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9 Small-Space Ideas to Steal from a Tiny Paris Apartment

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9 Small-Space Ideas to Steal from a Tiny Paris Apartment

March 20, 2019

Paris architect Philippe Harden likes to work on a human scale. Paying close attention to “materials, proportions, and colors that let you feel good,” he creates rooms that are minimalist but also intimate and tailored for living. Case in point: this one-bedroom apartment in an Art Deco building close to the Eiffel Tower that Harden remodeled for a man who works in publishing.

Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, the architect reorganized the 592-square-foot space: The former kitchen was turned into a TV room, a closet became the kitchen, and the bedroom fireplace got replaced by a wardrobe—all of which now revolve around a central living area with a new hearth. Join us for a look at the many ways Harden artfully makes the most of every inch.

Photography courtesy of Philippe Harden.

1. Paint a recessed area a darker shade to create depth.

The living room’s new feature wall has a gas fireplace and shelf tucked into a niche. Harden painted it a space-enhancing green-black that references the 1930s heritage of the building (and was also inspired, he says, by the bold tones of Adolph Loos’s Villa Müller in Prague, which he visited two years ago). Framed by Farrow & Ball Wimborne White walls, the niche, painted in Farrow & Ball Green Smoke, gives the room added depth and visual interest. “Green is complementary with the brown wood of the floor,” notes Harden. “Dark colors are interesting because they change color according to the different moments of the day.”
Above: The living room’s new feature wall has a gas fireplace and shelf tucked into a niche. Harden painted it a space-enhancing green-black that references the 1930s heritage of the building (and was also inspired, he says, by the bold tones of Adolph Loos’s Villa Müller in Prague, which he visited two years ago). Framed by Farrow & Ball Wimborne White walls, the niche, painted in Farrow & Ball Green Smoke, gives the room added depth and visual interest. “Green is complementary with the brown wood of the floor,” notes Harden. “Dark colors are interesting because they change color according to the different moments of the day.”

2. Choose versatile furniture.

For the furnishings, the owner requested modernist icons, including a Noguchi coffee table, Eames Walnut Stool, and Eames Lounge and Ottoman. To make these pieces work well together—with maneuvering space—Harden pulled apart the Eames lounge chair and ottoman to create two seating opportunities. The standing lamp in the foreground is the Ella from Caravane. Harden’s advice for arranging a room is to do it by instinct: “Forget about the rules; think with your feelings.”
Above: For the furnishings, the owner requested modernist icons, including a Noguchi coffee table, Eames Walnut Stool, and Eames Lounge and Ottoman. To make these pieces work well together—with maneuvering space—Harden pulled apart the Eames lounge chair and ottoman to create two seating opportunities. The standing lamp in the foreground is the Ella from Caravane. Harden’s advice for arranging a room is to do it by instinct: “Forget about the rules; think with your feelings.”

3. Position a round dining table in an unused corner.

How to fit a dining table into a small living room? Neatly tucked into a corner, a round Saarinen Tulip Table is a lot less imposing than a rectangular dining table and gives the room a dual purpose without feeling crowded.
Above: How to fit a dining table into a small living room? Neatly tucked into a corner, a round Saarinen Tulip Table is a lot less imposing than a rectangular dining table and gives the room a dual purpose without feeling crowded.

4. Keep sight lines unobstructed.

Eames Side Chairs with see-through bases that reference the Eiffel Tower keep the corner looking airy. So do the windows; Harden was able to forgo window treatments thanks to pocket shutters. The white on the walls is Farrow & Ball’s Wimborne White.
Above: Eames Side Chairs with see-through bases that reference the Eiffel Tower keep the corner looking airy. So do the windows; Harden was able to forgo window treatments thanks to pocket shutters. The white on the walls is Farrow & Ball’s Wimborne White.

5. Use art and mirrors to enhance the sense of space.

A flea market mirror in the niche adds dimension, as does the vintage Roger Prigent fashion photograph hanging outside the new kitchen.
Above: A flea market mirror in the niche adds dimension, as does the vintage Roger Prigent fashion photograph hanging outside the new kitchen.

6. Unite the flooring.

In the streamlined kitchen, Harden installed a new floor stained to match the apartment’s existing wood floor and create coherence. He also introduced subtle color and texture: The backsplash tiles are Zelliges from Emery & Cie and the cabinets are two-toned: The lower cabinets are painted Farrow & Ball Mouse’s Back, a neutral stone color (as is the wall outside the room), and the upper are Farrow & Ball Old White.
Above: In the streamlined kitchen, Harden installed a new floor stained to match the apartment’s existing wood floor and create coherence. He also introduced subtle color and texture: The backsplash tiles are Zelliges from Emery & Cie and the cabinets are two-toned: The lower cabinets are painted Farrow & Ball Mouse’s Back, a neutral stone color (as is the wall outside the room), and the upper are Farrow & Ball Old White.

7. Install wall sconces.

Sconces take up less space than floor lamps, and some, such as the TV room’s 1960s Art Deco design, pattern the wall with light. They’re by Belgian architect Jules Wabbes, reissued by J.J.M. Wever & Ducré. Another space saver: The Bruce Sofa by Zanotta doubles as a guest bed.
Above: Sconces take up less space than floor lamps, and some, such as the TV room’s 1960s Art Deco design, pattern the wall with light. They’re by Belgian architect Jules Wabbes, reissued by J.J.M. Wever & Ducré. Another space saver: The Bruce Sofa by Zanotta doubles as a guest bed.

8. Use pocket doors.

Doors require swing space; they also add to the visual busyness of a room. For a tidy division between the bedroom and living room, Harden installed a pocket door. “Keeping connections open allows perspective and gives a sensation of larger space,” says Harden.
Above: Doors require swing space; they also add to the visual busyness of a room. For a tidy division between the bedroom and living room, Harden installed a pocket door. “Keeping connections open allows perspective and gives a sensation of larger space,” says Harden.

Another graceful detail worth noting: The living room’s built-in bookshelves turn the corner and continue in the bedroom. The shelves, which are painted a Farrow & Ball taupe, are evenly spaced and sized to fit the owner’s literature collection; his art books go in the living room niche.

9. Splurge on luxe materials in the tiniest space.

Square footage gained for the living room meant the bathroom had to be tiny—but not uncelebrated. In a small space, you can splash out on materials because not many are required. Harden lined the walls and shower with natural marquina marble tiles and the sink top with marquina marble. The sink is glazed steel—”which allows for a very thin contour”—and is from Alape. The overhead light is a DIY, made “from spare parts: a glass globe and brass tube mounted by our work crew; it’s inexpensive bespoke.”
Above: Square footage gained for the living room meant the bathroom had to be tiny—but not uncelebrated. In a small space, you can splash out on materials because not many are required. Harden lined the walls and shower with natural marquina marble tiles and the sink top with marquina marble. The sink is glazed steel—”which allows for a very thin contour”—and is from Alape. The overhead light is a DIY, made “from spare parts: a glass globe and brass tube mounted by our work crew; it’s inexpensive bespoke.”
 The floor plan details the allocation of space—and the way Harden was able to carve out the addition of a TV room by relocating the kitchen. The compact bathroom is situated on one side of the fireplace, which is flanked on the other by a WC.
Above: The floor plan details the allocation of space—and the way Harden was able to carve out the addition of a TV room by relocating the kitchen. The compact bathroom is situated on one side of the fireplace, which is flanked on the other by a WC.

Take a look at another Philippe Harden small-space design, The Perfect Paris Pied-à-Terre, Ikea Kitchen Included.

And for more small-space remodeling wisdom, go to:

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on February 17, 2017.

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