A Parisian Apartment on House Hunters International





For those who don’t watch HGTV’s most highly rated shows – “House Hunters” and “House Hunters International” – the premise is this:  a couple looking to buy a new house is shown three properties.  From these three choices, they pick the one they want to buy and then a few months later, the show goes back and films them in their new house.  It’s been on the air for ages and it’s great fun to watch and guess which house the couple will pick.

While that sounds all well and good,  a few years ago one couple spilled the beans to Hooked On Houses, about the secrets behind House Hunters.   Apparently, the show is all a set up.  The three houses shown to the couple are faked.  In reality – to get on the show, you have to have already BOUGHT a house!   Once you have signed on for a new mortgage, House Hunters comes and films you pretending to pick your own house out of the three choices.  The other two houses are found by you - the contestant – and most likely are your friends’ houses and aren’t even for sale.   When the popular blog Hooked on Houses revealed the truth behind House Hunters – it was almost a national scandal!!  HGTV had to release a press statement explaining their handling of the show.   Read all about it HERE on Hooked on Houses.



Bobi Jensen – the whistleblower on House Hunters.  She told her behind-the-scenes story to Hooked On Houses – creating a national “scandal.”


Now that the secret about the three houses is out – there is one way to figure out which house is the “real” one that the couple has already bought.   Usually, it’s the only house shown out of the three that is empty.   That does make sense, since the other two aren’t even for sale!

Still, even knowing all this, sometimes all three houses will be either empty or furnished, so it’s not always that obvious which house will be chosen.  And even if you can tell which house is the one the contestants already bought – it’s still fun to see houses from all over the U.S. and the world. 

My favorite of the two shows is House Hunters International.  I love when they go to England and chose from three houses in either the countryside or from  London.  And I love when they go to exotic places like Mexican or South American beaches.   The shows from the far east are real eye openers – how tiny their bathrooms and kitchens can be!!  And comparing the prices of houses in Texas to houses in Spain, for example, is also an interesting part of the show.

But, for sure, the best is when House Hunters International goes to France.   Last weekend they debuted a new show from Paris and Elisabeth and I were left with our jaws hanging open.  The contestant was a single woman from the U.S. who lived in Paris.  She is a lawyer who had been renting an apartment and is now looking to buy one.    As usual, she is shown three apartments – one unfurnished and two furnished.  So immediately, we knew which apartment she bought – the unfurnished one.  But we watched and played along as she toured the three apartments and pretended to deliberate on which one she should choose.  We even thought she chose the wrong one – we liked one of the apartments she didn’t chose better!

The one she bought is in an old building, on the third floor, with no elevator.  It is a one bedroom – but the bedroom is behind a wall of glass blocks, which the contestant hated (us too!).   The second choice was charming, but long and narrow – the kitchen was in the entry hall.   The third one was the best one in our minds.  It seemed to have the most Parisian charm – French  doors leading to a balcony overlooking the street.    In the end, she picked the one we already knew she owned – the one bedroom apartment with the hideous glass walls.   That apartment cost around $400K and she had put aside $100k to remodel it.




Many time House Hunters International features second homes being bought on the ocean – such as this episode in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.   HHI has filmed on every continent – including going to the Artic Circle!!


Now, if you watch House Hunters a lot – you know that most of the houses are not the kind you see in decorating magazines.   The majority of them are just normal, regular houses.  And – the way they are decorated and renovated are usually not spectacular, but just nice.    The last scene where House Hunters returns several months later to see the couple all settled into their new house is the best of the show.  I love to see how much they remodeled and renovated – and what the house looks like now with all their own furniture.   But honestly, most of the finished houses aren’t really decorated. When they are, it’s special and a real bonus to watch.



Houses of all types and in all price ranges are shown – here is a nicer house shown on House Hunters International.


While the last scene is usually somewhat anticlimactic, the show this weekend in Paris was anything but.  When they showed the lawyer in her new, totally renovated apartment, Elisabeth and I both gasped out loud.  We started screaming – Oh My Gosh!!!   The apartment was so beautiful!!  I couldn’t get over the changes she had made - it was a total gut job and it was fabulous!

