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The Mattress Matters Most and “They’ll Always Have Paris…”

(Photos by Patty Sadauskas)

With the sales person at BHVWith the sales person at BHV

The bed department at BHVThe bed department at BHV

More beds at BHV

Searching for a surmatelasSearching for a surmatelas

One of our “stars” of House Hunters International, Liz Fear (“A Paris Shoebox for Six” that will air again on March 16th and 17th) was thrilled when she and her husband Tony found a bargain, a high quality mattress at the BHV department store for 40% off during the recent sale period, to replace the old mattress that had come with their “pied-à-terre” in Le Marais. “It’s really comfy, too,” she claimed.

“What a good idea, Liz,” I said. I had been thinking of replacing my 20 year-old Ikea mattress for a long time, but buying a new bed is one of those projects one easily puts off and off and off…just as I had done. She immediately offered to go with me, as did Patty Sadauskas, to test out the beds and help choose one.

The BHV was a zoo that day, just like it always is during the sale periods on a Saturday…but that didn’t deter us. Up on the 5th floor, Liz showed us her mattress and we tested it, then went from bed to bed on the sales floor within the same price range (under 1,000€ on sale) and like silly fools (or, at least that’s how it felt), we laid down on each one and made some sort of judgment about its comfort level. In the end, the one she had chosen was best — an Epéda brand “Erable,” and purchased it without hesitation for 40% off from a cute, young salesman.

I was thrilled. A new mattress was to be delivered and I couldn’t wait for that day, one week later, for it to arrive. It did, of course, on schedule. The delivery men were gracious enough to take the old mattress off the bed, move it to my daughter’s bedroom, where they replaced her older mattress with mine and then removed hers and took it away…all this after I signed for the delivery and they had removed the plastic protective covering from the new Epéda mattress. Both my daughter’s and mine had foam “surmatelas” (mattress toppers) on them — the kind that look like egg cartons that soften the surface of the mattress so they, too, had to be reinstalled. Got the picture? There were two beds to unmake and remake.

It wasn’t until Patty and I went to remake the new bed that we realized the  mattress was seriously short of the frame — by 10cm. It was 190cm long instead of the 200cm long that was needed to fit my Ikea frame and therefore there was a big gap…a big, big gap! Silly me — I never thought to ask about the length — I was so focused on the width at 140cm (a double), and besides, wasn’t the standard size 200cm long?

We dropped everything and ran back to the BHV. This time it was a bit quieter than the last visit there during the sales, and fortunately found the same cute, young salesman, who remembered us. After the usual and necessary “Bonjour Monsieur,” I blurted out (in French), “Hey, you sold me the wrong size! I wanted a standard length and you sold me a 190cm!”

“Madame, 190cm is the standard, not 200cm.” (Oh lord, I knew then I was screwed.) “You signed for it when it was delivered and it was ’emballé’ (unpackaged), right?”

“Oui,” gulp. I couldn’t deny it. Yep, I was screwed. Patty and I looked at one another with big question marks on our foreheads. They weren’t taking back the mattress nor changing it for the bigger size. The only solution was to purchase a “sommier” (mattress frame) that fit the new mattress. Ugh. There went a few hundred more euros, but what choice did I have? She offered up an inexpensive sommier at a discount and I handed over my credit card. It would be delivered about 10 days later. Now, I had a new mattress 10cm shorter than the old one (not a bad thing, to take up less space in the room) and a new sommier on route and a big bill to match.

Remember, I hadn’t yet slept in the bed and I couldn’t wait to test it out.

That night, I slept like a log on the new mattress, but the next morning I woke up feeling like a Mac truck had run over me. Every muscle in my body ached. It was a first: even sleeping on the worst beds in the craziest of places all over the world, I never felt like this, even with the foam egg-carton topper to soften it. Yep, I was screwed. I had a new mattress I couldn’t return, a new sommier on route, and I hated the mattress.

All the possible solutions went flying through my head. I sent registered letters to the BHV and the headquarters of Epéda making my complaint. I contacted our designer, Martine di Mattéo, to see if she had a client willing to buy the mattress from me as she has access to another brand that people seem to like that perhaps I could buy, too — as long as she could find a home for mine. I even made a trip to a specialty store to test those out.

Patty kept saying, “Maybe you just need time to get used to it.” So, I gave it the “old college try” and slept on it hoping that one morning I’d wake up and my whole body wouldn’t ache. That never happened. Every morning was the same. Fortunately, a few days after the mattress was delivered, I went to Nice where I happily slept in my Ikea mattress there, and felt like a new person again…at least for the few days I was there. Clearly, the Epéda mattress was the culprit and the thought of returning to it was frightening.

Shortly after returning to Paris, the new sommier arrived. Tony, a “bricoleur” who has seen me through just about every home improvement, arrived the next morning to dismantle the old Ikea frame. It was sentimental because I had assembled it myself in 1997 and I remember that day very clearly because it was just after moving into my Marais apartment. The frame was very, very heavy. I was all alone and frightened I’d kill myself in the process, but stupidly determined to get it done so I could have a real bed to sleep in. I managed not to die in the process and that frame had been there all those years, reminding me of the early days in the apartment when I did so much myself for lack of funds. When it was broken down into parts, Tony’s assistant dismantler happily took it away so he could make use of it himself.

We laid the new mattress on the new sommier with the “winter side” up. The “Erable” has one side for each season — -Winter: cashmere, Summer: natural silk. That night, the new sommier made no difference to the way I felt the morning after. I slept well in the bed, but the achiness in the morning never let up. Fortunately, I then went to Los Angeles and happily left the bed behind for a bit of a reprieve. In L.A. I slept in an old sofa bed — the kind with a thin mattress and the rods that you can feel in your back in which I slept like a baby and never woke up achy. I dreaded coming home to the Epéda mattress.

