With all the talk of my apartment recently, I thought it only fair to give you a tour. So, without further ado, my petit Paris apartment and the ins and outs of how I decorated it in the most non-committal, least-expensive way.
Living in a studio often means the bed is the main attraction, which is why whatever colors or pattern I chose for my bedspread, I knew it’d dictate the rest of the apartment. When I found this map-globe duvet cover from Urban Outfitters, I decided to go with an overall “travel” theme, keeping with the same colorful, boho chic vibe I have in my apartment in NYC—albeit less cluttered. I found shams that pick up the colors in the bedspread from BHV here in Paris, and the leopard pillow cases came from home—with the pillows themselves. Girl’s gotta have her squishy pillows with her at all times. Oh, and the fleece throw came courtesy of Mom and Air France business class. Resourceful woman that she is thought I’d need one—and, of course, she was right! Since there are a lot of gemstone colors in the bedspread, I had some freedom with the rest of the apartment—but didn’t want to go overboard. There wasn’t another place to sit (beyond the table and bed—which isn’t a pull-out), so after weeks of measuring and searching, I found this awesome striped armchair on Le Bon Coin, which is like a Craigslist listings site. Not only do the colors work well, but the French man I bought it from delivered it and carried it up four flights of stairs with me! (Sadly, he was married with children. I knew what you all were thinking!) The rest of the furniture came with the apartment—though, I had to add a few bits here and there. Like, that wooden cube piece didn’t have the square baskets and I found a velvet blue footstool (hidden to the right of the chair) at this My Bob’s-like furniture store called Conforama. Without even trying, blue/grey become an accent color—from the bedskirt to the baskets to the tape around the calendar wall “quilt” I made.
I bought this wall calendar in Anthropologie, as I do every year. I love Rifle Paper Co.’s “Travel the World” them for obvious reasons. My friend Amy said she saw someone who took it apart and made it into one large piece of artwork and since I didn’t want to spend too much money on framing and overall decor, this seemed like a smart and simple solution. I added the masking tape as a “frame” to make it look more polished.
Speaking of my friend Amy, she’s super crafty and has begun a new business venture hand-making dreamcatchers. After I was outbid on one from this awesome company called Electric Love at our MSquerade Halloween fundraiser, Amy promised she’d make me one. And make me one she did! Using materials like a woven fish net, feathers, ribbon, and lace, she made the most beautiful piece, which she kindly dropped off at my parents’ house before my mother came to visit. Her Etsy store will be up soon so you can all start placing orders!
Of course, the calendar quilt and dreamcatcher only filled up so much wall space, so I went the traditional route and found some super cheap frames for a few prints and posters I’d been collecting: the cover of the calendar that says “Travel the World,” a poster from Urban that says, “Not All Who Wander Are Lost,” the tour poster from the Bear’s Den show I saw with my mom last month, and a print from photographer David Parise whose work I first saw on West Broadway in SoHo before I left. He photographs Barbies in various poses and settings. Seeing as I collect Barbie dolls—or did, before I had nowhere else to keep them but my parents’ attic—I knew I had to have one; specifically the one of the a few dolls doing yogic handstands. The mirror stars were superfluous, but they added much-needed dimension and shape to the gallery wall. I got them for like €8 at Castorama—not to be confused with Conforma—which is Paris’ Home Depot. In the hallway, I hung a print of British illustrator Jenni Sparks’ new map of Paris, which characterizes each of the 20 arrondissements by cute and clever drawings like a face of Dali and windmills for Montmartre to a pencil and a “Je Suis Charlie” stamp for Bastille. (Click pics to enlarge!)
I also framed a cover of “The Parisianer,” which was a faux magazine art project launched last year by two French illustrators who wanted to mimic the acclaimed New Yorker covers. I couldn’t have one without the other, so I picked up a New Yorker cover from BHV who was selling a few matted versions. Despite it being dark, I chose one from the week after 9/11. I like how the two contrast each other—Gotham City and the City of Light.I found those wee frames for €1 each at some dollar—er, euro—store near my house, picked up the mini cacti at Castorama and turned creme bruleé bowls from the supermarket into candle tealight holders. (Their puddings and desserts—which are insanely fancy for supermarket desserts—come in glass containers!)
My bathroom’s pretty status quo—and very pretty in pink with a NYC skyline shower curtain from Urban Outfitters. I drilled that wee little shelf into the wall myself as there wasn’t enough counter space. (And yes, that is a towel heater on the left side of the second photo!)
