Friday, 31 October 2008

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

OK, as well as my own personal blog ( 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 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 }

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!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

If we're so great, where have we been for the last two weeks?

Well, sometimes real life takes over from the much more amusing, interactive virtual world of the internets. What have we been up to? Getting the apartment ready for the first visitors, and it was a bit of a mad rush.

For two weeks I suffered from seriously painful RPP: Rich People's Problems. So much shopping to do! How do I get all these plants home? The organic duvet's the wrong size! Know what I mean?

With only five days before the first guests arrived, we somehow stupidly realised that we had... nothing. No bed linen, no table, no chairs, no crockery, cutlery, bowls, cups, washing-up liquid, towels, cushions, doormat, glasses, coat hangers, nothing... Thus followed days of non-stop shopping, lugging things home on foot or with an overloaded bicycle, then going back out and doing it all again.

Then there was unless unpacking, washing, getting the heating to work, getting the DVD system to work, getting the radio to work, getting the wi-fi to work... RPP? Tell me about it.

And the result? OK, there are a few little things that still need tweaking (like crappo cable TV won't work for me, the shower likes splashing water over the bathroom floor, the work surface in the kitchen goes from black to white if you leave a drop of water on it) but apart from that, IT'S READY! OUR GREAT APARTMENT IS READY!

And below are a few photos that I hope will make you want to come and stay in it. The blog is far from over. Although we started off documenting the renovation process, we're now going to explore the area around the apartment and tell you about all the funky shops, restaurants and other establishments of a naughty nature so that even if you come to stay and don't know Paris, you'll have loads of suggestions to try out.

Hope to see you soon! (P.S. You can book directly at the top right of the site).