New Digs

wiring

Well, I did it. After nearly ten years of living in Paris, I am finally going to have a place that I can call my own. After dipping my feet in, and checking apartments from time-to-time, I decided that it was time I went ahead and did it. So I bought my own apartment.

Hunting for an apartment in Paris is quite an adventure; there’s no multiple listing services like there are in other countries (and it’s estimated that over half the apartments in Paris get sold directly by the owners), so you need to spend an inordinate amount of time searching online, in the newspapers, and in real estate agency windows. And since each agency will only show you what is offered by their particular agency – and some real estate agents have a less-than-stellar reputation here – it’s a process that takes a combination of luck, timing—and of course, plenty of time.

Getting a bank loan is another hurdle to cross and I had noticed two major bureaucratic mistakes in the paperwork, then I was required to submit to a full series of medical tests to complete the loan, which I wrote about, but deleted, because I didn’t think anyone would believe me, because I couldn’t either. I guess I should be happy, though, because one friend of mine who was applying for a bank loan had to take a stress test on a treadmill, which fortunately I didn’t have to do…because my stress level was going through the toit.

In short, I almost had three nervous breakdowns. Well – nine, if you count the entire week of 4am conference calls when I was in San Francisco on something I’ve heard about, called a “vacation” trying to save the purchase when the first bank I was borrowing from changed their mind at the 11th hour and rescinded their offer, putting me in a tenuous position since I’d already committed to the purchase. And the mind-numbing amount of paperwork I blew through felled a record number of trees, and more brain cells than I could afford to spare.

So a process that might normally take 30 to 60 days, dragged on for weeks. Then months. Then half a year. And finally, seven months after inking the first round of paperwork, the deal was done and I got the keys to my apartment. It was once an old print shop, previously cobbled together into a living space. Beautiful old stone walls were covered in wallpaper, which is called “cache-misère”, literally meaning “hiding the misery”, which is a reference to things people to do hide something considered “messy” or “outdated.” So one of my projects is to remove all of that and refurbish the stone. Another is to clean up the tangle of wiring that while creative, probably is a good idea to replace.

But most importantly, I won’t have to churn ice cream in my bedroom – and I won’t have to explain to my housecleaner why there is caramel in my bed – because one day I’m going to have a kitchen counter larger than a tapis d’acceuil (welcome mat) – although it’s gonna be a long way before I’m going to be able to roll one of those out around here.

Godin oven

So in the meantime, I’ve been working on getting the place in shape. I’ve been doing things like explaining that Americans like windows that can open, I’ve learned that three is a maximum of number of people that are allowed to yell at me in different languages at the same time (and they are learning that I have a shorter fuse than initially first appeared), and that there are panoply of words that seemingly mean the same thing, like—say, for a sink:

1. Vasque (a really big sink)

2. Évier (a big sink)

3. Lavabo (a regular sink)

4. Cuve (still haven’t figured out that one)

5. Lave-mains (a small sink)

And plumbing catalogs don’t list by ‘type’ of item, like ‘sinks’, ‘bathtubs’, and ‘faucets’, etc but by “Collections”, with ominous names like Opus, Détente, and “Stillness” — so you have to flip through a series of square toilets (and who the heck can manage any kind of détente on a square toilet seat?) to find a normal one.

And I now know that something which is 199 by 282 by 79,5 is cent quartre-vingt-dix-neuf par deux cent quartre-vingt-deux par soixaint-dix-neuf virgule cinq, is even less-comprehensible when you’re holding up a crumbling wall,standing under a shower of plaster dust while avoiding electrocution. Plus I’m trying to teach delivery people that if they ring the doorbell, rather than just affix a delivery sticker to your door requesting that you call to reschedule the delivery, they have a better chance of completing a delivery on the first round. Oh, and I just got called for jury duty in California for next week. Needless to say, the explosion that will be heard around the world may be my head.

The good news is that you won’t have to hear my anymore bemoaning that I have a tiny kitchen. The bad news is that it’s going take me a while to get there. But after all I’ve been through, demolition and construction is a walk in le parque.

No, the bathroom isn’t functional. And the kitchen is nothing but a counter with a Godin oven, which embodies the paradox of French taste: the handmade stove is enameled in a gorgeous red enamel color, and right smack in the front is a bright-blue digital clock with large, flashing electrical numbers. (I wonder if that can be removed?) But that’s the least of my problems at this point. So the last few weeks have been spent stripping everything out to clean up the space, to see it better, and the next few weeks (or months) will be spent figuring out in which direction I’m going to take it next. But first, I need to figure out how to find a sink.

