From the Vault
Viager With A View Part VII
“Viager with a View” — the ongoing ‘saga’ of the apartment destined to be called “La Paris Plage” — a “viager” that I purchased in September of 2007. You may want to read Parts I, II, III, IV, V and VI before you read this chapter.
I hardly noticed that Paris has had gloriously stunning weather — blue skies, bright sun and cool breezes…because I’ve been buried in “rubble.” Yes, “rubble.”
You may recall the ongoing saga of the “Viager with a View?” Well, now its officially called “La Paris Plage” (the main apartment) and one thing has been added: “Le Parisol” (the “chambre de bonne”). The good news is that it’s no longer a “viager!”
The story has been told over a period of two years, but two years prior to that is when I first saw what I knew in my mind’s eye would eventually become a ‘bijou’ or ‘jewel.’ Today it’s just “rubble.”
In the last chapter (Part VI), there was a new entanglement involving the mezzanine, also known as “les combles” and one part called a “cagibi.” In effect, I don’t own these parts — the “copropriété” does…although neighbors living on the first floor of the building had permission from the copropriété to purchase the cagibi in 2001 for 10,000 francs…and paid the sum (so they say), but never passed an “Acte de Vente” and therefore never took legal title over it! Hence, the Syndic claims the copropriété still owns it!
Surveyors came in July to do the “diagnostics” (for termites, lead, asbestos, energy efficiency and the “loi Carrez” [habitable square space]) and I asked them to also measure the mezzanine, the “débarras” (closet in the hall) and the chambre de bonne (maid’s quarters) down the hall. As it turned out, the main apartment measured about 22m2, the terrace 14m2, the débarras .5m2 and the chambre de bonne, 8m2.
You might recall that until the previous owner moved out all of his belongings and I signed the Acte de Vente, I had not seen the chambre de bonne, the cellars nor the débarras — having purchased the whole lot sight unseen.
To my pleasant surprise, the chambre de bonne, while small, has two good-sized windows overlooking both the courtyard of my building as well as the adjacent courtyard, both of which are beautiful classic Marais courtyards, so the view is quite wonderful. In it was a sink and “bidet” hidden under the sink on an extending shelf so you could pull it out and use it.
The main cellar is enormous — a good 15 square meters with high vaulted ceilings, dirt floor and filled to capacity with the elderly gentleman’s belongings. These have since been totally removed taking two days to haul off the lot of it.
The secondary cellar is being used by my neighbor, Madame B., who gave up her own cellar to create the elevator. As a result, I have agreed to give it to her, as long as the copropriété pays the transfer taxes and fees.
The débarras happens to be just the right size to install a washing machine and dryer, plus it’s adjacent to the chambre de bonne, so very convenient.
Since closing day, much has transpired. The demolition began immediately to remove any obstructions including all the walls in the main apartment, tearing down the kitchen and bath, the hand-constructed fireplace, the various levels of flooring and most importantly, the ceiling part obstructing the central opening to the skylight. There were so many questions to be answered about what we would and could expose that almost every inch of the apartment was ‘tapped’ into to if not knocked down.
The work took a good month and many bags of broken concrete and debris were removed. Our contractor deduced that the debris from the apartment was five times greater than that which had recently come out of an 80-plus square meter apartment (“Le Palace des Vosges”) and that we had gained at least one full meter (or more) as a result. Opening the central core of the apartment transformed it completely adding height and light to the small space. Plus, it seems we may have discovered a second, but smaller skylight, in the central core of the apartment which can be uncovered and refurbished.
We discovered many things of interest now that its laid bare. The previous owner had clearly been a “bricoleur” (handyman) himself, having patched together the most fascinating materials to create his end result. Under the flooring, we found newspapers from 1950 used for insulation. The fireplace had been created by making an indentation in a stone supporting wall, which was inside the apartment adjacent to a thin false wall he had built in the hallway of the building to enlarge the apartment! The ceiling on either side of the apartment was made of concrete and could not be opened, nor were the beams of a good enough quality to expose.
All while this was transpiring, Interior Architecte Martine di Matteo was drawing plans, I was meeting with our “mosaiste” (mosaic tile designer), Veronique Husson, discussing possible wall murals with trompe l’oeil artists and working with the contractor and plumber to begin putting the pieces of the puzzle together to have it completed before the end of the year.
The goal is to have one of the most luxurious and enjoyable affordable vacation rental apartments in Paris — equipped with all the best conveniences (including dishwasher, washer, dryer, and even air conditioning), with a large terrace for entertaining and relaxation overlooking the rooftops of Le Marais, that will sleep up to four (by using “Le Parisol”).
Saturday, while the streets were teeming with people enjoying the glorious weather, Veronique and I were wandering Leroy Merlin on rue Rambuteau to chose fixtures and the tiles for the kitchen and bath. She brought me her design for both — a “pavé” of waves to create a movement, like that of the sea, to be done in aqua glass and gold bits. We also chose glass block with which one part of the bathroom walls will be constructed, again to look like the clear blue Mediterranean Sea. The floor terrazzo tiles we chose resemble a sparkling sand, but come from another source — a tiny shop on place du Marché Sainte-Catherine called “Ambiance Céramique” which supplied the beautiful stone flooring and tiles in Le Palace des Vosges…expensive naturally, but worth it!
Stay tuned…as the work progresses to turn the “Viager with a View” into “La Paris Plage” and “Le Parisol” with a view on the “beach” of Paris!
• Part VIII, Monday, November 16, 2009
• Part IX, Monday, March 15, 2010
• Part X, Monday, May 17, 2010
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