Colette has lived on every floor of the narrow 16th or 17th century building (it's so old they don't have the original paperwork) that her father bought in St.-Germain-des-Prés in 1954...
During the last 50 years, she has closed staircases, opened roofs, put a glass ceiling on the top floor terrace that is now her kitchen, watched the neighbors come and go.
She sold off the middle floors a few years ago and kept the top two floors for herself and her husband Pierre to use as a pied-à-terre when they are in Paris (their main house is now in Normandy). Then she converted the first floor into a studio for her grandson Franz, who is studying physics at university in Paris (we'll visit that soon).
The upper floor of Colette and Pierre's 70m2 apartment has a living/dining room, the converted kitchen and a spacious laundry room that also has a toilet and a bidet. "That's very French!" she says, "and very important!" Downstairs is the bedroom and den.
Colette is an inveterate antique hunter and her apartment is filled with art and antiques. She commissioned an artist friend to paint the lovely ceiling bird that appears to be holding up her dining room chandelier when she saw something similar on a trip to the Château d'O in Normandy. A carved bear chair from Bavaria is one of her favorite pieces, as is a disturbingly large stuffed water rat that is perched on her desk. "I adore this little rat," she says, patting its long fur, and reminiscing about the rat-infested post-war days before St.-Germain-des-Prés became an upscale neighborhood.
She looks out the kitchen window -- with its view of the neighbors opposite -- and snaps the ends off a bunch of green beans she's preparing for dinner. "When I sit here, I have the impression of being in Hitchcock's 'Rear Window'," Colette says. She says that Pierre misses the beautiful young Swedish girl who lived briefly across the way. "Now there's a young man who is always ironing," Colette says with a sigh. "Look -- there are his ironed shirts hanging in the window! It's a lot less fun."
- Kristin Hohenadel blogging from rue Vieille du Temple, Paris, France. If you have an idea for a European house tour, please write to kristinh @ apartmenttherapy . com