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Whining

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247 comments

  • I feel your pain having remodeled my apartment as well. You will get a lot of material for your blog. I think you are off to a great start with that stove-that is beautiful.

    • Thanks ~ it’s funny because I didn’t realize the stove was a good one because of that clock – so am wondering what kind of designing mind puts a bright-blue digital clock smack dab in the middle of an enameled oven, front and center?

      (And I am going to have to get a baking oven, because ovens here don’t have much space for baking sheets. Another thing to shop for!)

  • I believe you on the medical tests! I’m a canadian student and I had to go through a lung x ray when I arrived. I heard that when you work as a liberal it’s extremely complex to get a loan, but as soon as you tell them you work for the state you get it easily..

  • Congratulations! Please keep us posted on all of the renovations. It’s a bit hard now to see what the final vision will be, what with all of the renovations. Do you have to install your own central heat & air or does it come with the place? Also, will you have to buy all new appliances? I’m very happy for you that you will have a better place to cook — can’t have enough counter space! In the bathroom, will you be installing a bidet?

  • Congratulations… and I do hope you keep us all updated with your progress. The only thing better than a home improvement show is a French home improvement show. Hosted by you.

  • I can’t wait to see the finished apartment!!

  • Finally! I never thought it was actually going to come together.
    Congratulations on your new place! And even bigger congratulations on surviving the process of buying it.

  • Congratulations David! And congratulations on outlasting all those who were trying to stress you out– and for being able to write about it with your customary aplomb. All the best for the renovations. how exciting!!

  • Hello David !

    I am really happy for you that you get your own appartment! Congratulations!

    FYI (I can’t help it, sorry!):

    Evier = a sink for the kitchen
    Lavabo = a sink but for the bathroom
    Vasque = still a sink but in round shape and generally in a noble material (i.e. marble, stone, etc.)
    Cuve = a generic name for a sink but can also refer to a tank or a citern.
    Lave-mains (without accent on the “e”) = very small sink that is generally put in the toilets exclusively for washing your hands after, eh well… You know.

    Anyway, I hope you’ll soon enjoy your new place!

  • Congratulations David, that is a huge deal! And yeah, what is it about delivery people in Europe leaving notes and not ringing?

  • We partially remodelled the kitchen in our hundred years old house in the Netherlands three years ago and I’m still mustrering up the courage to finish it. I did a lot of the work myself (tiles, cabinet doors) and am rather proud of it (http://www.growntocook.com/?page_id=151) but the process was so frustrating I’m reluctant to start again.
    I wish you a lot of luck with your project! In the end it’s worth it…

  • Good luck. Refurbishing an apartment is painfully stressful. It shouldn’t be. “Oh to have such problems… I’ve bought a lovely apartment France and now have to make it over in my taste and to my needs”, but it still is. Between the timing hassles, the things that go wrong, the crazed building code rules of foreign countries (many of which seem to have nothing to do with safety) that force you to do things you’d never willingly chose, and, of course, the expense, it’s a challenge. That said, successfully planning a kitchen is a joy and when it’s all over you’ll wonder why you let it get to you so much. Please do post on the progress here!

  • Congratulations, David! Your new space looks wonderful — unique, bright and airy. When that new kitchen is completed, those medical tests will be a distant memory (at least, that’s what I keep telling myself after our own real estate cauchemar). You own a little piece of Paris! How cool is that?

  • Congratulations on getting your own place after so many years in Paris! I just finished a year of major construction at my place and can’t imagine completing it in another country and language — you are amazing and no wonder you seemed so stressed before Christmas! I had a weird dream about you about a month ago where I ran into you at a beautiful open house with a big kitchen in my city. You were moving in there and were ecstatic!

  • Congratulations! Looks like it’s a got plenty of potential. I’ve been using houzz.com for ideas, it’s a pretty col resource for just about everything, and you can save what you like into your own scrapbook. Great iPad app too!

    This weekend was going to be macaron making, but the strawberries at the market tempted me and it was jam making! Will get to your macaron recipe soon. Looking forward to seeing you back in Sydney. Cheers.

  • Congratulations! Looks like it’s a got plenty of potential. I’ve been using houzz.com for ideas, it’s a pretty cool resource for just about everything, and you can save what you like into your own scrapbook. Great iPad app too!

