One Down, One to Go and a New One On the Way
As we stood outside on the sidewalk waiting for one of our best real estate sales agents to arrive, there was a large group of high school students getting a tour and lecture about the building in front of which we were standing. At the same time a man entered the very private looking establishment on the ground level and shortly after, a couple came along to admire the buildings and stopped me to say how much they enjoy watching the House Hunters International episodes.
It was a normal day on rue François Miron (4th district) with tourists pausing to ogle the two half-timbered buildings at numbers 11 and 13 that are very different from anything else on the street. These two buildings are two of less than a handful of residential structures remaining from the Middle Ages in Paris. The others thought to be close in age are at number 3, rue Volta (3rd district) and the Nicolas Flamel house at number 51, rue de Montmorency (also in the 3rd district).
“The structure is of wood, composed of solid wood beams and pillars that are often carved out of one tree. The walls have afterwards been completed by filling the gaps between the structure with unbaked bricks, plaster or cob. After the 1666 London fire, Louis XIV imposed coating all facades with plaster in order to avoid, or limit the propagation of a potential fire. The wood exteriors had thus been covered for several centuries before uncovering them some time in the 20th-century. These houses have been transformed many times, notably in 1966 by the architect R.Hermann.”
Last September, I told the story of our relationship with these buildings in a French Property Insider issue titled “Location, Location, Location: Buying An Apartment in One of the Oldest Buildings in Paris.” One particular apartment came available for purchase in 2010 and it was offered to one of our clients who ultimately turned it down because of its small size (18 square meters, 194 square feet). The agent sold to another buyer in a ‘split Paris second.’
In September 2013, it came up for sale again and our agent called us first. Within moments we were back to have another look. Inside the famous 15th-century houses, which were combined to make one apartment building, the hallways have been modernized and an elevator added. The apartment itself is situated on the third floor (European), and of course, has exposed beams and half-timbered walls. The two large square windows are south-facing, allowing an inpouring of light and beautiful views of the street and the beautiful buildings just opposite. It’s sweet — really sweet.
What the owners had done to destroy the integrity of the ancient property was appalling. It must have cost a pretty penny to add a marble kitchen and a concrete pedestal in the bathroom, but none of this had enhanced its charm. That didn’t stop our client from agreeing to purchase it on the spot with just one phone call to him on the other side of the Atlantic while we were standing in the apartment. He quickly understood the value of the property, sight unseen.
Our associate Interior Architect and Designer, Martine di Mattéo, was called in to rescue the apartment! She let her juices flow, pulled together her ideas, made her plans and the new owner allowed her the freedom to be really creative, sparing no expense. The work began though working in such a small space was no easy task. The work took place over four months.
Meanwhile, our agent called us again. Another apartment in the building and on the same floor came available! A bit smaller (15 square meters/161.5 square feet) and situated on the courtyard, the asking price was much less. Martine’s own stepdaughter decided to make it her first investment in Paris and as soon as next week, the final deed will be signed and it will be hers. Martine will begin working with her to renovate this apartment as well.
The work to the first studio apartment was completed late this past Sunday evening just in time for the new owner to arrive in Paris to see Martine’s ‘work of art.’ Everyone who has walked in has been amazed at how it has been totally transformed! Like a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, the “petit studio,” at the hands of a true artist, became a kind of haven one would be happy never to leave. In fact, as we stood there ogling it, we really could have simply stayed forever.
Every detail was considered and in spite of its small size, it’s missing nothing! When you enter, a mirror reflects your entry disguising the massive storage space along the right wall. On your left is an iron and glass screen that protects you from the two-burner stove in the kitchen, but allows you to see the entire apartment, while creating a small foyer. Then you immediately notice that the 15th-century oak beams were all sanded to a light color and the parquet floor polished, making it feel light and airy as the sun pours in. You then enter into a spacious dining room of sorts where there is a distressed pale gray oval table and two matching arm chairs carved with detail and upholstered in a blackish textured fabric that amazingly resembles the tile in the bathroom.
