LIKE / WANT / NEED
Bonjour! I’m Erin.
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Category Archives: design
Now that we’re under 40 days away from my upcoming (second-time-this-year-but-who’s-keeping-track) trip to Paris, I thought I’d share where I’ll be staying. If you guessed Montmartre, you were right! I can’t shake this neighborhood, no matter how much time I spend there, and it’s where I’ve stayed on every trip going back to 2013 (here’s 2014 and 2015). This adorable little nest charmed me from its original floors, to its large, airy windows, and bright, white decor. And did I mention I love Montmartre?
(I’m renting through Airbnb again, and I’ll be happy to share a link to the rental after I get back; since I’m going alone I don’t want to broadcast my exact location in advance. Safety first!)
I know I tend to only ever wax poetic about Paris and its many luxurious, drool-worthy apartments (see: here) but it’s not because I’m unaware of the grim reality of the affordable real estate available there. If anything, it’s precisely because I’m aware of how many absurdly small, one-room hovels (that will still cost you €100k!) the city has that I instead choose to focus on the unattainable, multi-million euro sprawling ones. But for a change of pace, I thought it might be fun to see what I could afford, right now, without mortgaging myself to the hilt or robbing a bank or becoming the next JK Rowling. The results were…less than stellar.
For those of you unfamiliar with Parisian real estate, the top floor of nearly all Haussmann buildings were at one time maids quarters, often referred to as a chambre de bonne, chambre de service, or a studette, which are single-room living spaces, usually under 100ft2, with a shared toilet in the hall. For someone like me, the daughter of an architect who championed small-space living, I get such a thrill at a seeing smartly renovated chambre de bonne. The challenge of designing and living in a space barely larger than most powder rooms is one I’d happily take on, especially if it meant, you know, being in Paris. Which is good, because apparently this is all my savings can buy me. So while these apartments are, shall we say, terrible, there is so much room for improvement that all I can see is potential.
1. First up we have this 6m2 (65ft2) room in the 10eme, near Canal Saint Martin:
It’s listed as a “one bedroom” but really, it’s one empty room, with one teensy (but cute) window. The toilet is in the hallway, the sink is on the landing, and it appears there’s a water hookup line available in the apartment itself, but no shower or kitchen sink.
2. Next, we have…whatever is happening here:
Located in the 10eme, near Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est, the listing says it is about 10m2 of living space, with a shower, a well-equipped kitchen, and a toilet in the hall. “Ideal pied-a-terre,” it says! The only thing I can see is a twin mattress shoved under a skylight, with a water tank floating precariously above it.
Yours for only €52,500!
3. Moving right along, we have this apartment, also in the 10eme:
It is a whopping 9m2, with a small balcony you probably shouldn’t stand on, a small but functional kitchen (who is cooking in Paris with some of the best restaurants right outside your door?) and a lofted bed. Smart space solution! Bathroom is in the hall. I want to scrub this entire place down with bleach.
Price: €79,000, jfc.
4. This charmer is a spacious 15m2, in the 9eme:
It features a separate bedroom (!), a shower right next to the kitchen, and a murder-y looking hallway and stairwell. It also features a shared toilet you’d need both tetanus shot and a regular shot of the highest proof vodka you can find to actually pee in.
Price: €129,000, and the saddest part is it still seems a worthwhile splurge.
I’ll let the pictures do the talking (and the selling) for this incroyable apartment, located in the 16eme near Trocadero. The views are, simply, breathtaking, and if there were ever an excuse to get me into the kitchen (a room I generally ignore) it would be the promise of la Tour greeting me from the window. I love everything about this place, from the floors, to the original mouldings, to even the vintage Louis Vuitton suitcase in the office. Even the stairwell is perfection! My first act though, once I’d moved in and claimed the space as my own, would be to move the desk chair to the other side of the desk so it’s facing the window. Who in their right mind wants to sit with their back to Paris? Though now that I think of it, talk about a writing distraction.
Price? An astronomical, never-going-to-be-affordable-except-in-my-wildest-dreams: $9,368,338 / €8.350.000
My love of real estate –local, international, fixer-uppers, penthouses, hôtel particuliers I’ll never be able to afford– is unrelenting. I scour real estate listings for fun, wrote for a French real estate publication, and am so well-versed in the Parisian market at this point that I’m able to tell you an average price per square foot in almost every arrondissement. On this particular morning, I stumbled across this gorgeous London home and fell madly in love. All that bright white airiness is hard to resist –but of course it comes with a price tag. I know the market in London is among the most expensive in the world (surpassing even Paris in average price per square foot!), but if you want four bedrooms and four bathrooms, spread out over 4,700ft2 in Foggy London town, you’ll have to pay almost $10m (£5.9m). For those floorboards alone the price tag is worth it.