    This weekend was going to be macaron making, but the strawberries at the market tempted me and it was jam making! Will get to your macaron recipe soon. Looking forward to seeing you back in Sydney. Cheers.

  • Wow! Congratulations! I will never forget when my au pair family in Neuchatel told me they were going to be renovating their house after two months of living with them…cooking for five on a hot plate, it is, then. When it’s finished I’m sure that it will be a beautiful place full of amusing anecdotes to keep you company…’when it’s finished’ being the optimal phrase. Hang in there!

  • This is such great news, David. Really exciting. I’ve been struggling to buy a house in a small French town since last October, & going absolutely nuts with frustration over all the delays. Can’t sign the compromis until the final written report on the plumbing arrives at the notaire’s office. Your story gives me hope that real estate in France can, eventually, be purchased. Many, many congratulations! Is the apartment in the same quartier or a new one?

    • We had a major problem during the closing as well, mostly because the real estate agent had, um, misrepresented something (major) on the legal forms and calculations, so that had to be dealt with by the city officials before we could proceed, which cost a bunch of money and prolonged the closing time. It’s no wonder that most people here don’t use agents.

  • Congratulations! I have a feeling you will find plenty of things to write about until the renovations are complete and that many of them will be about how much or how little hair you have left after dealing with contractors! Perhaps one of the design features should be a yoga mat so you can stress bust!:)

  • Bon chance!! I am currently in the middle of a kitchen remodel and it is testing my patience and my will to live. Some may think making all kinds of decisions would be fun but I am SICK TO DEATH of making decisions about this kitchen. I hope you have fun with it. I am in the middle of your book right now (The sweet life….) and it is delicious comic relief after yet another day of living in the chaos that remodeling brings. Thanks for you wit.

    • It’s a lot of decisions, and at some point, you just have to say “stop” – and just go with whatever is available at the time. It’s so much easier, but hard to get to that point!

  • Bravo a place of your own, Iremember remodling my first apartment over the bait shop at northpoint pollk in sf

  • Bravo, I remember reconstructing my first apt, over the bait shop at Polk and Northpoint

  • Bonne chance, Daveeed! Oh, which arrondissement?

  • I can relate to your “short fuse”
    You don´t know it´s there till you buy and remodel your own place, get a divorce, start your own business and have to hire people…
    Congratulations on your purchase, they say that there are no advancements in life unless you step out of your confort zone!

  • Jury duty? Actually, it might be a nice little reprieve from the construction work, you know, if my experience has been typical.

  • Congrats, I think! You didn’t mention whether you are still living elsewhere while you “update” your new home, but it would certainly be easier if you did. I went through a summer of home renovations, which I thought was a horrible experience and also thought might cause my head to explode but nothing quite to rival your travails. My worst day was arriving home from the IACP conference, knowing that a photographer was coming to shoot pictures of my garden in a couple days to find that the hardscaping crew I’d hired to refurbish the BACK yard, had jack hammered up the FRONT walk and huge pieces of the concrete were strewn all over the lawn. Dear God!

  • Every electronic item seems to have a digital on/off, clock, or something. The ones I don’t want to see, I put a piece of black electrical tape over them. Voila…gone.

  • et ben BRAVOS!!!!!!! maintenant faudra savoir a la fois gueuler et etre diplomate avec les ouvriers!!!!…Et ne fais rien faire au noir…On croit epargner beaucoup, on se retrouve dans la merde et le fisc au cul… pardon my French.
    COURAGEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!

  • Hi, David,

    I think this is my first time commenting, though I’ve been reading your blog (and laughing, smiling, and cooking because of it) for years. But when I read that you’d bought your own place, I HAD to jump in to say CONGRATULATIONS! I can’t wait to hear more about how it shapes up; I’m sure it’ll be a pain some days, but I hope your sense of humor will keep it manageable.

  • Congratulations! I can’t wait to see the transformation. I know what you mean about open spaces – but I love how the European kitchens have such cool, interesting cabinet designs to store stuff. That stove looks pretty cool – but I agree with you about the digital clock:)
    All that hard work is going to pay off and you will have a wonderful home!

  • Felicitations! I’ve never heard anyone say that buying a home was easy, though it sounds like you had more than your fair share hurdles to jump in this case! Just imagine: a kitchen you’ve designed just the way you want – space for ice cream and all. Bonne chance et bonne cusine! :P

  • Congratulations David! Sounds like it will be a very nice place (one day)! Looks like some really nice light in the kitchen, perfect for taking your food photos.

