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Photos: Ruthie Darling/QNS
Photos: Ruthie Darling/QNS
Three continents come together in this Astoria apartment.

What happens when a Parisian girl goes to work in West Africa and then finds herself living in Astoria? The result is her charmingly eclectic mix of subtle French accents mixed with the bold and vibrant fabrics of Africa.

“I am from a suburb of Paris,” Alise Abadie told me. “I moved here last year because of my job. I work for a nonprofit, a philanthropic organization where I am a program officer. Before that, I was in Guinea, West Africa.”

I asked Abadie how she found the move from Africa to Astoria.

“It’s difficult to adjust to New York life,” she said. “People in Africa are really friendly, joyful, they have such a sense of humor. Relationships are very important to people there. You create bonds easily. It really matters how you behave. Music is everywhere.

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People love to dance — at any opportunity. Guinea and New York have almost nothing in common; New York is a more stable place politically of course, but I suppose the hardest adjustment is speaking English all the time. Where I was working in Africa, everyone spoke French. These days I am always seeking out French people, just so I can give my brain a rest!”

In Abadie’s apartment, Parisian and African styles meet in every room. In the kitchen, the table is covered in a rich, red, printed tablecloth picked up on her travels, but atop it sat a hunk of crusty bread with a slab of warm butter. A selection of French teas were displayed proudly in vintage style tins — très chic.

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I asked Alise if she missed the boulangeries of Paris.

“I do,” she said. “I miss the croissants and the bread. I bring cheese in from France sometimes, but you have to be a little sneaky about it. I did discover a wonderful bakery that feels like home here in New York. It’s called Maison Kayser. They have a couple of locations. It’s well worth the trip!”

In the living room, the table is again covered in a patterned tablecloth, this one sunshine-yellow, flanked by bright orange and red chairs. Arranged on the walls are all kinds of trinkets and sculptures that Abadie told me she had shipped from her home near Paris.

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“My colleagues here in New York laughed and said that I was silly to ship things as I could buy everything in the city, but I wanted my things. It isn’t a home without things that you treasure around you.”

On a book shelf I noticed a set of tiny golden antelopes peering out across the room.

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“They were my grandmother’s,” Abadie said, placing them on the table. “My grandfather was also involved in a non-governmental organization in Africa, so I suppose he must have picked them up for her then. I believe you use them on a dinner table to rest your knife and fork on between courses.”

I asked Abadie if she had discovered any treasures here in Astoria.

“Oh yes. There is this gorgeous little shop called the Broadway Silk Store on Broadway and 36th Street. They mainly sell fabrics, but also have a nice selection of homewares, too. It’s run by a family and their cat,” she said. “For dinner it has to be Gastroteca in Astoria. I go there all the time. I also have a subscription to the Museum of the Moving Image, a fantastic museum that’s right here in our neighborhood.”

In Abadie’s bedroom there stands a little writing nook as one might imagine from a Parisian girl. Opposite this is her bed, above which looms a large African wall hanging.

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“The wall hanging I bought in Benin,” she said. “Each square represents a different king of Benin through various symbols.”

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Snuggled in various spots around the room were a few cute little penguins.

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“Did you know that Africa has penguins, too?” Abadie asked me. (I didn’t know this.) “But only in one country, South Africa. They are called African penguins and their presence in South Africa gave name to the Penguin Islands.”

Abadie came to Astoria with a plan for her interior design, but when she got here, she found that she had to wing it.

“My plan when I moved to New York was to decorate each room based on a place where I have worked, but when I arrived here I realized how small the apartments were! That plan quickly fell by the wayside,” she said. “Now I have decided that after a year I will move from my West African decorations to my North African fabrics and artifacts from Morocco — completely redo the space.”

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I told Abadie that it was unlikely that many people would redecorate their space after a year, but I suppose when you see as much of the world as Abadie does, you need a space that reflects all of the places that feel like home to you. From a Parisian suburb to the north and west of Africa to Astoria, New York, I have a feeling that the journey of this intrepid explorer has only just begun.

Scroll down for many more pictures of Abadie’s apartment.

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Jason M July 19, 2017 / 10:29AM
I'm not sure where the line between admiring the art and handicrafts of other cultures and using them in your home vs fetishizing and appropriating cultures that are not your own is. Feels a little like this lady crossed it though.
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