Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Before and After: Our apartment!

Grab a glass of wine because it is time to take a break from the holiday rush for everyone's favorite--a "Before" and "After" about our apartment. Now, I would say our "new" rental but we did move in at the end of July and we are quickly approaching the end of the year! So, although the photos are not the quality that I would like (the rooms look small, they are not) and the decorating is not finished (where oh where is my chandelier), here we go!

As those of you who have been reading for a while know, we were excited by the photos that we had seen in the real estate agent's ad. It looked like exactly like what we had been hoping for and we pressured him hard so as to be the first to visit it. So imagine our surprise when we walked in and found this...


Heehee, you weren't expecting that now were you? Three futons, the empty bottles, a refrigerator by the fireplace and a whole lot of sadness. The white stucco walls had been repainted only as high as someone could reach. I could smell the cat. With planning and elbow grease, we changed the space to this...


(This is an early photo from this angle as the lithograph is now hung and I have made a linen underskirt for the white table behind the sofa)

In one corner, a closet had been partially covered in stucco that was peeling. We removed that but left the patina behind. Yes, some of our friends think that we are odd.



A view looking towards the "kitchen", which is in truth an alcove in the living room. What on earth to do for a couple that cooks as much as we do? Cry? Well, Remi really used his thinking cap and I'll do a separate post soon. We did take the stucco off half of the facing wall, put in cabinets and appliances (they are not often supplied for rentals in France).



One of Remi's best ideas was to use the old shutters that were previously our headboard as a means of pulling out the space while still retaining a bit of privacy from the kitchen. Behind them we installed a simple stainless steel cart from Ikea that holds all of our pots and pans below, veggies and wine above.

I knew that I would be spending most of my time in the salon or small living room as soon as I saw this photo in the ad.


Do I really need to say anything about my feelings when we visited? Truly, I wanted to give those students a kick in the pants right then and there and save this lovely apartment.


So here we are today. As for all of the photos, I just took them on regular ol' days when I thought that the light was pretty. No special pillows or styling as you can see. If anything there is too much light! More than the little Pentax can handle. 

As with the living room, we scrapped all of the stucco on the outside wall and painted the rest of the walls "Chanvre" by Tollens. We were delighted with the quality of the paint and it was well worth the investment. When you live with a photographer, the light needs to reflect just so...

(Oops, another old photo. Yes, we have put the "Maharajahs" to right.)

Remi's office (seen in the doorway) is, shall we say, still not available for viewing. Ah-hem. But you can see the big architectural piece where we keep his prints with our big mirror above it. And yep, here is my little desk where I write! I can't tell you how hard it was to find the right piece of wood to make that photo railing. In the States, poof, we would have found it ready made. We have recently been given some wonderful gifts by friends that are moving, including this club chair and brass standing lamp. Remi had that deep attachment to our former club that only men can have but when the bottom fell through, reason won out.

(I wish the photo better reflected that the paint perfectly matches the aged paper on this Four Seasons series. Winter is on the bottom and I love reading with a bear peering over my shoulder. Delightfully, no longer in this chair.)



Well, it still isn't exceptional enough to merit a large photo but we scraped the paint off of the glass door, removed the linoleum, painted the walls Sesame (also by Tollens), installed cabinets and these glass shelves holding more bits from our travels, including the pair of carved bone buddies, bought in Bali and originally from the island of Sumba. The great news? The owner's of the apartment recently stopped by for a visit and were so pleased with what they had done that they are willing to renovate the bathroom!



How happy was I to put up these three classical drawings? Very. Along with the pair of African heads and Remi's crocodile skull, it all gives the entry the oomph I was hoping for. The walls are "Muscade" by Tollens and are lovely in the evening. 

Looking towards the bathroom, Remi built the shelves in a doorway that we had closed off...

And back towards the salon...

Oh, and let's not forget the lantern that I wrote about here.


Now thankfully, the students used this room as a work-space so it was less, sigh, well, you know than the others. Still. Time to make it ours so we installed an alabaster light fixture from the 1930s (yes, I know that the chain is too short, I'll fix that eventually) and painted the walls "Teatime" (still Tollens). Now, never in my wildest dreams could I have guessed that the ivory tone would come out with a soft pink hue to it but it did. So for all of our very careful masculine/feminine balance, I got my girly bedroom. 


We only recently put up the ciel de lit, one of the things that held me up from doing this post. Can you believe that I found it at that Depot-Vente in Eygalieres for 40€? Score! I also decided to give up on having the money to make curtains out of the Nina Campbell fabric that I had bought truly for a song on ebay UK and just swooped it up and around the frame. In the summer, we had our silk coverlet from Angkor on the bed, now thanks to the generous gift of a headboard and a matching bench from our friends, we have gone with something simpler. 

Try as I might, I cannot get this right, photographically. But yes, that is Ben's "bed" and that will be my makeup table once I fix the chair's also saggy bottom.