  • I am so happy for you!!! We Sagittarians need space. Here in NYC I still go to a laundromat and my dream would be to have a washing machine at home.

  • Congratulations, David. I know exactly how maddening buying a home in France can be. Our bank made us take HIV tests in order to qualify for a loan when purchasing our house. It was six months ago and I’m still not over the shock. I actually spoke to a member of a French HIV/AIDS activist organization about it and he too was blown away. I love France, blemishes and all, but this is a violation of privacy that I have a hard time accepting.

    • I was extremely shocked to find that banks have the right, and can and do require loan applicants to take medical tests, including an HIV test as well as a urine sample. In a country that values human and individual rights, it’s surprising how much the banks have control over things like this. (And I would think that in the country where citizens regularly take to the streets over human rights issues, this would be something that would get rectified.) But as you know, many of us are guests in this country and have to adhere to the rules, whether we like them or not. However as the activist noted, and a French friend of mine said (who agreed with was “shameful”) – I am surprised that no one seems to be able, or willing, to rectify this.

  • Congratulations on your new place, David. Looking forward to seeng all the before and afters (as I ‘m sure you are too) – and all the great reipes your fabulous new kitchen will produce. Bon Chance on your renovations !

  • Congrats,I’m excited for you.I also had an issue finding an apartment in Paris when I thought I was going to go to culinary school there.Everything I could afford was too small.Now I’ve decided to go to school in Cape D’adge,anyhoo have fun renovating!!

  • I gather you are still living in your old apartment while the construction is going on? That is smart, if you are. We lived in our house during a remodel with two small kids, no less, and it was a challenge. It’s been 20 years since and it still furrows my brow when think about it, but I’d do it all again (like giving birth!) for the outcome. Beware, it can become a one-up-manship game of who had the worst experience over particular phases when discussing it with fellow remodelers. The conversation at once validates your frustration and, conversely, scares the hell out of you for what’s to come..until it’s done. Keep your sense of humor and hope that your loved one can, too.

    • No, but I’ve done that. And the last time I lived in a place under construction, the contractor tore out the bathroom without telling me and put a porta-potty on the sidewalk in front of my building for me. Then they stopped paying the bills on it, and so it didn’t get ‘serviced’ – needless to say, it was a completely unpleasant experience. Luckily that only went on for six months… : 0

  • Congrats on the purchase. Must be exciting for you. I’m am in the process of the same thing. I thank the heavens for IKEA with my kitchen remodel.

    • My experiences with Ikea have been a nightmare. They have a store outside of Paris that specializes only in kitchens, and kitchen design, so we figured we would go there. When we were “given a number” and told to wait, we were told that it was a minimum wait of 2 1/2 hours. (The man standing near us said he’d been there for four hours already!) But I couldn’t believe that it would take that long since there were only 10 people ahead of us.

      Fast-forward to 3 hours later, and they finally called our number. The kitchen planner sat with us for about three minutes, then went to help someone else, who had been waiting as well, then back to us for a few minutes…then to another person. So that part took another 1 1/2hrs (if they had stayed with us, we would have been done in 8 minutes, flat.) They only had three people helping customers with kitchen design and you would think one of the richest companies in the world would have more people to help or a better system, like the Apple Genus bar, where you can reserve online. It was a complete waste of time, and a full day. (end of rant!)

  • Congratulations!

    And yes, jury duty only happens when it is most inconvenient. In my case, I got called the week I got married, and two years later the week I gave birth. I’m all for justice, but come on!

  • BRAVO & Felicitations David!
    wonderful news! I know of an architect (American) who redid my sister’s place if you’re interested..
    No wonder there are so many squared toilets in Paris cafes – they got fed up looking through the catalogs evidently…
    Hilarious shenanigans as usual :)

  • Congratulations on the new apartment! Good luck with the renovations! :)

  • Congrats!!! Bonne chance! :-)

  • Congratulations on getting your own place. I’m glad we don’t have French bureaucracy over here. I remodeled my place while living in it and it’s not always easy but the satisfaction at the end is great. Nothing ever goes as planned in a remodel, especially where old electricals are involved, but you’ll be happy in the end. It will be uniquely yours.

  • David,
    I’m making your recipe for chocolate biscotti right now and just finished reading about your new apartment, congratulations! I loved that the category for this blog was “whining”. I just love your writing style, and quoted you often on our recent trip to Paris.

