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Living Through a Paris Renovation

Thank goodness I live only a few steps from “the baby” as I call it (a.k.a. Le Provençal) — the studio apartment I purchased recently for investment to turn into a vacation rental. The “loi Carrez” (official legal measurements) are a mere 16.5 square meters (178 square feet), but three large windows the length of the apartment overlooking the courtyard, with views of the neighboring windows and bright skies, the sun pouring in thanks to its southeast orientation, make it feel almost as large as the city itself. (Forgive me — I exaggerate a bit to make the point.)

The reason to be thankful is that a visit to the “construction site” is necessary every single day and every few days, it is imperative to make a trip to the “sous sol” (basement) of the BHV (Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville, http://www.bhv.fr/) or scour the long aisles at Leroy Merlin (http://www.leroymerlin.com).

For those of you who have made a home in Paris, you are sure to have come to know both these stores like the backs of your hands at one time or another. And to those of you who haven’t yet made a home in Paris, you will. They are both within easy walking distance of one another in Le Marais and are as fundamental to life in Paris as your neighborhood “boulangerie” (bakery).

Yesterday with my “entrepreneur” (contractor), Tony, a man about my same age who moved here 16 years ago from Rumania, we moved quickly from floor to floor of the BHV gathering up the things we needed about which decisions were required. Jokingly we remarked that “if the BHV didn’t have it, it didn’t exist.” If you’ve never visited the basement of this imposing department store, then put it high on your list — it ranks way up there with a visit to Le Louvre — with maybe even more to see!

In the plumbing department, there was an overwhelming number of rainfall showerheads from which to choose, but one on “promotion” (on discounted sale) that would work perfectly. In the electrical section we purchased a new “tableau électrique” (electric control panel) without fuses. Where shower curtain rods were displayed at the back of the window coverings department on another level, we found the perfect round bar to fit the new mosaic free-form shower stall. On the same floor is a large area devoted to handles and knobs where there are literally hundreds on display. There we found the perfect black wrought iron door handles and window knobs with the spiral design I’ve chosen as a decorative motif. Around the corner on rue du Temple, the BHV offers a glass-cutting and ceramic tile shop where we had four mirrors cut to place on both the inside and outside of the bathroom door.

Renovation in Paris (or just about anywhere) can be a time consuming and ardent project. In the city, it’s not as simple as loading the goods into your car like you would at a Home Depot parking lot. Instead, we hauled a dolly down the streets of Le Marais, loaded it up and strapped it all in tight, only to walk back down the cobblestones to then haul it up the three flights of stairs and into the dusty and crowded renovation site.

It is very fortunate that I have such great and trustworthy workers who I have known for years and within whom I can feel confident to make every detail count. Tony has renovated e

very room in my personal apartment over a period of time and many others on my recommendation to clients and friends. His French is about on the same level as mine, so between us we manage to communicate effectively!

With this project, I also employed a specialist in mosaic tile (“mosaiiste”), Véronique Husson, the mother of one of my daughter’s childhood friends, to turn the compact kitchen and bath into works of art…and that she has done! She happily agreed to top it all off with a café table to match. I bought the “pied” (table base), Tony cut the round top, and Véronique set the tiles…a team effort with fabulous results.

I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel while the bank account dwindles and I spend twice as much over double the time originally estimated (you may recall a previous lamentation: “Travaux” Twice the Time, Twice the Price,” Monday, June 5, 2006 at /parlerparis/issues/pparis5-6-06.html)…but “tant pis” (too bad)…it’s certain to be the “petit bijou” that will steal away the hearts of those who hang their hats there.

A la prochaine…and happy Bastille Day!

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. For more information about “Le Provençal” and the others we are offering at Parler Paris Apartments, visit /parlerparis/apartments/

P.P.S. See the photos and read all about yesterday’s Parler Paris Après Midi by visiting /parlerparis/apresmidi.html Remember, there is no gathering in August. Our next meeting is September 12, 2006 for La Rentrée! See you then.

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