Thursday, April 10, 2008

Needing Therapy

I need help.

No, not that kind of therapy. I need apartment therapy. I just came across this photo of a kitchen.

photo by Lisa Neimeth

I found it in Apartment Therapy, which, for a neo-apartment-dweller like me, has been an online godsend. For almost two years I've been installed in my Parisian pied-a-terre, having downsized from a rambling 6-bedroom Greek Revival in New England. Until Paris, I hadn't lived in an apartment since post-college days. At 70 square meters (+/- 700 s.f.) my Parisian nest is either tiny and cozy or vast and empty, depending on who you're talking to. But I realize now that I have decorated in such a provisoire fashion. Now I'm realizing that two years just ain't temporary any more. It needs help, pronto.

After signing the lease and embarking on an initial minimal decorating frenzy to make it a livable and presentable, I've kind of let things slide. Comfortable, functional, with an element of Parisian chic was what I had in mind. But, um, I haven't even decorated the walls yet.

The kitchen came with some decrepit appliances, which the landlord didn't even mention as "included" in the lease. Yup, they were that bad: a waist-high fridge with lots of brown mold. A scary white stove whose door was grunged shut. My friend Chu took me to her secret bargain place, the Usines Center, in the suburbs of Paris. There I found my shiny new refrigerator -- oops, I didn't measure properly; I think it's the tallest fridge ever sold in France. Everyone comments on it! I also a acquired a too-short stainless steel (inox) stove, and decided I could live with the washing machine. Then an expat returning to the states sold me an almost new skinny Miele dishwasher. Hmm, my little cuisine was equipped and looking decent, I thought. I had fallen in love with its old tile floors and tall casement window that goes to the ceiling.

Along with the new appliances came a huge dose of reality, which of course has free delivery and installation. There is a severe lack of counter space. How was I to whip up those fabulous gourmet dinners for 16 that I'm so famous for? (ha!) Then I found an antique chestnut confiturier (jam cabinet) at the Marche aux Puces at Vanves, which provided a touch of "country" look, fit perfectly, and gave a smidge more counter-top space.

Then I did nothing else. Maybe it's the grey weather, maybe it's then end of the two-year honeymoon period, but right now I'm feeling that the apartment is lackluster. The colors -- ugh. I need a lift.

So I started thinking -- if you mentally overdosed my kitchen on megavitamins and steroids, it could start looking like that Apartment Therapy photo. Maybe there is hope!

So here's my quandary. Should I be a copy-cat and paint the kitchen a calm, pale green like that photo? It's so tiny, it would take about three hours to accomplish; I'd paint the walls (not the cabinets, which are plastic IKEA laminate). Then maybe I'd get around to refinishing the butcher-block countertop. And installing more shelves, and... and... and...

11 comments:

Until Paris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Isabelle said...

Since your kitchen is not really big be carefull to choose a paint colour that won't make it look even smaller!
But I have to say that your 70 m2 apartment is quite big for a single person (according to French standards!). Our family of 4 lived in a 53 m2 for 10 years (in the Paris area) before moving to a 93 m2 apartment which seems HUGE to everybody!
PS: I love your floor tiles.

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

70 square meters, huh? I vote for "vast and empty." That's huge for Paris, especially Paris intramuros. We have 60 square meters just outside the city and I consider myself lucky. Tho' it is a bit of a challenge to fit two adults, over a thousand books, a loom, and a baby.

Funny, I'd been considering repainting our kitchen that same color green. It is so cheerful and fresh looking, especially in a kitchen that gets lots of sunlight. I'll help you repaint your kitchen if you come over and help us with ours!

By the way, the best paint selection in Paris is, in my humble opinion, at the BHV Rivoli.

carrie and/or john said...

ooh, polly. we just re-did our kitchen and your post filled me with ideas.