We immediately started trying to find the apartment on the internet so we could see more of it – and after 10 minutes Elisabeth hit pay dirt when she discovered a lot of information and pictures the beautiful Parisian apartment.  Of course the truth is always more interesting than the fake story.   The owner is actually living in Paris part time.  She also lives in Maine.  When she isn’t in Paris, her apartment is available for lease!   Her name is Abby  Gordon and she writes a blog for other Expats – called Paris Weekender.  On the blog she wrote in detail about the renovation of her new apartment.  

The real estate agent that was on the show has been featured several times on House Hunters International.  It turns out she owns a company that specializes in  apartment rentals for travelers.   Here are the before and after pictures of the apartment and information on how you can rent it if you go to Paris!!



Here is how House Hunters International advertised the episode:

Abby Gordon memorized maps of Paris before ever setting foot in France. So when a job transfer to the city of her dreams came up, she took the chance. Now, after five years of renting, Abby is ready to take her relationship with the City of Light to the next level. She wants to buy an apartment that reflects her personal style. But in one of the priciest housing markets in the world, property consultant Adrian Leeds knows Abby will have to adjust her ideas of perfection. See what happens when House Hunters International settles down in Paris, France.


And here were Abby’s requirements for an apartment (which I got from her blog – not the show!)

1.  Good rental potential

2.  Good view – but negotiable

3.  A balcony or terrace would be nice

4. Elevator (she didn’t get that!)

5.  Decent building near the metro

6.  Decent neighbors

7. One bedroom


She hired the Adrian Leeds Group to show her properties around Paris.  After the papers on her new apartment were signed, House Hunters International filmed her and Adrian looking at three apartments – one of which was already hers.  She pretended to be interested in all three – and at the end of the show, she announced the one apartment she had picked.   Adrian has been on House Hunters International several times and you might recognize her for her vibrant personality and her trademark red glasses and red lipstick:

Adrian Leeds, the real estate that showed Abby the three apartments.


The apartment Abby chose to buy is in the Le Marais – an historic neighborhood in the center of Paris – where many of the oldest buildings are located.  This area is known for once housing French nobles and during the 19th and early in the 20th century it was the center of Jewish life in Paris – even today, it retains that role on the Rue de  Rosiers.   The Marais is also famous for being a gay community.   The streets of Le Marais are cobbled, with lots of restaurants, stores and art galleries lining them.  The apartment is located in an 18 century maison, just two blocks from the metro and near Rue de Rosiers and Place des Vosges. 



And here is the apartment Abby chose.  It is one bedroom – you can see the bedroom on the very right behind the glass blocks.  There are two large windows that overlook the street.  The building is 18th century but the apartment is very modern, as you can see.  But, it’s in her budget – and with her $100,000 for remolding expenses, Abby is sure she can make it look good – Elisabeth and I weren’t quite as sure!!



At one end of the apartment is the kitchen, open to the living room.  Abby complains it’s not great – but the real estate agent tells her the kitchen is fine.  Through the glass blocks is the bedroom.



The bedroom.  Yes, it’s pretty terrible!  Abby hates the glass blocks and she keeps referring to them.  She really does not like them at all – and neither did I.  I’m sure the previous owners thought this was a good way to bring light into the bedroom. but it couldn’t be more unattractive.  



The gray tiled bathroom was nice enough – but the door is so narrow you have to turn your body sideways to walk through it!  Again, Abby really doesn’t like this. 



Once you make it through the narrow door the bathroom is actually somewhat spacious with two windows overlooking the courtyard.


Once Abby purchased the apartment, she hired an architect/interior designer who helped her with the renovations.  It was a total gut job.  But you didn’t see this part on the show.  I found these pictures on Abby’s blog – Paris Weekender.



Taken during the renovation – you can see the glass blocks are now completely gone and the bedroom is open to the main living room.  Notice you can see old octagonal tiles that were on the floor under the hardwoods.  Wonder if those couldn’t be salvaged?   New plumbing and electricity goes into the concrete floor.



And looking from the kitchen back to the bedroom – the door leads into the bathroom.  Those windows overlook the courtyard and were later replaced.  You can really see the old tiled floor here – it just kills me that they weren’t salvaged!!!!



Here, the narrow bathroom is gutted. 



Now you can see there is a wall that has been added between the bedroom – and what will be the powder room.   And in the living room – you can see the original beams have been exposed there – at a great expense, says Abby.





