Renovations on the Apartment
May 2, 2001
In America, we could call where we live a condo, but here in France it's called an apartment. We are on the 4th floor (3rd in Europe) with no elevator. Hopefully, an elevator will someday be put in. The building itself was built in 1890 or so. The apartment is set up in the typical European way, with a large entry hall, a curtain on the door, and all of the rooms opening into the hall.
The kitchen is immediately on the left. If is very narrow and if two people are in here they have to stand side by side. It's very tight in here when you have to pass another person. The wall on the right is going to be knocked out. On the other side of the wall is the guest bedroom. We will use this space and the wasted space in the entry hall and make it into the living room with an island in the kitchen overlooking it.
We will make the present living room into the guest bedroom. We won't be doing much to our bedroom, other than a little decorating. Below are pictures of our apartment before renovation.
Stairwell to apartment ----entry from front door----kitchen
washing machine---------courtyard view from kitchen---bathroom
We've had a visit with the man who would renovate our apartment. The biggest cost will be redoing the kitchen. There are some things I have to give up to make this affordable such as a ceiling fan. What I hate to do without the most is some molding that is in the spare bedroom which would become part of the living room. I feel like it is really old and that it makes the apartment unique. It's in our present living room and I think it adds a lot of warmth to the room. But to keep it, we would have to hire a craftsman to make molds of it to put it all around the room. Sounds like it is going to cost too much to me.
This isn't really part of the renovation but I wanted to show a picture of our storage area called a cave. It looks as if it hasn't been redone since the building was erected with dirt floors and doors made of wooden slabs nailed together. The lighting is dim to say the least, and to turn on the light in our storage area we have to find the correct plug hanging on the wall and plug it in to an outlet.
We've been several times to talk to the man who is going to renovate our place. He speaks very little English, so I sit there while he and Maurice talk and discuss layouts, etc. Maurice has to tell me what they are talking about and I get to see pictures of stoves, refrigerators, etc. I have, of course, seen the plans of what will be done in our apartment, but I'm not sure what I've missed as far as input. I may have some surprises when it's all finished.
The actual start time for our renovation is June 11th. We will have to stay in a hotel for about a week. Then we will be without a kitchen for about 5 weeks. We can microwave, but won't have a refrigerator. I thought about using a cooler and keeping things cool that way, when it occurred to me that there is no place to buy bags of ice here, that I know of, anyway. The same thing occurred when I thought about getting Dryel, that product for doing dry-cleaning in your dryer. I went, "Oh, wait. I don't have a dryer. Which brings me to another interesting thing. Because space is so limited in so many Parisian homes, the washing machines can also be in combination with dryers. You can't dry everything from one load at a time, only about 1/3. Maurice's daughter, Majorie, says it's not worth it as you still have to hang up so many things to dry. Maurice wants to get one anyway. It should be interesting.
Renovation day begins. I came back to the apartment at 6pm expecting great changes, such as walls torn down, but I suspect, as is often the case in America, only one guy worked. The kitchen cupboards are down, the doors off the hinges, and some baseboards removed. The electricity is also off, which disappointed me as I had hoped to sit in our living room to watch cable instead of our very small and dark hotel room. Oh, well.
Anyway, here are some shots of the areas that will, someday be torn down.
This wall will be torn down. Kitchen on other side.
This darker wall also to be town down.
Kitchen wall to come down.
Kitchen will be redone.
This wall won't come down, but will be part of new LR.
Not much done on day 1
June 12-Lots of difference when I walked in the door this time. Walls are down and a big pile of rubble on the floor. The poor guys-there are 2 of them-have to haul it all down stairs in big bags-and we are on the 3rd floor. Here are some pictures.
The bags are full of rubble to be carried down stairs.
View of kitchen
Walls are gone with support beams left.
View of old spare bedroom.
It's exciting to see it happening. I imagine as the days pass and I am washing dishes in the bathroom sink the excitement will dwindle.
Day 3, but who's counting. The second wall is down now, and part of the kitchen tile both on the floor and wall. Even some wallpaper was torn down. It's especially dusty now. The dust got under doors even though we had them blocked off with plastic. None of the rubble has been removed yet. I guess they wait until they are entirely done tearing everything down before they bring out the removal crew. Anyway, here are a few pictures:
View into kitchen with wall gone.
Kitchen and view of front door
What will be our TV room. Lots more light now.
