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Before/After: Order and Pattern in a Spirited Paris Apartment Remodel by Two Young Architects

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Before/After: Order and Pattern in a Spirited Paris Apartment Remodel by Two Young Architects

October 5, 2020

Stephen O’Sullivan felt ready for a better bath. The dual Irish-French citizen had been living in his apartment in Paris’s 9th for almost 20 years when he gave architect Suleïma Ben Achour a shout. The daughter of an old friend of his, Suleïma, a 2016 graduate of the École Nationale d’Architecture de Paris la Villette, was working at the time for a Paris design firm. She and her favorite collaborator from architecture school, Antoine Lallement, met up with Stephen, and quickly the discussion evolved from showers and sinks into an entire rethink of the flat: a translator and writer, Stephen was in the process of setting up his own company out of the apartment and realized that the time was right for “a makeover that is going to be with me for the rest of my life.”

The architects applied a rigorous assessment of the 55 square meters (less than 600 square feet), and suggested flipping the locations of the bathroom and kitchen to open up the latter to the living space and give each a fresh guise. As a rescue measure, they recommended built-in storage (scroll to the end for a glimpse of the mess that was). And, as a finishing touch, they prescribed joie-de-vivre: checks and plaids for every room, a wink to both the 18th-century building’s rustic history and Stephen’s Irish origins. Stephen himself took the theme to the next level insisting that his entire bedroom be green.

“There is no good project without a good client, and Stephen was the most open-minded client ever,” says Suleïma, who remembers visiting the apartment with her family as a little girl. The work enabled the moonlighting young architects to give up their day jobs and launch their firm, Studio Classico (@Studio_Classico, website in progress). Join us for a look at their first commission.

Photography by Marvin Leuvrey and Charlotte Robin, courtesy of Studio Classico.

The new kitchen is now the center of the apartment, divided from the living room by a peninsula, so Stephen can cook while chatting with guests. The sink cabinets are from Ikea with custom solid oak counters and 60s Czech wooden stools.
Above: The new kitchen is now the center of the apartment, divided from the living room by a peninsula, so Stephen can cook while chatting with guests. The sink cabinets are from Ikea with custom solid oak counters and 1960s Czech wooden stools.

The apartment is set in a former coaching inn, part of France’s pre-railroad postal system, and retains its original herringbone oak floors visible here in the small front room, which Stephen uses as his office, den, library, and guest room. Note the reflective white surfaces and newly introduced glass partition between the rooms: for the architects “luminosity was a top priority.”

The
Above: The 2 Bins Sink was an Amazon purchase. To go with the new checked floor, Suleïma found a length of Ikea fabric on Etsy patterned with all of the colors used in the apartment. She had it stitched into a sink curtain to loosen up the space and “introduce a bit of humor: we think design should inspire some emotion.”
The architects detailed the kitchen with Rombini fluted porcelain tiles designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Mutina: &#8
Above: The architects detailed the kitchen with Rombini fluted porcelain tiles designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Mutina: “the light and shadows on it beautifully brightens the room and the lines remind us of a grandma doily in a contemporary way,” says Suleïma. (For more like it, see Trend Alert: Fluting in the Kitchen).

That’s the small fridge to the left of the sink: “Stephen lives alone and often eats out, so he didn’t feel he needed more.” The inset green shelves hold a very edited display—in dramatic contrast to what had been on display in the apartment before (see below).

The kitchen&#8
Above: The kitchen’s red checks lead to the bathroom’s green checks. The bespoke cabinets next to the sink are for storing pantry items, appliances, and other things best kept out of sight. The frilly Ceramic Pendant Lights, another grandmotherly chic touch, are by Remodelista favorite Zangra.

The white walls throughout are painted Ventre de Biche (translation “Doe Belly”) from Tollens of Belgium.

Stephen gave Suleïma and Antoine &#8
Above: Stephen gave Suleïma and Antoine “carte blanche” to come up with the apartment’s key furnishings. They designed his desk in collaboration with their architecture school friend Baptiste Potier of 127AF: larger than it looks here, it’s made of oak that was leftover from the kitchen counters and overlooks the street.

Stephen reports that his former furniture was a hodgepodge of “gifted items and pieces purchased very cheaply from neighbors leaving the building.” The new desk, he says, was “an excellent investment as I spend much time here, translating and writing while giving the odd wave to friends and neighbors passing outside the window.”

The bedroom, formerly a minty green, is now a bright apple. &#8
Above: The bedroom, formerly a minty green, is now a bright apple. “My family and friends tease me endlessly about my Saint Patrick’s Day room,” says Stephen who insists he finds the color restful.

The wardrobe is another of the architects’ designs, a sketch that they turned over to 127AF to fine-tune and fabricate. The  chrome pulls, also used in the kitchen, are Œillet GM from Manufactor: “they’re discrete and comfortable, and they look like small keys,” says Suleïma

The Pinch-Pleat Tartan Curtains were sourced readymade from the Scotland Shop: this pattern, fittingly, is the All Ireland Blue tartan.
Above: The Pinch-Pleat Tartan Curtains were sourced readymade from the Scotland Shop: this pattern, fittingly, is the All Ireland Blue tartan.
The custom chest of drawers, of oak with walnut detailing, is a companion to the wardrobe.
Above: The custom chest of drawers, of oak with walnut detailing, is a companion to the wardrobe.
The green theme continues in the bathroom, where the bespoke drawers serve as both storage and a bench.
Above: The green theme continues in the bathroom, where the bespoke drawers serve as both storage and a bench.

Stephen notes that the bathrooms in his building were, until recent decades, shared on each floor—he thinks the one in his apartment was installed in the 1970s or ’80s “consequently it was easy to break down the partitions and reshape the spaces, as no supporting pillars or outside walls were involved.”

The pedestal sink stands out against ivory tiles from French company Surface. The tartan here is known as Hibernian Football Club
Above: The pedestal sink stands out against ivory tiles from French company Surface. The tartan here is known as Hibernian Football Club
The glass shower is thoughtfully detailed with tiled niches.
Above: The glass shower is thoughtfully detailed with tiled niches.
The architects: Suleïma is based in Paris and Antoine lives in Marseille, where this was taken. She also has a background in interior design and he in engineering. Studio Classico is just the two of them, but they frequently work with friends. Photograph by Charlotte Robin.
Above: The architects: Suleïma is based in Paris and Antoine lives in Marseille, where this was taken. She also has a background in interior design and he in engineering. Studio Classico is just the two of them, but they frequently work with friends. Photograph by Charlotte Robin.

Floor Plans

 Before: The rooms felt cramped and dark, and the kitchen was located off the living room.
Before: The rooms felt cramped and dark, and the kitchen was located off the living room.
 After: The architects swapped the locations of the kitchen and bath, creating a bigger, brighter living space and a better flow. They also cleverly tucked a laundry area into what had been a tiny corridor in the bedroom, which remains secluded in the back.
After: The architects swapped the locations of the kitchen and bath, creating a bigger, brighter living space and a better flow. They also cleverly tucked a laundry area into what had been a tiny corridor in the bedroom, which remains secluded in the back.

Before

Above R: Peeling paint was but one problem. Above L: Stephen’s den/guest room was in danger of imploding .
Above L: It was Stephen’s desire for a shower stall to replace his bath that started the whole project. Above R: The bedroom was in extreme need of a cleanup and some storage.

Three more small Paris apartments that we love:

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