a part of a luxury apartment in Paris. The style of the room predates even the 20th century. The modest room has crown molding and a small chandelier over a twin-sized bed.
The walls are covered in framed photos, a trend that has drifted out of popularity as minimalistic design has become more prevalent. The furniture is mostly simple. However, the small, round table and accompanying chair is something unusual by today’s standards.
Do You Recognize This Famous Author?
Photographed here is the famous author Gertrude Stein holding her beloved poodle while sitting next to a young sergeant. Though she was raised in California, she moved to Paris in 1903 at the age of 29.
Gertrude remained in France until her death in 1946. This photograph was taken in her Paris apartment in 1935. Her decor looks modern in comparison to the over-the-top design of Marthe’s apartment. We’ll see more of Gertrude’s style in the next image.
Also Fond Of Artists
Marthe de Florian wasn’t the only one to be painted by a famous artist. Here, Gertrude Stein poses in front of her portrait, which was created by the now-iconic Pablo Picasso. He painted the portrait of Gertrude in 1906.
Stein’s love for experimental art is evidenced in her decor. The walls are covered in artwork and the fireplace mantle is lined with decorative pieces. She was a renowned art critic and kept famous works in her Paris apartment between the two World Wars.
A Mourning Duke In Paris
Posing by the fireplace mantel was clearly a popular photography choice in the 1930s. This photograph shows the Grand Duke of Russia, Vladimir Kyrillovich, leaned against his fireplace in his Paris apartment circa 1938.
The Duke looks at a photograph of his father, who had just recently passed. The picture is placed on the mantel next to exquisite art pieces. A long doily covers the length of the fireplace and dates the style of the 1930s home.
The Most Lavish Of The Lavish
Two models pose in the Paris penthouse of Charles de Beistegui. Charles was an eccentric socialite who had the penthouse built for him by a famous architect in the early 1930s. Clearly a wealthy man, he also had the roof terrace designed by artist Salvador Dalí.
You can see that the decor was chosen to match the luxurious style of the house. Large, glass candle fixtures are placed before mirrors with lavish frames. You would have to be a model to fit in with this home.
Home To The Famous Coco Chanel
One of the most influential designers, Coco Chanel was a revolutionary fashionista whose popularity soared around WWII. Here is the living room of her home in Paris, where she remained throughout the war.
The home is lined with books along one wall. It maintains the extravagant look of the era with its chandelier and artwork throughout. The wooden furniture is carved with designs as is the frame of the large mirror on the wall.
A French Designer’s Home
As you have probably deduced by now, Paris in the 1930s was the home of many artists of various mediums. One such artist was Madeleine Castaing, who was so revolutionary that her last name is now a style of interior design.
Born in 1894, she was an antique dealer and interior designer in France during WWII. This photograph of her home in Lèves, a town about an hour from Paris, reveals her whimsical style that transcended the gaudy look of the 1930s.
Inspired By Castaing
This image further evokes the WWII-era eccentric design of Madeline Castaing. The long, golden curtains are similar to those in Marthe’s Paris apartment. There is also the familiar wallpaper, only this version is striped as opposed to the standard floral designs.
Instead of a mirror over the fireplace, Castaing chose an art piece in the shape of a mirror to hang above. Some of the furniture has the classic look we’ve seen, while other parts look more modern and simplistic.
The 1930s Are Back
This spacious home in Paris is currently on the market for $4.5 million. That’s a high leap from what it went for back when it was built in 1930. The home is more than 4,000 square feet and sits on the second floor.
The older home has various features that most modern home designers would omit, such as a drawing room and parquet flooring. Though the home has undoubtedly been through extensive renovations, it still feels like a space from the ’30s.
The large living room of this Paris home evokes even more of the 1930s qualities than the previous room did. The crown molding adjoins an intricate wall design that frames floral wallpaper. The furniture was also chosen in accordance with ’30s decor.
As we’ve seen in many of the previous rooms, wooden chairs were often used to excess in living rooms, whereas nowadays they are rarely seen outside of the dining room. The chandelier hangs from the ceiling like a cherry on top of a truly stunning vintage home.