Day 4. Some more tile from the kitchen floor was taken up, some plastic removed from the floor and all of the rubble removed. I'm still wondering what they will do with the ceiling of what was once the spare bedroom. There is some molding that I didn't want to lose but was told I would have to or pay a lot to have it duplicated around the rest of the apartment. It looks like it is attached to the ceiling in such a way that the whole ceiling will also have to be taken down. It's lower than the hall ceiling so I guess it's false and was put in after the first construction was done. Anyway, here are a few pictures of the progress:
View from the hall to the kitchen
What's left of the kitchen
Where the kitchen floor tile was taken out
There wasn't too much done yesterday but some smoothing of some walls, removal of wall paper, and removal of the last of the kitchen tile,along with the counter and sink. No work will be done on the weekend. Maurice was talking to one of the workmen and he said they took 80 bags of rubble down those stairs.
I was wondering why they hadn't removed the ceiling and molding, but it turns out they are just going to make a false ceiling over everything. This will make level the three different levels of ceiling I can see. Here is a close-up of the ceiling and molding that was once part of the spare bedroom:
This next picture is one of what will be the kitchen. With the lighting and all, I thought it looked rather artistic.
I could see this is some art gallery in NYC.
Not much work done today or yesterday. There was one guy here both days doing some plastering and putting some brackets in the ceiling that I guess will be what the new ceiling will be attached to.
Two views showing ceiling brackets.
Maurice is getting upset, thinking that they aren't working fast enough. I expect them to be at least a week over their estimated time as I've been through this before in the states. I'm willing to bet it won't be much different here.
Happy Birthday to my son Jason (he is the one who set up my web site).
For a while it seemed to slow down quite a bit, although one man did show up every day. We finally got our tile. I noticed that one box was the wrong color. When the tile guy showed up I tried to tell him this in my poor French, and told him not to use it. I thought he understood and left. When I came back in a few hours he had used the entire box of the wrong tile and was starting on the others. The wrong tiles are just one color down from what we wanted, so they don't stand out too much, but still. We finally had all of the light colored tiled moved against the wall where it will be under the counters. That is different from what I remembered in the states. The tile or wood always stopped at the counters, it didn't go under the counters. But, here they lay out the whole floor first and then put down the counters. After the tile maker left, my husband questioned the other worker, John, and he said it had been very plain that I didn't want him to use the lighter tile. Then he tapped his head and said the tile layer was a little crazy and from Bulgaria(I'm not sure if he thought there was a connection.)
John, the other worker has been putting up the false ceiling, and they are beginning to put in the conduits for electrical wires. Maurice and I decided to leave nothing to chance and marked where we wanted every light and switch and plug and went over it with the electrician.
The new ceiling
The intelligent Bulgarian tile layer
The finished job
Well, this is the part where you can't see any progress and start to feel frustrated. I was gone for a week and expected to see the walls all freshly painted in their new color, but all that had happened was that the painter had done the undercoat. Not only that, after the first and second coat he had to sand everything so there is now white dust everywhere. We were told that they couldn't deliver the kitchen cabinets, etc. until the painting was done. Then we got the word that our things from America will be delivered this next Tuesday. So we are going to have piles of boxes stuffed in the two rooms not being worked on. It is going to be such a mess. I half expected this, having renovated before.
Anyway, all of the kitchen cupboards, doors, countertops and appliances were delivered today and stacked in the middle of the floor so the painter can still get to the walls. It's very crowded and I can't believe that stack of things is all going to fit in out little kitchen. We have to put all of this:
Into all of this little space:
I can't believe it will all fit. But it is exciting to have it here and know that next week they will start installing everything.
At last they have started putting the kitchen together. There was only one man, and he only worked about 5 hours, but at least it's a start. Here are a few pictures:
Where the sink will go
We are told they will be done tomorrow, but I have my doubts. Our things from America come on Tuesday, so I'm hoping that at least the pile of things for the kitchen will be out of the middle of the room.
The man who is putting the kitchen in place is incredible slow. He is doing a good job, but he holding up all of the other work that needs to be done. Everything in the middle of the room was now supposed to be in place so the floor can be refinished and our stuff from America moved in. The floor finisher did start today, sanding the floor around the pile in the middle of the room creating a huge amount of dust in the air, yet again, and I guess he will finish tomorrow, so there is not much good to make the effort to clean up the dust today. He just opened our closed door and started sanding and now there is dust on our clothes. Just part of the wonderful experience of renovation.