Moving closer to home: I’ve lived in this city my entire life, and it’s been nothing short of bonkers to watch the average home price here keep rising. I love Philadelphia because it’s always been the affordable, quieter monkey-in-the-middle between New York and DC, but we’re catching up, good or bad. I’ve seen firsthand the effects the gentrification of my current neighborhood is having, and I’ve had a hard time keeping up with the skyrocketing home prices as a result. I watch enough House Hunters, Selling New York, and Property Brothers (and am married to a guy with an Economics degree) to know that any house is only worth what the market will support, though, and the Philly market is booming. It’s exciting, and good for the city, and a few weeks ago I decided, heck, why not get in while the getting’s good?
So! In addition to all the other exciting things going on, I’ve signed up for a real estate license course, and will finally be able to put my love of real estate to good use (after completing 60 credit hours and passing the exam, that is). I have been thinking about this since the very beginning of the year and it seemed like another fitting choice to say “yes” to this year. I don’t know when I’m going to find the time to be a real estate agent on top of everything else, but finding out will be half the fun. Wish me luck!
July 30, 2015 / design /
I’ve made no secret of my disdain for the season everyone affectionately refers to as “the best of the year,” while I instead call it “hell.” That’s right, I’m talking about you, summer. Everyone’s all, “I love the sun!” “Woohoo the beach!” and meanwhile I’m over here in the lone patch of shade in the fetal position, scratching at my 38 mosquito bites and trying not to turn into one giant greaseball. I miss winter! I miss the cold and the darkness and scarves! (Yes, I am basically a Scandinavian vampire). I’ve long relied on two things to make summer a little more bearable, though, at least in terms of my vanity: that face wash and scrub are the antidote to my dreaded summer breakouts. I use the face wash every night, and the tea tree oil really helps soak up all that extra oil. It also feels like you’re applying menthol straight to your face, so tingly and refreshing as it feels. I use that scrub once or twice a week just to slough off the inevitable layer of oil build-up. So attractive, I know. Park me in front of an air conditioner and come get me in four months.
Another summer staple? Those sandals! I ordered a pair last year to take with me to Paris and wore them into the ground. I went through two pairs last summer, and this spring ordered a new set to take with us to Italy. Without any breaking in, I walked over 10 miles in them the first day and didn’t have a single blister or moment of pain. They are heavenly. I just ordered my fourth pair to finish out the remainder of the season.
I finished “The Hotel on Place Vendôme” last night and loved it. If you’re a fan of historical non-fiction, specifically the German occupation of Paris, you should add it your Goodreads list immediately. I just started “My Paris Dream,” and so far I’m feeling ‘meh’ about it. It’s all very ‘poor little rich white girl’ who went to Choate and Princeton and runs off to Paris after graduation to “find herself” on her parent’s dime and still finds things to complain about. But, Paris.
And this weekend I completed my descent into domesticity as a Write At Home Wife and bought a steam mop. Mopping is the bane of my existence, which is why I put it off as long as possible and get by solely using Swiffer wet pads. But then I looked at the bottom of a pair of socks and was horrified, so off to Macy’s we went (armed with a coupon, of course). It’s just natural steam, and it sanitizes up to 99.9% of germs and dirt and bacteria. No chemicals, just water, and oh man did it clean my floors to a squeaky clean shine. I might be looking forward to doing it again today.
This was one of the little things I brought home with me from Paris, and I am obsessed. This candle had been on my Want List for a while, but was consistently out of stock at Barney’s. I’d never even smelled it, and I knew I had to have it just on name alone. Bibliothèque. Considering one of my favorite things is the smell of books, a candle that smells like a library–nay, a French library was obviously on my radar. But at $80 (!!), it’s a lot more expensive here than it is in Europe, even factoring in the conversion rate.
We stopped into Colette on our second day in Paris, and I made a beeline right to the candles. Success! And now, having had it at home for a while, I can confirm that the scent lives up to my expectations. It’s a delicious mix of warm plum and vanilla, and smoky leather like bound volumes. I’ve only burned out a few times so far because, surprisingly, the throw is almost as strong when not lit. It makes the living room smell incredible just sitting there on the table. And it’s pretty.
July 1, 2015 / design /
Okay, so perhaps to call this place “an apartment” was being generous; it’s more like a construction site, or a prison dungeon out of an Alexandre Dumas novel or something. But that’s why I said it has potential. The apartment is on the ground floor of a building along the Quai d’Orléans, right along the Seine, on the Île Saint-Louis. The building dates back to 1639, making it one of the oldest buildings in the city. Don’t you love seeing all that old stone, and the original fireplace mantel? Normally at this point I’d highlight its bathroom or number of bedrooms, but, um, aside from the historical details, the main thing this place has going for it is that it’s a blank (and dusty) canvas. Though the view ain’t too bad, either. The listing encourages you to use your imagination, which frankly isn’t all that difficult, given that it’s only 335 ft2, or 33m2.
And because real estate is just ridiculous in Paris, this 335 ft2 empty studio can be yours for the totally reasonable price of €485,000. Zut alors!