Hidden In The Brush
In July 2019, photographer Bryan Sansivero captured photos of an abandoned house in Virginia. The home’s beds, furniture, decorations, and family photos were all left behind. The house is a time capsule peeking back at the 1950s.
After World War II, the American economy flourished. Citizens enjoyed a wealth of new technology and entertainment. Rock ‘n roll, TV shows, and hot cars were all the rage. This house’s owners earned enough money to afford these benefits.
Untouched For Decades
This Virginian home has remained abandoned for decades. When the former residents lived there, Virginians were fully engaged in the Civil Rights Movements. Citizens argued over segregation and human rights laws throughout the 1950s.
At the same time, America embraced an economic boom. New kitchen appliances, home decor, and knick-knacks became affordable for the middle class. You’ll see many of these old appliances inside of this house, which was likely a middle class or upper-middle class home.
The Lost Living Room
This room was likely a lounge. Those white benches seem to be outdoor furniture that were moved inside for some reason. On the right, there’s a desk with what looks like a computer. That’s not a computer, but a trunk.
The only commercial computers available during the ’50s and ’60s would have been much larger. On the walls and floors, you’ll see excellent examples of wallpaper designs that became popular in the 1950s and 1960s.
A Closer Look At The Desk
Looking at the desk, you can see an old wall clock, a letter organizer, and some abandoned wall decor. In mint condition, these desks can sell for thousands of dollars. But this abandoned remnant looks like it’s barely hanging on.
The large drawer on the left of the desk folds outward to reveal more shelves and desk space. This design was common in the ’50s and often used to save space. Leaning against the desk is an antique vacuum cleaner.
You Can’t Have An Abandoned House Without A Creepy Doll
Nothing is more creepy than a severed doll head in an abandoned house. But this ancient toy gives us a glimpse into a family’s life decades ago. The ’50s and ’60s had no shortage of dolls for children to play with.
This head may have belonged to a Tiny Tears doll, a toy made by the American Character Doll Company from 1950 through 1968. All of these dolls had tiny red lips, big cheeks, and brightly-colored eyes.
Two TVs Are Better Than One
In front of the display cabinets, there are two televisions, one larger and one smaller. The population of television skyrocketed in the 1950s. In 1953, the price dropped from $500 to $200, and 77% of American households bought their first television during this decade.
If you’re surprised by seeing two TVs, know that you’ll see another one soon. Television trumped the radio as a prime source of entertainment in the 1950s. With such a large house, it’s no wonder that the family would need more entertainment.
A Kitchen That Hasn’t Been Used In Decades
If someone cleaned up the debris, this would be a gorgeous kitchen. The mint color was quite popular in the ’50s, as was including a TV near the dinner table. The wall-mounted oven might seem unusual to us now but was common back then.
Throughout the decade, homes began installing built-in “cabinettes” above the countertop. While these inventions arose in the ’20s, they weren’t added to homes until after World War II. The ’50s were the beginning of a seamless kitchen with appliances that fit neatly against a wall.
Photo Albums No Longer Viewed
On this corner table, a family left their family photo albums to fade into history. Photos of siblings and friends lay scattered over brightly-colored photo albums, many of which have not been touched in decades.
Although color photography existed for decades prior, it didn’t become popular until the late ’50s and ’60s. The first newspaper in America to use full-colored pages didn’t arise until 1958. These color photos likely originated from the ’60s and ’70s.
A Tiny Table Of Memories
Here’s another glimpse of the photograph table. A small lamp garnishes this corner table that is likely devoted to family photos. But for some reason, this family didn’t take any of their albums with them.
After World War II, photographs became more pervasive than ever before. Magazines and newspapers added photos to every issue. Family photos became a regularity rather than a treat. Even so, nothing can replace the sentimental value of mid-nineteenth-century photographs.
Someone Dropped Their Legos
With its mirrored mantel and tall windows, this space was probably a playroom. If you look at the ground, you’ll see brightly-colored plastic bricks. These are the old versions of Legos. The bricks first came out in 1949 as Automatic Binding Bricks, but they were renamed ‘Lego” in 1953.
