Spotlight: Christophe Chastel’s Guest Apartment Services offers Ile Saint Louis living to Paris visitors
An interview with Christophe Chastel, who owns and runs Guest Apartment Services, a luxury short-term rental agency based on Paris’s coveted Ile St. Louis.
Where do you come from, how long have you lived in Paris and what brought you here?
I am originally from Burgundy and moved to Paris in 1983. I love Paris, its architecture and design scene and the buzz of city life.
What is your profession and how did you get into that line of work?
I own and run a luxury rentals company. To begin with, I worked in real estate and lived in a charming two-bedroom flat on the Ile St. Louis in the 4th arrondissement (district). During the 1990s, American friends from my student year abroad in Florida sent me people who wanted to rent my flat for a while. They included a professor of interior design, with whom I collaborated on international design seminars. We found apartments for people to stay in and organized lectures, restaurant outings and cultural visits. The latter were often private visits to places not normally open to the public, such as the Hôtel Beaumarchais where Lafayette met with key figures of the American Revolution.
In 1997, I founded Guest Apartment Services with my partner Philippe Pee, whose background is in the luxury goods business. Since then, the company has grown and we now have a staff of 20.
How does your company differ from other rental companies?
We are all about quality, not quantity. We offer hand-picked properties from studios to penthouses but we limit the number to maintain our high quality standards. We also provide a drop-in concierge service for clients in our office or by phone and propose a limousine service from the airport. Our website includes 360° views of the properties so that clients really know what they are getting in advance.
Unlike in hotels, there are no regulations of standards of hygiene in rentals. Guest Apartment Services has its own laundry service to ensure the highest standards of cleanliness. Our embroidered bathrobes, 800 gr towels and Italian sheets are provided by a company that also supplies 5-star hotels. They all bear our company logo, which combines a fleur-de-lys of acanthus leaves, representing the royal history of the Ile St. Louis and two crossed keys, representing our concierge service. Our cleaning ladies receive rigorous training and undergo white glove tests.
Where do your clients come from?
90% of them come from outside France. Of those, most are North American or Australian. Some are South American or European.
How do you explain the enduring fascination that the Ile St. Louis holds for both residents and tourists?
It has a special atmosphere, created by its architecture and its history. For example, it has been home to Baudelaire and the Marquise de Châtelet and Hemingway walked regularly on the Quai d’Anjou. Also, the fact that it is an island appeals and many people are drawn to its Seine views.
In terms of your profession, how has Paris real estate changed over the past 10 years?
The biggest change has been the internet. Formerly, companies had to find clients almost uniquely by word of mouth, i.e. satisfied customer referrals. Now, anyone can create a website and generate business. Before 2000 there were less than 10 companies in this business and approximately 5,000 rental flats. Today there are dozens of rentals companies and an estimated 30,000 rental apartments.
Are there tensions between the city government and the rental companies?
I am member from the origin of the Syndicat des Professionels de la Location Meublée (trade association for furnished rental companies). It lobbies the city’s tourism board and draws its attention to all of the employment and tourist spending our members collectively generate. I would welcome government regulation that would assure quality levels for rental apartments.
What would you miss the most about Paris if you were to move away?
The combination of the fast pace of Paris combined with the quiet village like atmosphere of the Ile St. Louis. Also the noticeable change of seasons and the unique architectural beauty which is something I missed while living in Florida.
As a longtime Paris resident, can you share with us a favorite little known spot?
The view of the Ile St. Louis, Notre Dame and Paris from the roof of the Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute). It’s a magical view that is featured on the homepage of our website.
If you could offer one piece of advice to someone seeking a rental in Paris, what would it be?
Make sure that the company has an office that you can go to and that it is within walking distance of the property. If any issues arrive during your stay, you know you will be able to reach someone and it is much better to have things resolved in person than over the phone.