Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Our Xmas decorations are up!

Couldn't have the apartment looking all gloomy for the holidays, now could we?

I braved the cold (and psychotic Xmas shoppers) to get a bit of tinsel in, and recycled our very own camp-as-Christmas Christmas tree for y'all to admire. Ever seen anything so pink? May be slightly distracting if you're trying to watch telly (as in "agghhh, my retinas are on fire").
I'm not a great fan of fairies on trees, so we went the kitsch way and added an Indian deity instead...
There are also a few sparkly reindeer sweeping majestically through the front room...
...and even more pzazz near the window box. Now if all that doesn't get you in the mood for binge drinking, over-eating and shameless consumerism, nothing will!

Happy Holidays to all our guests, and all the rest of you too!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

New (great) photos by Jérôme d'Almeida

I'm no slouch with a camera, but I'm nothing like a professional photographer. Thank goodness then for Jérôme d'Almeida. We've known Jérôme for a few years now. He's always been mad keen on social network sites, right back since the days of Friendster, enjoys a night out at the club (a real party boy), and is also a talented photographer.

After living in Paris he's now moved to New York for a while, and after his spectacular shots of the Hôtel Paris Rive Gauche hotels (a gig he got via Friendster actually) we asked him to take a few of our great apartment too. And during a visit back to Paris, he said yes! Hurrah!

I have a soft spot for the photo at the top here, taken from the front door (great perspective), and also the moody kitchen shot below...

Of course with a quick flick of a switch, the kitchen comes back to life...

You can see the rest of the shots he did for us here. And do have a look at his really lush website. Some great work on there....

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Meet our great architect

As soon as we had bought the apartment, we knew that we would need an architect. Fitting everything in was going to be a problem, and it all needed to be precisely done. It's also useful to have someone to liaise with the contractors so you don't have all that hassle.

After asking around, we finally opted for the colleague of a friend of a friend. From the very first meeting we got on really well. Please meet... Dorothée Février !
This is the only photo of Dorothée that I have: her doing a monkey face, reflected in the microwave with a plastic bucket behind her. Not the most glamorous shot ever, but she declined to give me anything else, so it will have to do!

Dorothy works as an architect, but occasionally takes on personal projects to help people out. She was incredibly patient and understanding while we changed our minds, argued amongst ourselves, etc. She was available when necessary, even for Saturday shopping trips for certains items. She also took it very well when we rejected her first proposed layout for the apartment, realising - as we did - that it just wouldn't leave us enough space.

I asked Dorothée a few questions by e-mail about the apartment...

What was the biggest challenge in the apartment?
Arranging the kitchen and bathroom, definitely! Fitting them in to a 7m² space together with the entrance gave me some tense moments.

Anything that you would have done differently had it been your apartment?
I'd never really thought about it before, as the idea was to meet your requirements, not mine. The differences would have been more in the ambience and colours than the way the space was laid out, as that's more or less dictated by the architecture.

An element that you didn't think would be any good but turned out well?
Keeping and restoring the original parquet. Jason was right to insist on it and the contractor did a good job of it (and lots of other things too!)

A lesson learnt during the work?
I learn something on every project, but here it was handling the space problems, both from a technical and organisational point of view.

Original floorplan of the empty apartment.
There wasn't even a toilet! It was on the landing...

And that's it! Short but sweet interview. It was a really good experience working with Dorothée, and if the apartment looks as good as does to day, we partly have her to thank for it.

Coming soon... an interview with ournotoriously shy contractors, Véli and Boris. Wish me luck!

Monday, 24 November 2008

Extra giant flower turnover

After having bought all the various kit for the apartment we knew that there would still be some upkeep and regular spends to be made. For instance, I like to have a good flower display at the window and fresh flowers in the apartment when people arrive. I think it's the sort of detail that shows that we really do want people to feel at home and have a great stay with us in Paris. We love the city and we want people to get the best from it.

So, changing plants from time to time, OK. However, I didn't realise that they would need replacing almost every week. I mean I have this weird relationship with plants where I love 'em, buy 'em and then mercilessly water them to death. At the apartment, I'm not there to do that all the time, so I thought they might survive at least a little while. I was wrong.

