I came, I sawed, I conquered

From this...

From this…

In both French and English, touching wood is seen as an insurance policy against bad luck. In America the superstition is taken one step further and concept is rendered a great deal noisier (knocking rather than touching), and given a disco soundtrack. Here at the Granny Flat we’ve been stockpiling luck insurance like it’s going out of fashion, not just touching, but rescuing, cleaning, measuring, sawing, nailing, screwing and reinventing wood, meaning that bad luck has not a slither of hope against us. The DIY bug has well and truly hit.

....to this.

….to this.

I promised you a while ago that I’d keep you updated with how Granny Flat’s facelift is progressing, and with frosty January supplying perfect toolbelt-toting-handywoman conditions, many a wooden project has been completed. And I’m not just puffing out my chest to show off my DIY skills here (ok, maybe just a little), all of this carpentry business has been underpinned by the Paris Small Capital ethos, meaning that I’ve been delighting in the chance to go back to basics and use my hands to create my own furniture, spending hardly a euro in the process.

Living room bad....

Living room bad….

Old Dame Paris has had a hand in the creative process too, kindly gifting me with all of the materials I need, invoking the magical spirit of waste-not-want-not. Since moving to the 18th, I’ve noticed that my fellow inhabitants are fond of abandoning unwanted furniture on the pavements, meaning that it’s not unusual to compete for space whilst walking home with wardrobes, sofa beds, offcuts and toilet bowls (not to mention crispy old Christmas trees). Head out of the luxury-gilded tourist areas, and you’ll see this is par for the course in the residential bits where us authentic Paris residents lay our heads. Don’t buy into that Amelie romance rubbish; if the film was true to life she’d be living in a tiny box room with a single mattress and just enough room to swing a starving sewer rat.

...living room better!

…living room better!

Honestly, I could have furnished my apartment ten times over with the spoils I’ve walked past languishing on the street. Sure, most folk make a beeline to Ikea, but Granny Flat is extremely picky in her sizing, so trying to find the right piece for the right hole is like to trying to find a Frenchie who doesn’t like wine. So imagination and an eye for design have taken over, and an abandoned oak unit has been rejigged into a smaller kitchen unit and a few sturdy shelves.

Kitchen shelf unit glory

Kitchen shelf unit glory

Building confidence with every screw screwed and every stroke of my borrowed saw, I decided that after hanging my shelves all by myself (I think I may have even punched the air when I filled them up and they didn’t fall down), the next logical step was, of course, to upgrade the poof I’d found and re-covered, into a curl-up-with-a-book comfy armchair. Enter stage left my Mum’s old blue curtains, an old duvet and some mongrel off cuts, and you can see for yourself what I managed to rustle up. With this and all my handywork though, it’s better not too look to closely or start brandishing about anything too heavy.

But I’m pretty chuffed with the results, and for a total cost of less than 15 euros for the lot (DIY megastores Castorama and Leroy Merlin supplied much needed screws and the like), I feel hugely virtuous financially, and importantly environmentally. Louis XVI furniture it ain’t, and you probably wouldn’t want to wobble any of it too hard if you’re keen to stay in my good books. But Paris isn’t all parquet floors and chandeliers you know. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. (Though after all that I wouldn’t say no to a bit of hand cream).


The three Rs

Mesdames et messieurs, all hail Paris’ romantic reputation, for a wonderful thing has happened. Granny Flat has fallen in love. And with the boy next door no less. Well the boy dans le coin to be exact, but in a capital city, that’s practically in her lap.

Kim recyclerie 2But alas, as much as I would like to bring you a happy end to this saga of love, I hate to say it’s more of a tragic tale seeing as the object of her fervent affection is far too young for her and currently the focus of every bright young hipster thing in the neighbourhood. But if two souls could be forged from the same spirit, then Granny Flat and her lover from afar are two peas in a pod. The good news is however, that you are free to fall in love with him too, and whether you exist in boy, girl, child, animal or vegetable form, then you surely will.

