The building I lived in, in Paris, was built in 1865 and was the quintessential older Paris apartment featuring wood floors, crown and fine decorative moldings on the walls, fireplaces in every room, and mirrors above each fireplace that had exquisite patina from age. I often wondered whose face had gazed in those mirrors.
You may not know that when you lease an apartment in Paris, you are literally starting from scratch. Nothing is left behind, including the entire kitchen (cabinets included), every single light fixture, (bare bulbs hang from the ceiling), towel rods, toilet paper holders, curtain rods, you get the idea. If it can be removed, it will be. It’s just the way.
With a corporate relocation the whole process begins working with a local agency to help youfind a place to live. After finding the apartment which is a job in itself. The real work begins. Usually floors are re-sanded and finished, and walls are painted. You are blessed if there is no other renovation work to be done which is rare. Luckily we were shown only apartments that didn’t have to have their insides torn out. You still have to design and choose your kitchen cabinets, counter tops and appliances. Usually the budgets are very tight for the furnishings. Given the budget constraints, your choices are IKEA and whatever is similar to IKEA. Between Hong Kong and Paris, I poured through the IKEA catalogue so much I felt like I had the darn thing memorized! I had those wacky Swedish names going through my head for months! A late 1800‘s Paris apartment and IKEA furniture, seemed to me like the ultimate dichotomy. We did have a few pieces of furniture we bought in Hong Kong to add to the mix.
I won’t bore you with all the shenanigans involved in putting it all together. Suffice it to say that it took a better part of six months and a few nervous breakdowns. But in the end it all came together and we loved it. I ran all over Paris and environs to find the furniture, rugs, chandeliers, curtains, all curtain hardware, all the linens, bathroom hardware, dishes, pots pans, etc. The chandeliers were actually plastic made to look like crystal, well sort of, and I aged them to look like antique glass. My neighbor’s mother who was from Italy, saw them across the courtyard, and thought they were Murano glass! :-)
The dining room had two built in china cabinets with large arched openings above them. They were screaming for a piece of art, but I didn’t have any large ceramic or glass pieces that would have been nice there. One day while out runningaround I found some inexpensive Chinese fans that were perfect in size. They were bright red so I covered them with some Chinese papers, and designed paintings to go on each. I did a mock-up painting on paper before actually painting the fans. I was inspired to paint persimmons and horse chestnut trees. Both are asian motifs which I thought would be great on the fans, and I could buy persimmons in the local markets. Horse chestnut trees lined the boulevard at my local park. So there was an Asian and French connection!