During an unseasonal warm spell in October, many of the plants wilted and fell by the wayside. Later, the lavender I bought started (heavily) wilting from too much water. The veronica stopped flowering and went a ghostly yellow. Then the other week there was a small fire in the communal cellar. One of the smoke vents is just below the window box and tow of the plants decided it was a good excuse to wither and die. The tow succulents in the bathroom went all weedy and limp. This is not good.

So, once again, I've been down to the Quai de la Mégisserie (admittedly not far) and tried to choose between the multitude of shops and plants available. Here's the latest batch...

The bathroom's got hyacinths because they smell lovely and cost peanuts. Downside: they don't last long. Upside: means I won't have time to kill them..

Fern-type affair. Even I would be hard-pressed to overwater this baby. However the one I bought the week before looks a little ropey because I haven't been drowning it every other day (poor baby).

Hyacinths outside too because it's the season and, er, see above.

Add to this fantastic selection a luminous green pointy thing that I wasn't very keen on but some people seem to equate with posh. Each to his own...

And finally, the most expensive of them all but-I-love-it-to-bits, a mini arum lily. I once had one that lasted over a year, something of a personal record. Let's see how well this one will do...

As for the cut flowers at the top of this post, don't ask me what they are. I haven't the slightest idea. However, I do have a rock solid excuse for them expiring next week.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Getting upstairs (otherwise known as "you say tomato, I say tomahto")

I always worry when I tell people that our place is on the first floor. It's an anglo-american thing. The English half of me wants to say that it's a flat on the first floor. The (hypothetical) American half of me is trying to get used to saying that it's an apartment on the second floor. Get what I mean?

Either way, the chronically lazy awfully tired amongst you will be glad to hear that if one flight of stairs is too challenging, the building has a brand new lift. I mean an elevator. Oh forget it.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

I suck at Photoshop

Yes, I am very sucky at Photoshop. Luckily, the program has some automatic functions for the graphically-challenged like me, and one of them is Photomerge. It is, to cut 'n' paste the Adobe site, a "feature for creating a single composite image from multiple source images."

Sounds like exactly what I needed for taking a shot of the living room of the apartment. I don't have a wide angle lens, so I couldn't get the lovely sofa and the lovely wallpaper into one single photo. Enter - ta-dah! - Photomerge. I stood in one corner of the room, took about twenty photos, thrust them into Photoshop and it spat out this beauty:

You can sort of see it's a cheat because the wall's a bit curvy. I do clearly state on the Flickr page that it's a photomerge, and that our living room is not a panoramic ballroom of epic proportions. I do however love the result. Pretty seamless (apart from something dodgy going on at the window).

And it inspired me to go further. I wanted to get a big shot of the kitchen, which happens to be ⅓ the size of the living room. To make sure the photo stitching would be absolutely perfect I took a lot more photos, many many more, 119 in fact! Trembling, I fed them into Photoshop, expecting a beautiful sweeping vista to be produced. Photoshop coughed and whizzed, and five minutes later it pooped out this:

What the...? That's not the kitchen. That's what the kitchen would look like IF I HAD A MIGRAINE AND TOOK LSD.

So, computers are great, Photoshop is pretty cool, but it's comforting to know that sometimes a simple point and click is the best solution.

More (better) photos coming soon, thank goodness.

Friday, 31 October 2008

A walk (back in time) and a (delicious) meal...

OK, as well as my own personal blog (www.jasonw.eu) and this one, I also do quite a bit of stuff for the Hôtels Paris Rive Gauche group; a post in English and French every weekday, photos, and articles for their monthly newsletter. As they also have our Great Apartment on their site, this month's newsletter is about the area around the rue de Montmorency. I had a lot of fun researching it.

There's the article above about a great restaurant built around 1919, with fantastic tiles and really delicious food (read all about it here) and another about three little-known passages that lead you from the apartment right into the heart of the pedestrian Montorgueil area.