The unfinished kitchen
The partially finished floor
What needs to be put into the kitchen-sigh
The only person who showed up yesterday was the painter, putting another coat on everything and finishing the trim. I had told the foreman that I wanted the wood trim to be meme-the same-as it was. That is not what was understood. I think they understood that the trim be the same as the wall color which is what has happened. They told Maurice and I that the trim couldn't be done like it was before because oil based painted were being used. I don't believe this. I think they just don't want to go to any expense they might now be paid for. So the wood trim is not what I wanted, but it will do. Maybe someday I can get it more to my liking but right now I just want to be finished.
Today started with just the painter, but then the electrician showed up to get the island for the kitchen put in place and the oven hooked up. The floor is finished looking a little lighter than it was. I'm just glad to have the dust level down. Then the intelligent tile layer will return to install tile above the counter.
Everything is in the kitchen so the floor can be refinished
The finished floor
We are very discouraged. Our renovation was supposed to be finished 2 weeks ago. I'm not sure what is going on. No one has showed up at all this week. The main foreman is on vacation as is most of Paris as the end of July and into August is when everyone goes. We were walking down the street where we do a lot of our shopping and every single shop is now closed until the end of August. I guess I will shop at Monoprix, a grocery store that is always open.
Anyway, Maurice had to go and beg the man filling in for the foreman to stop by and see all that is left to be done. The island isn't finished, the dishwasher works but isn't fastened down, the side wall on the dishwasher isn't in place. The stove isn't hooked up, although the oven is.The tile on the wall hasn't been installed and there are some doors that still have to be hung over the washer, etc. Plus, the spot lights haven't been installed. The painter did a bad job and one wall needs to be redone. We don't like the finish on the floor but I don't know if we have the energy to deal with that. Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?
I THINK some men will be coming tomorrow to work. We will see. I have lost hope. I will believe it when I see then enter the door. Maurice had to go out of town on business so unless he calls them and asks, I just will have to wait. I think I will go down to the store where the kitchen designer is and stand there and scream and cry and throw an American fit if no one shows up. I will probably get arrested.
Our furniture and boxes of things arrived on Monday so I have been putting things away. We have way to much. We should have left it in Austin.
View of front door
Boxes of our things to be put away.
The end is in site. A new man has taken over as supervisor and he seems to get things done unlike the man on vacation. Most of their workers are on vacations, this being August and Paris, so I didn't expect anyone to show up today, but the supervisor and the man who puts the kitchen together showed up and except for a few things, we are basically finished. We still need tile on the wall, an edging around the back of the counter, and some shelves for a cupboard, and baseboards put in around the bottom of the lower cupboards. But I can use the kitchen, that's the important thing!
View of kitchen and our island
The rough wall needing tile, and the stove.
The refrigerator is on the left, behind a wooden door.
We still haven't figured out how to do the rest of the room which will be the living room/TV room. It really is a small area and there is very little room to move things. It will all come together, I'm sure.
No one had been showing up for over a week, but we assumed it was because everyone was on vacation as is the habit in France in the month of August. I remember now getting a feeling that all was not right, and it turns out I was right. We received a letter from a lawyer saying the company doing work on our apartment is out of business. Wouldn't you know it? Thank God Maurice saw the foreman on the street one day and begged him to show up. If he hadn't come, we would really be in trouble. As it is, the tile on the kitchen wall wasn't finished, the baseboards weren't attached, and the stove still needs leveling.
The good news is that they left a lot of their equipment, including the tile cutter, so Maurice finished the tile and it looks great. The rest will slowly get done. We are going to talk to the designer of our kitchen as he is the one who signed on this crew and see what he can do to get it finished. We still have the last 10% that we didn't pay, so that's good. We just have to wait for the designer to get back from vacation. So many places are closed right now. I'm just thankful I can use my kitchen.
February 1st, 2001
We still have a few things to do before I consider our palce finished. We still haven't received the glass shelves promised for the glass front cabinet. When we called we were told they had broken. Why don't I believe this? Anyway, we need a few more pieces of furniture-I want some bookshelves. There is very little room to add anything, but we do want to replace the table we eat at.
View of kitchen and part of "living room"
View of door and table I want to replace
Kitchen(everything is not this yellow)
Living Room-I want shelves where TV is eventually
Elliot seems to like it
So, we are pretty much finished. Not long ago Maurice and I were sitting in our living room sort of looking around, enjoying it and he said, "Do you think we should buy a bigger place?" I don't think I can take it.