Thursday, 25 June 2009

It's all in the details

I've said it before and I'll said it again, we wanted the apartment to feel like a home not just a room, and we try to pay attention to detail. Perhaps there are certain details that even our guests don't see? How about this one...

These are our lovely velvet curtains. Eagle-eyed guests may have seen that there are marks on them. Well, these marks are gold paint, and in fact the curtains are a one-off design, screen printed by the very lovely designer Anne Gelbard. Anne is mostly known for her work with designers like Christian Lacroix, John Galliano and Givenchy as she has a patented process for embossing fabric with metallic paints (I wrote an in-depth article about her here a while ago with loads of lovely photos of her workshop). She is also behind our epic, lush wallpaper (that I still love).

Anyway, back to the curtains: so they have lines on them. So what? Well, the full splendour can only can be seen... at night. When the sun goes down and you close the curtains, another golden sun comes up. This one:

OK, it's not a great photo, but you get the idea. At night, in the cosy setting of the apartment you have the gold of the wallpaper, the gold of the curtains, the softness of the sofa and above all the calm of the cobbled courtyard.

I like the idea of a little detail like this, a sweet surprise just before a good night's sleep!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Our incredibly useful Google Map just got incredibly more usefuller

Yeah, the blog's great, blah blah. Yeah, it's full of lush photos and insider information about the area around the Great Apartment. But did you know that we have a mighty fine Google Map that shows you where it all is?

All the places mentioned in the blog are shown here, and we do our best to make the map as simple and attractive to use as possible:

- special icons for restaurants and bars so you can find them quickly,
- coloured pins so it looks all priddy,
- plus, clicking on any item will give you a link to the corresponding article on the blog and a little photo to give you a taste of what's in store.

But wait, there's more. We've even given it a super-simple address so you can find it easily:

or (even shorter but perhaps less easy to remember):

We'll be adding to the map each time there's a new article, so before long it should be a sparkling sea of coloured pins leading you to all the coolest places in the area.

Altogether now: Thank you Great Apartment in Paris! You're amazing! ;-)

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Some of of my favourite buildings are
2 minutes from the apartment

Paris is one of those cities that you can walk around and just wonder at the architecture at every street corner. I've lived here for nearly 20 years, I still find it breathtaking, and it just so happens that several building I love are just two minutes from the Great Apartment in rue de Montmorency.

This building, now a Monoprix supermarket, used to be the head office of Félix Potin, a chain of small stores created at the end of the 19th Century that finally went bust in the 1990s. It's ridiculously ornate, but I love it and it makes me a bit sad to look up and see polystyrene false ceilings just inside the windows. Imagine having your desk just there!

Go just round the corner and you're getting into the rag trade area. Many shops here have been taken over as clothes wholesalers, meaning there's a crazy huge hubbub during the day, but the area wasn't always like this. One of the first department stores "À Réaumur", owned by Jean-Baptiste Gobert-Martin, opened here in 1897 and by 1928 had grown to 6,000m² of sales space. However, by the 1960s sales were down and the building was sold to be used as offices. Renovated about a decade ago, it now also has clothes wholesalers on the ground floor, but look up to topmost corner of the building and you'll get a hint of the splendour of the time.

I love this clock. It puts me in a good mood each time I see its multi-coloured mosaic tiles shining in the sun :-) You can read more about the history of À Réaumur here.

And just opposite is one of my very favourite buildings in the city. I've always been astounded by it.

You can't visit it and inside it's probably a mess anyway, but I just love the craziness of it. Until now I didn't even know much about it, but looking round the web I found this:

61-63 rue Réaumur. Commercial building dating from 1898, designed by architects Edward Singery and Philippe Jouannin in collaboration with sculptor F.A. Jacquier. Located at the corner of rue Réaumur and rue Saint-Denis on a 5-metre deep plot of land, with a neo-gothic façade, twinned stained glass windows and a monumental central clock. Was part of the new trend for mixed-use buildings (offices and apartments) and a new aesthetic encouraged by the Paris city council façades contest which was launched when rue Reaumur was created in the late 1800s.

The sculptures represent the four seasons, the twelve months of the year and the signs of the zodiac. That means a lot of sculpture and some great detail...

The most impressive element for me is the clock at the top. Very colourful, very ornate... the whole façade of the building is like some sort of barmy cathedral. Love it, love it, love it.

You can see where these three buildings are by checking out our Google Map of excellent stuff around the Great Apartment. And there are more photos in the Flickr gallery here.

Monday, 8 June 2009

What's new at the apartment?

It's true to say that once you've spent time renovating an apartment and it's finally finished, things tend to stay more or less the same. There's basic upkeep of course, a touch of paint here, changing a bulb there, and endlessly replacing frazzled plants, but apart from that the basic fixtures tend to remain the same.

Well, we like to keep things updated at the Great Apartment, and we think little touches can make all the difference. For example, we'd had a few comments about the magnetic hooks that held the tea towel and hand towel in the kitchen. They looked great when I bought them, but they turned out to be extremely weedy, and often dragged down the metal door to the floor. Balancing a tea towel on them was an extremely delicate affair.

In a word, they were crap. It took me a while to find a decent solution: They do a whole range of devilishly strong Neodymium Iron Boron (NdFeB) magnets, and their 'pawns' seemed perfect for us, so... goodbye crappo hooks, hello ridiculously strong aluminium pawns!

They are so strong in fact that I had a hard time pulling them off the door (don't worry, you'll manage).

And what else is new? Well, it's not very exciting, but we've bought a new hair dryer and a new umbrella because both, er, "disappeared". You'll find the umbrella tucked away in the kitchen near the front door, and the hair dryer in the bathroom. Hopefully, if the weather stays good, you won't need to use the latter because you forgot to take the former.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Gratuitous photos

When there are no guests at the apartment, I sometimes like to go there as a nice change from... well, working at home. Spent most of the day there yesterday, working nonetheless (thanks to our wi-fi access), and it was quiet and sunny and really quite pleasant.

Like this...

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Great, fab, amazing, cool restaurant
90 seconds from our doorstep

Two roads down from the apartment is rue des Gravilliers, and for a few years now - way before the apartment was a twinkle in our eye - I've been going to Andy Wahloo, a bar there at number 69 (click here to see where it is and how to get there). They have a great terrace in summer, great décor inside and - above all - a killer happy hour (6 - 8pm) with cocktails at 5€ and Heineken at 3€.

I stopped going after realising that two of their lethal cocktails was enough to slur my speech and impede my ability to get a proper sentence together. Anyway...

Last October, the people behind Andy Wahloo opened a restaurant in the courtyard behind the bar and called it Derrière. It's decked out like an apartment (with a motorbike and ping pong table on the ground floor for example), has really cool rooms upstairs, and a secret entrance into the fumoir... Oooh!

After being hyped up for 6 months (they refused to give out their phone number and just let the buzz rise, which it inevitably did) it's now gone 'overground' and everyone can book (and we advise you to).

I've written an in-depth article all about our night there (which was a lot of fun) and you can read it here. There's a quick slideshow below, but for the full details you'd better read the report, which has loads of luscious photos and the full low-down.

If you fancy a yummy evening out, with two floors of coolness and the possibility of being able crawl home afterwards, this would be the place to go.