New Books About French Homes: Home Sweet Maison & L'Appart

There's something alluring about anything French, and classic French homes and apartments are no exception. With their high ceilings and windows, ornate molding, decorative mantels, and parquet floors, they simply exude character. Of course, owning a French home or apartment also means one has to deal with antiquated plumbing and wiring, and any renovations one undertakes will require extensive--and expensive--paperwork, permissions, payments, and pain

Paris-based food blogger David Lebovitz knows this firsthand. His recently released book L'Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home traces his path from San Francisco to Paris as he sought out an appartment to purchase and renovate. Lebovitz's tale is witty and amusing, describing potential neighbors (mostly, those he narrowly avoided), the unique apartment he scored, and the mostly downward spiral that often becomes the renovator's plight in Paris. Lebovitz is truly funny, and while he tends to spill too much information at times, his story is both enviable (wouldn't you want to buy an apartment in Paris?) and incredible (could it really have gone so wrong in so many ways?!).

I have long enjoyed reading David Lebovitz's blog for its delectable recipes and excellent Paris advice, so now that I've read L'Appart, I feel I've had a dozen entertaining dinners with him, listening incredulously to the stories of his apartment renovation being both celebrated and cursed. You won't be disappointed with this read if you've ever built or renovated a home--and you'll come away feeling grateful that the experience wasn't as extreme as David's, though you'll still wish you had an apartment in Paris!

Another recent book release you may love is Danielle Postel-Vinay's Home Sweet Maison, a non-fiction guide on "The French Art of Making A Home." Postel-Vinay's straightforward decor guide brings fresh perspective to the art of arranging one's home. The author is an American who developed a life-changing relationship with a French expat who owned a home decor shop in America's heartland. Postel-Vinay went on to live in France and married a Frenchman, so her perspective on French culture has depth and authenticity thanks to the time she has spent with family and friends in France.

Don't misunderstand this book--it is not a guide to French decor as a style, but a simple compilation of the essential ways in which the French style their homes. While Home Sweet Maison has no photographs or illustrations, the text is simple and thoughtful, broken down into accessible, brief chapters on various sections of the home from L'Éntrée to Le Boudoir. (And if you don't know what a boudoir is, neither did I. Postel-Vinay has insight even for the most seasoned francophiles, going into detail about French areas like la cave and les archives.) She took the writing of this guide quite seriously, googling terms like "French laundry" and even slyly photographing a French acquaintance's silverware drawer!

french mirror whitewash

 Honestly, I've been thinking a lot about home decor since we moved into our custom-built home one year ago, and reading Home Sweet Maison really provided me with some key insights. I have Postel-Vinay to thank for explaining how to structure our entryway in a way that is both personal and welcoming. Her little guide also helped me envision exactly the right mirror over our mantel--so in the best of ways, I think you'll find that this simple read can offer fresh cultural perspectives if you'd like a new way to understand how to make your home more livable and comforting.