AT Europe: Paris – Chez Debra
When Debra first saw her apartment, it had been on the market for a year. The 99-year-old woman who had lived in the 45m2 space since 1946 had never had a bathroom, though she installed a toilet in the 1960s. There were five generations of wallpaper on the walls. The floor in the living room was blackened with smoke from the fireplace, the only source of heat. It was sad and depressing and nobody had the vision to make an offer…
“It was an opportunity to bring something back to its original beauty,” Debra said of the space, with its original moldings, two period fireplaces, large windows, and wood floors. “It’s harder and harder to find something that hasn’t been redone — we’re in this era where we’re buying other people’s renovations, and then you really can’t make it your own.”
She hired a team to strip the walls, clean the floors, rewire the electricity, install heating (including old-style radiators from the BHV that fit the 1905 sensibility of the building), add a wall of storage in the bedroom, and build a bathroom and a handsome modern kitchen from scratch by fitting IKEA cabinets to the uneven walls of the apartment. “It was never supposed to look like this,” Debra says of the kitchen, adding that it took three weeks of crying and ripping her hair out before she and her contractors figured out how to fit the pieces of the puzzle together. “You always have an idea that will probably never see the light — but I’m very happy with the final result.”
She removed interior doors to give the apartment an airier feel, and has furnished it with an old butcher’s block table found in the South of France that functions as a kitchen island, a mirrored 1930s dresser she found at a second-hand shop in Paris, her own photographs of waiters at her favorite café, Au Petit Fer à Cheval on the rue Vieille du Temple, and odds and ends picked up at the flea market at Vanves, Paris neighborhood brocantes, and travels. “Almost everything in this apartment I bought for less than 100 euros at some dumpy flea market,” she says.