Let me confess, the first two months were exhilarating and equally stressful for me. I was absolutely enjoying our time living in Nation (12th arrondissement) and exploring beautiful Paris but also I was staying up all night looking for potential apartments. Every time I got close to scoring a fabulous place, someone else would snap it up. I was starting to believe it was because I wasn’t French but we had our French friends call on our behalf and they got the same response. I was so close to renting my dream apartment on the sweetest street ever when the agent said the landlord just approved someone before us. I mean, I called every day, left voicemails, sent emails all during the whole enrolling Liv into school drama. I commend my own strength because I thought I would have a mental breakdown with stress and disappointment. It was house hunting all over again but with a two month deadline. I was also working with our real estate agent in Los Angeles trying to get our house rented. My stress was at an all time high during the first few months here.
Every apartment I saw I would compare to the beautiful, perfect place that we didn’t get.
I grieved over this place. It was €2400, a block from Liv’s ballet school, a 15 minute walk to her school, on a private street. I would have lived with the tiny fridge and non existent storage for those floors and that price. I asked the agent to be put on a backup list in case the renter fell through. This put me in a worst state because nothing came close to this place in terms of layout, gorgeous Parisian charm and price. I found a larger, cute place but it was in a sketchy area of the 10th near Gare Nord which would mean a 10 minute bus ride to school and then a 20 minute walk. I was running out of time and feeling like we would end up homeless in Paris.
The second I saw our apartment on the French real estate website I recognized it from years earlier when I first began looking for apartments. I couldn’t believe it was available the day after we were scheduled to move out of our exchange and it was under my budget. I immediately emailed the agent to schedule a viewing to make sure it wasn’t too good to be true. I’ve had such bad luck getting in touch with an agent (mostly due to not having a French phone number) and then discovering days later that the apartment had already been rented. I made sure to let them know I was ready to sign the lease that day. I made two lists of criteria for our apartment search.
Must Have – Dealbreakers
Close to our max budget €2450/$2950
Oven/modern kitchen amenities
Walking distance to Liv’s school
Close to Metro/public transportation
Like to Have – Bonus
Office Space for Antz
Herringbone hardwood floors
Large Refrigerator (typical Americans can’t live with a minibar fridge)
Storage (for our 14 suitcases!)
Close to le Marais
Parisian Charm/Crown Molding
I know I sound picky but every single place we found had something missing from my Must-Have list. Mostly two bedroom apartments were over budget or too far from school. I began getting more flexible by the second month and started considering one bedrooms, longer commutes to school and really horrible layouts. We visited an apartment that was way under-budget but on the 6th floor with no elevator and the world’s narrowest bathroom. It was as wide as the bathtub and you practically had to step over the toilet to get into the tub. There was no shower and even though it had herringbone floors in the living room, the place was dark and how no traditional Parisian design. It also wasn’t in my ideal neighborhood but the price tag was the only thing that made it enticing. The only reason we didn’t end up getting it was the owner wanted someone who would rent it for at least two years. So I guess that was a blessing in disguise. When it comes down to house hunting, location and price were my main dealbreakers. Everything else was negotiable. It took days of going back and forth to get the agent to schedule a viewing. The problem was the renter didn’t want to show it until the place was available so I was cutting it close to our move-out date. I finally got a call to see it so I dropped Liv off at school. Because it was so close to her school I decided to walk around the neighborhood and wait for our appointment. I was almost two hours early and the agent was late (because she was French, of course!). We buzzed the door of the building and waited. The appointment started fifteen minutes late so she tried to call the renter to let us in. We saw the window was open to the apartment but she didn’t answer. She called the agency and they confirmed the right place and right time. After a half an hour of impatiently waiting, she said let’s reschedule for next week. UNLUCKY LIZZIE! I was practically in tears and starting to feel like this was hopeless. I already began to fall in love with the neighborhood. Everything was a close walk and my favorite shop (Monoprix) was just a block away! I was already familiar with the neighborhood and getting excited that I could actually live in my favorite part of Paris.