BHV and Epéda answered my letters and offered nothing, but one suggestion: “Erable is a bed with one-side in memory-foam (winter) and one side without (summer). Not everybody is meant to sleep well in memory-foam. try the summer side with and without your surmatelas to see what you like the most. Signed, Espace Epéda, Le BHV/Marais

I took their suggestion and turned the mattress over to the summer side. Keep in mind, that with every change, the bed must be unmade and remade. I was starting to feel like a maid in a hotel. The summer side was a bit better than the winter side, but still, never as comfortable as my Ikea mattresses. Switching the beds between my daughter’s room and mine was a possibility, but then I’d be left with my old bed again, which was the point of it all. There was only one solution: add a thick and proper “surmatelas” and then “pray like hell.”

Patty and I went back to the BHV. If you’ve never been to the BHV, then you must. The joke is that the BHV has EVERYTHING, but the kitchen sink. And this is true — they don’t sell kitchen sinks, but the shoe repair department alone in the “sous sol” will blow your mind. Nonetheless, we set out to visit the bedding department and found a cute, young saleswoman in the Epéda section to whom I told the entire story. She showed us her surmatelas priced at several hundred euros.

“Don’t you have a surmatelas less expensive?,” I asked.

“No, but maybe one of the other brands.”

So, all three of us trek over to the other side of the store and try out the Bultex “Ceramic”…which was more comfortable and just as expensive. The salesman listened to my story and offered up a discount of 20%. Patty and I looked at one another again with big question marks on our foreheads. I had to make a decision. What did I have to lose but another few hundred euros?

Again, I handed over my credit card. He rang up the sale there and then, but instead of 20% off, gave me 30% off. Okay, that helped. The box was large and heavy, so we laid it across their little rolling cart and off we went barely making it down the aisles to the “caisses” where I was to purchase the other items we had accumulated during our shopping at the BHV.

Once again, I handed over my credit card along with my BHV “Carte de Fidelité” and a copy of my passport.

Now, here’s where you’re going to be very happy that you read through this long and boring story, because not only had I accumulated enough points on my Carte de Fidelité to reduce my purchase by 50€, but had been granted another 10% discount thanks to my U.S. passport!

Yep, the BHV offers a 10% discount to residents of all countries outside France upon presentation of a valid passport.* ( Next time you go to the BHV, be armed with a copy of your passport. Resident or not, they don’t ask questions — they just take off the 10% and you’ll be a little richer for it. I felt satisfied.

    *Valid for non-European Union residents and E.U. residents living outside     France upon presentation of a valid passport. Discount does not apply to red dot items, multimedia, book department, food, gift cards, travel, wedding registry or services. Offer cannot be combined with any other offer or     promotional advantage.
After an Uber ride home with the big box and unmaking and remaking the bed yet again, I slept the last two nights on the new mattress with the new surmatelas and still woke up each morning feeling like a Mac truck had run over me! Early this morning I moved into my daughter’s room and cuddled into my old mattress in total comfort.

Okay, I’m open to your suggestions…but if you’d like to purchase a relatively new mattress, with a relatively newer sommier and a relatively newer surmatelas…all of the best and highest quality brands, make me an offer I can’t refuse! Email me at [email protected].


An anti-Tump protest, in Paris, France, in February. Credit, Ian Langsdon/European Pressphoto AgencyAn anti-Tump protest, in Paris, France, in February. Credit, Ian Langsdon/European Pressphoto Agency

When I was in Los Angeles last week, New York Times editorial journalist Mira Kamdar, who is an award-winning author writing on international affairs topics living in Pantin (the “Brooklyn” of Paris) called me for what I’m usually good for…an opinion. She wanted to know how things have changed or affected us since Donald Trump was elected. I gave her an earful — probably way more than she wanted to hear and certainly way more than she was able to include in her article published online March 2nd and in print in the International New York Times on March 3rd:

They’ll Always Have Paris, Despite What Trump Says

Kamdar informs us that More than 30,000 Americans live in France, including more than 16,000 in Paris. (I thought it was much, much more, but there are so many part-timers that are not accounted for.) She quoted French historian Henry Rousso from the French edition of the Huffington Post, who’s a Jew born in Egypt and (quoting Kamdar) “was detained for more than 10 hours and threatened with deportation by American border agents when he arrived at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport last Wednesday to attend a conference at Texas A&M University.” In retaliation to Donald Trump’s friend “Jim” who told him that he stopped visiting Paris four or five years ago because “Paris was no longer Paris.”: “What I know, loving this country for a long time is that the United States is no longer quite the United States.”

My quote finally comes at the very end as the punchline: “In contrast to Mr. Trump’s friend ‘Jim,’ some well-heeled Americans apparently hope France will continue to welcome them too. According to Adrian Leeds, who runs a business helping Americans find homes in France, and who has lived here for 22 years: ‘Since the minute the election result came in, we have been flooded with calls.'”

Yes, it’s true. Since the day after the election more Americans want to move to France or own a second home here than ever before. From one American to another, we welcome you.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds - at the BHV Paris, France

Adrian Leeds
Adrian Leeds Group

(at the BHV)

 Respond to Adrian


P.S. For those interested in learning more about how to move to France or purchase a property here, I offer consultations that will put you light years ahead in your goals. If you are a guest of our apartments, the consultation is free. For more information and to book your personal time with me, visit out Consultation Services page.


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