Sinking money into an old house

The latest (and last??) cabinet for the new kitchen

The latest (and last??) cabinet for the new kitchen

Took Holly and Sophie to the airport a couple of days ago, as Sophie starts back to school next week. Up at 3:30 AM, on the road at 4:30 to make it to Charles de Gaulle Airport by 9:30. Drop them on the kerb (impossible to park anywhere in our van ’cause it’s too high for the parking lots) then drive back home. Oh yes, with a detour into Paris to pick up a cabinet that Holly found for sale on the web…

On the way home I stop at my favorite “brocante”, antique/bric-a-brac/junkyard, where I found my classic 1968 Solex moped last year. Tonight, I’m looking for sinks for our kitchen remodel. Holly has been checking out apron-front sinks; only about 500 Euros for a new one! So I ask Serge if he’s got any. “Not much”, he says “there are a few lying around but they’re pretty beat up”. He’s right, all the porcelain ones are chipped, and anyway none are apron-front – we want a really big, deep bowl so we can get our big copper pots and jam confiture in there.

However, I do come across a really cool old bathroom sink that I’m sure Holly would love. Only problem, Serge wants 250 Euros for it. I take a couple of photos to send to Holly, and tell him I’ll let him know.

Double bathroom sink

Really cool, but out of our budget :(

Serge has this amazing collection that long ago burst the seams of his two warehouses – stacks of dissembled armoirs, a gigantic steam tractor hidden behind an assorted pile of junk; picture frames, pots to make pate and terrine, broken old barrels… anything you could dream of, it’s there somewhere! I ask about the steam roller. “Oh, I’ve had it about thirty years”, he says. “Maybe someday I’ll fix it up…” I guess it’s just part of the place now.

About to give up, I wander past a 10-foot tall pile of broken and twisted lead pipe on the side of his warehouse to the stack of stainless sinks and tabletops, and just about break my leg tripping over the corner of something very hard and heavy.

kitchen sink front

Looks pretty good from this angle!

Once I’m done rubbing my shin, I look down to find that the offending object is none other than a deep, apron-fronted white porcelain kitchen sink! Actually, it’s more green than white as it’s pretty heavily adorned with moss and leaf-mold. Evidently Serge has written it off long ago. A close inspection reveals why; the thing’s really beat up – makes the other pieces he showed me look brand new in comparison! Still, I figure if he doesn’t want too much for it…

kitchen sink angle

Hmm... not exactly "as new" condition...

I track down Serge in his back yard, where he’s entertaining a couple of ladies with a cold drink at his garden table. Ah yes, he remembers the sink. “Vingt Euros”, he says. Twenty Euros… I call the house to ask Samantha to check on the web to see if there’s such a thing as a porcelain repair kit. A quick search reveals that apparently thousands of Americans fix their porcelain sinks every year, and we have a choice of a half-dozen solutions. My decision’s made, but of course I can’t finalize the deal without a bit of bargaining, that wouldn’t be fun at all. So I end up with the sink and a nice slab of marble counter-top for forty Euros total, load them into the van and continue for the final 90-minute drive home.

Ten minutes scrubbing gets rid of the leaves and moss, bringing out the chips in all their glory. Dubiously I take a couple of photos, then go inside to call Holly to see what she thinks. She loves it! Doesn’t mind the dings – even tells me it adds old-fashioned character. What a lovely wife I have; she just saved us 500 Euros… not a bad day’s junk-shopping!

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