I especially liked the third passage, magnificent Passage du Grand Cerf, with its 12m high glass roof, and intriguing stairs that sweep round a display case up the apartments on the 3rd floor (read the article here)...
You can read my articles about Paris every bloomin' day if you want to. They're all here.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Another mosaic / collage bonanza

Been having wild fun with Picnik's new collage feature. Well, perhaps not wild fun, but some fun. Thought it would be nice for y'all to be able to get a quick idea of the apartment without wading through forty photos. I don't have time for that. Do you have time for that? (if so then please visit our extensive Flickr gallery here!).

So, kitchen collage is above. Had to get the kettle in (love that kettle) and the extremely chic and consequently dear pots & pans. And - ooh! - a black rubber colander!

Here's the living room again. I'm sure you're sick of seeing it. I still love it with a vengeance...
And here's the lovely bathroom, all toasty and shiny. If only I lived there myself...

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Internet fame! Almost like real fame! Yay!

We hooked up with websites unplggd.com and Apartment Therapy after they had a look at our Flickr photo gallery.

They very kindly asked to do a little piece on the apartment, including:

- a Q&A about how we chose what we chose,
- where we sourced everything and
- what we were trying to achieve.

They were also quite interested in the hidden technology (5.1 surround system, wi-fi, radiator mirror, etc.)

Perhaps you too want a fascinating dip into our minds? Who can blame you...

Anyway, click the screencap or here to read the article!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Our wonderful sofabed

I've mentioned this marvel of the modern world before (here) with a little film showing how simple it is to open and close. From the very beginning we knew there wasn't enough room in the apartment for a full-on bed, and decided to invest in a really good quality sofabed from Italy.

It's called 'Unico' and is made by by Bedeve Salotti. They have loads of high-quality, designer sofabeds. We went for this one because it has a two clever hidey-holes inside for the pillows, so all you have to do is open the thing up, pull the pillows out and put on the duvet. Voila!

During the day it looks like this:

Inviting! In the evening, it's great for chilling out or reading...

Lush! And at night it goes all snuggly wuggly like this:

Lovely, but how exactly does one get from magnificent sofa to firm-but-comfy bed in 2 seconds? Well luckily the manufacturers give you a little diagram for idiots. And here it is!
I especially like the way that there are five steps to open it out and just one to get it all folded back up again. Magic! Actually, it is: everyone we show it to is pretty much amazed. The sort of thing I wish I'd bought for my own damn apartment!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Am I a nerd? Yes I'm a nerd.

It was one of the last things we bought for the apartment - a doormat. The original one was, well, completely worn out. So I bought a new one, which turned out to be tiny. Like, ridiculously small. And plain.

And then I came across this one, and just knew I had to have it.

As you might be able to see, it' just a leetle too big, but I can't bring myself to hack bits off the edges with a bread knife, so for the moment it's staying like that. Until someone from the building swipes it, of course...

I think it sets the tone for the apartment even before you're in the apartment. It sort of says 'we don't take ourselves too seriously', and 'enjoy life' and - inevitably - 'I'm a nerd'. Whatever. I love it.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

A bit of mosaic fun

OK, so you know the gallery for the apartment has been updated and you're very very excited about that. Yes you are. Anyway, I was just mucking about with fd's flickr toys to see if I could get a nice mosaic made for adding to e-mails, and I squeezed not one but two out if it!

Behold the ice-cool splendour of the kitchen and bathroom: tapas bar meets Space Odyssey...
And the cosy wonder of the living room: Designer's Guild meets happy hour...
Lush stuff...

Friday, 17 October 2008

Getting in and out - harder than it looks?

My body is a temple, and my apartment... is a fortress! Codes, keys, special electronic pass thingy gadgets... Without wanting to sound patronising, some of you might need help getting in and out. I certainly did at the beginning.

From the street, the first door isn't locked during the day on weekdays, so from Monday-Friday before 7pm, just press the button to get in. Outside those times, punch in the code that we'll give you (it's also written on your keyring, so don't worry about remembering it). Well done, you beat level one! Entering level two...

Oh no it's dark! What should I do? Erm, try this button. You'll find it just inside the first door to the right...

OK, you're in the door and you can see. You're a genius. So what's next? Ah, the fiendish second door conundrum...
It's like 80% Buck Rogers and 20% The Matrix. Or perhaps 96% and 4%. Anyway... see that little red light and drawing of a black, er, thing? You have one of those black things on your keychain. It's the electronic tag.