The black and white checkerboard kitchen is a heavenly corner. In it she has managed to house a refrigerator, washer/dryer, marble sink, several drawers, storage cupboards and an over-the-sink drying rack. The pots and pans hang from a rack near the stove and the appliances sit easily on the spacious marble counter. Overhead the hot water tank is hidden behind the hand-crafted cabinetry. Purple-accent-colored glasses and other touches add dimension. Yes, it’s a kitchen for one cook, but it brilliantly works and is total eye-candy.
The bed is made-up of twins that come together to make a queen or can be moved apart for singles to sleep comfortably. An antique gilded and rather frivolous headboard has been reupholstered in a fine gray textured fabric. The bed is high for the likes of a slumbering princess, allowing for big storage drawers below. The bed clothing is in shades of purple to create a feeling of royalty. Tiny gilded night tables attached to the walls on either side of the bed are where one might put his eyeglasses or drinking glass overnight. The switch next to the bed turns off the lights on the other side of the apartment so a princess can be terribly lazy there, if she likes.
Hand-crafted iron and frosted glass sliding doors close and open easily to expose or hide the spacious bathroom ensconced in a multi-faceted black tile that shimmers with the light. The shower is large enough for two with a large rain-head shower and the new fixtures have an old-world look and feel while affording all the comforts of contemporary living. It’s more fun to leave it open since it’s just more of the eye-candy Martine managed to create.
From the bed, the view is of the wall of storage that is totally disguised by a reproduction of Turgot’s map of Paris…and the spot on which the building sits in noted by a tiny purple dot! Inside is where the flat-screen TV is placed so just open the doors to watch your favorite shows. And she brilliantly thought to exchange the wood for plexi on the inside so the remote control beams would register to the electronic equipment hidden on the shelves — so the viewer will never have to move from his spot to change channels.
The draperies are printed designs resembling the old map, tying together the theme of the Paris streets and life from centuries past. Her ability to marry textures, fabrics and colors is genius. There are hidden touches, too, one might not notice immediately. The radiators look old-world, but they’re a dark gray and ooze charm as well as heat. Martine cleverly added lush purple velvet stools that fold to almost nothing and can be stored in the closet, or left out for additional seating for guests. The table will dine four, so even a party is possible.
Could you live there a lifetime? Yes, possibly! Happily! But stay tuned…soon it will be offered to guests! We expect the apartment will stay fully occupied the moment the owner says ‘go!’ (Book your stay now before it’s too late! Email [email protected])
We’re sure the same will be true for the studio on the courtyard, once it’s renovated, decorated and ready for guests!…perhaps by Fall.
And then, less than 36 hours after Martine opened the door to us at her little jewel of an apartment, our agent called us again. Ye, it’s true, another apartment is for sale in the building!
It’s 15 square meters (161.5 square feet), situated on the second floor just below her stepdaughter’s studio, with a large window on the courtyard, high ceilings and exposed beams. It’s sweet and it needs renovation, of course (allow a minimum of 3,000€-4,000€ per square meter)! The asking price? 225,000€ (plus a finder’s fee). Worth it? Of course!
This is the kind of property investment that comes along once in a lifetime. Imagine owning a “pied-à-terre” in the oldest building in Paris, decorated by Martine di Mattéo and booked with guests 80% of the year (at least!)? Isn’t that an amazing investment for your financial portfolio as well as a guarantee to a pleasurable lifestyle? The answer is yes.
If you are ready to SAY YES IMMEDIATELY to making this purchase, meaning you have the cash and can make a commitment sight unseen, email me TODAY ([email protected]), as a buyer will be found in a ‘split Paris second’ — but it could be you! (Please make your offer officially on a signed document and keep in mind, that we will consider the offers on a first come, first serve basis.)
A la prochaine…
Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC
(by Theo Robinson)
P.S. Martine di Mattéo is speaking at the Parler Paris Après Midi gathering next Tuesday, May 13th, 3 to 5 p.m. at La Pierre du Marais on “Before and After: What to expect when you renovate!” Don’t miss what she has to say and the photos she has to show! Visit Parler Paris Après Midi for more information.
P.P.S. Make your trip to Paris extra-special with the services Parler Paris Plus. Our concierge can help you surprise that special someone with a goodie basket, spa package, tickets to the ballet or opera — anything your heart desires! To learn more visit Parler Paris Plus or to book your concierge services, contact us at [email protected]