Sunday, November 21, 2010

Heaven in the 7th, part III



Bought-i. And we are now excitedly under contract to purchase a Parisian apartment.  Can we please just call it a flat?  I know it’s pretentious, but it’s so much nicer!

Now there is a very nice little French law that allows you to get out of your contract for up to eight days after you have signed your “Promesse” to purchase in the notary’s office. Although I’ve been feeling pretty good about this apartment, there is one person I’d like to have look at it before I let the eight days elapse.

Ever since we’ve thought about buying an apartment in Paris, I’ve kept close tabs on the apartment rental market in Paris. We’ve stayed in a lot of hotels and rented apartments from a lot of agencies, and although there are many good ones I can recommend, my personal favorite Paris apartment rental agency is Paris Perfect. Every time we’ve stayed in a Paris Perfect apartment, everything from the quality of the apartments to the locations, the views, the amenities and the service have been, well … perfect. I’ve always thought that Madelyn, the co-owner of this agency, has a great eye and great judgment about investing in Paris apartments, and so my next step is to get her opinion.

I know Madelyn from way back, when we first started looking for an apartment almost three years ago. We had found a jewel of an apartment in the 7th, which we were planning to buy. Unfortunately, the stars did not line up in our favor this time around, when everything from the economy to the exchange rate turned against us, and we had to, regretfully, step out of it. When the apartment showed up on the Paris Perfect website, I knew that it had gone to the right person. They did a fabulous transformation from ugly duckling to beautiful swan, and I knew that if anyone could help me determine if my little duckling in the 7th was the right purchase, Madelyn could.

Before and After:

Here are the pictures of the one that got away, as we saw it when it was for sale,  followed by Paris Perfect’s beautiful transformation.


A killer view

Before we get started, let’s just show you why we were even considering this apartment:  A killer view in a killer location, in the heart of the 7th.  With this picture, the before and after didn’t change,  which is why it’s always about location, location, location!

Now, for the magical transformation:

June 2008 069


Clairette Living room

After – love how they kept the idea of the closets, but made them more open, keeping them functional but with a greater feeling of space.


And of course,  a big Louis Philippe mirror does wonders for any room, especially with a chandelier reflected in it.

Clairette fireplace


LR 2

A little corner of the living room gets a precious little desk and chair.

lClairette corner of LR


Better view of LR and DR

The windows were already a great feature of the apartment, but what a beautiful place to put the dining room table!

Clairette Dining


Dining room

One of my favorite features:  The afternoon light pouring in to the living room.

Clairette sun pouring through

Bedroom closets


Clairette bedroom closets

In the bedroom, they cleverly transformed one of the walls in to a wall of closets, creating storage (a most precious Parisian commodity) while keeping it good looking.

Bedroom good  They had to shift some walls around to have put the bed against this wall – and it sure was worth it.

clairette bedroom

Bathroom best one

Bathroom transformations are always some of the most dramatic, and this one is no exception. 

Clairette bathroom

The kitchen had good little bones to begin with, but badly needed the facelift it received.  Vive la difference!

Kitchen best

clairette Kitchen

So, what do you think?  Can my little duckling be transformed in to a swan?  I’m pretty sure it can, but just to be sure, I’ll see what Madelyn has to say.  Stay tuned!

Ta ta,


Friday, October 8, 2010

Heaven in the 7th


After my big loss of Le Sublime, I took a little break from trying to find the perfect Paris pad. I tried to ignore the barrage of emails, with pictures of seductive floors, enticing moldings and 19th century stone facades. I tried not to click on google maps for a daily walk up and down the streets of a neighborhood. I avoided some of my favorite French websites and didn’t try to hone in on buildings from the sky, at different angles, to measure the angle of the sun at various times of the day. I tried not to focus on Paris and instead kept busy with a multitude of other projects, with the gallery, trips to Provence, and of course, my little family. And I was successful at it … until this photo popped up in my inbox.

Copy of Copy of Sept 20 to 27 2010 075

Followed by another one, that just clarified the location for me.

Realtor view cropped

Some people might think, what’s the big deal? So you have a view of the Eiffel Tower? What makes you think this is a great apartment?

But you see, I’ve been doing this for almost three years! I know this neighborhood inside and out. I can look at this photo and tell you that the apartment is within a stone’s throw of the rue Cler, one of the most bustling and colorful market streets in Paris. I know that it’s around the corner from the rue St. Dominique, home of about six fabulous restaurants, most of which are owned and run by that new prince of cuisine, Christian Constant. I know the buses that run up and down the street and I love the metro stop, which is a five minute walk away. I’ve walked the short stroll to the Seine river, and to the Champ de Mars, and know that from this location, my puppy will get the most scenic work out that she’s ever experienced.

Champ de Mars

And although I’m not an haute couture kind of gal, I certainly like the idea of being just minutes from the avenue Montaigne, even though I’ll probably never set foot in Chanel, Dior or Christian Lacroix.


Without even looking further, I know that this apartment is in “my” hood. Oh dear. These don’t come up very often. I may just have to pursue it.

