Quiet and picturesque in this famous Parisian neighbourhood where most modern art movements were born, the Bateau Lavoir too, is a chef-d’œuvre of its own.
Entering it means consciously leaving the common pedestrian world for the exciting realm of marine expeditions. Designed like a cabin on a luxury passenger ship, the studio is conceived of 3 independent levels with the comfort of a charming little home. The interior design combines classical ambiance and daring, innovative ideas. However, this elegantly furnished suite did not always look like that.
How so, we asked Gerard Homburger – a true Montmartrois and the studio’s proud owner.
Thus, he hereby revealed the secrets of his unique property.
How did the whole story start?
When I found the apartment in the summer of 2009, it was totally different. You wouldn’t even recognize that it’s the same studio it is now. There were three little rooms, connected only via an incredibly small staircase. It wasn’t nice or practical at all. So I started to think about the possibilities how to change the concept and to create a special and livable space out of it.
What did you like about it in the first place?
Well, the location was perfect. Mont Cenis is a pedestrian street with nice big stairs, so it is very quiet. Yet, the MontmartroBus is just one minute far and so is a Vélib station. I have been living in Montmartre for quite a while and the apartment is within walking distance from my home. I also really liked that it’s a private house. The door on the street is the actual entrance of the flat. The apartment itself was not very special at the time, but it showed a lot of potential.
Did you do all the renovations by yourself?
I bought the apartment with my friend and he helped me during the whole construction site. First of all, we demolished the walls to open the rooms together. Then we got rid of that small, invisible staircase and started to build up the new one. Seriously, even a slightly chubby person could hardly fit in that staircase! After the new stairs were done, we gained some extra space in the middle to place a nice dining table for four. We only kept the kitchen as it was, except adding some extra appliances. The previous owner has already dug down the floor to increase the height and we have followed his example.
So are you an architect?
No, it’s kind of a hobby to me, renovating apartments. I’ve already done around six or seven. One functions as a restaurant in the Marais now. As a retired man, I really wanted to work on something interesting and special. Construction sites are always a big challenge. It took us three months to finish the Bateau Lavoir.
Some people do gardening, others knit pullovers… and you renovate apartments?
Did you plan to rent out the property after it has been finished?
Not in the first place. I was a little afraid of renting it out by an agency, to be honest. Some people just come and go without paying attention and respecting the apartment. At first I got in touch with another agency, but it turned out that they don’t provide services and they only operate online. There was no real office to go to if you had any questions. But chance had it I came across Les Studios de Paris (still called Les Studios de Montmartre at the time). So I decided to give it a try.
Apparently everything went well. Since 2009 you are renting out with Les Studios de Paris.
Yes, we signed the mandate in like five minutes. I really appreciated the difference between them and other vacation rental agencies. In “Les Studios de Paris” nobody was commercial-like or pushing me to buy things I didn’t need. On the contrary, people were very nice, professional and helpful and they found me a tenant right away! I felt that special atmosphere, which was classy and artistic, not like the others. Their office was great too, very stylishly designed. Later Les Studios de Paris decided to name my studio “Bateau Lavoir” and I agreed with the name at once, because the Bateau Lavoir is very Montmartre-ish and actually my initial idea was to create a cabinet deluxe.
Tell us a bit more about the studio’s name “Bateau Lavoir”?
Actually, it’s a very curious story. Originally, Le Bateau Lavoir was the nickname of another building in the same Montmartre district. It was a strange conglomeration of artists’ studios in the early 20th century, where Picasso, Modigliani, Matisse, Cocteau and other famous artists used to live. The place was a gloomy heap of dark and dirty premises made of beams and planks. Those swayed and creaked so dangerously on a stormy day that they reminded one of the washing-boats on the Seine. That’s how the French painter Max Jacob coined the name Le Bateau Lavoir (meaning “a wash-house (on a river)” in English). “The world’s first modern art factory”, as they called it, was destroyed by fire in the 70s. Sadly only its façade remains today on Place Emile Goudeau, just below Place du Tertre. However, we decided to name my studio “Bateau Lavoir” in honour of this amazing piece of art history. And also, because we thought it would be a cute pun to have the word “bateau” (boat) in the name of a studio actually conceptualized like one!
You chose to have a ‘Gestion Complète‘ too, which means that the agency provides all the services.
I prefer to spend this little money to be reassured that my apartment is taken care of. Good care, in fact. I have total trust in the agency, their personnel does a really great job! I let them decide on the tenants, too and if I have a booking request from another friend, I always pass the cycle to Les Studios de Paris.
You’ve mentioned that you’ve lived in Montmartre for a long time. How do you like living here?
Oh, very much so. It’s like a little village here. The streets, the roads, the stairs and the stores are nice and familiar like close friends. We all know each other here, I say ‘Hi!’ to the florist, the grocery owner and the waiter in the café. I know most of the people on the right side of the hill, so if I wish to have a chat with somebody I just go this way and find a friend in a minute. But when I have something urgent to do I choose the other direction, otherwise I would be in a big delay. Once you’ve lived in Montmartre, you wouldn’t leave it for anything in the world.
See more pictures and features of Bateau Lavoir studio on our website.
 Montmartrois : from French, a Montmartre inhabitant
 MontmartroBus: A local bus running only in the Montmartre hill.
 Vélib: Paris Bicycle rental services.
 Marais: The historic part of the 4th district in Paris. The restaurant referred to is ‘Caffé Boboli‘, located on 13, Rue du Roi du Sicile, 75004 Paris.