Joan is proof that it's never too late to simplify your life. At 75, she traded her three-bedroom house in the States for a 37.5 square meter (404 square-foot) apartment in the 7th arrondissement, where she lives on a bustling street with a movie-set view of the Eiffel Tower and a boulangerie on every corner.
Joan had fallen for Paris on regular visits to her son, a part-time resident. So he found a beat-up 17th-century corner apartment and lovingly restored its dollhouse proportions, wooden beams and picturesque charm.
He repaired and replaced the tomettes -- traditional French terracotta-colored hexagonal floor tiles. He designed a mini but functional kitchen that includes a proper oven, a washer/dryer and a refrigerator, and tiled it in cheerful shades of blue and green in a haphazard pattern. He stripped the cream-colored paint from the low ceiling beams.
Then he furnished it with an old kitchen cabinet found at the Porte de Clingnancourt flea market, a sawed-off 19th-century farm table turned coffee table from the ham brocante at Chatou and an IKEA pull-out couch for guests. And he painted a copy of Chagall's 1912 Homage to Apollinaire to hang over the fireplace.
On her next visit, he surprised her with the keys. "I realized I don't need that much space," says Joan, who still pinches herself when she looks out the window. "I feel so free. And I have everything I need."
This post originally ran on March 28, 2007.
- Kristin Hohenadel blogging from rue Vieille du Temple, Paris, France. If you have an idea for a European house tour, please write kristinh @ apartmenttherapy . com