Can you see what I'm doing? I'm putting my black plastic thing near the picture of the black plastic thing. GOOD GRIEF! It works! Just pull the barred door towards you, and you're through to the final level!!!

By the way, if there are two of you in the apartment, and you've just nipped out alone without your keys to get a quick bottle of wine, champagne, plastic Eiffel Tower etc., just press the up arrow once to get to my name - Whittaker - and press 'appel'. The intercom will ring INCREDIBLY LOUDLY in the apartment, scaring the bejeezus out of your pal, who just has to press the little key button on the intercom phone next to the front door to let you in. Phew!
So you're nearly home and dry. Take the first door on your left (marked 'A') and either walk up one flight of stairs or - c'mon, you're kidding right? - use the lift. The apartment is the first door you see. You have two keys. The short one opens the top and bottom locks, the long one then opens the middle lock and the door (two turns of each are necessary to open or lock the door). Hurrah, you did it.

So you're in. Bee are ay vee oh, bravo. Now you want to go out. Nothing simpler right? Wrong.

Lock the door (short key two turns top and bottom, long key two turns in the middle). There's a light switch just to the left of the front door (just on the right actually if you're going out). This will help prevent you breaking your neck on the way down (I've nearly done a few times). Just out of the door to the building on the ground floor, to your right, you have a) the secret little silver button that opens the inner gate, and b) a knob to turn to switch the light on in the entrance.
Push the barred door, go through and then STOP!

Just to your left is another little silver button. Helpfully, this one is labelled 'porte'. That's French for 'Portugal' (un-be-lievable). Press it and you'll hear a beep, meaning that the front door to the street is open. You've got about 10 seconds pull the front door to get out.
I often forget this last bit and arrive at the front door to the building, find it's shut and have to backtrack to the button. Duh!

So there you go! Simple! I told you.

Next week, how to open the sofabed (and you think I'm kidding...) :-)

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Photo gallery updated

We've just put a couple of extra photos on the Flickr gallery (here) so you can see the latest additions to the apartment.

We rather like this tall lamp that adds a bit of extra glow to the corner where the surround sound DVD system and iPod dock are. For once, it wasn't too expensive...

And then there's the lovely vase by Domestic (who do loads of great stickers and wall coverings too) that just happens to have been designed by the chronically over-talented Antoine & Manuel. They have previously decorated the Colette store, worked with Christian Lacroix, that sort of thing...

I thought the purple thistles looked great in the shop, then awful in the vase, and now I've gone back to thinking that they are an inspired choice. Perhaps I'm wrong...

Anyway, the full gallery of the apartment is here, and the video tour is still available here.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Organic grub just down the road

For some freakish reason the area around the apartment seems to have loads of supermarkets, all of them pretty tiny. Personally I would have preferred just the one - giant size - but perhaps central Paris just doesn't have the space?

Anyway, most of them are not only tiny but also borderline grimy. Hurrah then for this new organic place just a minute away. It replaced of one the grubbier supermarkets last August and now has everything you need to eat organic, drink organic, clean organic, cook organic, snack organic... I think you get what I mean. It also happens to be one of the biggest places around. Look!

The design is lovely, much in the vein of my favourites Monoprix, and much less like the grumpy, rootsy organic places that we're used to here. It's calle Lémo and belongs to the Biocoop network of shops that is currently expanding wildly.

If I'm passing by the apartment for something, I often pick up one of their nice tarts or sandwiches (alfalfa and olive tapenade is a favourite). Could come in handy if you're too knackered from full-on clubbing to cook in our lovely kitchen... ;-)
Lémo is at 66 boulevard de Sébastopol, open every day except Sunday from 10am to 8pm. Here's how to get there from the apartment (it's all of 200 metres away. Don't get lost...)

L'Emo is open from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 8pm

Bigger map here

Monday, 13 October 2008

Rates and booking

The booking engine on the blog allows you to check the rates and availability for any given dates, but we thought it would also be handy for us to list the general rates and explain how payment is handled.