My table/desk—where I’m currently sitting writing this very blog post—is much better than it was when I moved in. Originally, there was a tall, square wooden table from Ikea with stools. My feet didn’t touch the ground and there was no support for my back. Not that the folding chair I’m sitting on now is super great for my spine, but at least I have support and the table is more equipped for guests and all my papers. (My lovely propriétaire—landlord—agreed to switch it for me when I told her I was thinking of replacing it myself! We then spent a good hour “putting it together.” It was only until days later that a friend came over and leaned on it, causing it to nearly fall apart that he showed me I had screwed the legs in completely backwards.) I wish the table faced a fenetre (window); instead, I get to look at my cool gallery wall and pretty bedspread. But there is natural light all day so that’s good. Moving on to the kitchen, which is red! I sort of love it. As mentioned, I had to buy a convection/toaster oven (for all those eggplant stacks) and attempting to make a day-old baguette fresh again, but otherwise it came fully equipped with a microwave, Nespresso, tea kettle, plates and the like. The fridge is mini, but so am I (or at least I’m trying to be) and I’ve got great counter space. The birdcage decal was one of the first bits of “decor” I got from my friend Sofia, who owns a cute shop in the Marais called Les Invasions Ephemeres. I thought a birdcage was apropos in the kitchen. That’s where all of ours were kept before they inevitably wound up buried in our backyard. Sad.
I’ve had to get used to doing my laundry in the kitchen, but at least I’ve got myself a machine! There’s a clothes hanger thingy over the bathtub in the shower so I often leave a trail of socks between la cuisine et la salle de bain.
A lot of the knick-knacks you see—the jewelry box, placemat, books and candles—all came from home; the lamp was here and the bookshelves are built-in. It’s a bit unfortunate not to have even close to the amount of books I have stuffed into my apartment in NYC, but maybe the fewer I have, the more I’ll read. I did get a set of “Namaste” bookends in London, which you might be able to make out in the picture below. Oh, and I also picked up a wee little globe ornament since apartments in Paris don’t have names or numbers on them. This way, I can just say to visitors, “C’est la porte sur la quartriéme etage avec le monde.” (It’s the door on the 4th floor with the globe.”) Oh, and just this Monday I found that round mirror for only €10 at some second-hand store down the block. Despite it looking black in the photo, it’s actually that same grey/blue! Finally, the piece de resistance: the wallpaper. I haven’t had wallpaper since this totally ’80s pink/seafoam green/periwinkle pattern back in middle school. And I wasn’t the one to apply it to my walls. But I decided to give it a go as it seemed like another fairly cheap way to “decorate.” And no better place to choose a “trompe l’oeil” design than Paris, right?*
*Side note: As I’m learning French, I just learned the word for “fool”: tromper, which also translates to deceive, and hence why something that looks like it’s real, but isn’t—say, my birch wood tree wallpaper—is called trompe l’oeilI: deception of the eye.
So back to the installation: I bought the roll in BHV with my mother, assuming it was a decal. Once I realized I had to get glue, some brushes and hang it myself, I felt a bit…well, trompé. I got all the necessary materials (and then had to exchange one of them for something else because of my inability to properly translate “wallpaper glue”), and it all sat in the corner of my apartment for a few weeks as I finished up everything around it and worked up the courage to actually attempt to put it up.
Finally, it was the only thing left to do, so this Saturday morning I got to work. I watched a DIY YouTube video of some Irish guy named Woodie in a green shirt going through the steps about five times before I finally felt confident enough to begin. The first step was making the glue, which meant measurements and conversions. Fun. It also meant translating the instructions from the back of the box into English, lest I add too much (or too little) water and the paper not stick—or stick for eternity. I was able to make out that it said to use very cold water and to pour the powder around the edges and mix it briskly. What started out liquid-y, eventually became pasty. Voila!
Then came time for measuring the paper itself. The first panel was easy enough—I left a little extra on the top and bottom as instructed, and drew a line on the wall so I knew where to place it. Then I used the brush to apply the glue. Folding the paper as I brushed was a bit tricky, but I managed. Once I placed the first panel, and smoothed out the air bubbles with the other brush I felt confident the rest would be a breeze. Aside from a few rips by the ceiling and floorboard due to my being a bit rough with the X-acto knife on wet paper, I’m really pleased with the result. Everyone keeps saying the trees look 3D in photos. I just like having a bit of outside on the inside. My own little forest fairytale in the center of Paris!
Unfortunately, I don’t think he’ll be calling, “Sara, Sara let down your hair!” and coming through the window. The view ain’t bad (at least I can see sky), but unless he lives in the building, not sure there’s a way into the courtyard I face. Alors, out into the City of Light-filled woods I’ll continue to go.