A Paris Apartment Without Paint Buckets
The first renter we had at our new IL apartment on rue de la Huchette in the Latin Quarter turned out to be Sondra (Sonny) Boliek, a participant of one of our first Ultimate Travel Writers Workshops here in Paris. As the first to test out our new digs, she was keen to be our first “guinea pig.”
Sonny had a great stay there, or so she said. She entertained us one evening before she returned to the States and for the first time, I was a guest in the apartment I myself had first discovered in late Spring by perusing the ads in “Particulier à Particulier.” It was a Saturday afternoon after Parler Parlor. I had also visited an apartment at 74 rue Cardinal Lemoine, where Ernest Hemmingway and his wife, Hadley, had once lived (mentioned in “A Moveable Feast”). Rue de la Huchette won hands down — the four enormous windows and beautiful old fireplace totally charmed us.
Today, I received this article from Sonny. I share it with you now:
THE HOUSE ON HUCHETTE
By Sondra Boliek
I spent Christmas in Paris, and I dont know when I got the urge to rent my own “pied-à-terre.” I remember telling a Canadian friend about a contemporary apartment advertised in International Living, and that might have triggered it — so, why not me? I chose, however, a renovated apartment in an 18th-century building in the Latin Quarter of alleys in which is the infamous rue de la Huchette. It was the new enterprise of International Living which urges readers to invest in properties for rental and retirement, and chose this site to demonstrate what theyve been preaching.
I was hooked by the report of Adrian Leeds in one of her newsletters, in ecstasy over a flea market find; a stone flame finial which was to become the welcoming symbol and theme of the apartment. Not contemporary, but nevertheless, it convinced me that this would be a living space in good taste.
I signed up when the apartment was far from finished, and canceled my 28 days at a cozy hotel. At $185 a night, it was double the price of the hotel, but as a two room, with loft, kitchen and modern bathroom, it was many times the value of a typical Paris hotel where a double bed is often squeezed into a room the size of a twin bed.
Porter Scott, the contractor, remodeled the loft, added new plumbing and brought in a specialist to rebuild the original functioning fireplace and refinished it back to the stone of which it was carved. Porter and Adrian will have to write a book on the creative skills of the French tradesmen who deal with 300 year old buildings. Porter and Adrian furnished the rooms with handcrafted flea market antiques, slick Ikea kitchen utensils, and five-star Hotel goose down and percale bedding.
But I havent told you about the windows!
Porter might not tell you this in his book, so I will. Before he took on the renovation he spent three nights in the house. What he discovered is that rue de la Huchette still has a wild night life. The noise from the street, even on the fourth story, was unbearable. Porter hired a sound engineer who recommended double windows. This is not the dual-pane windows we have in the States. He meant duplicate French doors mounted one foot from the exterior.
Considering that everything in a crooked old building is custom-made, this meant a tremendous surprise expense to International Living. Porter said he could not rent the apartment well without doing this, and so the investment was made.
Well worth it! The sound is almost completely muffled, including the chimes of the Notre Dame across the river.
When the time of my residency arrived, I was invited to the house-warming party. This was the first time I had seen it. Porter and Adrian were there, and painters and carpenters, cleaners and the International Living executives. My first impression was the stunning windows. I had not known they were four floor-to-ceiling “French doors” along the full length of the room — and I was to learn that it let in beautiful bright winter sunlight.
Paint, wax and champagne bottles were everywhere, no furniture, and several people were on their knees polishing wax on the 300-year-old tiles. Toasts were made, a fire was built in the fireplace, and the work continued. When I arrived the next morning all was serene, elegant, polished, furnished.
Noting the unusual number of Ikea wine glasses, I was delighted to entertain my French friends proudly in my “pied-à-terre,” as well as host subsequent “house-warmings” for the International Living people who wanted to see it without the paint buckets.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]