Firstly, you should know that the minimum stay is three nights and the maximum stay 14 nights. Contact us if you need to stay longer and we'll see what we can do (jasonw { at } jasonw.eu).

Rates start at 68 euros a night (cheap!) and go up to 150 euros a night (still good value!) although at certain periods (important trade fairs, high season...) they might be slightly higher. Here are the details.

For a stay of three or four nights, the standard rate is 150 euros per night. 100% of the stay is payable immediately, with a 2% booking fee added.

For a stay of five or six nights, the standard rate is 110 euros per night. 50% of the stay is payable immediately, with a 2% booking fee added. The remaining amount is debited 7 days before arrival.

If you're staying seven to fourteen nights, the standard rate is 78 euros per night. 50% of the stay is payable immediately, with a 2% booking fee added. The remaining amount is debited 7 days before arrival.

There are also some options available when booking.

For example, at the end of your stay you can decide to clean the apartment yourself, or select the 50 euros cleaning charge option when booking.

You can also choose other options to make your arrival more special, such as a having bottle of champagne on ice ready for you (30 euros) or a hot meal (meat, fish or vegetarian) prepared by Laurent of the Duc de Montmorency (the restaurant on the groud floor). This option is charged at 20 euros per person.

Click here if you'd like to book.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

The guided tour

It's all very well seeing the photos of the finished result, but how about a film showing you around? I tried to do a quick tour without getting my reflection in camera. Kinda managed it too (thanks to iMovie).

Here we go. Hold on tight!

(Music is Amber & Tiger's Eye by the wonderful Esthero.)

Our apartment is eco-friendly as we could get (without completely ruining ourselves to save the planet)

Our initial idea with the apartment was to have everything environmentally-friendly, organic paint, the works. We even went to specialist trade fairs to source manufacturers. But soon we realised that going the whole hog was as impracticable as it was expensive. Inevitably and reluctantly we had to compromise in places, and yet I think - all in all - we made a pretty good effort.

Electricity. Before work even started, we changed energy supplier. This has only been made possible recently, and we opted for Poweo because of their renewable energy offer. In fact they have two. The first is called 'Planète' and is 100% certified green energy from European solar sources and wind farms. We decided to go a step further and subscribe to their 'Avenir' offer - slightly more expensive - which is zero paper (all bills are sent by e-mail), plus they state that if you use less electricity than the amount you subscribed for in a year, Poweo will compensate for 100kg of CO2 in an eco project chosen by Action Carbone. It's not an excuse to turn the heating up full with the windows open, but it helps my conscience to know that we are not contributing to global warming.

Heating. To save space and energy (as well as looking rather smart), we chose a mirror radiator from Verelec. They say it uses 30% less electricity than similar heaters. I'd like to think so. They also say that it's better for those with allergies, as it does not use convection, which tends to blow dust around the room.

Bedding. We chose an organic cotton duvet from Dodo. They have another range that goes by the wonderful name of Uranus that we didn't feel drawn to for some reason (French manufacturers, eh?). Dodo do our pillows too, and all the bedding is animal-free ; the thought of down or feathers in my pillow or duvet brings to mind too many horrible images, and it's better for allergy sufferers too. The sheets, pillow cases and duvet cover are by Jalla and are made from a fabric that they've created called Eternal (they've even registered it as a trademark! Bless 'em). Eternal is 20% cotton and 80% microfibre, giving it a luxurious soft touch and making drying and ironing a breeze. That's the theory. I haven't tried yet.

Towels. These are by Santens, a Belgian firm that started making bamboo cotton items earlier this year. Bamboo is better because it's from a renewable source, is very soft to the touch and absorbs more than ordinary cotton towels. And it can be washed at 60°C so there's extremely hygienic.

Windows. The apartment had crusty old windows from before the war so we replaced them with toasty double glazing.

Cleaning. All the products that we supply to clean the apartment with are eco-friendly (thank you Monoprix).

Paperwork. You have a few things to sign when you arrive. We always print on recycled paper, or paper from managed forests (and print on both sides!)

That's about it I think. Hopefully you can see that eco-responsibility (and a hint of luxury) steered us in our choices. It wasn't always easy, and it certainly wasn't cheap. Hope you appreciate the effort we made!