The Before & After Story of the Stunning Saint Emilion Apartment in Paris
Our guests know that creating welcoming vacation rentals that make you feel right at home in Paris is a great passion for all of us at Paris Perfect. Each one of our apartments has a story — often many stories — behind how they look today, and our beautiful Saint Emilion is no exception. From our very first viewing to the latest remodel, the Saint Emilion has been an adventure that we have loved every step of the way. And it has been quite a trip! A guest favorite over the years, Saint Emilion has never looked as lovely as it does now with a new layout, beautiful kitchen, sparkling living room and two elegant bedrooms. Find a cozy spot and join us on the renovation journey of our beloved Saint Emilion apartment in Paris.
A Family Lesson: Treasuring True Quality
Before sharing about our very first viewing of Saint Emilion, the story really must begin with a family lesson from my mother-in-law Ninette. She taught me an important French lesson shortly after Philippe and I were married. It was her advice about purchasing a new suit. “Achetes le mieux que ton budget permet, et ca restera elegant et a propos pour toujours. Tu ne va jamais regretter la qualite.” Translated loosely, she wisely advised me that whether clothing, jewelry or other, to buy the best that our budget will permit, and we would never regret it. Quality will hold its value for generations.
End of story was I purchased my first and only Chanel jacket – and she offered me my first Hermès scarf. She was absolutely right. Ninette passed away at age 102 and a Givenchy evening dress has been saved for our daughter Alexia, along with her Hermès scarves.
The rule applies to all fine products, especially real estate … and even more so for apartments in Paris. Find the best apartments in the best locations in Paris and their value will only increase with time. Secondly, never stint on your core requirements: turn of the century building (or older as in La Place Dauphine), with elevator, facing the street so you can enjoy the sights and sounds of Paris every moment. Why can we say this with confidence? Because Paris is a fixed size and French law forbids new buildings to replace historic buildings in the “escargot,” or snail-shaped center of Paris.
Most important, you cannot build higher within Paris’ center, or inner arrondissements, so a great view will never be covered by new construction. This means an apartment in the heart of Paris with great “bones” has always been an excellent investment, only enhanced by improvements and updates. You’ll know that for us there are certain fixed requirements: elevator, old building, sought after quartier, view if possible, proximity to open-air markets, and then … the sunlight and overall feel of the apartment. You can find more of our property insider tips in our guide: 8 Best Tips for Buying a Paris Apartment.
An Eye for Quality at Saint Emilion
Our journey with Saint Emilion began on a chilly winter day – we were actually heading out of Paris to go skiing in the mountains on our children’s school break. I had happened to spot the sale announcement in Le Figaro and booked an appointment with the agent at the only time she had available. All I knew about the property was that it was located on Avenue de la Bourdonnais, which is one of the most elegant streets in Paris with beautiful Haussmannian buildings. It’s ideally located a stone’s throw from the Champ de Mars gardens and great open-air market streets nearby. Knowing the neighborhood well, I also knew that since it was on the east side of the street it might even offer a view of the Eiffel Tower.
We met the agent who told us she had represented the family for many years. The owner herself had passed away and the family decided to sell it. The agent informed us the owner had actually been born in the apartment — the olden days at the turn of the century (yes, the 1900s) — and had lived there all her life. That already told us that the apartment had been treasured but would most likely need a complete update.
If you’ve ever property hunted, you know that special experience of looking at a new property and discovering it step by step. Here’s how the experience happened at Saint Emilion:
- Very nice entrance with stone floors and a cobblestone courtyard behind. Check!
- A nice relatively modern elevator to the 6th floor. Check!
- Apartment is the front building on the avenue so views of Paris life below. Check!
- 6th floor; should be sunny. Check!
- We walked in: hmmmm. All the shutters were closed, and it was furnished with large dark wood furniture. First impression was: “Uh oh, way too gloomy.” The furniture was so old, it must have been in the family for generations. While the owner had kept it tidy and updated in a certain style – the key selling points for the apartment were the location, the layout, the beautiful building and the high floor. But it also had to be sunny, and we had our doubts.
