It’s been a big year, a wonderful change. Our home is small, but it’s ours. And boy, is it cozy! It’s different in size and style from our first apartment in Old Town Alexandria, but somehow, this cozy little nest has felt like a true newlywed home. Our wedding pictures are in a custom album near our bed – for easy glancing and reminiscing before slumber, and framed wedding pictures are scattered throughout the living room, with our Polaroids hung up with twine and clothespins. It truly feels like a newlywed nest – and how wonderful it is that our first year of marriage is spent in Strasbourg, France!
Having lived together for a year-and-a-half before getting married, we’ve already figured out how we both live and work with each other under the same roof; if interested, you can read about the lessons I learned living with a partner here!
The vast majority of our decor came from Bouchara and IKEA here in Strasbourg. While I would normally take my sweet time searching for vintage pieces at flea markets and antique stores, we are only living here for two years, and knowing that if I found some art that was uniquely special and couldn’t take back home made me sad. While we are in love with each piece we purchased to make our furnished apartment feel more like home, we also don’t feel that urgent desire to ship it all back to the states, when we eventually move back. That would be crazy expensive!
Alex laid eyes upon this 1970s vintage NASA poster of two astronauts gazing at Earth in a small shop in Paris just before we moved to Strasbourg. We both loved it so much, it accurately depicted our souls and appreciation for nature in a single poster. “Earth: Your Oasis in Space, Where the Air is Free and the Breathing Easy.” Alex framed it
I found the yellow armchair at Bouchara the first day, and I fell so in love with it, I carried it all the way home in the rain! Alex and I brought home around 8 giant Bouchara bags to decorate our home stuffed to the brim with a bed comforter, sheets, pillows, mirror, picture frames, and couch pillows.
The lovely cat watercolor painting I found at a local artisan shop here in Strasbourg, and the painting of Peter Pan and the Neverland pirate ship I purchased from Disneyland back when I was a teenager. You’ll also notice we have a bird-theme going on in our living room…Alex and I love to bird-watch (we find plenty of them in the forest outside our window!) , and these colorful birds reminded us joyously of Pirates of the Caribbean.
Most of the books in our apartment are mine, as I am a voracious reader.
Finding English books in Strasbourg is a challenge. While most of the books I read are checked out from our local library or on my kindle, if I am ever able to find a good English book in France, I grab it because I never know the next time I will find an English book. Self-help and spiritual books are my favorite, and I can never find those here in Strasbourg, so I am forced to order those on my Kindle. Fiction reads I can usually find at the library or English bookshop “Gallimard” in Kleber Square.
Fun Fact: I read the entire Harry Potter series during the winter months, thanks to Alex’s University of Strasbourg library!
Alex works mostly at his office at the University of Strasbourg, so this desk by the window is where I do the vast majority of my photo editing, blogging and marketing for my photography business. In the evenings, my desk becomes our dining table and our after-dinner Rummikub table.
It’s white – making it also the perfect place for photographing flat lays for my blog! Stationed here I have my colored pencils, paintbrushes, purple feather pen and pot of ink (which I use to jot in my daily appreciation journal), small travel notebook, idea notebook and password book!
Visual memories are important to me – hence being a photographer – so you can bet there are plenty of pictures and Polaroids all around our apartment. I make it a habit to take plenty of Polaroids along our travels, and I’ve built quite a collection over the years. I also love to collect artwork that inspires me. I have two of Sally Mann’s photographs hanging up, which I purchased at her A Thousand Crossings exhibit in D.C., a watercolor painting of a seahorse (my favorite sea creature), and some flea market illustrations. Waking up and seeing inspiring art first-thing in the morning always sets me on a joyful start to the day.
Ever notice how grounded and connected you feel after touching a plant or tree? I always feel so present, so connected to something deeper when I feel a leaf….some bark….or walk barefoot in the grass. I added plenty of tree wood blocks and plants around the apartment to help ground and center me. Sometimes a single touch does wonders for my spirit. It truly connects me to something greater. Purchasing flowers weekly is also something I make sure to add to my financial budget. Having fresh, colorful flowers nearby to smell every day makes me feel truly alive.