1) I think the color would be really fun on the walls, why not? I definitely wouldn't paint the cabinets b/c they are so nice and neutral.
2) Since you know the cabinets are from Ikea, could you get a wall unit to go above the stove & jam cabinet next to the fridge? Then the fridge won't seem so big.
3) If you get the right size wall cabinets, you could install an over the range microwave and free up the counterspace over by the window...you could do 2 wall units side by side, a 30" over the jam cabinet and a 12" over the oven w/ the microwave underneath. but now that I look more closely, that might be a breadbox or convection oven?

--carrie
p.s. totally agree, your floors are stunning.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Thanks for all the good ideas, everyone! I am not very bricoleuse so I'd have to find someone to install IKEA cabinets. And I could sell the current microwave, which was cheap also (about 40€ from Promo 7 in Boulogne, BTW).

Yes, I find my apartment to be quite spacious -- but then I visit someone's normal-size house in the US or a big Paris flat... sigh. But it's all the space I need for one of me, and it's fun and family-cozy when my kids are here on college break. Maybe someday I'll post photos of the rest of the place -- requires more (ahem) tidying up than I have time for right now!

Polly-Vous Francais said...

P.s. Just so you understand the dimensions, my kitchen floor is about the size of an oversized beach towel. Again, it's either vast or tiny, depending on whose vantage point. No "hanging out" in MY cuisine (unlike my eat-in former US kitchen that had a love seat, table and sit-at counter...) If there were even two cooks or bottlewashers at a time maneuvering in this kitchen we'd soon probably throttle each other.

And the floor is great, though I need to fix one gouged tile -- any hints on that would be much much appreciated.

Merci!

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

I thought I'd mention that you can very easily change JUST the doors of IKEA cabinets. It takes about five minutes per door and all you need is a screwdriver.

I hear you on the postage-stamp-sized kitchen lament. Our kitchen is spacious by Parisian standards, but oh how I wish it had room for a high chair so I could keep puréed spinach off my living room rug.

blueVicar said...

I love it...and I understand small. Our first apartment in Nice was microscopic with all of the appliances being doll-sized. I still talk about the E-Z bake oven (with nostalgia, of course).

I think a color would be lovely. I get so tired of neutral everything. Go for it!

Meilleurs voeux!!

Jadie said...

I also like the idea of color, and I will pass along a suggestion given me last month by a Very Famous San Francisco designer...choose a color that will lead your eye outside in a harmonious way, and and also will look good as you stand there looking out into the next room and see its color. It brings the outside in and makes the whole experience feel congruous. I did this in my bedroom and livingroom, and it's made a HUGE difference. I choose a deep brown-gold for the bedroom, and a lovely warm gray-brown for the livingroom, and both rooms looks delicious and spectacular.

Jadie said...

I also like the idea of color, and I will pass along a suggestion given me last month by a Very Famous San Francisco designer...choose a color that will lead your eye outside in a harmonious way, and and also will look good as you stand there looking out into the next room and see its color. It brings the outside in and makes the whole experience feel congruous. I did this in my bedroom and livingroom, and it's made a HUGE difference. I choose a deep brown-gold for the bedroom, and a lovely warm gray-brown for the livingroom, and both rooms looks delicious and spectacular.

The Late Bloomer said...

Erg, your cuisine looks so lovely and tidy, Polly! I'm constantly trying to keep after mine, but no matter how hard I try, it will never be as spic-and-span as my mother's always has been...

I spend most of my time in the kitchen these days, but ours is miniscule as well... My boyfriend hates being in there when I'm cooking or trying to get something done. There's absolutely NO room for both of us at once! I've adapted to it for the most part, but I do wish I could improve things and increase our counter space as well. We don't even have a microwave (thank goodness)! At least you have that nice sink -- wish I had dual-sinks like that...

Adding some color does sound lovely, especially that green... Oh, and I just realized that I envy your four-burner stovetop too! In our apartment just west of Paris, we have 60 m2 and I also consider us lucky -- we could never afford that in Paris intramuros! And our tiny kitchen only has two burners. I make do, but it's sometimes really frustrating!

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