If you’re wondering why those hanging plants look recently-watered, it’s because they’re not real. Americans in the ’50s bought their fair share of artificial flowers, although these were made from hard plastic and not latex.
Where Does This Key Lead?
A side table tells us a bit about the people who once lived here. A small Bible is open to Genesis with a key on top of it. On the inside cover, the owner wrote something in pencil. A horseshoe pendant sits on the right.
You can also see a Polaroid photo of flower vases. Color Polaroids became popular in the ’60s through the “peel-apart” technique, as opposed to the ’70s non-peel-apart prints that some people know today.
Peek Inside A Vintage Closet
Inside a woman’s bedroom, you can see a closet with well-preserved 1950s clothing. In 1947, French designer Christian Dior popularized full skirts, swing coats, and tight waistlines. Bright colors and small designs like polka dots were trendy for women.
Before the 1950s, closets were much smaller than the one you see here. Some historians suggest that larger closets prompted Americans to move to the suburbs. Walk-in closets didn’t appear in American homes until the 1980s.
Clothes All Over The Floor
If you want some vintage clothes, you can pick them off of this bedroom floor. These clothes have deteriorated over time, although some clean coats still hang on the closet door. Circular paper mache boxes, like the one on the bed, were commonly used during this time.
Curtains and stretches of wallpaper have fallen over time. Compared to the other rooms, this bedroom looks rather plain. On the nightstand, you can see a picture of the owner or their relative.
This Furniture Wasn’t Always Available
In the corner of the bedroom, there’s a plush red chair with pink cushions. These kinds of luxury chairs weren’t common in American homes before the 1950s. With the post-war economic boom, designers switched from cheap straw and horsehair to polyurethane foam to create comfy cushions.
Sofas and chairs with tapered legs and clean-cut edges populated American homes in the ’50s. This home features several chairs and sofas that match and compliment the room’s wallpaper.
You Don’t See Phones Like This Anymore
Here’s a throwback to when phones had chords. By the start of the decade, two-thirds of Americans owned a telephone, with the percentage growing every year. Americans in the ’50s received a more convenient phone advancement: a wall-mounted phone.
While these phones seem clunky by today’s standards, they were sleek back then. Most wall phones came in black, white, and brown, and this one was likely white before nature dirtied it. In case you’re wondering, it probably doesn’t work.
Enjoy The Haven Of Toys
Here’s another view of the playroom. The mantel has a mirror that reflects the rest of the room. The fake tree in the corner overshadows a mound of toys that reflect Christmas morning. If not for the decayed walls, this would look like a well-loved home.
In true ’50s style, the thick curtains perfectly match the wallpaper. Pinch-pleated drapes were a staple of the mid-century American home. And if the mantel mirror wasn’t enough, there’s a tiny mirror hanging above the tree.
Above The Mantelpiece
On top of the mantel, there’s a print of puppies and a vase full of artificial flowers. Prints became popular in 1950s households. All of the ceramic decorations seem to be kid-themed, from mother and baby swam to two mice to tiny vases.
Artificial flowers remained popular through the 1980s. Many flower arrangements were inspired by the florist and author Constance Spry, either directly or indirectly. The vase sports a floral design that differs from the wallpaper.
It’s Reading Time
This corner table illustrates another part of a children’s play area. On the table, you can see some Disney books such as Pinocchio. On the chair, there’s a Babar book, a show that didn’t appear on TV until 1968.
Polaroid photos litter the floor along with fallen wall lining. There are also card games, novellas, and miscellaneous pieces of paper. The wooden reindeer on one chair was likely used as a Christmas decoration.
This Antique Will Never Carry Cream
This floral creamer and saucer are part of a tea set that will never again be used. During the ’50s, homeowners commonly bought tea sets and china with floral illustrations. Unlike previous decades, home appliances focused on comfort and leisure.
Ceramic knick-knacks entered commercial mass-production after World War II. With more money to spend, Americans invested in collections of decorations such as the ones seen in this photo: tiny sliver chairs, bowls, clips, and ceramic statues.
What Lovely Wallpaper!