So to wrap up, let's go back to the apartment's main feature that called to us, the enfillade or stretch of rooms opening one after the other. 



Tah-dah! I hope that you enjoyed this little walk through the apartment, past and present, with me. Yes, it may have been a decided "down-sizing" but I can say with all joy, that it most certainly now feels like home! 


  1. Wow! what a looks lovely, SP

  2. Hello Heather:
    It is all exactly as we should expect of you both: stylish, elegant, chic, and totally inspirational. Given an unpromising start, you have very obviously exercised your enormous talent and flair to give to this apartment a very personal and individual style which so successfully combines a traditional approach, appropriate to the age and period of the building, with a contemporary twist which makes it so much a home in which to work, relax, entertain - in short live.

    And this has been achieved through careful choice of soft furnishings, paint colour, placement of objects, the arrangement of fine furniture, a profusion of pictures and, above all else, an unerring eye for detail. You are both, dear Heather and Remi, masters of your art.

    It is all absolutely lovely and we do so wish you many, many years of happiness in your new home. And, may we one day come knocking at the hall door to enjoy it all first hand?

    Thank you so much for sharing. It has been such a treat and a real joy.

  3. Ooh Heather I do love a before and after, you have worked wonders, the apartment looks beautiful, you and Remy obviously are people with exquisite taste.

    Apologies for being such a lousy blogger recently, I am so behind with everybodies posts, I am really looking forward to taking some time out with a glass of red and catching up with all the posts I have missed.

  4. Oh Heather I think your apartment is wonderful! You and Remi did such a fabulous job. Great idea Remi had using the shutters to extend your kitchen. I had to laugh at your first picture of the mess in your living room I kept thinking some vagabonds were living there but turned out to be students. All those windows, the doors are fabulous and the rooms look to be a generous size but the thing that has me a tad jealous…fireplace in the bedroom! Your apartment is truly wonderful and reflects who you are, stylish and comfortable. Ben looks happy in his home too where ever he flops! Thank you for taking us on a visit to your new apartment!

  5. Hello Heather

    You have been working very hard transforming the apartment to a home. I love your choice of paint colours and all the unique touches. I am particularly fond of the shutters used in the kitchen as a divider. You have a wonderful variety of textures which is so pleasing. It is so beautiful to see a home with cherished items collected over time. I love the stores behind each piece.

    I can see how you loved this space at first sight

    Thank you for sharing xx

  6. Wow what a great post. Any wonder I had to take a seat. thanks for sharing I have enjoyed looking around your special place. I will follow on my way out so as I can keep in touch. I hope you will find the time to pop over to my place soon and do the same. Whilst I am here I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and look forward to engaging more in the New Year! Cheers SpecialK XoXo

  7. Hooray! Finally a tour of your new place! WOW - it looks amazing! Amazing on its own, and especially so when pitted against the "before" pics! (ew!). It really looks beautiful; you are a wonderful decorator and the place is so you and Remi! Love it.

  8. Thank you so much everyone! I can't tell you how wonderful it was to wake up to such amazingly kind responses. What a way to start the day!

    SP, I am really enjoying having you here--merci!

    Jane and Lance, I was truly blown away, left speechless by your wonderful remarks and have read them out loud to Remi as well. Coming from you both, two arbiters of excellent taste if ever there was, it means so much. As always, you understood exactly what we are trying to achieve--on a budget that was finished after the paint! We would absolutely be delighted to have you here and will definitely pop open some Champagne to celebrate such a wondeful occasion!

    Oops! I just saw the time and have to head out to the doctor (normal stuff) so will have to be rude and say a general thank you to everyone else but I am very, very touched!

  9. A great post....I adore the front hall...a design triumph!
    All snug for the Xmas season by the looks of it. Enjoy!

  10. i like your brown chair a lot. lovely greetings


  11. Dear Heather,
    The apartment is beautiful!! What do I say??!! It is gorgeous!!
    Oh my , I so love the old elements as the doors and placard doors and.... just everything!!
    Congratulations Heather! How nice to celebrate Christmas and New year's eve there!!! The pictures at night with all the candles are beautiful!! It looks so cozy!!! Love love love your apartment!!!

  12. When ya gonna invite me over to your fancy shmancy place? Hmm? Now that I know how lovely it is...

  13. Hooray! Oh my, thank you so much Heather, Maria and Greet! Greet, your kind words means so much to me as your beautiful home and aesthetic has inspired me so much. The "chanvre" color was definitely chosen with your work in mind and we are so happy with it. And yes, there is a LOT of Brooke's influence too. But so many others--for example my friend Ally of From the Right Bank made me see that I needed to get up as much of our "art" as possible. From my friend Virginia that I should try and be bolder in mixing. I still have a lot to learn and it really is just for fun--but such a lovely compliment from you just made my day! I have been thinking about you and hoping that you are feeling better, Greet. Bisous.

