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Keeping Cool and An Airy Aerie

Volume XXI, Issue 23

Twin urns on the apartment balcony on Avenue Shakespear in Nice


Summer is creeping up and we may be turning on the air-conditioning any time now. Here in Nice, I have my “reversible” unit set on automatic, so it switches from AC to heat depending on the need, as the mornings and evenings are cool while the afternoons are warm.

The reversible AC system in Adrian Leeds' apartment in Nice

A “reversible” is a dual-functional system that is practical and an effective solution because it’s one unit that both heats and cools using both an outdoor module (compressor) and an indoor module (the cooling/heating fan). The outdoor unit contains a condenser and an evaporator, while the indoor unit incorporates a fan coil to distribute the air throughout the home. The two units are connected by a refrigerant and the connection between the two are pipes run through the apartment, much like a plumbing system. To do this, normally there must be some sort of conduit space, perhaps in a lowered ceiling or encasement that could look like a beam of a sort. There are various ways to “skin this cat” depending on if you’re remodeling and can incorporate it, or if it’s an added afterthought.

The hidden compressor on Adrian Leeds' balcony in Nice

The hidden compressor on the balcony

Air conditioning is not a standard feature in French homes, so don’t be surprised that your summer rental apartment or home is missing it. Be sure to check before you commit!

The tricky part in France is having permission to place the outdoor compressor on the outside of a building where there are strict building codes, such as in Paris. Fortunately, since Nice is quite a bit warmer than Paris, it’s a different story because the compressors are allowed on one’s private balconies and on the outside of the buildings as long as others are already there. In Paris, when we’re visiting properties, we look for a “garde manger” that sits under a kitchen window used to naturally cool food that can work great as a place to hide a compressor without having special permission from the city or the building in which to install it. These are gold!

Example of a garde a manger

Example of a garde manger

If you own a single-family home, you can install air conditioning where you like, but it may require planning permission from the local town hall (mairie) depending on the extent of the work involved and again, where the compressor sits. If your property is located in a historic or protected area, modifications to the exterior may not be allowed at all.

For those residing in communal buildings such as apartments, permission from the Syndic (homeowner’s association/management) is required, even if you own your apartment. External modifications may also necessitate planning permissions.

Installing air conditioning can be quite expensive, too. The cost of an air conditioner itself ranges from €250 to €12,000, depending on its features. Additionally, you need to consider installation costs, annual maintenance fees, and increased energy expenses. I just recently replaced the system in my Nice apartment after the new balcony was installed and we discovered that the old compressor was too old to be worth fixing. One compressor and two reversible units, with installation and a cover to hide the compressor, came to over 6,000€…and this did not require new piping!

Alternatively, if air conditioning is not feasible due to financial constraints, landlord preferences, or environmental concerns (AC’s high energy consumption and contribution to the urban heat island effect), there are alternative options.

One option is to consider installing a heat pump, which is more expensive upfront but eco-friendly and provides both cooling in summer and heating in winter. Due to their low energy usage, heat pumps can eventually lead to savings on annual heating and cooling bills.

Another alternative is using a free-standing air conditioning unit, which does not require planning permission since it doesn’t involve structural modifications. However, if you live in a building with a Syndic, their permission may still be necessary, depending on the building’s rules and regulations. In Paris, I keep a couple of free-rolling units that can be piped out an open window. In some situations, a hole can be cut in the window to accommodate the pipe.

An example of a portable AC unit

AC tube through a hole cut in the window

Olympia Splendid makes a unit called the “UNICO®” that is an air conditioner without an outdoor unit with easy installation and no impact on the aesthetics of the building. We have installed this type of unit in our Fractional Ownership property, Le Charles V. It works by making only two holes that can be seen on the external surface.

The AC unit from Olympia Splendid in Le Charles V

Electric fans, either desk or standing fans, are a straightforward and permission-free option. They are widely available in electrical retailers and supermarkets (although they may sell out quickly during heatwaves). Additional methods for keeping your home cool without air conditioning include using shutters or curtains to block out the sun. Duh!


One of our conference attendees last Fall fell in love with Nice and set out to find herself a pied-à-terre that would change the course of her future. Her husband wasn’t on board with her plans, but she forged ahead anyway to find a small apartment she could afford that she could call her own..a “nest” in which she could enjoy the rest of her life.

Thanks to our team of property consultants in Nice, Jennifer Parrette and Ella Dyer, Carolyn H. struck gold—an aerie on the top floor just under the cupola of one of Nice’s most beautiful bourgeois buildings in the Quartier des Fleurs, not far from the new Alsace-Lorraine Tram stop.

The Avenue Shakespeare apartment building in Nice

The cornice of the apartment building

Carolyn’s glow of happiness shines and lights up the room the moment she enters. She thinks she’s died and gone to heaven as the new proud owner of such a “bijou.” And I don’t blame her. I had the good fortune to visit the property this week and I fell in love just as she had.

Carolyn in her bijou apartment in Nice

It’s a large studio on the top floor with a circular room under the cupola (that she will investigate if the ceiling can be opened). There are three balconies, one of which is large, round, and under a big frieze with giant stone urns anchoring it on each side. The views are sensational as one can imagine. When you’re inside, you feel as if you are on top of the world and even though it’s small, it would be impossible to feel claustrophobic.

Views from the Avenue Shakespeare apartment

Panoramic view from the Avenue Shakespeare apartment in Nice

For now the kitchen is separate and closets create walls that block the views from the entry. All that is going to change as Carolyn plans the renovation to open it all up and make it much more spacious while adding more intelligent storage. We discussed lots of ideas. She can’t wait to get started on the transformation. I can’t wait to see it completed and Carolyn happily ensconced in her new Nice aerie!

A bientôt,

Adrian LeedsAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

P.S. Carolyn’s apartment is an example of the kinds of special properties our team can find. They don’t come available often, but if you’re on the “inside” of the Nice property market like we are, it’s entirely possible. If you want to make it happen for you, just as it did for Carolyn, visit our website to learn more or request a consultation by clicking here.


1 Comment

  1. LaVerne on June 8, 2023 at 12:31 pm

    Dear Adrian,
    Your blogs always provide a smile for my day. At 83 yrs of age, moving to Paris will probably only be a delightful Walter Mitty adventure with you. I actually read every article including those on your remodeling, French laws/taxes and even air conditioning units.
    Regards, LaVerne
    (Houston, TX)

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