Eleven years ago, Aisling Greally realised her dream of moving to France’s capital and it has given her so much — a family of two beautiful girls, an elegant home and an exciting new career path
On the third episode of The Parisian Agency — the popular Netflix reality programme about the impossibly handsome Kretz family of three brothers and their parents, who are all real-estate agents — the mother, Sandrine, divulges one of her top secrets for seducing the multi-millionaires who buy the luxurious apartments, châteaux and villas on their books.
Her invaluable advice is: Don’t tell the client everything before they view, keep something wonderful back as a surprise. And keep it until last so that the surprise wins over the negatives.
The Kretz family didn’t sell Aisling Greally and her husband, Jason Almond, their wonderful apartment in Paris’s fashionable seventh arrondissement but whatever real-estate agent did, they knew that nugget of advice and did keep the best until last — a wonderful view of the Eiffel Tower from their elegant living-room window.
“We were looking for a bigger apartment for years,” Aisling recalls. “We loved this area, it’s so near the Champ-de-Mars which is a wonderful green space for kids. Location and size were our most important considerations, we hadn’t looked for an apartment with a view and we didn’t realise it had one until we came in and saw the Eiffel Tower just outside our window.”
Adding to the magic, on Aisling and Jason’s first visit to Paris together, before their marriage, she remembers they had taken the lift to the top, to the Champagne bar in the Eiffel Tower, and fantasised about coming to live in Paris.
Their dream came true — Jason, who is a scientist specialising in oncology, was offered a job in the French capital shortly after that trip and they settled here. That was 11 years ago. Aisling, who’s from Navan and studied communications at university and had worked in both communications and sales for different pharmaceutical companies, didn’t have enough French at the time to get a job in a French company. In any case, she felt she had got sidetracked into a very practical career that overshadowed her more creative side, so leaving her job and coming to Paris gave her the opportunity to both explore the city and her own creativity. Inspired by other female creatives in Paris, she soon came up with a new career plan.
She began to photograph all the things that intrigued and excited her and started a blog called Trésors Parisiens. This, in turn, led to interesting commissions for her photographic work from different types of companies, some old and established, like the fashion house Sonia Rykiel; and some young and niche, like Ysé lingerie and Atelier Nubio, a wellness brand which started with health juices and has gone into sustainable beauty products.
She managed to keep her brand consultancy going when her first daughter, Lili, arrived four-and-a-half years ago. “I did it by setting up a home studio. We have exceptional light here as we did in our last apartment, and I have all the equipment necessary, lights, backdrop etc, so companies would send over their products and I’d do still lifes. I was able to look after Lili and do the photography commissions.”
However, as with all creative people, she felt she needed to go deeper into her medium. “I wanted to develop my photography a bit more. I had never done any training and I felt I needed it. Then, for my birthday, Jason gave me a photography course in Venice, a really intense four-day course where I learned a huge amount and really developed my confidence,” she says. “Through another student on the Venice course, I got an introduction to an amazing Malaysian artist, Diana Lui, who is based in Paris, and I did a masterclass with Diana — she really made me think about my work.”
Around the same time, to the couple’s great joy, Aisling became pregnant. It was particularly great news as Aisling hadn’t dared to hope at that stage that she would become a mother again. “I had a really hard time on my first pregnancy and I wasn’t sure if I could do it again. Then when Lili was two-and-a-half, we decided to go for it and I had a miscarriage. That was a real shock. I was 39; it’s too emotional, so I’d kind of closed the door on getting pregnant. I thought, ‘We have one beautiful girl, let’s be content with our little family’. Then I did get pregnant again and we had Ella in February 2020. We have two beautiful girls and I’m happy to close the door on the fertility journey because it wasn’t easy.”
Ella arrived just before lockdown — which meant that fortunately both Jason’s and Aisling’s parents got to see her when she was a newborn. Then ‘le confinement’ as the French call it kicked in and the couple were alone in their apartment with their four-year-old and the new baby.
Aisling was grateful for the lockdown in some ways as, up to then, 40pc of Jason’s work involved travel — just as lockdown happened he was due to go to Japan, and the US, but he was now confined to working from home and shared in all the work involved with a newborn. “It was a golden moment in one way, we were able to focus on our children.”
She had also been given an assignment by Diana Lui from the beginning of the pregnancy which continued through Ella’s first year. “She’s a mother of two herself and she guided me to embark on a project to visually track the emotional and physical journey of my pregnancy with Ella and her first year. She wanted to push me to develop different artistic styles, to do mood boards, and self-portraits. I’m a paper passionate, I just love all different types of paper and she encouraged me to incorporate that passion into my work, to experiment with collages and multimedia. Up to meeting her, I got a lot of the inspiration for my photography from social media; she encouraged me to move away from that and to look for inspiration in other ways, so I’ve been studying the work of other photographers I admire, like the American Joyce Tenneson. Diana was a tremendous guide.”
The project was very important to Aisling; lockdown was a weird time for everyone in every country and trying to manage with a new baby can’t have been easy, however, the project was an anchor.
“As you can imagine, at the beginning I was on maternity leave, then all my commissions dried up, I couldn’t see family or friends, so this project was something to hold onto. It was an escape. And it was worthwhile.
We all take thousands of photos every day on our phone cameras but this was a unique opportunity to take proper photos of Ella when she was a baby — and of Lili, too. I also did self-portraits, and Diana Lui encouraged me to take them at all times, good and bad. It was a rocky emotional journey and the self-portraits reflect that.”
The project was worthwhile in itself but there has been an exciting development for Aisling; Diana Lui is bringing out a book with one of the biggest French photography publishers Filigranes Éditions, featuring five artists, who have all done masterclasses with her and Aisling has been selected as one of the five.
“It’s a real honour, 15 of my images have been chosen and it will be launched at Paris Photo later this year. It’s so lovely to have something tangible from le confinement.”
Life is getting back to normal and the commissions have started to come in again. Jason, though, is still working from home, which means they are extra glad that they moved from their first apartment, which was a one-bed, to their current home — at 1,000 square feet, it’s massive by Parisian standards.
They moved in in 2018 and Aisling absolutely loves it. As well as the views, she loves the style of the apartment. “As most people know, Haussmann is responsible for many of the buildings in Paris. And the rules were really strict, everything had to be the same. This is different, it’s post Haussmann, so people could play a little more with the design. This is more Belle Époque, more Art Nouveau, so we have extra features like internal stained-glass windows.”
Typically of French apartments, they have a smallish kitchen but they are lucky to have three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a basement for storage and the use of a courtyard. “We are the only family who use it.” The pièce de résistance is a double-sized reception area which consists of a living room and a dining area, which Aisling turns into her studio when necessary. The high ceilings, the parquet flooring and the tall windows opening onto the streetscape all combine to make it a wonderful place to live. Aisling, who has oodles of creativity, decorated it in creams and other neutrals and adds colour with textiles and artworks. She loves living here and hopes to continue to do so for a while to come.
“It’s that question of, ‘Are we going to grow old here?’ We know we can work anywhere — the south of France or the Wicklow hills. It’s definitely Ireland if we do move. And if we were to move home, when is the best time?
“Jason would love to move to Ireland, which is great; he loves the food, the warmth of the people, the countryside, the sense of fun, he has a really great relationship with my family. And it would be nice to be close to family, to have back-up. I wonder how easy it would be to transition? We’ve been here 11 years. Anyway, we won’t make any decisions soon, we’ll let the dust settle, no one knows what’s in store. And you know what? I love it here and I love the apartment.”
And, of course, there are exciting possibilities with her photographic work.
Instagram: @tresorparisien; @studiotresorparis