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Photographer Marie Hennechart’s DIY Parisian Studio Apartment Makeover

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Photographer Marie Hennechart’s DIY Parisian Studio Apartment Makeover

September 18, 2017

Marie Hennechart is a documentary-style photographer and self-described “good sport with a ready smile and updated Red Cross skills.” More often than not, she’s on the go—to cover a London and a Bay Area family swapping houses for Travel + Leisure magazine (which is where the two of us first crossed paths), or to Sicily or Tokyo to take portraits of walls for a project about the passing of time, or to Nablus, to work on the next in her cookbook series with Laurence Phitoussi.

Between trips, Marie circles back to her home base in Paris, a studio apartment overlooking the rooftops of Montmartre. She has occupied this perch for more than a decade—she bought it at a good price from a notary in her hometown in northern France (“a far relative died and the inheritor did not even care to see the place when he heard there was no bathroom.”) Join us chez Marie for a look at how she carved out not only a bath but a new kitchen, as well as a living and dining area, office, bedroom, and plenty of unobtrusive storage in 42 square meters (452 square feet) of barely divided space.

Photography by Marie Hennechart. Portrait of Marie by Millie Christie-Dervaux.

The apartment is situated on the top floor, formerly the servant quarters, of a 07 stone building in Montmartre with a winding stair, a tiny elevator, and, notes Marie, &#8
Above: The apartment is situated on the top floor, formerly the servant quarters, of a 1907 stone building in Montmartre with a winding stair, a tiny elevator, and, notes Marie, “a very friendly concierge at the entrance.”
The space has high ceilings, its original oak floor, and two sets of French doors that open onto the wraparound balcony. Marie&#8
Above: The space has high ceilings, its original oak floor, and two sets of French doors that open onto the wraparound balcony. Marie’s biggest move was to take down the central wall that divided the apartment into two rooms. Upon discovering that part of the partition was structural, she created “‘fishbone shelving’—at first I was so disappointed, but then the problem became a bonus.”

She gained additional space by removing two “not-very-pretty fireplaces.” Her work area with a Future Map of the world anchors one end of the room. Note the built-in cabinets that surround her desk: “A British friend, artist George Skelcher, was visiting while I was working on my flat. He sketched the storage and my amazing carpenter built it. I collect fabric and lots of other things, so my cabinets are very useful.”

A space-saving circular George Nelson table is surrounded by a sampling of Marie&#8
Above: A space-saving circular George Nelson table is surrounded by a sampling of Marie’s chair collection, including a green Eames chair (“from a cafeteria in the Pigalle that closed”), a steel-and-leather Renzo Piano library chair salvaged from the Pompidou, and a Bertoia Side Chair with “a very vintage orange leather cover.”
Marie found her beachball-like hanging light at a flea market in Tel Aviv: “It’s Italian; I love its joyful presence.”

Noguchi Akari Lights pack flat–Marie brought them home from a trip to Japan more than  years ago.
Above: Noguchi Akari Lights pack flat–Marie brought them home from a trip to Japan more than 20 years ago.

The portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat is from a Polaroid taken by photographer-designer Maripol; it evokes the years Marie was getting her start in NYC (post-high school, she trained under fashion photographer Kei Ogata). The white-on-white sculpted painting is by American artist Brooke Major.

A Didier Gomez sofa is positioned opposite the dining table (and immediately off the entry hall). It&#8
Above: A Didier Gomez sofa is positioned opposite the dining table (and immediately off the entry hall). It’s layered with a Hot Pink Hairy Pillow from A Detacher in NYC and cushions Marie stitched herself from her round-the-world fabric collection. The collage photograph was a gift from artist-filmmaker Michel Zumpf.

Above L: A vintage hanger displays an embroidered hankie by artist Catherine Laroche. Above R: Another of Marie’s prized chairs: a Charlotte Perriand lookalike bought years ago at Paris’s Vanves flea market.
Marie&#8
Above: Marie’s bedroom is screened off by a partition that she paints a different color every few years. It’s currently a matte deep green that’s almost black from Emery et Cie of Belgium.

“I wanted a big living area and a small bedroom, so I had the wall built as far back as I could, and left it open on top.”

The tiny bedroom has an expansive view of Montmartre.
Above: The tiny bedroom has an expansive view of Montmartre.

Admiring the collapsible canvas seating? See Object Lessons: The Classic Butterfly Chair.

Marie left just enough room for a storage bed (with a mattress that lifts up—&#8
Above: Marie left just enough room for a storage bed (with a mattress that lifts up—”hugely practical for a small space”) and almost invisible built-in cabinets with touch-latch doors.

The bookshelf headboard made by Marie’s carpenter incorporates a cabinet where she keeps sweaters along with some bars of Mon Savon, “an old and cheap French soap brand—it perfumes the area with lavender, which keeps the moths away and helps me sleep.” The hand-painted pillowcase is by designer Nathalie Gervais—”one to watch,” says Marie.

Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves are tucked into the end of the room that&#8
Above: Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves are tucked into the end of the room that’s partially open to the living area. The embroidered religious banner is another find from the Vanves flea market.

Marie collects books but sticks to a minimalist wardrobe of five dresses: two by Japanese label 45 rpm, two by Remodelista favorite Margaret Howell, and a Marimekko. “That’s pretty much it, along with a few basics: sweaters and pants. When my dresses (except for the Marimekko) start to look a bit dull, I put them in the washing machine and dye them with a mix of navy blue and black—my homemade indigo.” She gets her shoes at Anatomica in the Marais: “I keep two pairs and re-buy them when they get too old.”

Marie replaced the existing &#8
Above: Marie replaced the existing “long basic kitchen” with a kitchenette off the entry hall. It has Ikea cabinets, a cooktop with a slate backsplash, an oven (that looks like a microwave), as well as an under-counter fridge, slim dishwasher, and normal size washing machine. “I live like a student: I make soups and salads and pastas.”
With space gained from the original kitchen, Marie slotted in a bathroom with a full-size tub. Her multi-talented carpenter did all of the work, including the plumbing. The white tiles are set in gray grout, &#8
Above: With space gained from the original kitchen, Marie slotted in a bathroom with a full-size tub. Her multi-talented carpenter did all of the work, including the plumbing. The white tiles are set in gray grout, “so they became a light blue-gray.”

She got her polished chrome sink at Sopha, “a bath equipment store on Rue Blanche near Pigalle—it was a prototype and small enough that I remember carrying it home.” She uses her champagne bucket as a wastebasket.

Above L: The green hanging light, one of Marie’s favorite details in the apartment, was a €3 ($3.56) purchase from Ikea. Above R: In need of compact storage, Marie happened upon Joe Columbo’s 1970s classic Boby Mobile Office Organizer at a flea market. It holds her toiletries and supplies.
Winding wood stairs lead to the charmingly tiled top floor.
Above: Winding wood stairs lead to the charmingly tiled top floor.
Marie in her uniform: an indigo-dyed dress and Prada sunglasses that she converted to reading glasses.
Above: Marie in her uniform: an indigo-dyed dress and Prada sunglasses that she converted to reading glasses.

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