My Paris Kitchen: Then and Now

First a bit of background.  In what turned out to be a whirlwind, we sold our Paris apartment on a Tuesday in June and took another apartment that Friday!  The new apartment, minutes from our old place in Saint-Germain-des-Pres, was in really good condition — except for the kitchen, the room that, not surprisingly, meant the most to me.   Here’s what it looked like when I saw it that Friday:

Pre kitchen 1

The built-in table is in a nice-sized room that the couple before us used as a dining room – they had turned the “real” dining room into an office – and the kitchen, a very narrow galley kitchen, is right beyond the swinging cafe doors. 

The dining room and the kitchen were painted white, except for one wall, the wall with the arch, that was covered with a dark grasscloth.

Here’s the kitchen behind the swinging doors

Pre kitchen 2

You can see where the wall (lower left-hand corner) enclosed the space and you can get a sense of how narrow it was.  The white appliance you can see a bit of in the lower right hand corner is the fridge.  I’m used to a galley kitchen — it’s what I’ve got in New York and the one you see me in in my banner picture.  In fact, my New York kitchen is probably as narrow as this one or narrower — I can stand in the middle of it, put out both arms and touch both walls.  But this kitchen felt even tighter, perhaps because it was closed in by the wall or perhaps because it wasn’t very deep.  Whatever it was, I felt I wouldn’t be comfortable in it and yet I wasn’t sure what to do with it.  So I called my friends.

I asked my friends — and neighbors — Patricia Wells, the wonderful cookbook author and teacher, and Helene Samuel, the restaurant consultant and creator of  Cafe Pleyel, to come see the space and give me their advice.  (I know, I’m lucky to have such talented friends.)  And they each had a different idea.  While both agreed that the swinging doors should be removed, ditto the wallpaper,  Patricia thought I should work within the galley kitchen’s confines, and Helene thought I should move the kitchen’s working area out into the “dining room” and use the galley as a giant pantry and storeroom for small appliances, the dishwasher and maybe the washing machine.

In the end, I took  the advice of both of my friends — kind of.  I tore down the wall that separated the kitchen from the dining area, removed the doors, the built-in table and the grasscloth, and decided to use the whole space as a working kitchen/office/and eating area.  In other words, I built a country kitchen.

Here’s the way it looks so far:

August kitchen
You can see how tearing down the wall really opened up the space.  The island, in the foreground, has lots of storage, is a great work space, a terrific place for an in-the-kitchen meal and it’s where I’ll be writing.  The bookcase that you can see along the right hand side, used to be in our living room, but it works really well here.  I’ve got flour, sugar, spices, canned goods and some serving pieces in there.

I haven’t had a lot of time to figure out how I’m going to work in the kitchen, but so far it seems that I’ll be doing most of my chopping and mixing on the far side of the island and on the countertop opposite it.  When I’m back in the apartment, I’m going to hang the magnetic strips for my knives over that counter.

Here’s the galley part of the kitchen:

August kitchen 1

You can see that I’ve got a nice little nook for my mixer and, right behind the striped pot holders and bread bag (cute, isn’t it?), where the refrigerator used to be, I’ve got metal shelving to hold other small appliances, like my blender, food processor and coffee pot.

Here’s the last picture:

Kitchen view from table

It’s the view from the island.  You can see that we were able to tuck the refrigerator into a closet; finishing the trim is on the punch list.  Getting the refrigerator out of the working part of the kitchen made a big difference. 

There’s still more to do, but it’s all little stuff and fun stuff, like buying new bread baskets and actually getting into the kitchen and cooking and baking.  I can’t wait!

Dorie Greenspan

add a comment