How wrong we were worrying it was too dark. The sunlight and view became blindingly clear the moment the agent opened the wooden shutters in the double living room. There, right in front of us was a full on view of La Grande Dame de Paris, the Eiffel Tower. It was unbelievable! And facing west, the sun came pouring in. I pinched Philippe and we both nodded yes.
We were so excited that just after seeing the property we sketched out plans on a table napkin at the café on the corner. The layout was the traditional French “separate kitchen” and divided living room from the dining room. A large walk in closet was wasted space which we saw immediately could become a master bathroom. Philippe quickly sketched a new plan that would create two bedrooms and two bathrooms! Best and rarest of all would be the amazing view from two sets of French doors onto the small Juliette balconies in the living/dining room.
Second best of all was being able to create a second toilet for the second bathroom – a rarity in Paris. Toilets were new to most French Haussmannian buildings, and when they were introduced the French thought one was plenty, thank you very much. That’s why you find so many huge apartments with only one WC – because there is only one evacuation column per building.
We remodeled the apartment to our first sketch – and Saint Emilion was born! Guests have described it as the most stunning apartment and view in Paris. Over the years we’ve continued to revisit the apartment’s layout, which has evolved with time. We have loved it every step of the way, which is why we want to share our journey with Saint Emilion, starting with our first viewing of the apartment and the major work done for our first remodel.
However, since styles do change over time, we remodeled it again last year, and we love the Saint Emilion even more than ever. So follow along and see the apartment as it was when we bought it (photos labeled BEFORE), after our renovation of the property (photos labeled FIRST REMODEL) and, finally, our most recent one (photos labeled AFTER). The Saint Emilion feels lighter and more spacious than ever – and most of all the million dollar view will never change!
Living Room: Dark and Cluttered to Open Plan Living Space
The first time we stepped into the large double living room, it was hard to get past the cluttered feel of the space from all the dark wood furniture. Truly of all shapes and sizes! But, looking closely, we could see the good “bones.” Two large French windows facing east would fill the room with light. During our first renovation and remodeling of the apartment, we moved the kitchen to the double living room – but we’ll go into that in more detail soon.
For the design of the space, the bones were so good that there was little to do except bring in a lighter feel with the furniture and curtains. It changed everything! We created a brighter atmosphere that was nevertheless comfortable and welcoming. Two large antique mirrors added even more to the sense of space and brightness.
With the latest remodeling at Saint Emilion, the living room has stayed largely the same as it’s always been a favorite of ours. The furniture was reconfigured to create more of a separate space between the dining area and sitting area of the double living room. But if you look closely you’ll see that certain details, like the chaise longue perfectly situated in the corner, have remained from our very first remodel. Some details are just right from the very beginning.
Whether relaxing on the sofa or dining at home at the Saint Emilion, the view of the Eiffel Tower is right there soaring above the tree-lined avenue. By moving the sofa closer to the French doors it created a cozy spot for good conversation with an unforgettable backdrop. A glass of Champagne and the sparkling lights dancing across the Eiffel Tower – pure magic!
Now it’s time to take a closer look at the transformation of the kitchen at Saint Emilion, which is the part of the apartment that has changed the most over the years.
Kitchen: Third Time is the Charm!
When we first peeked into the small kitchen it was clear that it would need some major updating. It was separate and down a hallway from the dining area, which wasn’t ideal in general and especially not for our guests. Dining with a view of the Eiffel Tower is a must! Taking advantage of the large double living room, we added a fully equipped kitchen next to the dining table.
Guests loved the convenience of the kitchen right next to the dining area and raved about the cut out that opened to the dining table. It kept the kitchen space separate but was handy for serving and, of course, watching the light show on the Eiffel Tower at night from the kitchen. Now that’s cooking with a view!
Over time, however, we realized that the kitchen could be completely opened up to make the space feel even bigger. White cabinetry and lighter counters created an even brighter feeling and built-in shelves along the wall created plenty of storage.
With the new kitchen design the space changed completely! Look at the difference with the natural flow from the kitchen to the dining area. Guests who have returned time and again to stay with us at Saint Emilion were thrilled with the new design too.
After this beautiful remodel, little has changed with the Saint Emilion kitchen and dining area with the most recent remodel. We’ve been so happy with the new kitchen that we’ve only just updated the decor with harmonious touches to blend with the entire living room.
