May 22, 2015
It is difficult to imagine that when we returned from our Paris vacation last August, we made the choice to finally move here. In just four short months, we sold our house, applied for and received our Long Stay Visas, searched for and found a beautiful apartment in our favorite part of Paris. On December 31st we boarded a flight and arrived on January 1st to begin our new adventure on New Year’s Day. In late December our things had been meticulously packed and loaded into a large shipping container, trucked to the port of Los Angeles, loaded onto a boat and then slowly shipped South, through the Panama Canal and then North to the port of Le Havre where it was then cleared through French customs, loaded onto a truck and driven to Paris. Whew. Quite a trek for us all.
The big day arrived and we couldn’t have been more excited. The container was on a truck at the end of our street. The lift was parked in front of our building and slowly raised to the balcony off of our Living room. Parisian elevators are quite small and the stairs are very narrow and too tight for anything large to fit so the easiest way to load is through the windows. Clever as always, the French have a wonderful lift system that telescopes up with a platform that runs up and down it allowing them to load everything through the window. It all started slowly but then began to pick up steam. Three men on the street would load the small platform with boxes which then made their way up to the team in the apartment. Each box was then checked off the manifest and unpacked. The empty boxes and all the packing materials were then bundled with tape and sent back down on the lift. This was repeated over and over and over until finally everything was in. It was hectic and exciting all at the same time. For me is was also extremely emotional as each and every item I looked at seemed a treasure to me as I was reminded how much I loved them. A chair, painting a knick knack. It was a joyous reunion to say the very least. When the delivery men left, things were a mess. There had been no time to really organize things so we just put them wherever they would fit. Now we were faced with the daunting task of figuring out where everything should go. Which brings us to today. After two months, everything is now set and we are ready to share what we have created with you all.
The gallery below shows before and after shots of our living room, dining room, library, foyer and kitchen. With the exception of the lights, curtains and dining room table, everything you see is from our house in Los Angeles. It all seems to fit quite nicely even if we do say so ourselves.
There are a few things I would like to point out. First, in the living room, dining room and library, I decided to make my own curtains. Having never done French Plaits before, it took some time and practice, but I think I managed a pretty good job. The fabrics I found at the Marche St. Pierre which is one the largest fabric stores in the world. It is worth a separate blog post so that’s all I will say now. We selected the same two fabrics for the living room and dining room but I reversed them in each room using the opposite fabric as the lining. It ties the rooms together nicely. For the library, we selected completely different fabrics for both the front and the lining. They are richer and warmer adding an elegant and more regal feel to the room. For the rods, I went to BHV (Bazar de l’Hotel de Ville) to order custom rods, rings and ends. Any visit to Paris should include a visit to this most amazing store which I will post on in detail another time.
Each of the four rooms also needed new lights since the apartment came with only a single light bulb dangling from a wire. This took some time as we wanted to find the right fixture for each room. The Foyer, which I did a separate post on, has a bronze light from the late 19th century featuring beautifully carved Ram heads tied together with garland. We found this piece at the Village Suisse, a small, permanent antique market not far from our home. We have been visiting it for many years now and from time to time are lucky enough to find the perfect piece and this was one of those times. The living room, dining room and library fixtures were all found at St. Ouen, the largest and most mesmerizing of all antique markets in the city and probably in Europe. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of shops that can be found on narrow winding streets where it is easy to get lost. There are also dozens and dozens of larger showrooms all featuring museum quality pieces from the 15th century on. It is a mecca for those who love antiques and have the patience to search out what they are looking for. For the living room we found a spectacular late 19th century lamp who’s center piece is a large Alabaster bowl with three lights inside of it. From that bowl there are three arms that branch off into two lamps with glass shades. The bronze metal work is ornate with faces of what I can only describe as ‘father time’ at the base of each of the three arms where they connect to the Alabaster bowl. For the dining room, we decided that a new piece would provide a nice contrast. As we continued our search in St. Ouen, we spotted a dealer who only sells new chandeliers. After looking at his collections, we decided to have him make something that would integrate elements from two of his other designs. We went with a silver finish rather than gold so as not to distract from the crystals which we think was a good choice. Finally, for the library, we spotted a small shop nestled between several others, where the owner was quietly sitting reading. There was really nothing that he carried that would normally catch our eye save for one lamp hanging in the back. It was perfect. From the late 19th century (there seems to be a theme here) it is bronze with six shades mounted to a round base that is hung from six long arrow shaped supports. It was exactly what the library needed.
The dining room table we had in Los Angeles was far too big for us to bring as we knew it would never fit in Parisian size rooms. It was one of the first pieces we found and we thought it would be nice to have something that would contrast the old style of most of our other things. We found this beautiful Danish mid-century modern, teak dining room table at St. Ouen. We loved the gentle oval shape and the way the legs were designed to enhance that shape. We knew it would look amazing with our chairs around it without being a distraction. And it can extend to seat up to 12 if needed.
The rest, rugs, tapestries, chairs, tables, paintings, etc. all seemed to fit perfectly in the ornately molded rooms with parquet floors, high ceilings and tall windows. The fire place mantels, there are three in the public rooms and one in one of the bed rooms, are works of art in themselves. The living room has a ceiling high mantel made of carved wood that frames an ancient mirror that shows its age of over 100 years. The dining room and library have marble mantels each with its own intricate design and both with mirrors above adding space and light to the rooms. Every room also boasts its own elaborate molding which provide a warm and elegant feel. At the end of the foyer is a long – very long – hallway that goes down to the two bedrooms. We are not sharing photos of our private space – sorry – but I have included a shot of Mitch standing in the doorway to the farthest bedroom to give you a sense of the length of the hallway.
Also, as I mentioned in a prior post, we have two Chambres des Bonne or Chambres des Service on the top floor. We use one for storage and the other I have turned into my sewing room. Tink loves to join me up there and sit in her bed while I sew. There are also two Caves in the basement which are empty now. Earthen floors and ancient stone walls under the building foundation make it a perfect place to store wine and champagne which many of our neighbors do.
So there you have it. It took a little time and effort, but it was well worth it. And our planning before we left paid off spending many hours going over the floor plans and measuring our furniture to see what would fit where. This allowed us to sell what we knew wouldn’t fit and only bring the things that would. We are thrilled with the results and hope you enjoyed seeing what we have created. Thank you for letting me share it with you.