Here is one bedroom with light pink decorating the curtains, rug, and wallpaper. Popular in the ’50s, this light-hued design would later become known as “shabby chic.” While patterned wallpaper was popular before this era, the industry blossomed in the ’50s.
The 1950s saw a rise in “theme papers,” wallpapers with designs that matched the owner’s personal interest. Images ranged from garden tools to sports gear to kitchen equipment. The wallpaper in the photo, though, reflects a trend more common in the ’60s.
Pretty In Pink
Pastel colors were especially popular in ’50s decor, and nothing illustrates this more than this girl’s bedroom. Ornate wallpapers were meant to contrast the dark wood of the furniture. The bedsheets sport floral patterns that seem to be a theme throughout the home.
Bright, plastic appliances, like that hot pink trunk, popped up in several ’50s homes. For decades, that trunk has remained closed. You can also see an antique handbag that will never be carried again.
Handbags And Shorts Long Discarded
This bedroom floor is concealed by old purses, curtains, shirts, and sheets. All vary in color, pattern, and newness. The ’50s and ’60s saw a wide variety of fabrics and patterns that hadn’t been seen since the 1910s.
During the 1940s, fashion was influenced by the limited number and quality of fabrics. Once World War II ended, the American fashion industry experienced an economic boom. Vibrant, funky patterns (like the one seen on the bottom) became popular with teenagers.
Farewell, Fancy Clock
In the house, an antique clock fell off the wall. The glass shattered, but the brass design has remained intact. The clock’s design, though beautiful, has a more antique appearance than most “modern” wall clocks in the ’50s.
Popular clock designs came from the American designer George Nelson. His firm, George Nelson Associates, crafted several kinds of wall and table clocks throughout the ’50s and ’60s. Popular designs include the Sunflower Clock and Ball Clock.
Walking Down The Hallway
From this hallway, you can catch a glimpse of a girl’s room. The pink walls match the wallpaper in the bedroom, but no wallpaper lines the hall. On the right, a full-length wall mirror garnishes the hallway.
If you know about ’50s decor, you may have noticed that this house is much larger than most Americans’ homes during the decade. In most suburban areas, Americans would stack furniture and appliances, but this house seems to have belonged to an upper-middle class family.
A Piece Of Modernity Hides Here
In this photo, a ceramic swan sits on top of a Toshiba microwave oven. A curious note is that the Toshiba logo is more modern than the home. From 1950 to 1969, Toshiba used a different logo with a cursive script.
In the background, cupboards display some unwanted items next to the window. There’s a vase, wooden box, papers, and brush on the TV. It’s as if the family moved without packing any of their belongings.
Even The Shelves Are Crumbling
This “glass hallway” is lined with white-framed windows on one side. The view displays a field of trees in the Virginia countryside. The frames sport white shelves that transform the hallway into a display case.
While the residents lived here, they may put placed house plants on these shelves. But the plants have long since died, and only the decorative pots remain. Other knick-knacks such as wreaths and garden ceramics liven this now decrepit glass hallway.
A Collection Lost To Time
These shelves hold a collection of ceramic decorations, many of which have fallen or crumbled over time. Collections like this were common in the 1950s. As the middle class expanded, consumerism reached an all-time high.
Not only did workers make higher wages than the previous decades, but the U.S. also produced almost half of the world’s goods. Decorations were cheaper, and Americans could afford more than they could during World War II. The era of collections and knick-knacks began.
Nature Takes Over
Here’s another angle of the glass hallway. Instead of supplying shelves, this end offers couches for residents and guests to enjoy the view. Those vines were likely not in the home while the owners were living there.
Throughout the decades, vines have crept up the side of the house and wormed their way into the hallway. Soon, the entire home will become overtaken by the surrounding nature. Photographer Bryan Sansivero captured these images before the house was lost forever.
Slowly Consumed By Nature
This home is larger than most Virginians’ homes would have been in mid-century America. The average home was 983 square feet in 1950, while today, it’s 2500 square feet. But the tall trees make it look small
From the outside, you can’t see any relics. You can only see an abandoned, vine-covered house with a glass hallway. While these photos of the time capsule home will last forever, this home will not. It will soon disappear.