Monday, June 27, 2011

Let there be light


We picked up the keys to our new apartment on Saturday! 

So, please, come on upstairs and into the entry hall. But really, we'll be spending the most time in the pièce de vie, the main room which is, somehow, going to hold our living area, dining space and kitchen. I don't know how but we will figure it out.

I am most excited about the light that pours through the extravagantly high windows in the afternoons. What a complete change from where we are now! That and the lovely, very Parisian enfilade or succession of rooms. 

But oh my, was I freaked out--I'll admit it!--when we first met with the site inspector to verify the state of the apartment. Under the bright light of noon, every single crack and stain was glaring. He repeatedly noted that things were in mauvais état, terrible shape. We have so, so much work ahead of us. Not to mention that the three students who had previously occupied the apartment left it filthy. Predictable. But I mean really, to not even clean the windows? Sigh. 

In the main living room is just one of the little "projects" ahead of us. For some inexplicable reason, at some point a placard, or built in cupboard was partially covered over with the same horrific stucco that is everywhere. As it is peeling off, we will try to carefully remove it. One of the covered doors was replaced with a sheet of plywood so hopefully we can find some shutters to fit.

I brought Ben's blanket and toy over in the afternoon and explained to him that we were now in our "new house"! As you can see, he seems to be making the transition with far greater ease than his human counterparts.

After the main room is a connecting space that we plan to use as a study. If all goes according to plan, shortly I will be writing from this room with a view over the rooftops and the big blue. The study leads off of the entry to the main room to the right, Remi's office to the left and to the bedroom on the other side of the hall.

Remi's office will be at the end of the enfilade so that he has greater privacy. And yes, that means so that I don't bother him when he is on a deadline! One of the most important things that we have learned from working at home is that we both need our own separate spaces to be.

Goodbye Villeroy & Boch bathtub. Hello, skanky miniscule shower! Oh, my. Well, at least there isn't a mirror, which gives me an excuse to buy yet another antique piece. Thankfully, Remi discovered that the sadly retro plastic linoleum lifts up to reveal a brown tile. It's not attractive but thank you, I'll take it. 

Two views of the bedroom and yet they don't convey how large it is. Actually, I'll go ahead and include another from the real estate listing to give a better idea. The gray marble fireplace is in better shape than the one in the living room. Imagine if we can get them both to work? We will be calling in an expert for that soon. Something exceptional about this bedroom? The built in closet space! Absolutely unheard of for an apartment in the center of Arles. Let's just be up front about it, I will need every inch! I also appreciate the unusual cross-beam ceiling and the view out the window down the quiet side street. Ben was happy to pose to give an idea of the ceiling height. Please note the various marks and mysterious blobs of paint on the walls...

We invited our dear friend Frederique over for the apero. Time to ring in our new home with a bit of crémant. Cheers! 

And there is nothing like a floor picnic to start things off. Tapenade, saucisson, olives and goat cheese. Yes, a second bottle of crémant -- just in case! 

Time to kick off the espadrilles and relax. Well, or at least gather up a bit of strength for the tasks that lie ahead. We ended up staying until nearly 10 pm. This being summer at its finest, the light stayed with us until nearly the end. A wonderful welcome gift.


  1. Hello Heather:
    Oh, how excited we are for you. What a wonderful find - so light, airy, spacious and, for you, a near blank canvas and all in the centre of Arles. What fun [oh, yes, and hard work] this project will be. Of course you want to get things done but, as we always say, we have the rest of our lives so what, we ask, is the hurry?

    You furniture in this setting will look wonderful, and you will have all the enjoyment over the coming months and years to seek out exactly right thing for each particular place.

    We, over a thousand miles away, raise our glasses to you Heather, to you Remi, to Ben, of course, and not least to your new home. May it bring you all much happiness!

  2. Ben's loving it; I'm loving it!! (and especially the first photograph). Nothing wrong with a "fixer upper" - especially if when fixed up it is light and beautiful and will bring you much happiness! Congrats, and glad you celebrated the "handing over of the keys" with food, friends, and dog. : )

  3. I think it is lovely. And I can't wait to see what you do with it.

  4. Dear Heather,

    Thank you for that really lovely posting, which I've just read after a day spent making the rounds of two, not particularly cheery ICU wards.. I read your account of the new apartment and recalled the following poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay. At the risk of revealing myself as a sentimentalist?...I'd say that you and Remi seem to be moving into your new home with the same fine spirit with which you seem to lead your days together. Best wishes, of course---- David Terry

    WE were very tired, we were very merry—
    We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
    It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
    But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
    We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
    And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

    We were very tired, we were very merry—
    We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
    And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
    From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
    And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
    And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

    We were very tired, we were very merry,
    We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
    We hailed "Good morrow, mother!" to a shawl-covered head,
    And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
    And she wept, "God bless you!" for the apples and pears,
    And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

    (E.S.V. Millay, 1921)

  5. Oh David, this brought warm tears to my eyes, so who is the sentimentalist now? I know this poem but haven't thought of it in many years. How crazy I must have seemed rising to the defense of Edna St. Vincent Millay while in a high school on the edge of Amish country in Pennsyvania. And yet I did, and I can't thank you now enough because you really hit the nail on the head. How on earth did you do that? Sending you much gratitude and strength while visiting your friends that are struggling. My best to you and yours.

