Following her passing last month, we are taking a look at Jane Birkin’s life and her homes in France.
The fashion icon has left behind a legacy in not just French cinema and music, but real estate too.
A French icon
British-French star Jane Birkin sadly passed away on July 16 in Paris, her adopted home for almost 55 years.
Famed for her work and partnership with Serge Gainsbourg, the actress, singer, and style icon was 76.
Known internationally for the song ‘Je t’aime … moi non plus’ performed by her and Gainsbourg, plus several film roles, France took her to its heart.
From her relationship with Gainsbourg they had one daughter, the actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg. Birkin’s other children were the late photographer Kate Barry, and model Lou Doillon.
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted a tribute, saying “Because she embodied freedom, because she sang the most beautiful words of our language, Jane Birkin was a French icon. A complete artist… She bequeaths songs and images that will never leave us.”
The Birkin bag
Before we get to real estate, no tribute to Jane Birkin can ignore the iconic Hermès Birkin bag.
Named and inspired by her desire for a functioning handbag with pockets, this fashion piece is forever linked to the star. Jean-Louis Dumas, the company’s chairman, met her on an airplane when her belongings spilled from her bag to the floor, and the rest is history.
Launched in 1981 by the French luxury brand, each Birkin bag is handmade in the finest leather. Its popularity continues to this day, mostly due to the bag’s exclusivity – with only a select number available every year.
The average price today is around US$11,000. But there is a thriving resale market. The most expensive Birkin ever sold at Sotheby’s for a record US $450,000.
This legendary bag has had so much success that according to a study by online marketplace Baghunter, in its first 35 years the annual return on a Birkin was 14.2%. This is compared to the S&P average of 8.7% a year and gold's -1.5% during the same time frame.
Jane Birkin’s apartments in Saint-Germain-dès-Prés
Jane Birkin was a fixture of the Saint-Germain-dès-Prés neighborhood on the Left Bank for many decades.
During her life as an adopted Parisienne she lived in two apartments here, on rue de la Verneuil and rue Jacob.
Both reveal her artistic spirit and legacy.
The first, a maisonette on the quiet rue de la Vernueil, was her home with Serge Gainsbourg during their bohemian days, beginning in the late 1960s.
The inside was always unconventional and not to everyone’s taste. It was a mix of French-style parquet flooring and paneling, with a touch of cozy English touches such as woolen quilts.
Following Gainsbourg’s death in 1991, the flat remains as he left it. Even his old cigarette butts are in the ashtray. The couple’s daughter Charlotte is the custodian.
The home has become a destination for Gainsbourg and Birkin fans, who have added graffiti to the streetfront facade in homage over the years. Following Birkin's death, fans piled bouquets of flowers at the entry gate.
Finally, after many setbacks and delays, the property is slated to open as a museum called Maison Gainsbourg this fall. (It’s just down the block from our office here at 56Paris).
We reported on the project last year in a previous blog.
The private rue Jacob apartment
We don’t know so much about Birkin’s second Parisian home, set on rue Jacob, which she kept very private.
Occasionally, she would permit a journalist to enter to interview her.
Those articles describe a busy, colorful home of paisley wallpaper, movie posters, handwritten song lyrics from Gainsbourg, family photos, and quirky bric-a-brac – everything from teddy bears to taxidermy, and sculptures of English bulldogs.
But after living here for many years, Birkin did leave Saint-Germain des Prés.
She moved to the 5th arrondissement (district) near the Jardin des Plantes. Then later she returned to the 6th district, on a small street between the Saint-Sulpice Church and the Luxembourg Gardens.
It was here where Birkin passed away this summer.
More of Jane Birkin's Homes in France
Jane Birkin’s homes in France weren’t all in Paris. She also owned properties in both Normandy and Brittany.
In 1975, she purchased a former presbytery in Cresseveuille, in the Pays d'Auge area of Normandy.
It required total modernization, including the installation of bathrooms and WCs.
Moving on, she purchased a home in Lannilis, a commune in Brittany in northwest France, back in 1993. At the time she said her mother would have preferred her to buy a pied-à-terre in the south of France, where it was warmer!
However, Birkin felt connected to Brittany due to her father, who served in the Second World War.
Talking about the property in an interview, she said, “This house overlooks a beach from where my father participated in evacuating English, American, and Canadian airmen to England.”
Following her death, mourners have placed flowers outside this Brittany home.
They joined the other tributes in the capital, honoring a very special Parisian icon.
Jane Birkin House - Brittany ©Gzen92
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Photo credit ©Umberto Prizzi