House Tour: Chez Barbara

Paris, France

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Barbara moved to Paris in 1965 with her two children and banker husband, on an overseas assignment that lasted 10 years. But she never quite got Paris out of her system...

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Her husband died and her children grew up and she dreamed about moving back, but felt daunted by the logistics of disassembling her life in Northern California and braving Paris on her own.

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"I guess when I got cancer, I decided that it was now or never," says Barbara, 71. Galvanized by the diagnosis, she wasted no time selling her condo and most of her possessions and moved into a 33-square-meter (355-square-foot) two-room apartment in an 1890s building on a quiet street in the 7th arrondissement last year.

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She rethought the space with help from her son and his partner, who had renovated a pied-à-terre here a few years ago. They installed a coat closet where the kitchenette used to be and transformed the bedroom overlooking the courtyard into a mini-studio with a spacious kitchen plus dining and sleeping areas, adding lots of built-in storage. "I thought that a bedroom would be wasted space," Barbara says, adding that she is considering installing a room divider to close off the bed.

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She has found serving dishes and decorative accessories at the Porte de Vanves flea market in the 14th arrondissement ("The prices are better than Clingnacourt," she says). She brought home an antique children's game table from the ham brocante at Chatou that has sliding top to hide the remotes. And she follows the brocantes that rove from one neighborhood to another throughout the year. "I''ve just been adding one piece at a time," Barbara says.

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This post originally ran on August 8, 2007.

- Kristin Hohenadel blogging from rue Vieille du Temple, Paris, France. She can be reached at kristin @ apartmenttherapy . com