    Thank you Sister--I think you will like our new place! And Bruce, as always, your support is so appreciated.

    Dear Jane and Lance, actually time is of the essence. We have scheduled a moving day and this being in the middle of historic Arles we need to get permission from town hall as we will be blocking the street (and so acess to certain shops) while we move. The date is set and so we need to stick to it! Not to worry, I have already said to Remi that we have to pace ourselves, but nonetheless we still have quite a bit to do!

  6. Oh I cannot convey how much I love this place! Are they hexagonal clay floor tiles in the living areas? Which are fabulous! (I discovered the most beautiful French floor tiles in our current home on moving in day, when I was curious to know what was under the hideous old carpet.)

    But the HUGE windows are amazing, and I love that effect of looking down the corridor with all the windows open. This is going to be a lot of work, I concede, but a wonderful place. The kind of space where you can imbue it with your own personalities, and yet it also has an atmosphere of its own.

    Virginia x

  7. Exciting times
    A beautiful space with endless possibilities. A thorough cleaning and just paint it and put your pieces in and enjoy.
    It is sometimes good to live in a space before making major commitments on decor. The light is spectaular. Enjoy and congratulations. I love your dog with his toy and always ready to play
    Have a great week
    Helen x

  8. A most classic Parisian apartment in your own village! This apartment will be spectacular when you make some progress. Finish it? Is a home ever really finished? Happy, hardworking times, the difficulty of which will be erased as the apartment becomes yours! The windows and fireplaces, the space is so very lovely! So happy for you!

  9. Thank you so much ladies for your enthusiastic response!

    Virginia, yes, the entire apartment (save for the bathroom) is covered in terra-cotta tiles that we call tomettes. It is rare to find a space that has so many and in such good condition (they are soooo dirty though). In my dream house, I would have preferred parquet, but that just doesn't exist here--the termites would have eaten it! I would love to see your tiles someday! I am going to try and keep it simpler--and yes, that would be your modern influence on me! But please remember that I said try.... :)

    Thank you Helen! As this is a rental, that is largely what we will be doing--but even just the painting is so much work with such high ceilings. I think that I am going to have to give up on some of our furniture too. Wishing you an excellent week as well!

    Hello Christine--you know there is a saying in the Arab world that (mega paraphrasing here) that a house "dies" when it is "finished". And I love doing all of this prep work--it is so worth it! Wish we had the budget to do more, but again, this is a rental and not to own...thanks for the well wishes...

  10. Such glorious windows!! Or new home is quite dark actually & our old apartment was so full of light. I definitely miss that...

    Good luck with all the fixing up. I know exactly what that feels like. We had many cracks in the walls to fix & much repainting to do. Our new place is now starting to feel like home!

    ~ Clare x

  11. I absolutely love it! What a fun experience ~ memories are being made! Looking forward to seeing you settle in.

  12. How beautiful and charming your apartment is!! Oh so really French!! I love it!! And yes I know that feeling to have a picknick in an empty house, ready to start a new life !! I wish I could help you moving your furniture into it!!

  13. The bones of this apartment are great. I am sure you can make it fabulous, especially with the wonderful light you have with all those windows. I wish you much happiness.

  14. Thank you so much ladies, it really is so exciting! We renovated our last house (that we owned) before selling it but I had forgotten what an usual mix of exhaustion and delight it is.

    And Greet, for the first time in our adult lives, we are hiring a moving company to help!! Hooooray!! But thank you!!

  15. I so much love your provencal tiles ( tomettes)It will look fabulous

  16. I love all your windows and they’re so beautiful you must be so excited after living in a dark space. I know France and the lack of elevators I hope you don’t have to many floors to carry things up. Ben looks so cute carrying his baby through the flat and I can’t believe how high your ceilings are Ben looks short against the wall. Your new digs sound wonderful and everything else is fixable trust me after moving into this place and have it rain on us on the first floor and it’s a two story house, everything is fixable you just need a sense of humor about it. Enjoy your soon to be lovely new apartment personally I love it!

  17. Merci Mèlanie!

    Debra, yes, the Ben photos are usually posted with you (and my Mom and Sis) in mind. Glad you enjoyed them and thanks for your good wishes! :)

  18. Felicitations, Heather!!! I am so excited for you and for us to see how you will transform this space. Yes, there is a lot of work but what great bones! The light, the windows ..... it's going to be fantastic. P.S. Ben is too cute for words!!!

  19. Merci Ally! And yes, Ben works on his cuteness. I am sure that he practices in the mirror when we are not around. I have been having trouble posting, leaving comments, etc. so we will see if this goes through, but I loved the pink and yellow post--that will be there in the new bedroom as I will finally be able to get out my Cambodian bed cover and my Ouzbeki silk again--whoohoo! I tried to convince Remi to go with a cream paint that had the tiiiiiniest hint of blush in it for that room but of course, he shook his head slowly and said "non"...!

  20. I think it looks lovely!! The light, which I know is so important to you, looks fabulous and I adore the enfilade. It might seem overwhelming now but you two are experts at this!! Wish I was there for your delightful picnic!!


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