At Home in the Big Apple


 Marie-Claire Martineau and Elaine Comerford met in a foreign land and have dedicated their careers to helping foreigners find comfort—temporarily, or permanently—in New York City. Born in Le Mans, France, Martineau, who speaks English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese and Boston-born Comerford, who speaks English and Japanese were living in Japan and traveling independently. It makes sense that the couple has made a career for themselves in the travel industry, since it was travel that brought them together. “We met on the Trans-Siberian Railway going to Russia,” says Elaine. “And we kissed in Mongolia,” adds Marie-Claire, laughing. No meeting in a lesbian dive bar for these two classy women who work, live and raise a son together.

“I had traveled all around the world and I thought it would be a good idea to help foreigners find housing in New York City,” says Martineau. “So we worked with a small brokerage and after a few years that relationship ran its course and we started Maison International, Ltd.,” adds Comerford.

Maison, which has endured for 15 years, rents (and sometimes sells) apartments to entertainment figures, businesspeople, students and others, works mostly through referrals. The company makes its profits through commission; their apartments are high-priced, luxurious abodes.

“This month I handled Jude Law, Daniel Craig and Sienna Miller. They come to do Broadway shows or movies,” says Martineau. “I also recently placed Jane Fonda and John Stamos. They come for four, five, six months and then they go back home”

Clients can request various specifications and preferred locations from Maison’s agents. “Some want to be on the Upper West Side and others want to be only in Tribeca,” says Martineau. “And some want one bedroom while others want two, and some have dogs, like Jane [Fonda].” The company also assists students who come to New York to learn English—and have $2,500 a month to spend. “And then,” says Martineau, “we also take care of those who can spend $25,000.”

The two women both take one day a week off to be with their adopted 3-year-old son. Martineau explains that it’s very important to spend that time with him. “We are not your typical New York real estate people who work 12-hour days, seven days a week. That’s not what we want—we still want to have a life.” (          

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