Our bedroom is tiny compared to our last apartment’s, but it feels so much cozier! We have a queen bed, closet and table – all which were furnished and included in the rental price of the apartment – and a window that looks out onto our balcony. I’ve added plenty of twinkle lights along our bed frame to make it extra warm, plus crisp travel magazines and little jewelry bowls on my wooden IKEA foot stand, which I use as a bed stand. Our wedding album sits on the table, allowing us easy access to reminisce on memories.
As expats, we move around often, so when I do find something I truly love and don’t want to get rid of someday, I make sure they are small items I can carry in my purse. The collected crystals, flowers and antique jewelry brings me extra added joy, and I just love my Big Dipper star formation jewelry plate I found at a boutique in Amsterdam!
Alex and I are big talkers. In fact, communication is one of the biggest themes in our marriage, and we are constantly jabbering. So much in fact, that we are entirely comfortable around each other – sometimes too comfortable – and deep conversations and long belly laughs before bed always threaten a good night’s rest. We’ll do a deep dive on music, philosophy, spirituality and our meanings of life that a simple sentence could lead to a two-hour discussion. So, we’ve learned to put routines in place so we can have our full 8 hours of sleep a night. I also marvel that we still ask one another plenty of questions, still getting to know each other more and more deeply… It’s been nearly 5 years together, and it still wonderfully feels like the first months of dating sometimes! Talking openly, communicating about everything (seriously – there is no mystery left in this relationship!) and never holding things in makes us both confident, stable and appreciative in our partnership.
We always end the day by talking about “the highlight of our day” and what we were especially appreciative or grateful for. We also love to read aloud to each other – favorites are Love Letters of Great Men and one of Jane Austen’s novels. (We particularly love poems and an old style of writing.) In our last apartment, we read poems to each other, but as I couldn’t schlep my entire book collection to Europe, we’ve narrowed it to down to just these particular books. We both highly value words and reading aloud to one another in bed or on the couch truly allows us time to connect after a long day.
Our kitchen is much bigger than our previous one! But their some odd little things in this European kitchen that are different from our last in the States….
Our refrigerator is disguised as a normal cabinet…in the front entryway! The stoves are also different here, a single piece of flat, reflective glass is the stove, with a single touch on the flat surface turning it on and off. It is also common to find plastic wrap/aluminum foil cutters installed into the walls! We particularly love our big kitchen table and spotlights installed along the wall.
Upon first moving to France, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to open and close doors! Alex, having grown up in Europe, taught me how and ever since, I always find it particularly odd yet simple to do! Doorways can open either inwards – like in the States – or pulled up, so that it tilts forward inside, allowing air to come through the top without actually opening the door.
Windows are opened the same way, allowing you those two options. With window shutters, you have to pull out a long lever, which usually is held down in place by a long, flat magnet on the wall, and then you crank the lever to move the window shade down or up. Our bedroom window is different; instead, there is a rope pulley to move it, making it even easier to do!
I actually love this method more than in the States, as I used to always get that string on the blinds stuck, so the window shade was always lopsided and crooked. This makes it all so much simpler! Tres Magnifique!
Moving to Strasbourg sure was a funny story! I wrote about the story on my recent blog about the adjustments and lessons I learned living in Strasbourg here:
Once Alex got a French phone with a pay-as-you-go sim card, we were able to start making appointments. Alex made day-trips to Strasbourg from Paris, where we were staying with a friend, and in the few days leading to our move-in day, he found this here fully-furnished apartment. In a quiet suburb, we have a lush forest out front and cornfields and an elementary school behind us, with quaint French villages around us and the tram that takes us straight into the center of Strasbourg!
I hope this blog post helps to share a little bit into our lives as newlyweds and our little home while living in France! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share in the comment box below! 🙂
April 26, 2019
2016 - 2019 Helena Woods | Helena Woods Portraiture is located outside New York City in Fairfield County Connecticut and travels worldwide for her clients. Helena Woods is Connecticut’s premier family, children, baby and newborn photographer specializing in modern classic custom family photography with a timeless look that's always in style. As a professional photographer, Helena captures maternity, newborn, baby and family portraits in NYC, Westchester, Trumbull, Easton, Weston, and Westport, Greenwich, Darien, Westport, Norfolk and all Fairfield County surrounding areas.