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And then I catch a glimpse of the floors! “My floors!” I’m in trouble now …

Floor detail

From the floors and the moulding, I can tell that it’s a Haussmann style building, probably built a little before the turn of the century (1890’s). I’m pretty sure that it’s on the 2nd floor, which is not my favorite, but I do see advantages to not being up high, especially since I’ve had experience with Parisian elevators. And, this apartment is on a very wide street, so there’s nothing blocking the sun from pouring in, which is another check in its favor.

Sunshine cropped

I read the description and the size and realize that it’s perfect. At 800 square feet, it’s just enough to be a small two bedroom, which is exactly what I’m looking for. There’s only one bathroom, but that can probably be remedied. And the pictures of the kitchen are definitely not what I’m looking for. But that too, is a cosmetic fix. I’m starting to hyperventilate, just a little.

Front hall detail

It’s time to look at this building from the sky, measure the sun and walk to the nearest bakery. I see that it’s on a large courtyard, so I figure that the bedrooms, surely located in the back, will actually get some good light. I look at the angle of the sun and figure that in the summer time, the front of the building will have sun pouring in from early afternoon to sunset.

Realtor outside cropped

I get out google maps, and sprint around the neighborhood, counting the number of restaurants, gourmet shops, pharmacies (my personal favorites!), and yes, even veterinary clinics. I visit some of the local dress shops, antique stores and art galleries that dot every street. I look at the florists, the hair dressers, the shoe repair shops, the cheese shops, the wine stores, and start counting the bakeries and take out gourmet shops, until my stomach begins to rumble. I ensure that there are no restaurants downstairs whose odors could penetrate the apartment. And I count the number of buses that all stop within a five minute walk. By the time I finish my tour, I am panting, exhausted and exhilarated. And ready to call the realtor.





But what if this one turns out to be sold? Can I bear another loss? Can I take my poor readers through another roller coaster ride? Will I finally find my little slice of heaven in the 7th?

I have no choice. This apartment speaks to me. I’ll make the call and hold my breath.

Stay tuned!



Sunday, October 3, 2010

Happy Reflections

No such thing as too much basil At the market preparing for our group – no such thing as too much basil!

I am in France right now with Linda on a gallery trip to Provence and it’s one of the most fun trips we’ve ever had. I know, that’s a dangerous thing to say since we never want to play favorites and of course we love all our children equally! But what makes this trip so special is the camaraderie of the ladies in this group whose deep bonds of friendship date back to college days. They know each other so well that the jabs are flying constantly while the laughter is contagious, and Linda and I are spending half our time doubled over in stitches. Perhaps there is a little wine flowing in the evenings, but all in all, it’s such good fun.

One of my favorite parts of this trip is that for at least one guest, it is her first trip to France. Seeing it all through her eyes is like reliving it and appreciating it for the first time.

We’ve got a great system of helpers on our trips, the main one being the ever adorable and so fashionably footed Christophe, our driver. Today, taking a little side trip to the train station with Christophe, I learned that his motivation for guiding people around France is the same as ours – which is the joy you get for playing a part in showing people the unexpected, whether it’s the first time they’ve seen it or not.

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chris 3

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Christophe 1 The Fashionable Feet of Christophe

Christophe was a pilot in a previous life who took clients on circuits over parts of the marvelously varied Provence countryside. He said that the holidays were a busy season for him with many people offering his plane trip to their friends or families as a very special Christmas present. His favorite clients were the skeptics, like the farmer who was born and raised on his land and thought that nobody could teach him anything new. He described the farmer arriving begrudgingly to the airport, reluctant to get on a plane because he’d seen it all and knew the land thoroughly from the ground. And then slowly, as Christophe guided the plane over all the familiar territory, the farmer became mesmerized and enchanted by the countryside below, seeing it for the first time from a completely different perspective. By the time he finished the trip, Christophe said that the farmer was enchanted and beguiled by the beauty and the experience. Christophe said he loved that kind of client, and was so excited to appreciate it all over again through someone else’s eyes.

chris face

The fabulous and fashionably footed Christophe

I could really relate to this. The ladies on the trip often say, “Don’t you get tired of doing the trips and taking people to the same places every day?” and my answer is a resounding no! With each new group I get to see it through their eyes and appreciate it all over again, reliving it for the first time. Like Christophe, I sometimes even get a skeptic, someone who expects all French people to be rude and a tad anti-American. I try not to say anything, and just let the week unfold. And then little by little I get to hear each night about some random act of kindness or some unusual quirk that happened during the day. As the week evolves, I usually find that they discover something new, not just about the French but about themselves as well.

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Our ladies of the week

In some ways it reminds me of life the gallery, when clients come in and admit their fear of buying art or of appearing uneducated by asking the wrong question. If there is one thing we have strived for, it is to make that person feel comfortable in our gallery. We hope they come away from their visit knowing that there are no right or wrong answers, that art is subjective, and that they should buy what speaks to them personally for whatever reason. We love it when that person comes back to the gallery, having enjoyed the process -- and the paintings.

And so it goes with these trips. If we can succeed in showing you things you’d never experienced before and opening your eyes and all of your senses to appreciate something new and unexpected, not only have we done our “job” but you will have given us an equal amount of pleasure.

