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Category Archives: home 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 / home 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?
Doesn’t the term “apartment” denote something quaint and small? What’s more, “garden apartment” conjures visions of a precious little studio, facing an interior petit jardin, non? This maison –mansion, truly– defies the simplicity implied in the term “apartment,” for there is nothing simple or small about it (including, unfortunately, the €4.8M list price). Located in the 8eme arrondissement, the apartment boasts three bedrooms and two bathrooms, a separate “beautiful artiste workshop”, with original chevron floors throughout, and windows so large and so abundant I am at a loss for words. What truly took my breath away is that wonderful, decorative covered balcony with separate winding stairwell, inside the apartment. The current owners have made it a reading nook, which, if I’m not mistaken, is precisely how the Real Estate Gods intended it. I know there’s truth to the idea that happiness can only come from within, but I have to contend that it would be fairly unlikely to have a bad day in this place. The windows alone would ensure eternal joy. The listing ends with a one word sentence that most accurately describes this 4700ft² stunner: “Rare.” I’ll say.
(Did anyone else catch the meat slicer in the dining room? Or were you too busy staring at that fantastic skylight?)
This little DIY was a long time in the making. On New Year’s Eve, my friend Herbie and I went to lunch at IKEA, and then he drove me home after work with this three drawer, unstained wood dresser. I assembled it that evening, as one does on a major party holiday, with the intention of staining it and replacing the knobs that weekend. I was dismayed upon assembly, however, to discover this thing is –and this is as generous as I can be in describing it– a piece of shit. I know I shouldn’t have been surprised; for $34.99 I shouldn’t have expected much, but I was at least anticipating drawer tracks for the drawers to slide on. I’m glad I followed through on my original plan, because after two liberal coats of weathered gray stain, and six new knobs (on sale when I bought them, $20 total!), it suddenly didn’t looks as T-U-R-B-L terrible as it had before.
Because I am a Very Bad Blogger, I unfortunately have no “before” shots to show you, but imagine a dark wood, open box with one shelf, with everything covered in dust. My intention with this night table was to have a dust-free home for everything, and I have to say, visually it looks so much cleaner to not have a jewelry box, various books, half-empty body lotion bottles, and at least six different candles all out in the open collecting dust. Have I mentioned the dust problem yet? DUST.The struggle is real. I bought a new lamp from Pottery Barn, and it casts the most golden, inviting light for when I’m scribbling in my notebook or reading before bed.
DIY Pro-tip: Spring for a decently priced foam brush to apply the stain. I bought the cheapest brush available (I think it was 48¢) and it broke on the second swipe. Rookie mistake!
January 26, 2015 / home design /
I am getting so, so excited for our trip to Italy in a few months, and we’ve started our search for places to stay while we’re there. Having used AirBnB on every trip to Europe we’ve taken so far, we are of course looking there for accommodations in Rome, Florence, somewhere in Tuscany, and Paris. I might be focusing too much on the latter, much to Jamal’s frustration, who says it is a waste of resources because we already know Paris so well. But when I found this stunning, sprawling Tuscan villa, for sale at a cool $15M, he claimed that it “wasn’t helpful or realistic.” You just can’t please some people. Whether or not it’s “realistic” to fantasize over spending a few days living in what might be the mini-version of the Nightfox’s Lake Como mansion (it’s real!), it hasn’t deterred me from contemplating all the ways I would ever be financially solvent enough to afford such splendor. Plots include world domination, discovering an early Mona Lisa in my basement, and becoming the next JK Rowling. How else will I ever get to live in 16,145 sq.ft. of pure luxury, not including the 1300 sq.ft. guesthouse or 1000 sq.ft. caretaker’s lodge? I’m not religious, but the fact that this place has a private chapel could sway the heathen in me. The biggest selling point has to be the seven bathrooms, one for every day of the week! I fear I’ve set the bar too high now for this vacation.
PS: A winner was announced in the Petite Pairs giveaway! Go see if it was you!
January 20, 2015 / home design /
Admittedly, I haven’t spent much time in the 10eme, the neighborhood in central Paris that encompasses Canal Saint-Martin and Gare de L’Est. With the exception of our two trips to La Tête Dans Les Olives and an afternoon stroll around the Canal, my only other experience with the neighborhood comes from mostly ignoring its existence. Which sounds mean, I know, but it isn’t typically a must-see arrondissement in the city. It’s nestled south of Montmartre, and north of the hipper Marais, so the 10eme has sadly flown under my radar. It’s assuredly more local and quiet than the neighborhoods surrounding the major tourist spots elsewhere in Paris, but, as I learned when I saw this apartment for sale, equally as rife with resplendent real estate (say that three times fast). The detailed ceiling medallions, beautiful moldings, and unbelievable chevron floors in every room aren’t overshadowed by the more modern updates. That eat-in kitchen is the stuff of dreams, with the nook bookshelf and exaggerated floor lamp. I’d sort of assumed that apartments this classically detailed only existed in more storied neighborhoods, like the 7eme or the 17eme, but I stand happily corrected. The only downside? The price tag, bien sûr. (€1.390m. Oof.) Well, and that strange painting in the living room.
November 5, 2014 / home design /
I originally hadn’t scheduled a post for today, but in making my morning internet rounds I came across this beautiful home tour with designer Danielle van Camp and was too smitten not to share. She moved to Paris because it’s where “magic and fashion combine into something special.” Replace ‘fashion’ with ‘art’ or ‘creativity’ and you’ve got my reasons for moving there. Van Camp freelances for brands such as Acne and Missoni, and publications like Vogue France and Numero. She lives in a 6th floor (sans ascenseur) studio in Le Marais, and while the apartment is tiny, it’s everything I’d need: a table for writing, fresh flowers, a view to die for, and happens to be located on the street where one of my book characters lives (“lives”). Van Camp says, “the space itself has beautiful light, which is the most important thing to me when looking for somewhere to live…[And] you see the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night time.” What else could you possibly need?
Two weeks from today.
So you may have noticed things look a little different around here! It was time for a change, a new layout, one that would allow me to have larger photos in preparation for Paris (oh yes, there will be photos). I also didn’t realize how much I missed having a sidebar. I’m by no means a coder/web developer, so the process was fraught with stumbling blocks and lots of trial & error, but I think I was able to pull it off in the end. A big thank you to Christine and my mom for being my test guinea pigs and giving me immensely valuable feedback and tweaks before it went live, and to Gloria, for helping me with a particularly tricky bit of CSS madness! If anything looks or acts weird, let me know! I’d love all of your feedback, too.
My blog wasn’t the only thing to receive a face lift; my white room got a bit of a redesign this weekend, too. Here’s what it looked like before (and more recently here). The painting is my dad’s, of the Smith Civil War Memorial in Fairmount Park. It’s gorgeous, and I love being able to look at it when I’m writing and feeling stuck or uninspired. The tiny watercolor is his, too. Other details: empty Diptyque jar (took me a year and a half to burn all the way through it) now used as a pencil cup, Ladurée box, Eiffel Tower, and some favorite books. This room is my favorite in the house; you’d never believe it’s half below ground with as much light as it gets.
A fresh start all around for spring.
April 14, 2014 / home design /