Having her own place in Paris had been a lifetime ambition for Florida resident Denise-Marie Nieman – and with the help of VINGT Paris, she was able to realise her dream in a pretty corner of Montmartre
Words: Caroline Harrap
For Denise-Marie Nieman, her love affair with Paris began when she was just a small child. Although she grew up thousands of miles away in the city of Chicago, her paternal grandmother had deep roots in France. And so it was that she spent her childhood listening to wonderful stories of the French capital, with its cobbled streets, grey-zinc rooftops and artistic treasures.
“Over time, I gradually became hooked on my French heritage,” recalls Denise-Marie. “Then, when I was about seven, I told my Grandma Emeline that I’d go to Paris one day. ‘When will that be?’ she asked. With some hesitation, because that’s a big question for a little girl who knew Paris was far away from Chicago, I replied, ‘When I’m rich!’ And when will that be, my grandmother enquired, and I pulled ‘40’ out of the air. I’ve been travelling to Paris at least once a year ever since.”
By that stage, Denise-Marie was working as an attorney in Florida’s Palm Beach County, and so she was content to enjoy her annual adventures in the City of Light. However, as time went on, she began to long for a more permanent base in her beloved city. Somewhere that she could really call her own.
“That little girl’s dream stayed with me as I grew up, and I knew that one day I’d have a place in Paris that I could call home,” continues the 56-year-old. “So, as I approached retirement, I started looking seriously. I finally decided on Montmartre after visiting the museum there, feeling the energy of all those creatives that called the area home. I bought a postcard before I left and scribbled my apartment’s wish list. Even though I didn’t mind a small space, I wanted separate rooms in a charming building in a quiet neighbourhood, with lots of windows, room for a tub, a fireplace and chandeliers.”
The search begins
The only hitch, as anyone who has tried to buy a property in Paris will be all too familiar, is that finding the perfect place can be anything but easy. With demand for apartments far exceeding supply, competition can be fierce, and then there’s that famous French bureaucracy. However, that’s where VINGT Paris comes into the story.
“Their help was invaluable, right from the start,” says Denise-Marie. “For one thing, they understood exactly what I was looking for, which meant that they really listened to me. I was only shown properties that were substantially aligned with what I wanted. Also, even though my wish list was long, my budget was not. But just when it seemed that it may not be possible without rethinking the purchase price, which may have kept me in Airbnb’s, VINGT became aware of a property that was everything I wanted and then some, and contacted me right away.
“From that moment on, they helped me navigate every step through to closing and then beyond, doing all the legwork to help me settle in, giving me complete peace of mind. This is especially helpful when one is mainly overseas and doesn’t speak the language well – though that will change one day!”
Indeed, one of the biggest challenges for international buyers can be navigating the complicated legal processes in France, not to mention the extensive paperwork. However, with a bi-lingual professional to guide clients through the process, it takes all the stress out of the situation.
“It truly felt like a friendship more than a working relationship,” adds Denise-Marie. “The level of care, concern, patience, responsiveness, follow-through, initiative etc. that every team member showed me was amazing. There’s a genuine interest in you and an authentic happiness when your dream comes true!”
The perfect place
A year or so on, Denise-Marie is beyond happy with her new home. Located in a Hausmannian-style building constructed in 1906, the 40-square-metre apartment has everything on her wish list and more. “The layout is brilliant, and it seems much larger than it is,” she adds. “There are two chandeliers, two fireplaces and beautiful wood floors, crown-mouldings and tall windows… it’s my perfect Paris nest!” She also loves the peace and quiet of the local neighbourhood.
“It’s just so quiet!” continues Denise-Marie. “There’s plenty of noise back in Florida, and I enjoy Paris for the peace and quiet. It’s amazing to me that in such a big city I can find the calm that I crave. And it’s walkable; everything I want and need is readily accessible on foot. Plus, if I am venturing out of my ‘hood, the Métro stop is close by.”
Now that she has found her perfect pied–à–terre, she spends as much time in France as she possibly can and is, essentially, one of the locals. So, as a bona fide Montmartre insider, what is her favourite way to spend a weekend then?
“My weekends are very different now from my tourist days,” she says. “I have just finished updating the salle de bains, so most of my trips have been to DIY stores, and next up is la cuisine. So there’s usually a visit to Castorama – one of my fave stores in Paris – along with BHV, Leroy Merlin, Monoprix and my local market, Cocci, which is a few-minute stroll from my front door.
“My visits until then will be spent doing what I enjoy the most – wandering around Paris, stopping at one of the many parks/gardens to read a book, scribble and doodle in my journal, or to just sit. Discovering new places to savour a bite and to enjoy some wine is also on the itinerary. It’s a dream come true… it took me 49 years to realise it, but better late than never.”
Denise-Marie’s top tip for others dreaming of a new home in Paris…
“Just do it! Move from dreaming to realising your dream – be the one that follows through. It’s doable. Your dream can and will come true if you want it to. And I’d highly recommend VINGT!”