On top of the world

New friends, on top of the world!

And that’s the case with our trip this week, and what a pleasure it has been! All I can really say is thank you to this tremendous group of women, who have given us the opportunity to see the beauty through their eyes and have taught us all again about the power of friendship, laughter and the deep bonds that connect us all together. Merci mesdames, for the week and for the happy reflections.

Ralph Lauren Model

Our beautiful Ralph Lauren model, and her reflections



Saturday, September 11, 2010

From the Sublime … to the Ridiculous. Paris Apartment, Part X

(Part two of a two part blog about the buying the sublime apartment in Paris)

“It sold.” Her voice sounded so drained of its usual contagious energy, I thought she just might pass out on the phone. “It sold from under us.”

I felt like I had been hit in the stomach. I couldn’t believe my ears and I kept hoping I’d heard her wrong. Of all the exciting things I had dreamed my agent would tell me in the morning, the sublime apartment selling from under me was not one that I even considered, especially after all the assurances that it was mine for the taking. “How could this happen? “ I shrieked, “I thought we were the first?”

“We were the first with Robert,” she told me, “but another agent got the keys too. He brought an offer with him and it was accepted on the spot.

And thus we plunged from the sublime to what I think of as the ridiculous way the real estate market works in Paris.

First off, the fact that there is no multiple listing service means that realtors are all competing against each other. And therefore it behooves the seller to list their apartment with more than one agent. So you never know until it happens whether another agent will undercut you in your offer. And as a result, there is no winner here: Not the buyer, the seller or the agent.

And then the whole Parisian pricing structure has completely mystified me from the very beginning. If the market is as hot as it is, and if the good properties sell for full price before they even go on the market, why don’t they just raise the prices? Instead, they group properties by “Arrondissement” and determine that all apartments in one arrondissement will sell for 10,000 euros per square meter, while another neighboring arrondissement can fetch up to 12,000 euros. But what if, like the sublime, you’re in the 3rd arrondissement, which is typically about 2,000 less than the 6th or 7th, but you’re in a great location next to the Place des Vosges, and your apartment has great bones, and is highly desirable? Wouldn’t you price it higher than the going rate, if there is more demand for that type of apartment? And what if your apartment sells to the first buyer even before it officially goes on the market, for full-price? Wouldn’t that possibly imply that it was underpriced?

I was so deflated by the loss of the sublime that I couldn’t think of anything else for days. Don’t get me wrong: I knew that this wasn’t a life sentence, or anything remotely as significant. I’ve always known that my idea of buying a pied-a-terre in Paris is a complete luxury, but it has been my dream for years, and I’ve made a lot of concessions to achieve this dream. So losing the best one that came my way was a huge loss. Nothing too serious, I realize, but still … enough hurt and sadness and loss that it has taken its toll, and a long while to recover.

And then I started wondering about the whole price thing. Perhaps I was the one who was ridiculous here, because hadn’t I agreed to pay full price for a shabby, dusty, dirty apartment that needed to be renovated from scratch and was a third floor walk up? What if, for sake of argument, I took the money I was about to throw at something sight unseen and spent it on a house that I could actually see in Atlanta? What kind of house would that buy me in Atlanta? And that led me to a very interesting comparison. Who’s being ridiculous now?


Le Sublime: Trash filled, one bedroom, needing a major facelift


And what the same dollars would buy today in Atlanta






The kitchen at Le Sublime


The kitchen at the Atlanta equivalents



The 17th century beams at Le Sublime

Sublime 6

The beams in Atlanta


The 10 foot ceilings of Le Sublime


The 20 foot ceilings in Atlanta


The “back yard” view from Le Sublime


The backyard of Atlanta


All Atlanta photos courtesy of Atlanta Fine Homes

This house, located on one of the nicest streets in the fanciest neighborhoods of Atlanta, really spoke to me (and I’ve always had a soft spot for a pool, especially onethat you can just walk out to from the main floor). And I can hear all my French friends questioning my sanity for even considering a dusty, noisy 3rd floor walkup apartment in a creaky, 17th century Parisian building in the 3rd Arrondissement, over a pristine house in perfect condition on Valley Road in Atlanta.

Here we sit in beautiful sunny Atlanta with more houses on the market than ever before and with surplus inventory for years to come. And in Paris, I can’t even be the first bid, even when I’m ready to pounce with a fulltime offer before the apartment goes on the market. Is there something wrong with this picture? Have we indeed gone from the sublime to the ridiculous?

This whole game has not been about price but about realizing a long-time dream. So no matter how beautiful a house might be in Atlanta, or Phoenix or Dallas or Boston, it’s not what I’m going after right now. In many ways, this exercise has helped me with a dose of reality. Maybe it’s time to relax a little, and let things follow their course. Le sublime wasn’t meant to be, but maybe it was meant to slow me down. Was it really worth my getting so worked up and upset over something as basic as … an apartment? Surely, there will be others. And surely, I need to get a grip on reality. Maybe even get my priorities refocused.

I think I’ll take a break for a while, to smell the coffee, consider my priorities and be appreciative of the things in life that really matter. Like my sublime family, my friends, and my gallery.