  • Congrats! I hope we see the progress in the future, and it isn’t too much for you. By the way, having a short temper is a way to avoid having an ulcer. Pick the temper over the ulcer for your own sake.

    You can probably straighten out your jury duty problems over the internet. Most courts are up and running on the information superhighway.

  • Sounds like all the Amazon and Blogher ads on your site are starting to pay off. I have priced apartments in Paris, and unless you are in an industrial part of the suburbs…this place is going to eat up some royalties. Keep those books coming. Maybe you can pick up a shift at one of the local bistros as an aloof waiter, or your “fishguys” will pay you to sling halibut. Good Luck with the new place…2015 will be a nice year when you have it finished and settled. Maybe a brownie stall at the market would be profitable.

  • This is so exciting! Congratulations and good luck with all the renovations and construction! I think all the stress and hard work will pay off in the end. I can’t wait to see all the goodies that are bound to come out of that new oven.

  • I’ve drooled over Godins at various trade shows, but they are hideously expensive. If it’s not a rude question, why get one with an electric hob? The first oven I bought in France had two electric and two gas, never used the electric ones. Just can’t get the hang of them. Which is why the one I have now has four standard gas hobs and a triple couronne, which is great when using a wok.

  • Congratulations on the new apartment! Are you still in the same area or has that changed?
    The stove is lovely and something you can build a kitchen around. I like many others who have commented have been through home renovations. We lived in the house while the work was being done and I didn’t have a kitchen for almost 4 months.
    Please, please post pictures of the finished product. Thanks.

  • Hi David:

    Love your site, which I’ve learned a lot from.

    This would be a good time to ask you a question you might be able to answer:

    How hard is it for an American to get the proper visas and permits required to buy property in France? Like you, I make my money outside of France, as a freelancer, and so would not need to worry about French work visas or about taking jobs away from French citizens, etc.

    That said, I’m told that it’s STILL very hard for an American to show up in France with a bunch of money and buy property. The question is, how hard is it, bureaucratically speaking? I get the richer you are, the better?

  • Is this at street level? Just curious. At least it’ll be easy to load / unload materials. Please post pictures as you progress.

  • Wow, this is so exciting, remodelling an apartment. Lucky you, having an apartment in Paris is awesome. Congratulations.

  • Dude, congrats! Were you able to move all the stuff in your old fridge, or did that require another permit?

  • Congrats!! I can’t wait to see your apartment once it’s all done.

  • Oh honey, you sure do have your work cut out for you! I wish I were there to help you, -I love that kind of work. I’m crazy that way. : ) And I see that you have the most important things up and running, -the stove and toilet. Now if you just had a sink, you’d have it made. Do you have space for a washer/dryer?

  • Congratulations! Can’t wait to see what you do with the place. Here’s a link to some inspiration (or at least a place to go when you need a break from the renovation madness!). http://rehab.abkasha.com/
    Good luck!

  • David:

    Congratulations on the purchase. If you haven’t already done so get the movie “A Year in Provence”. It’s available on netflix. A couple relocates to France from England and do extensive up dates to their farm house. Memorize: C’est normale.

    I feel your pain. It’s always more fun to read about someone else’s rehab adventures than to live them on one’s own. Good luck, stock up on lots of vin…

  • Please do gives us updates. And pictures!

  • Congrats! Nearing the end of a 2 year reno myself I hear your pain. From the bank loan to demo to rebuilding to now finally picking the finishings, tell me about it, what a process! I was Canadian buying a house in SoCal when the housing bubble burst, talk about jumping hoops, what a racket! it doesn’t sound so different from your European experience, you are not alone. Again a huge congrats! Can’t wait to see it when it’s all done.

  • So happy for you! You certainly deserve a fabulous kitchen!

  • God Bless. You really, I though getting from Charles De Gualle airport to the Maris was adventure , But with that said, I am happy that you will have a kitchen bigger than a door mat (purely selfish reason) show photo updates,

  • So excited that you will have “room for dessert”!!!

    I think all bakers and cooks worth their weight must spend time cooking in some tiny space, like a pre-war NYC kitchen or some tiny Paris apartment. Because if you are moved to bake and cook in spite of the space you have, you must really really love it.

    Then it’s time to move into the dream kitchen….

    I know you left your incredible kitchen behind in SF to chase the Paris dream. Maybe you needed to earn your great kitchen once again… Maybe those are the rules.

    Mazel Tov!

  • Congratulations! Quick question – why do you have to do jury duty if you no longer reside in the US?

    Hope to see more lovely posts soon!

