“One Man’s Junk, Another Man’s Treasure or Reality Paris: Extreme Apartment Makeovers”
Twenty years of memories sat on a Paris sidewalk.
When leaving the apartment last night to go to dinner with a friend, I passed the stack of some of the furnishings now discarded from the recent renovation. They consisted of a purple laminated occasional table that had been in the Leeds foyer since 1987 and a green press-board coffee table that had seen more glasses of wine and party snacks than one can count since 1989. Both had been gathering dust under the beds long ago replaced, but too difficult to part with…not the tables, but perhaps with the memories.
ere they sat waiting for someone to pick them up and make them pretty and useful once again. By the time I arrived home before midnight, all was gone. Who knows where they have landed(!), but one hopes, in some happy home.
Paris sidewalks are a great place to discover one man’s junk, another man’s treasure. Professional scavengers succeed regularly, reducing the work of “M. Poubelle” — what I affectionately call the trash collectors in their bright green uniforms and funny plastic seaweed-fashioned brooms.
When we visit apartments on the resale market, most often they look pretty much like junk, too. Rarely is an apartment in a condition you’d want to live in without renovation…especially in Le Marais, where buildings are as old as 300 or 400 years and residents having occupied them since World War II.
But if the ‘bones’ are good, then some smart new owner can ‘pick them up and make them pretty and useful’ once again. In fact, the transformations we’ve seen in the last couple of years are every bit as shocking as Reality TV’s extreme makeovers using plastic surgery, breast augmentation, liposuction, teeth whitening and a new wardrobe.
Instead, the interior designers, architects, carpenters, electricians and plumbers take cracked-infested ‘boxes’ and turn them into Parisian palaces. Take for example, Kathy N.’s apartment on rue du Temple. It started out with a kitchen the size of a closet wedged between four beams in the center of the living room, the hot water tank was in the corner of the living room and the exposed beams were painted pink, of all colors. The two terraces hadn’t been touched in years, old underwear having fallen on to one of them from the neighbors’ laundry above.
But the potential was there. A clever architect created a galley kitchen separating the bedroom and living room and acting as a hall to the bathroom, opening all the spaces and enabling the apartment to ‘morph’ as needed into two bedrooms when the “Murphy” bed is unleashed from its hiding place in the living room. The terraces are now private oases from the narrow Marais street one flight below and in their honor, the apartment has been officially named “La Terrasse du Temple.”
Tom and Anne B.’s long narrow 27 square meter ‘box’ on rue Saint-Sébastien in the 11th district had charming exposed beams, but those were the only real redeeming features except for a carved door hidden in a pantry that had too many layers of paint to count. When the contractor opened the floor of many levels, he discovered a world of problems and a hole leading to the level below — all a challenge to overcome. Maximizing space while focusing on a gourmet kitchen to satisfy the owners’ culinary hobbies, Martine di Matteo, our associate designer, found brilliant ways of marrying a bedroom, a living room and a large working kitchen all in Art Deco style with plenty of storage. The layers of age on the carved door were unearthed by her talented husband turning into a masterpiece of the apartment as it became the kitchen cupboard door where it can be seen from every vantage point. The apartment is newly completed and awaits vacation renters as “Le Deco.”
Dermot M.’s “pied-à-terre” on the tiny “ruelle” of Cité du Petit Thouars in the historic Temple district was more a box than the others, if one can believe that, with half the apartment eaten up by an oversized hand-constructed wooden kitchen. Moving a wall to enlarge the bedroom and installing elegant French doors to separate the dining room from the bedroom turned this ‘box’ into a mini-château in luscious shades of purples and plums, appropriately named “l’Aubergine.” Recent vacation renters have been singing its praises for soothing comfort in a charming location.
Ralph and Karen M.’s Montmartre apartment is in an idyllic spot at the base of a typical “Amélie Poulain” staircase just off rue Caulaincourt on one-block-long rue Nobel, but the toilet was wedged into a sharp triangle and the bathroom was a tiny square ‘box’ in dark colors that felt like you were showering in a coffin. An antique enamel fireplace sat in a corner but you couldn’t see it for all the walls obstructing it nor could you see the beautiful views out the large windows. Walls came down and rooms were opened for access. The triangular toilet turned into a unique American-style kitchen and the living room/dining room is now embraced by the two bedrooms with French doors connecting all three rooms. The spaciousness achieved in 57 square meters with a bedroom, living-dining room, office/bedroom and now large and luxurious bathroom with huge tub (yes, I’m jealous!), is astonishing. It’s the newest addition to the vacation apartment line-up as “La Bonne Nobel” and noble it is.
If you haven’t noticed from the underlying enthusiasm, note that outside of the relative ups and downs associated with renovation transformations comes immense satisfaction and pleasure watching One man’s junk become another man’s treasure.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
P.P.S. Editor’s note: Photo of Adrian taken in 1987…”one man’s junk, another man’s treasure” or “reality Paris: extreme makeover.”