Close up of the gorgeous beams. 



Here, the old radiators are cleared out.  You can see the wood French windows – with the scrolled iron grills outside.




Here is the view of the living room – where the kitchen used to be – the bedroom is through the opening, next the powder room and then the front door.   




And looking the other way in the living room – the kitchen will be placed along this wall as opposed to how it was before.


After the renovations were completed – House Hunters International came back to see the apartment and show it to the audience.  The last time we had seen the apartment, it looked like this:



How the apartment looked when Abby bought it – and how it looks now:



When the final reveal came on - the owner, Abby, was standing in front of the fireplace and mirror, and Elisabeth and I just gasped out loud!  We couldn’t believe how different it looked!  We were shocked.  You have to understand, that most renovations don’t look like this on House Hunters.  Sometimes the new owners don’t even do anything new to the house.  But this was just ….wow!!!  This is where the kitchen was before – and the glass blocks that divided the bedroom.  Now – there is a glass door leading to the bedroom and the white door leads to the powder room.



And looking the other direction towards the new kitchen.  The room is divided by the sofa and tall island.  There is a chandelier in the living area and two nickel pendants in the kitchen.  The sofa opens out into a queen sized bed – making the apartment sleep double the amount of people.



Everything in the apartment was custom designed with storage in mind.  The kitchen is fully functional with a farm sink(!) and a refrigerator that hides behind doors.  There is also a washer/dryer.  For renters – the kitchen is stocked with dishes, cutlery, pots and pans – so you can cook if you want to.  French tiles were chosen for the backsplash and for a “rug” under the island.



Here’s another close up of the kitchen –  I love the brass bars over the doors and cabinets and I love the white hood.  The tall island is a good idea to visually separate the two areas so that if the kitchen is messy you don’t see it from the living area.



For continuity – in the living area – brass bars are added to the cabinets as in the kitchen.  This way a rolling ladder can  be placed here to reach the upper cabinets.  The Louis XV styled fireplace is so beautiful – especially with the brick and antique mirror above it – along with the sconces.  The chandelier is perfectly reflected in the mirror.   The fireplace, though not working – is the focal point of the living room and it is so pretty!!!  The backs of the cabinets are painted a soft aqua to coordinate with the colored tiles in the kitchen.  Though this room is quite small it reads large.  The flatscreen is in the cabinet on the left side. 



Close up of the desk and fireplace.  Free wifi and DVD player comes with the rental apartment.



Here you can see the front door on the right, the powder room door in the middle, and the paned steel bedroom door on the left.



Here is the custom designed steel door that opens to the bedroom.  The door has windows to let in the bright western light from the living area.  



And with the door open – there is a portiere that matches the living room curtains – for those guests that need blackout light in the bedroom.  You just pull the curtain closed against the windows of the door!  Here you can see the custom made bed nook that was built to fit the space – underneath is extra storage drawers.


Marais Apartment December 2012-52

The powder bath leads into the bedroom through the opposite door. 



For design continuity, the same concrete tiles are used here as were used in the kitchen. 



The bed has a handy shelf behind it for a clock radio.  Cute mirror and sconces and chandelier.  And I love the pretty embroidered fabric in aqua and beige that is a perfect match with the colors found in the living room.  The fabric hangs from a canopy – held up by brass railings.  You can see the small hall with the portiere that leads to the living room.  Remember – this was the space that was behind the horrid glass block wall!!  The door on the left leads to the powder room.



Across from the bed is a large mirror which helps make the room appear larger.  A new window was placed here – facing the courtyard.   Through the door on the left is the shower room – where the very narrow bathroom was before.



And here is the shower room – with a new sliding door that makes the entrance wide enough for a person to walk through it – as opposed to before.   When House Hunters International showed this room – I started hyperventilating and screaming to Elisabeth – “OMG!!  We have to take a picture of this!!!!”  That shower door just slayed me.  Isn’t it gorgeous?!!!   And in true European  fashion – there is no toilet here – yes, that’s right!  It’s just a shower room.  Again, Abby used the same tiles in here, but sparingly, this time. 



Cute lanterns mix with the steel door, as does the mirror, which opens to a medicine shelf behind. 


What I found really interesting was looking at Abby’s Pinterest – you can see where she formulated ideas for her new apartment:


old windows as shower stall. like.