  • Congratulations! May your new spot be filled with many friends and happy memories.

  • congrats, David! So exciting. I am sure you will do wonderful things – both in design and in the kitchen (with a counter large enough to hold a welcome mat-love that!)

  • Excellent! Congratulations David! Best wishes to you! Hope you aren’t too far off from where you were before. . . breathe deeply and think positive thoughts of the wonderful outcome! We are eagerly looking forward to your progress, it will be terrific!

  • Just last week I was reading about the French government assisting people in small towns with their historic property renovations. It took the couple a serious submission of plans, but they received financial assistance with the redo. Too bad you need to live in the big city :-). In any case, I too love to do this kind of work and wish I were in Paris to help you schlep and carry. Please keep us updated on a regular basis – not just the finished product. So happy for you.

  • Good luck and best wishes for your new home!

  • Yes, a good electric baking oven is in order. I can adapt to most any cooktop, but just cannot deal with gas ovens, shudder.

  • Congrats! You are in for a roller coaster of emotions as you plan and construct your new apartment. I am an architect who does apartments in Manhattan (I did do one in Paris). I am sure you have more help and advice than you could want or need BUT If you are looking for a bit more advice send me your plan and I can give you some ideas. I woud love to help. Good Luck.

  • Oh my god I SO know what you are talking about. Just finding a place to rent is sending me into nervous breakdowns. Congrats on the new flat, it looks lovely so far =)

  • Congratulations on your new home! You are blessed! Love the stove and the red cabinet doors!

  • That stove is gorgeous! Now that is what makes for a wonderfully unique kitchen! This renovation will make for great blog content, as well. It’s good to hear that you will eventually be able to make ice cream in the kitchen. I can see another book in your future on your expirences with renovating; I think that would be wonderful!

  • Oh I can imagine a book coming out of this project. :)

  • Congratulations on your new place! Personally, I found buying our apartment here a horrible experience. I could not believe how incompetent everyone was, from the real estate agents to the bankers to the entrepreneurs. (Maybe it’s the same in the states, but somehow I doubt it). But like a lot of things in France, that which does not kill you makes you stronger…

    • The mistakes that people made were truly astounding, namely the banks and real estate agent. (One bank made an error involving hundreds of thousands of euros.) Luckily had a great notaire and some help on my end (which I’ll write about at a later date…) because otherwise, the whole thing would have been worse than it was. But you’re right; all this stuff toughens you up and I give the French a lot of credit for having to deal with all this stuff all the time…

  • How gorgeous David! Congratulations! :)
    Hope you find just right sink ;)

  • Hi, David.

    I was a mortgage banker, but have since changed to the culinary profession. There are many steps in the U.S., and I thought we were tough as far as obtaining a mortgage. The process in France sounds really intense. Congratulations on your new home. Looks like you great lighting.

    Warm Regards,

    Jan Z. Parker

  • WOW that looks like it is going to be a wonderful place, David. Congratulations on finally taking the leap and also going ahead to do a renovation. It is going to be excellent when you’re done with it.

  • Adding to the congratulations pile! Delighted for you.

    And it’s not only in France that delivery people put notifications on the door without ringing the bell – the postman once put a card through my door, so I opened it and said, “I’m here, can I have my parcel before you take it back to the depot?” and he hadn’t even got it (to be fair, he went and fetched it for me, but he should have had it in the first place!).

    IKEA is a total nightmare – my daughter, for some reason, swears by it, but it was a bit like your experience when we had to get a replacement tap for her kitchen sink when the first one failed (and she STILL likes the place)! (Did you see that IKEA apartment they’ve built in Auber métro station with 5 volunteers living in it for a week?) Back in the day, one went to BHV for kitchen equipment (batterie de cuisine, rather than actual fixtures and fititngs); I don’t know if that still applies?

  • congratulations for having gone through all this!
    Paris real estate is really crazy.
    enjoy the rest of it

  • Wow, congratulations, David! Can’t wait to see the finished product! Are you still in the Marais?

  • David….you are hysterical and I can totally sympathize with you. I am in the middle of a house purchase in Bordeaux with my husband (sans agence). It is such a crazy experience and so very different from home buying in the US. I am writing about it as I go so I can share it with my friends and family. They will think I am exaggerating, but you know the truth!

