Well, here we go again. And a mere four years after what was supposed to be the one and only. But a leak in my neighbor’s shower—a leak he refused to fix for nearly two years—had other ideas, wiping out what was new. So, what’s a girl to do but make it new, again?
When I can actually begin the re-renovation is still a question mark; I’m waiting for the court case to be concluded in order to have the funds to repair the damage. But in an act of faith, my contractor, Andrew, and I have begun the planning—and I have begun the shopping: new tiles for the currently gutted bathroom, and fresh parquet to replace the waterlogged version. And since we have to pull out my current kitchen to remove that old parquet, I’ve decided to invest a little extra funds of my own and finally update my kitchen.
If you’ve read how my story started, or have seen a certain episode of House Hunters International, you know that I mused that the blue IKEA kitchen was a “sign” that the apartment may have been hand-picked by my recently departed mother, who had always painted her kitchen blue (though after three years of battling a leak, I’m not quite sure about that now).
But even when I bought the apartment, I knew the kitchen, however significant in its blue hue, was inadequate. For one thing, it didn’t have an oven. And there was zero counter space. For someone who entertained as much as I did, this was something I couldn’t abide. So I hired my architect, Daniela Busarello, who’d overseen my first renovation, to draw me up a dream kitchen.
The first dream had a €22,000 price tag, but we got the design down to something more affordable, and I was all set to build this kitchen when the euro went from €1=$1.21 to €1=$1.35. Even with the fat salary I was making back then, I couldn’t justify the cost for a second home. So we shelved the project. Sad, too, because it was a stunner.
Now, here I am two years later, and that fat salary is long gone. But I still want the new kitchen, so I revisited the Darty expert, and asked him to design me a more affordable dream. This is what we came up with:
I was truly crazy about this design for several reasons: the amount of low storage, which for a tiny woman is key, and though the refrigerator is not much larger than my current under-counter version, it’s placed up high—no bending down to put things inside. The cost of this version was only around €6800 compared to the €12,000 of the first design. Add to that the new exchange rate of $1.08 to €1—nearly at par—and I was in heaven! When I factored in the exchange rate, my new simpler kitchen meant instead of paying $16,200, I would only have to invest $7500 for something nearly as chic. I moved the money over and began to plan.
Then I hit a snag in November. That is, my court case did. Because of humidity levels in my apartment, which had not reduced sufficiently after the leak was repaired in July, the court expert would not conclude the case, putting final fault with the owner of the apartment above me. Suddenly, it seemed possible the case might not go my way even after I’d invested €26,000 in good faith that it would. So, should I scrap the new kitchen?
No. Insanely, and against my better judgment, I went back to Darty and said, “Make me a new, and cheaper dream.” Corners were cut. Extras were foregone. The result? A not terrible, and quite (still) chic new design for under €5000. Only in Paris. This same kitchen in NYC, would cost three times this price. (More on that, here.)
That’s under €5000 fully installed including appliances. And I’m talking Bosch appliances. What’s not to love? Sure, it’s not anything close to the original design. The materials are not as luxe, the counter is standard composite versus glass or granite—but come on, it’s perfect for the home I have.
Okay, well not totally perfect. Here is the same sketch with the appliances revealed. Notice the refrigerator.
Yeah, it’s that tiny thing under the counter. That tiny, dorm-sized icebox to the right of the image. This:
Oh, I know. It’s sad. It’s worse than sad; it’s…a nightmare. That little hole in the bottom of the unit is where I am supposed to put my vegetables. And to access it, I have to lift that shelf above, as if I’d never have anything on that shelf. But I would…I so would! I’ve lived in an apartment with this fridge, and trust me, it’s pretty painful for long-term living. But the real issue? Where in hell do I put my bottles of wine and champagne—er, when I am entertaining? Do I really want to accept this itty-bitty chill bucket as my refrigerator simply to have a chic, streamlined kitchen with hidden appliances?
Maybe not. Another option is a simple under-the-counter version, or frigo sous plan, which I currently have, vs. a built-in model.
Not a giant difference, but when you’re dealing in centimeters, which is life in Europe, you’ll take it. Paris is all about compromise. Most Parisians have tiny refrigerators because they often eat out or buy fresh as they need, but me, I like to plan and cook and have people over. So I need to consider what matters. Or I could just buy one of those sexy Smeg retro free-standing models. Hot, right?
Can you tell I’m having fun?
Well, yes, finally, my apartment is fun again. Even if it’s only in theory. But I’d lived in theory before, planning the first renovation of my Paris place before I’d even closed the sale. It was when my sister and I were emptying our mother’s house. That act of hope got me through the emotional and exhausting weeks as I said goodbye to the last tangible connection to my parents. As I was breaking down one home, I was building another. And in a way, I’m doing that again, but this time with the same home. Even as it is in ruins, I’m planning its rise. I am the Phoenix rising above hopelessness once again.
Here, some other renovation window shopping I’ve been up to.
LIKE THIS BLOG? GET THE MEMOIR.
Learn more about the journey that led to My (Part-Time) Paris Life in my memoir of the same name ON SALE NOW!