Having restored our 17th century apartments to their former grandeur, the spaces speak to me, as if we’re now friends and confidantes.
Bacchus would have been a dinner party regular….
The fireplace, the hearth of the kitchen, is big enough to stand in. To think that originally, it was the place for cooking. Even now, the French term for a house-warming party is pendaison de crémaillère–hanging of the notched tool that held the cooking pot above the fire–rather than increase or decrease the heat, you had to lower or raise the pot. You can see the transformation of the kitchen here. I can almost hear the voices and laughter of the generations who gathered around the table. The hands upon hands upon hands that smoothed its wood.
Not far from Bacchus’s reach is a bottle rack. Our guests have joined in the game of adding to it.
We encourage them…
Wine tip: when choosing a bottle, feel the indentation, called la piqûre–the punt. It reinforces the bottle, and costs more than a flat bottom. If the winemaker is shelling out for a better bottle, you can figure what’s inside is pretty good.
What is so satisfying about tracking down just the right thing–as opposed to ordering with a click–is that everything has a story.
Like this Louis XVI armchair, so perfect for reading (feet up on the pouf), that matches the sofa and makes me wonder how the tiny lady who sold it to us is faring these days. And I smile at the little desk she threw in, which had seen better days but was revived with some fresh paint. Because that drawer really deserves it. They don’t make drawers like they used to.Or this cupboard, which had served generations in the huge, familial kitchen. Sometimes we stay here ourselves, to enjoy a night on the town, so to speak. It feels like vacation. Especially the sauna, followed by a cool-down in the huge shower, with its funny niche that we kept. Check out what was there before.
I love how the bathroom turned out. The Venetian mirror. The pedestal sink. The second mirror, that shows a glimpse of the sauna in its reflection. The cabochon floor.
We found another Venetian mirror for the powder room.
It’s hard to choose between black and white and blue and white. So we have both.
By the sauna, above, and then the blue and white china, assembled from so many brocantes!
The things you can find at brocantes! Young ladies…
More blue and white…and cool mantle ornaments. Befitting of a cool mantle.
A few things didn’t quite work in our house and found a home here. Like this table I bought many years ago in Lamu, a little island near Kenya’s border with Somalia, now too dangerous to go back, unfortunately. I have many happy memories of Lamu, including how I first admired the work of the carpenter who hand-carved this table back in the mid-’80s. Alas, I was a broke Peace Corps worker who could barely afford $1 a night for a mattress on the roof at a dive hotel (mosquito net included). Years later, I returned, dead set on buying a Lamu coffee table. Lo and behold, the same carpenter was working in the same place. He didn’t have any coffee tables, but he also wasn’t going to miss a sale. He got this one out of his own house, unscrewed the legs and wrapped it up for me to take home. While the cobbler’s children are the worst shod, I hope he got around to making himself a new coffee table.
It is just perfect in the apartment–the right size, not visually heavy, the carving remarkably similar to that on the Louis XVI sofa and to the swirls on the antique carpet.
While I enjoy watching the bustle on the street from the balcony in the other apartment, I also appreciate the quiet and the view in this apartment, which overlooks the communal courtyard, full of flowers and plants maintained by one of the neighbors. The apartment faces north, which, with the two-foot-thick stone walls, keeps it surprisingly cool in summer. In winter, who cares–there’s a sauna! And lots of radiators.