All the while I was getting no leads for renting our house in LA. Our agent had a few open houses but hardly anyone showed serious interest. My agent was sure it was due to our cat Lola coming with the house and it being rented fully furnished. I was so nervous we lowered the price and asked my angel best friend Aimee to foster Lola for us so we could rent our place with pets. Then we found a family with a dog that was excited to rent our place. After a FaceTime meeting, I signed the lease and waited for them to send the deposit and then they flaked. This made Antz and I very nervous because we couldn’t rent a place in Paris without renting our house in LA. Like, a scale of 1 – 10 in the stress department, I was about 100. After some negotiations and hard work on our agent’s side, we found a lovely single woman with a cute small dog. She signed the lease, sent the full rental amount for three months and we are very relieved to have a responsible adult living in our house. Whew!
After the most intense week of my life the agent finally got the tenant to show us the apartment. The chick didn’t even offer an apology for not showing up for our first appointment and she laid in bed while we saw the apartment, lame. The place didn’t look exactly like the online pictures but I knew they were three years old. The renters were disgusting and they had a dog which I’m sure they didn’t clean up after. The courtyard is my least favorite. It’s dark and has cobblestone so Liv can’t really ride her scooter in the back. The furniture was rearranged in an odd way and older than I guessed but when I saw the floors, the light pouring in from the floor to ceiling windows and the beautiful fireplaces, I said, straight out of a movie “We’ll take it!”
Then came the rental process. It’s a little more different than in the US, the French don’t really have a credit score rating. We also didn’t have a previous rental or French tax return to show so everything came down to Anthony’s pay stubs and being the first person to see it. I spent several days running back and forth to the print shop making copies to send to the agency. They needed to see our bank statements, we had to buy French annual renter’s insurance and they requested a letter from his job stating he would be employed for the year. I was worried about getting the letter in time because like I said before, apartments go fast and we were not prepared to lose this one. Thank goodness Antz job sent the letter right away. I saw the place right before we took our trip to London and we electronically signed the lease while we were in London! I couldn’t believe we finally did it. I have heard so many horror stories about Americans getting scammed online by having to wire huge cash deposits and losing the money. Or the landlord requesting up to a year of rent for a security deposit. We only had to put down two month’s rent deposit and pay an agency fee. I was ecstatic! I could finally breathe after so long, I found a place of our own in le Marais, a seven minute walk to the kid’s school with almost everything on my must-have list. The first week we didn’t have wifi so I almost died but lucky for us, we extended our house exchange so Antz would go to the other apartment to work. I don’t even mind that our building has world’s smallest elevator or the wonky furniture. I got my herringbone flooooooooooooors!! (Hope you heard that in Oprah’s voice)
I packed my beloved Anthropologie tablecloth, a few family photos and as many crafting supplies as I could fit in my suitcase. I would have brought my Things Will Work Out print but Antz made a good point that it could have gotten damaged in my suitcase due to the size. The living room is a nice size, I like the open-ness. The couch is not comfy at all. I really wish I could ship my new couch from LA, but I doubt it would fit in that space. The telly isn’t plugged in, we have been waiting for the rental company to order a new cord for weeks now. We get by without it. Our new plant is lovely and her name is Josephine. She is un-killable.
My Mom shipped this Origin magazine from LA because our house is featured in it!!
I adore the French doors and the open flow from Liv’s room to the living room. The layout works perfect for us because Antz works California hours (3pm – midnight with an hour break for dinner) so he can close the doors during his conference calls and Liv is usually sleeping while he’s working. Antz was fortunate enough to inherit a comfy office chair from the previous tenants. When we were staying in Nation, he was using an antique chair that was cool but uncomfortable. It may be ugly but it’s super comfy! I think he has a better office set up than back in LA. His favorite part is sitting by the window and watching the rain while he works.
I bought the world map from a cute shop in le Marais for under €30. I’ve always wanted to get her a world map but never had the wall space in LA. I may add some framed photos and artwork on the back wall. Antz doesn’t want to add any holes, so we’ll see. I love the white palette of the apartment but we wanted to add some color so I bought a pom pom kit and vibrant yarn from La Droguerie.
