We move in to our apartment on Rue Montmartre in Paris. Our apartment is on the sixth floor, under the roof. In the Belle Epoque period when the block was built, our apartment would have housed the servants of the residents in the larger apartments below.
The front door opens into a small lobby that doubles as wardrobe space for the bedroom beyond. A passageway lined with storage cupboards leads from here to a tiny living room, a small kitchen and a bathroom.
We figured we could make better use of the space if we used what was the bedroom for the new living room; the passage for the new kitchen; the living room partly for the new bathroom and the kitchen and old bathroom for the new bedroom.
We listed builders and invited some around. Despite the difficulty with the language, we got a few quotes, but were never quite sure of the extent of the work we would be signing up for.
From a copy of FUSAC (France USA Contacts) magazine, Judy came across a builder who speaks a mixture of broken English and broken French. Mehmet is of Pakistani origin, and the price he quoted was much less the other quotes. Mehmet said that the work would take four weeks, and he could start in two weeks.
When Mehmet started work, we moved into a short-term let apartment in Bastille. Our temporary digs were on the fourth floor, sans ascenseur. The apartment consists of a single room with a mezzanine crawl-space close to the ceiling where the bed is. A hot spot on warm nights – no wonder it’s available in summer.
One of the reasons why Mehmet was cheap was that he relied on us to help with buying supplies. Fortunately, it is only a 10 minute walk to the Leroy Merlin DIY/hardware store near the Pompidou Centre. This store has a bewildering number of levels and aisles. On the first few visits, it took me a very long time to find the items I wanted.
After a few months, if anyone happened to ask where any item is situated in the store, I could direct them to within a meter of it. Over the course of our stay in Paris, I become quite fond of Leroy Merlin; you can shop there after dinner; they lend you a trolley (if you are prepared to leave your passport as a deposit) and you can enjoy the buskers outside the Pompidou centre whilst waiting for slow shoppers (to whom you might happen to be married). I encountered Estas Tonne there, a very good manouche guitarist.
We’ve also trekked out to IKEA for the kitchen and a flooring shop in Faubourg du Roule for the flooring. We’ve reassured the Cabinet Pautrait that we are not wrecking the building, and invited them in for an inspection. We’ve negotiated with and compensated the very civilized neighbour below us when Mehmet severed a water pipe and flooded his apartment.
In most of the above instances, I use the term ‘we’ as do the royals. While I swanned off to work, it behoved to Judy to project manage the renovation. My arrival home from work each night triggered lengthy de-briefing sessions.
As good as his word, Mehmet finished in four weeks. We are excited to move back in to our spanking-new apartment.
Thank you Dan Smith for this insightful guest post.All Images © Dan smith