She pinned this picture of a shower door that looks amazingly like hers!



And there was this picture – where the panes are frosted.  I like them clear better!


cozy nook

This bed looks very similar to her own – with the wood canopy above and the curtains and drawers below.


reading room

She even pinned Layla’s darling bedroom in her old house- The Lettered Cottage.


good idea

Under this pinned picture of a bed drawer – Abby wrote “good idea”  - yes, indeed!


Barn Hardware

She pinned this picture of a French door between rooms – almost like what she ended up with.


calming white with a touch of colour

And she pinned pictures of kitchens with the range on the back wall – just like hers.


This pin was most telling – with the same type of tiled backsplash as hers, along with the farmsink.   Pinterest is such a great tool when gathering ideas for a renovation – all Abby had to do was take her ipad with her to a meeting with the designer and say  - “look, this is what I want, tiles like this for my backsplash.”   The designer’s job is made so much easier, knowing exactly what the client wants.  Love this kitchen!




Now that the apartment is completed – it’s available for lease through the real estate agent’s company:  Adrian Leeds Group HERE.



Be sure to look at all the apartments on her web site – there are many that are redone just like this one!



I hope you enjoyed this visit to Paris via House Hunters International.  Next month, there is another House Hunters International from Paris again with Adrian Leeds – be sure not to miss it!  HERE.

Interior Designer Architect Martine Di Mattéo – no web site, but you can email her here:  Martine.di.Matteo@gmail.com


And to read Abby Gordon’s blog Paris Weekender, go HERE.







Girl with bird


Dear Miss Cote de Texas,

We recently purchased our home in a wonderful community.  I love our home and I love our neighborhood.  Our home sits on a zero-lot line, so our neighbor's home sits right along the side of ours.  The problem:  The view from every window on the South side of my home, is of an awful brick wall, roof and sidewalk.  This is what I see from my formal dining room, and it continues as you walk up the stairs and in my teenage daughter's bedroom.

I have racked my brain and just can't come up with any ideas that would allow me to hide the view, yet still allow for all of the natural light that these windows bring into the home.  I have tried closing the blinds and the entire house goes dark.

Please, please, please Miss Cote de Texas, HELP!




The dining room – love the chairs and the tile floors.  Pretty console with mirror and crystal chandelier.



The view outside the dining room window – it overlooks the space between her house and the neighbor’s house.



And further, to the right is the issue of the a/c units.



The view outside the stairs shows the neighbor’s house.



And looking down at the a/c units.



Close up view of the issue from the stairs.



First I must say that I too have this same problem at my house.   Our lot is only 50x100 – while our house is 40’ wide – so, we have 5’ on each side until the fence – and then another 5’ from the fence until the neighbor’s house.   On the west side of our house – we have no windows downstairs, so it’s not a problem there.  But on the east side, we have windows in the dining room and kitchen that look out over the fence – a mere 5’ away.  We struggled with this issue too – how to make such a small space attractive?  And, also, because the neighbors are so close – our house on the east side tends to be dark. 

I think you are approaching the problem from the inside – but it should be approached from the outside.  If you make the view more attractive – why would you have to hide it behind shades that darken the house?

The most obvious answer to your problem is landscape.  You can’t control the light coming into your house but you can control the view.  There’s no reason why you can’t landscape that area and make it attractive to look at.   



In my dining room, there is a French door that overlooks the side fence.  Luckily, the house beyond it is plain taupe stucco, so it kind of blends into the sky. 



It’s hard to see the house in this picture, but trust me – it’s there.   Hi Micki!



And looking out the French doors, we have some landscaping against the fence, along with a decorative element, a statue.




The other window in the house that overlooks our neighbors on the bottom floor is in the kitchen – you can see the house more clearly here.



Here’s what it looks like on the east side of the house – we have just 5’ of space.  First, we put in a bed in front of both windows.  Then we added gravel with large flagstones over it.   Originally we only had the vines on the fence, but we added the beds a few years later.  We used to have flowers, but now they are just box.  Ben bought me that statue for my birthday one year.  



And looking the other direction.  It’s not the best of landscaping jobs and probably should be redone, but from the house, it looks good enough and does the job of diverting the eye from the fence and the neighbor’s house.




