Today I’m excited because I’ve found an apartment that’s got my favorite floors. I know, that’s not much to get excited about but I really love these floors. To me, the herringbone style scream “Parisian” more than anything. In French, these floors are called “Pointes d’Hongrie” and I find them to be as yummy as Pierre Herme macaroons and as gorgeous as a Chanel tweed suit. I would be crazy enough to buy a Parisian apartment just because of these floors.
My favorite herringbone patterned floors, called “Pointes d’Hongrie”
Pointes d’Hongrie are not actually considered to be as classy in real estate terms as Pointes de Versailles, which are the 17th century equivalent, and as the name indicates, the gorgeous parquet floors that grace the Palace of Versailles.
The Parquet de Versaille (Courtesy of Atelier des Granges)
By comparison, Pointes d’Hongrie show up in buildings that were constructed in modern times, the mid to late 1800’s. But to me they are the quintessentially Parisian floors you’d find in a gorgeous big old Haussmann style building, flanked by 200 year old plane trees on the Boulevard St. Germain. Usually, along with the herringbone floors, you’ll get nice ceiling moldings and a good ceiling height, solid oak doors with the porcelain oval shaped handles and at least one fireplace with mantel. All I really want is an apartment with these features, in a nice neighborhood, with no vis a vis, facing south! That would be perfection.
At first glance, this apartment may have it all. It’s a two bedroom, one bath, separate kitchen (immediately I think to put the kitchen in the living room and you’ve got a second bath), with the classic “parquet, moulure, cheminee” which are the trifecta of Parisian apartments. The address says, “St. Germain, near Cluny,” which means the beautiful Cluny museum in the much coveted 5th Arrondissement. It is a little misleading because of course the St. Germain that we all covet is the area near the Eglise St. Germain, better known for the Cafe de Flore, Cafe des Magots, and the brand new Ralph Lauren boutique.
The Cluny Museum, Paris
The “Cluny” designation could be good or bad. If you’re too close to the Sorbonne, the value goes down because of al l the students in the area. If you’re too close to Boulevard St. Michel, it’s extremely touristy, and, I have it from a good source, the number one area for pickpockets in Paris. But there is a little section between Boulevard St. Germain and the Seine River that is quieter, with fewer students, fewer tourists and lots of great restaurants and hidden little squares. Plus, it is the epicenter of historic Paris, very close to Notre Dame, with charming buildings and unfortunately, skyrocketing prices.
I only have two pictures of this apartment and despite the fact that the price is more than I want to spend, I’m interested because it could be in that coveted little location and it’s a high floor, with elevator. But really, for this apartment, it’s all about the floors. I just love them!
And even though I have so little to go by, I can already imagine what these floors will look like when I’m finished with them. Sanded, with only a natural matt stain, polished to perfection, with that wonderful subtle beeswax smell. I can already fantasize about how these floors will come out, like in these gorgeous apartments from Paris Perfect’s site:
I call the agent to get more information and he is very cagy about the specific location but says it’s close to the Cluny metro stop. I urge him to tell me which way it faces, which will determine if it’s on Boulevard St. Germain (facing South but noisy) or a side street. He says it faces South East, and the bathroom and kitchen are on a courtyard. So the bedrooms face the street, I ask? Yes, but it’s a small street, he answers. Aha, that narrows it down. It’s not on the Boulevard St. Germain (nice, but noisy) or the Boulevard St. Michel (luckily!). He tells me a little more about the apartment, but nothing I don’t already expect, such as the kitchen and bathroom need to be redone. I thank him and tell him I’ll be back in touch. And then I head to Google maps for my morning exercise.
Armed with one picture that shows the building across the street, I narrow it down to two little streets that run off the Boulevard St. Germain with buildings that face Southeast. So then I get out my French site, Pages Blanches, and start looking at the buildings in 3D to figure out which one has that rounded dormer, as in the picture. After lots of straining and manipulating of my computer screen, I narrow it down to two possibilities, but then I see that to the right of the dormer, there is a wall and a new building. Aha! I’ve figured it out … it’s on the rue de la Harpe.
Rue de la Harpe strikes a familiar bell and it’s not necessarily a good one. I’m not sure why, so I revert back to google maps and start “walking” up and down the street again. It’s very touristy and there are a ton of restaurants, so I realize it’ll be noisy. Heart sinks a little. At one end of the street is the beautiful old Church of St. Severin, one of my favorites in Paris, where Francois Espinasse, the brother of our artist Jean Michel Espinasse, is the organist. That’s pretty cool but probably not a reason to buy an apartment down the street. So I turn around and head back up the street towards St. Germain, stumbling over the tourists and imagining the ruckus at midnight. And then it hits me fair and square: McDo! There is a McDonalds on the corner of Boulevard St. Germain and rue de la Harpe! This time, I put on my proverbial running shoes on and bolt down the street as fast as I can, leaving my favorite floors and my trusted google maps in the dust.
Stay tuned: Le sublime is lurking around the corner …