Master Bedroom: Creating a Beautiful Light-filled Space
Once the dark furniture and clutter was removed from the master bedroom, it was clear we had a lovely space to work with. We brought in beige colored furniture and added a romantic feel with an antique headboard and drapes above the bed. Pops of yellow in the curtains and accents created a cheerful setting.
When we updated the Saint Emilion apartment last year, we brought a fresh new look to the master bedroom. Clean lines, chic velvet drapes, crisp white and charcoal accents created a modern and updated vibe for the space.
We enjoy seeing how our favorite spaces change over time. Saint Emilion’s master bedroom is a great example of how the same great room can feel completely revived and refreshed with some simple decor updates!
Interlude: Saying Goodbye to a Hallway at Saint Emilion
Now a brief interlude before we move on to how we created a second bedroom and added a bathroom in the Saint Emilion. When we first saw the property, a long hallway was the first thing that greeted you. At the end of the hallway was a storage cabinet that we transformed into the main bathroom (bathroom 1) for the apartment. With so many space saving solutions like built-in closets, container beds and so on, there was no need to have a separate walk in closet when it could be a bathroom instead. Philippe’s other clever idea was to transform the kitchen into a a second bedroom.
Comparing the floor plan from our first renovation on the left above, you can see how Bedroom 2 and the ensuite bathroom were created in what was previously the kitchen. You can also see how the kitchen was moved to the double living room. On the right, you’ll see how we were able to open up the kitchen. In the latest renovation, we also removed the hallway and created a larger space for the second bedroom. Now let’s take a closer look at how those spaces changed during the various renovations.
Second Bedroom: Creating a New Space
Remember that kitchen? In the first renovation of Saint Emilion, the former kitchen space was transformed into a cozy second bedroom complete with a full ensuite bathroom. Given the narrow layout, it could only accommodate two twin beds. Nevertheless, it made the apartment far more comfortable and popular with families and groups.
When it came time to renovate the space last year, we had a new idea for the second bedroom. Very cleverly, we realized by removing the hallway and incorporating that space into the second bedroom that we could create a space with two single beds that could be zipped together to create a dual-extra wide queen bed. We’re so pleased with utterly new second bedroom design!
Can you even think back to that small kitchen now? It’s a completely transformed space! With built in closets and a nook for work or writing, it’s a second bedroom as we never would have originally thought possible that very first time we viewed this apartment.
The latest update at Saint Emilion reminded us how important it is to keep thinking creatively when it comes to designing your spaces. This was certainly a needed skill when it came to dealing with the bathrooms at Saint Emilion!
Bathrooms: Adding & Updating
Updating the bathrooms in Parisian apartments is always a major part of any renovation project here. When it’s possible to add bathrooms, this is one our main goals as historic apartment buildings tend to have only one bathroom. Our first project was transforming a walk in closet, which became the main bathroom with a lovely bathtub and double sinks.
When we redesigned the floor plan, the main bathroom was narrowed slightly to create a new entrance to the main bedroom. A beautiful shower, sleek white marble tiles and a modern wide sink were added to create a bright new bathroom.
Adding an ensuite bathroom to the second bedroom was an adventure, but one that added so much value to the apartment during the first renovation. A space off the kitchen was transformed in a fully tiled walk in shower and there was even room for a sink and toilet to be added.
When it was time to update the second bathroom, we chose elegant grey tiles for the walls and dark grey for the floor. We’re thrilled with the results!
Originally, the apartment only had one toilet, which was located in a separate half bathroom. We remodeled this space (goodbye bookshelves in the bathroom!) and added a sink during our first renovation.
We updated this space last year with cool subway tiles on the wall and marbled and black tiles on the floor that really brightened the space. Built-in storage was added above the toilet.
For a small bathroom, we love the use of white tiles and large mirrors to create a bigger feeling. For fun, choose a tiled floor pattern to make space pop!
Stay in Saint Emilion
We hope you’ve enjoyed these stories of the renovation before and after … and after … of Saint Emilion. The journey this apartment has taken us on over the years has been one of the most surprising and satisfying experiences we’ve had with remodeling Parisian apartments. Now it’s ready to be your home away from home in Paris. Visit the Saint Emilion to see more details and contact our team to book a stay!