Kim recyclerie 6If you know Granny Flat, you’ll know that she’s an advocate of reduce, reuse and recycle, meaning that she’s furnished with artefacts from decades of Paris past, rather than all of the latest mass-produced kit from Ikea. She’s not ashamed of her ancient bidet on wheels, mis-matched cutlery or vintage mustard carpet. She’s proud of her bygone feel, tiny balcony vegetable garden and by consequence, her reduced impact on the environment.

Kim recyclerie 1It’s exactly the same ethos that permeates La Recyclerie at Porte de Clignancourt, once former train station Gare Ornano. Happily the moniker doesn’t refer to a municipal waste centre, but a lively new cafe (well, nine months by Paris standards is still young), adorned from the roof to the rafters with recycled materials, vintage artefacts and an eco spirit.

Kim recyclerie 7Their all-you-can-eat brunch at weekends is a huge draw, and at 20 euros, one of the cheapest in town. From hot bacon and eggs to cold salads and bursting baskets of pastries, a few hours spent here, and you’ll be waddling home like one of their family of chickens kept outside in their tiny urban farm. You might even get an egg for dinner too as they offer them for free on the counter if the chooks have been a-laying plenty. Or if you fancy an especially mammoth feed, hop on one of the vintage exercise bikes dotted around and make room for some more.

Kim recyclerie 3If you’re here for a bite because your blender’s on the blink, then Rene the resident Monsieur Fix It will bring it back to life for you, or lend you the tools to do it yourself. Or if you have a craving for parsley and your fresh herbs have seen better days, bring them here and they’ll be magically reborn at the on-site plant hospital. Now that’s surely a Parisian first.

Kim recyclerie 5It’s still very much a work in progress, and there are plans for expansion of the outside area, running alongside the old train tracks of la Petite Ceinture (which we’ll discover another day). But for now, there are events sprinkled all over the calendar, from gardening classes for kids, to cooking demos for adults and even a takeaway window if you’re just after a coffee to warm your hands whilst perusing for bargains at the nearby flea market.

Kim recyclerie 4Thanks to my good friend Iain for the awesome find, it won’t be long before the whole world is in love with Parisian chickens and mis-matched cutlery too. You’ll have to get through Granny Flat first though…


Post originally published 01/04/2015




Welcome to the Granny Flat!


An Englishman’s home is his castle. A Parisian’s home on the other hand, is his fanciest shoe box.

It’s no secret that property prices in Paris are eye-wateringly high and in no danger whatsoever in coming down anytime soon, but more about the plus sides of living in an apartment where it’s barely possible to swing a mouse coming in another post.

Since we’ve all got to know each other by now, I thought I’d share with you a few snapshots of my personal postage stamp of Paris, my beloved Granny Flat nestled high up in the 18th arrondissement; where crocuses are grown, cockles are warmed, and creativity flourishes. Readers, this is where the magic happens.

My compact and bijou residence is lovingly referred to as ‘the Granny Flat’ since I moved into it after its former inhabitant, a 92 year-old French lady, had moved on to a retirement community. Such a kind old lady she was, she generously left me a lot of her bits and bobs that she no longer needed, all in smashing nick, and gratefully received. But she had been living here for a while, and being surrounded by her considerate donations has given the flat a very vintage feel.

From a set of teeny tiny sherry glasses to an old-fashioned non-electronic carpet sweeper (Eddie Izzard fans will be more than familiar with these), a roll-out bidet-on-wheels and a charming chair for afternoon snoozes, I couldn’t be happier surrounded by artefacts from another Parisian experience lived, and hopefully loved. The 1960s fridge/freezer and well-worn mustard carpet might not be hanging around for too much longer, but I do appreciate their old-time charm nonetheless.

Although we all secretly dream of living in a Parisian apartment with big windows and a herringbone floor furnished with all the Ikea bounty the credit card will allow, I’m more than happy kicking around in my little pad, feeling more a part of the city and its historical fabric than I would living in luxury digs straight out of the pages of Vogue. It seems that ‘new’ always trumps ‘old’ in this hectic modern climate, but sometimes the real value is learning to love those things you’ve already got.

I hope you enjoy a glimpse of my Parisian life, as much as I do living it!