    I too was alarmed by the medical questionnaire required by the bank, but it is a little more complicated (and maybe understandable) now that I have been looking into it. Here goes:
    Banks in Europe do not like to take a lot of risk and they do not want you to take too much risk. The fact that American families are evicted from their homes is something that the French cannot comprehend. It happens every day in the US, but it doesn’t happen here. If you take out a mortgage loan in France, you are required to take out insurance so if something horrible happens, you do not lose your home and the bank does not lose money either. I am a stay at home mother of 2 young children and if my husband is disabled or killed, the house becomes mine and the entire loan is forgiven. This is a huge relief to me and while I dread the thought of losing my husband, I am happy to have this built in safety net. So it is actually the insurance company requiring the medical information and not the bank. Think of it as a life insurance/disability policy. This is required by French law and while it may seem callous, the laws are here to protect the long term economic interests of the country, its banks and its inhabitants. The bank does not have access to or control over the medical tests.
    Congratulations on owning a piece of France and I am looking forward to hearing all about your adventures in renovations!!

  • @ toddow – the French real estate market is complicated for foreigners, but it is also complicated for French (my husband is French and I have my citizenship as well and buying a house is not easy). Foreigners who think their money is the only thing that counts are easily dissuaded and that is why I hope things here do not change. Patience, perseverence, and character are more important than stacks of foreign money and since people with a lot of money often lack patience, French property ownership is reserved for a select few.

  • YAY…..many congrats…….very exciting to actually own a piece of Paris……can u share the general location?

  • Fantastic news!!! Good luck David, and now you have bought your own place, it means we’ve got to keep you for at least another decade in Paris :0) I love reading your “adventures” and hopefully will be able to come to the signing event of the 12th so I get my sweet life in Paris dedicacee… Stay cool, it will be all worth it in the end :0)

  • Congratulations! All the frustrations are par for the course – a few words of advice, if you don’t know already: Let Leroy Merlin and Castorama – and maybe even Bricodepot for certain things – become your best friends. Don’t trust any ouvrier like plumbers brandishing catalogues, they will cost a FORTUNE. Also – electricians, they have to do the wires, but you can choose your own light fittings – not from their catalogues. Also the ‘net is a useful resource – even getting stuff from the UK can be loads cheaper, and you get loads more choice, of-course. Also, there are schemes in areas of insulation, central heating systems and new windows, poeles, etc that attract crédit d’impots and even interest free loans – we got 40% off the cost of our new windows, for instance, so if you need anything like that, check it out. I know that they have reduced the benefits recently, but you may still get something. Happy to help (if I can) if you need any help – you may need a pro oven, and I know some good websites for pro equipment. Good luck!

  • toddow: Anyone (as far as I know) can buy property in Paris, but it’s very complicated and while the law favors the buyer, there are a lot of things one needs to be very careful of, as errors can cost you a lot of money. (There’s a lot of information at my friend’s site, Paris Property Group, which helped me immensely with the purchase; I’m going to write more about that sometime in the future.) However if you’re paying cash and don’t need a bank loan, that makes the purchase a lot easier.

    Re: Visa-The process here is quite, um, challenging because there are no definitive answers out there about the process or what documents are needed. I’ve posted some links in my FAQs about places to get more information.

    Stephanie: Thanks for responding. My issue is that if you have a serious medical issue, that substantially hinders your ability to buy property. I agree that the banks need to be cautious but in general, real estate is historically a good investment in the long-term and banks should indeed be prudent when making loans (to avoid problems like in the US). Yet it is the banks that require that insurance and a neighbor who is quite young (I’m guessing around 30?) almost didn’t get her bank loan because she had high blood pressure, which I think is a rather common ailment.

    It’s a complicated issue but seems odd to me to require medical issues to be disclosed to a bank for lending you money, which presumably they are making money off of. But I guess they also want to mitigate their risks.

    Annabel: Ikea can be good (ie: their kitchen cabinets) but some of their stuff is proprietary in size, which is great if you buy the sink, commode, and faucet together, they all work. But if something goes wrong, then the nightmare begins. I once bought 30 or so kitchen cabinets from them and delivered all but one. When I inquired, they said the company that makes them went out of business, so I had a kitchen with a big hole in the middle…for a while.

  • Congratulations on such an amazing step! It does sound positively mind-blowing – the whole process. Wow. But you’re hanging in there. And I can’t see the finished product! Congrats again. 2012 is shaping up to be quite a year!

  • Best wishes on the new digs!! I’m sure that you have some wonderful ideas in mind about what you would like to do, but dealing with all things Parisian, will take time and patience. I’m sure that like all your wonderful food projects, this will be just as fabulous and we are all willing to wait and watch the progress of the changes. I hope that the social media people of some of the great design mags pick up on the story to follow as well.