We can all stop searching, I’ve found the nicest apartment in Paris. Quite the bold statement, I know, but of all the apartments in Paris I’ve posted over the years, this one is by far my favorite. It doesn’t even have views of the Eiffel Tower, or a wrap around balcony overlooking the Seine, and it’s not even located in an arrondissement I’d consider in my top five. But! But out of all of those apartments, this one is the nicest I’ve ever seen. Something about it –the muted tones, the collection of plants, the blue bathroom door, the intentionally peeling wall in the bedroom– just speaks to me on an entirely different register. It feels the most authentically Parisian, despite its lack of classically Parisian views. This apartment is all about the interior, and it is like something out of a dream. I know, I know: there is no geographical cure for unhappiness, but tell me you wouldn’t feel instantly perked waking up in that bed? At a cool €735,000 ($800k), it better come furnished, especially because I don’t think I’d ever be able to decorate it better than the current owners have. Mon dieu.
I want to thank you each so much for your kind words of support on this post, kiddos. You can’t know how much it means to me to have such a rallying group in my corner. Thank you for letting me vent honestly, too; I know blogs are “supposed” to be light and cheery all time, but that would be disingenuous. The fog is starting to thin out a bit for me, and I feel buoyed by your thoughtfulness. Merci beaucoup, mes amies.
Oh, Philly. The real estate market here is experiencing a rather large boom; there are new luxury high rises popping up left and right, the home values in almost every neighborhood are increasing rapidly, and the city itself has received a host of attention recently. We were ranked the #3 city to visit in 2015 by the New York Times and the #2 Best Shopping City by Condé Nast Traveler. This year we’re getting a visit from the Pope, and in 2016 we’ll host the Democratic National Convention. For someone as fiercely proud of my hometown and lifelong chosen residence, this shower of attention and praise is well deserved and long overdue.
In addition to my borderline jingoistic hometown pride, I’m also a bit of a loon when it comes to real estate, both at home and abroad. I am always, much to Jamal’s annoyance, looking at real estate listings, regardless of the fact that we have no plans to move and lack the sort of income that would make all of the wistful prowling I do come to fruition. This mansion is a prime example. There is no way on god’s green earth, at $6m, we will ever be able to afford it, but that tiny detail hasn’t stopped me from checking the listing multiple times a week, just to drool a little bit. There are five bedrooms, seven bathrooms (seven!), a catering kitchen, an elevator, and several galleries of art. Galleries. In the house.
It isn’t even my style! The art is too…er, new? for my taste, and I do feel a sad tug of longing wondering what the house looked like when it was first built, before all that original character was stripped away in favor of the sleek, charmless modernity. But I have a funny personal association with this place; in 2009 I interviewed with the family, in their kitchen, for a full-time nanny position. The parents were exceedingly nice, and, though I obviously didn’t get the job, I’ve since retained a deep fondness for the house. I was a recent college graduate, released into one of the worst job markets in history, and had thrown my resume at every posting I seemed even remotely qualified for, and a bunch of ones I wasn’t. This was one of my first interviews, and I just remembered being awed at the scale of the place and the art, and impressed that people of that level of wealth (I would’ve been given $65k a year, my own apartment, and annual trips to the Hamptons, to tend to two middle-school aged kids) could take the time to sit in their kitchen and talk to me. I didn’t grow up too far from this house, and I live just a few blocks away from it now, but while the mappable distance may be small, I am worlds away from this sort of lifestyle. The mansion is basically a museum, full to the brim of interesting contemporary art. In doing a little digging, I found out this week while readying this post that the owner is an heir to the Tylenol fortune. Ah. It makes sense now, but I never knew the couple’s last name at the time; the interview was arranged by a third party private company who handled my background check and ensured a polite discretion on both ends. I wonder where they’re moving, and why. I’m curious to see what the new owners do to the place, too.
March 26, 2015 / design /
Well, temporarily, anyway.
We’re making good progress on accommodations for our upcoming trip to Italy (80 days!), having nailed down where we’re staying in Rome for the first few days (I’ll share that apartment soon!). We still need to find a place to stay in Florence, Siena, and somewhere in the Tuscan countryside between Florence and Rome (any suggestions, friends?), so naturally I’ve been devoting all of my energy into finding an apartment to rent in Paris for the last three days of the trip. Bien sûr. I’m nothing if not helpful and focused on the task at hand. We’re all set on the bookends of the trip now. After flirting with staying in the 7eme, close to the Musée Rodin, or in the 17eme near Ternes and Parc Monceau again, we couldn’t resist the siren call of Montmartre. I don’t even know why we tried fighting it. It’s where I lived for two months and where we stayed in 2013 when we got engaged. Jamal even stayed there on his own for a few days on a trip back from India. I would’ve loved to stay somewhere new, find a new little pocket of the city to explore. And we still will, but Montmartre will kind of always be our “home base” in Paris. And when we found this apartment? Well, the decision was made for us. It’s the perfect blend of modern and artist’s atelier. The windows! The raised dining room! The green tile in the kitchen! The floor tile in the kitchen! The lofted bedroom! I wonder how the owners would feel about us moving in indefinitely?