Now you can see why I brought so much luggage! I packed Liv’s Miffy bedding and a suitcase full of her books and toys. Our sweet neighbors friend in Nation gifted Liv with books in French for her library. It’s nice to finally have a minimalist space but I miss my cool stuff from our house in LA. I was lucky to nab the last Chateau Maison Rouge footstool at Monoprix. We rented a car for move-in day and drove 45 minutes outside of Paris to stock up at Ikea. We bought basic bedding (comforters/sheets/pillows), that lamp shade and the sheepskin rug. I also had to buy some new kitchen supplies, a flatware set, wine glasses, a new bath mat, storage bins and throw blankets. The apartment came with plates, pots, pans and utensils. Lucky for us, Ikea is universal so everything was identical to Ikea in Los Angeles. I even used our Ikea Family rewards card for a little discount!
I also brought a sewing kit, art supplies, a few books, a giant (and heavy) accordion folder with our important paperwork and our huge iMac computer (which serves as our TV). I was so concerned it would get damaged on the flight to France but as long as you pack it in the original shipping box, it’s fine. I packed an entire suitcase with our bedding from home. We used vacuum-sealed ziplock bags to pack. It works, I was able to fit a king size comforter, pillow cases and sheets but it made the bag heavier. I also bought the bedside lamp, Ikea, I love you!
There’s a long story behind that rad Shepard Fairey poster. Antz and I were at a hardware store called Castarama in Nation. I was looking for curtains for Olivia’s room when I saw the framed Shepard Fairey print. I asked one of the guys working there if they sold the print and he said no, just the frame. He then told me where to go buy the print at a poster store near the Pompidou Center. I could have hugged this kid! I thought I was going to have to order it from eBay for hundreds of dollars. We rushed to the store and found a smaller version. When I asked the woman if they carried it in a larger size, she said they were sold out but she could print one for us in ten minutes. Say what?! I couldn’t believe we got this rad French Shepard Fairey print for less than €60. I mean, President Macron has this same artwork in his office. I love the French motto: Liberte – Egalite – Fraternite which means Freedom – Equality – Fraternity. The French really live by this motto and I adore it. That kid really did me a solid. I am slightly annoyed by the placement but we had to use the existing hooks in the walls because Antz didn’t want to add any new holes. I wish it was a schmidge more centered over the bed.
I brought our rainbow maker from home. I need to make a video of the rainbows bouncing around our room. I can’t get over the details of this fireplace. I am still looking for the perfect mirror to go on the mantel. I also love the small pop of color from the Maison Chateau Rouge throw blanket. Our bedroom in this apartment is larger than our bedroom at home. I didn’t get as much crown molding or a chandelier as I hoped for and we don’t have a dryer (that actually works) so we have to put our clothes on a drying rack or go to a nearby laundromat but the stellar view always cheers me up.
The bathroom is pretty basic. We purchased a new shower head and spent a fortune on new towels. OMG! I am obsessed with our towel warmer. I need one for LA. I added the hooks for our poufs but they are the sticky, removable kind.
Antz and I are now sharing one closet along with all of our empty luggage and winter coats. I am extremely happy I brought a shoe hanger from LA. This is about half the shoes I brought. I keep the rest in a suitcase under our bed. It’s a tight fit but fortunately there is space for everything.
And lastly, here is our mini balcony.
It’s just wide enough to step out on and see the entire street. I plan to plant some peonies in our flower boxes soon. We are extremely lucky to live on a trendy, lively (sometimes noisy) street. This area is exactly like Highland Park without the dumb neighbors across the street. Our neighbors are friendly and helpful. There are cafes, brasseries, cute shops, art galleries and a tiny square dedicated to one of my favorite jazz musicians, John Coltrane.
We have met our nice neighbors in our building, a dad and his young son but they don’t speak English. We absolutely love living here. It’s simple but has everything I could ask for in a pied-à-terre. We are just under budget and all the utilities (water, electric, gas and internet) are included in our rent. I cannot believe this is our life.