As you can see, your eye really doesn’t focus on the fence, but on the statue and the bed instead.  The vine adds height that helps screen the house even more.




Addressing your air conditioning units.  Again, we have this same exact issue.   Our units used to be small and hidden at the end our porch behind a trellis fence.   But a few years ago, Ben bought two new A/C units and they are HUGE!  I almost fainted when I saw how much space the new units took up in my tiny courtyard.  All you could see were two HUGE A/C units.    So, we installed a larger piece of trellis fence and planted a vine over it.  Today you can’t even see the units at all.


DSC_3653Here are the units – hidden behind the vine which climbs over the trellis fence.   Now you can’t see the metal a/c units at all.  You can use this idea to hide yours too.  Just be sure to make the trellis high enough that it covers the view from the staircase. 



Another idea for the stair hall window – use a lighter shade that lets in more sun than the dark ones you are now using.  These are from Hunter Douglas.



And here – another light shade that lets the sun in more.


As for your other situation – outside the dining room window – here are some ideas I found:


It looks like you have a combination of surfaces out there with the fence and the brick.  You already have the gravel to start with.  I looked for some other ideas you might try to make the view more interesting:



Plant fig ivy on the brick wall, then in front – plant a line of small, ornamental trees.  See how pretty the trunk of these pear trees are?   It looks like you have enough room to even put some furniture there – to create an outdoor room.  Donna Brown of The Gray Door.




You could build a pergola from your house – reaching almost to the brick wall.  This would leave space for a bed where you could plant vines and box. 



You could put a tall fountain in the space with ivy behind it – like what Pam Pierce did in her courtyard.




This brick wall is left plain – and the plants are moveable in vases, as is the fountain.  This way if you move – you can take your “landscaping” with you.




Instead of a fountain – think about a tall pedestal with an urn on top filled with flowers.  Add box beds and a climbing vine behind it.  Pam Pierce.



Instead of gravel, add no-mow mondo grass with flags on top.



Or do a wide bed filled with all kinds of flowers and plants to add color.




Flags over gravel – and a fountain that sits more in the middle of the space.



Vines on the wall and ornamental trees in beds of box.



Try a bench against the wall with a iron grill above it – acting like a painting over a sofa.



Try planting just a row of trees like crape myrtle – with ferns in between the trunks.





This is a pretty look – with flags and  light and dark green plants for contrast.




  Here, in the before picture -  you can see how close these houses are.  And after, with hydrangeas planted, how pretty and lush it is now.



A curved fountain in front of a wall of fig ivy.



A bench with a brick path and all green plants.




Instead of just green, bring color outside.





Create an interesting pattern by planting an espaliered tree. 






Most important – don’t forget lighting outside.  Even if you just add fairy lights around a small tree – outdoor lighting is most important.  Otherwise, your view out the dining room will become a black hole at night!




This area has just two lights – but they really brighten it up.


I hope this gives you enough ideas to create interest outside your windows!!




I have a few suggestions for your dining room – first, the shades.  I would raise the shades to just under the rod – this way you would eliminate the “dead space” between the rod and the window.  Right now – it’s just white and it really sticks out.  If you raise the shades, you would have a more clean line and wouldn’t have that jarring white space. 



Here you can see in my family room – the shades are brought up to the curtain rod to cover the “dead space” between the rod and the windows.    There’s no jarring strip of wall showing – instead, it’s just one clean line. 



Next, I would move the armoire to a wall instead of it being in the corner.   It is really distracting the way it is now, plus it hides the curtains.   If there isn’t another wall, then consider moving it to another room.   And last – I would get an area rug.  Right now all the tones in the room are similar – the chairs, the floor, the table, the curtains. There isn’t any contrast.  I would consider getting a rug with some  color or white in it,  or maybe a bold stripe to add some pop to the room.


Malika Persian-Style Rug

From Pottery Barn – you could paint the walls a soft aqua.


Stark™ Concepts Custom Diamond Sisal Rug - Platinum

A textured rug in two colors – Pottery Barn




From Restoration Hardware.


From Layla Grace – a Dash and Albert stripe.


I hope this answers all your questions and then some!!



If you have a question for Dear Miss Cote de Texas, please submit it to mrballbox329@aol.com

Be sure to let me know if you need an answer right away, that way I can answer you in email instead of having you wait until it is published here.