  • Congrats-this little project should keep you busy for a while

  • Wow. Congratulations!! Can’t wait to read about the ongoing saga. I hope you post lots of photos.

  • Congratulations! what a great adventure this will be and I am hoping that you will keep us all updated with the progress including pictures……..as a professional interior designer and baker, I am wondering if you have a friend who is a designer there in Paris who could give you some help finding what you need? And, helping you navigate the french cultural, mystifying complications that are added to the already trying task of major renovations? Don’t lose your mind…..:)

  • Simply marvelous! Those windows in the kitchen!…but you’ve convinced me to rent. I finished my total rehab here to turn my kitchen “European,” my third re-do, and can’t fathom another. But if the right French property came along, I might turn my estate agent window licking into a real pied-a-terre. How many square meters is your place? I can’t translate your measurements. As a Realtor I know it’s different over there. I look forward to the new DIY installments to go along with the recipes. Maybe a hotplate and crockpot edition? Felicitatations encore.

  • That’s fantastic! Can’t wait to see it when it’s complete ; )
    Thank you for sharing and adding some humor to my morning.

  • Congratulations on your new home!
    My daughter recently moved to San Francisco and I flew there to visit and help her get settled. We spent a miserable five hours or so at Ikea in Oakland, with a very similar experience to yours; standing in line a very long time, after an exhausting time shopping for things, with just a few people ahead of us. Several things had to be delivered and they delivered two of some things, which then had to be returned by my daughter. Our experience, too, was a nightmare. Perfect word for shopping there.

    It’s really astounding that banks in Paris require a medical test and makes me wonder about the possible scores of people who have been turned away because of minor health issues.

    In spite of your having to deal with scary things like “creative” wiring, I wish you best of luck with your continued renovations! I hope you post photos of the end results, as that would be exciting for all of us to see!

  • Wow! This is wonderful news, David! You’ve succeeded in surviving the madness that is buying property in Paris :) When we bought our place the misery came more from my French mother-in-law than any contractors – she wasn’t convinced it was the “right” place for us. Needless to say, she would’ve found something wrong with anyplace we wanted.

    Can’t wait to see your photo updates of the place! Staying in the same neighborhood?

  • Wow, congratulations! What a beautiful stove, ok yes the clock is ugly but the rest of it…and what a great shade of red. Hope you keep us updated with videos!!!!

  • I am arriving in Paris on the 28th. of Janurary for 2 weeks for a holiday. Would you like me to bring anything, with in weight reason from the San Francisco bay area?

  • David, good to know about IKEA. I didn’t know about their “proprietary” sizes. In the store their stuff looks good & I was thinking of getting some items for a kitchen remodel there. Now I’ll really use that disposable tape measure before deciding. My IKEA doesn’t have the long lines that other people report but I hate that they make us buy bags.

  • JimmyJay: I had a terrible time with them once when one kitchen cabinet was missing and no one else had a replacement. My contractor said if you buy a sink there, you can only buy their faucets to fit them. So I’d check before buying anything.

    chickie: Thanks, but what I need, is much larger than is “reasonable” ; )

    Lindsey: I’m looking forward to composting, now that I have a bit more room. I throw away so many kitchen scraps that it’s almost criminal, and it’s surprising with how “green” they are trying to make Paris, all the scraps from the outdoor markets and home that just get swept up and tossed into the trash. That’s something I’m getting on once I’m settled. And sorry to hear about the in-law. Mine are great, although one said I should put the kitchen down in the cave

    Sandra: My partner is pretty well-versed in things here, we are both learning where to find things. It’s not like the US where there are ‘superstores’ that have a hundred sinks and you can choose one. So there’s a lot more running around, although the internet has made things a little easier, that’s for sure.

    Catherine: It really is something, but banks here have so much power, and I’m always surprised that no one does anything about it. The fees are outrageous for just having an account, but I think people aren’t used to getting service from their bank – I always say, if you want to see a French person blow up, ask them what they think about their bank… I’m just surprised that no one does anything about it when folks here are so pro-active and hit the streets in protest for a variety of other things and issues.

  • An apartment reno, let alone the purchase itself, is always fun and exciting. But you’re over the purchasing bit now so have lots of fun with the design work. Looking forward to reading all about it.
    Recently had lots of experience in this regard myself too. Congrats !