  14. Uh-huh Julie. I see. So if we lived in say the Barriol? :) You betta come on over here soon as I have a stack of magazines for you that are practically knee high and all in English, my friend! We will make a plan...

  15. OH MY!

    It all looks so spectacular!!!

  16. GORGEOUS GORGEOUS GORGEOUS!THose candles in the fireplace!BRAVI,you two transformed it into your CASA!Loved the shutter addition to the kitchen.Love Bens bed!Love those prints in the hallway and the color!Thanks for the I get you even more!

  17. Stunning! And I have an Ektorp sofa as well ;)

  18. What a creative visionary, both of you! The bones of this home presented poorly from the start but you could see through the layers to a lovely home.

    The flank of open windows took my breath away. Your colors are in tune with the surroundings and the gorgeous light of southern France.

    Bravo! Thanks for showing each and every photo, before and after.


  19. More nice people! Hooray!
    Bruce, it has been so long since you have visited, I am delighted. Your work that you donated for Jingletweet was absolutely gorgeous!

    Ma chere Contessa, you are so fabulous and your compliments make me very very happy!

    Liza, I don't care what they say Ikea is great and this sofa is crazy comfortable!

    Genie! Actually the bones are good, it is just that they were totally obscured by so much crap! I miss my open windows. Truly, merci pour tes joiles mots...

    Bon WE à tout le monde!

  20. I just flew back from Memphis, and I was so excited to see this post in my "in box". You have done such a fabulous job, Heather!
    Your home is just beautiful.
    Yes, your apartment has great bones, but it took an artist to fill it with such beauty.
    Bravo to you and Remi. I wish you a holiday season filled with love and happiness in your new home.
    xo xo

  21. Well firstly I can't believe this is even the same place, and secondly, am in shock that you have done so much in such a ridiculously small amount of time. I hang my head in shame...

    Just love the whole package Heather. And that club chair, oh yum. I sourced a couple of 1930s similar types of leather club chairs for a real estate office recently, and the patina of age is what makes them so fab.

    You have packed so much atmosphere into the place that I bet it isn't even obvious that it is small. Can't wait to see it all for myself next year!

    Virginia xx

  22. Such amazing responses from two of my favorite ladies, both taking time to write despite having been on the road! Oh my, Remi and I were both so touched by what you had to say. As you know, you both inspire me constantly and I am sure that you can see your influences in our apartment. As we had no budget beyond the paint and appliances, we really needed your help! Merci.
    Bisous and let's enjoy the end of the year to the utmost...

  23. Heather you deserve to have a relaxing Christmas after a big six months of renovating and decorating. What an amazing is divine!

    Merry Christmas
    Carla x

  24. Thank you so very much Carla! I am still dreaming about your holiday plans--I honestly think that they are the most amazing that I have heard of yet.

    Merry Christmas to you too!

  25. It has been an inspiration and privilege to be taken through your home - past and present. You can take great pride in your achievements and determination.....and all in 6 months! You have wonderful taste and great sense of style.
    May the peace and joy of Christmas be with you and your family in 2012.

  26. You have transformed the place magnificently! I simply adore it all. I especially love the 3 classical drawings in the hall and also the ciel de lit over the bed. Beautiful.

    ~ Clare x

  27. Hi Heather,
    I LOVE your apartment! It's straight out of a French magazine!! You have an eye for detail - so very stylish! Wow-za!!!!

  28. Thank you so very very much for your kind compliments Elizabeth! Made me smile. And you know that I am sending peace your way too!

    Clare, those are my two favorite things too. Merci pour tes gentils mots. :)

  29. Jen, you are WAY too kind--but thank you!!

  30. Love what you have done, its gorgeous. If I had the opportunity to live in France I would live quiet happily in the before. Enjoy. Happy Christmas. xx

  31. Oooh, are you sure about that? Cat poop in the corners and all? And it seems like you have built a preeetty sweet life exactly where you are. I have shopped vintage since I was 15 and so your store makes me dream!

    Happy Christmas to you as well!

  32. What a save! From student to stunning. The owners should kiss your feet (or lower the rent :)You have great taste and vision. I love the entry with the crock head.

  33. Thanks so much!! We actually negotiated two additional storage spaces in the attic for free in exchange for our efforts. Remi, my honey is a photographer, so we have a lot of equipment and I am a former fashion addict from NYC who has a ton of high heels that I can't wear anymore on these cobble-stone streets so they are really needed.

  34. visiting here by way of Eiffel.
    what a gracious lovely place you have created!
    It looks to have been that way forever too...
    What an amazing collection of artworks! They look perfect in their setting.

  35. Any friend of Elizabeth's is a friend of mine! Thank you so much for your kind words. We are trying to do the best with what we have, like so many of us! So happy that you stopped by...and wishing you a Bon Année!

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