18 French Microflats With Ingenious Space-saving Tricks
Tiny spaces are part of the fabric of French architecture. See how these professionals maximised their chic potential
Their predominance in France is thanks to Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s mid-19th century reconstruction of Paris. On the top floors of Haussmann’s new buildings – and others built on similar plans up to World War I – there were often chambres de bonne (maids’ rooms), which housed the domestic staff serving the families in the spacious apartments below. A study by Apur (Paris Urbanism Agency) estimated that more than 100,000 are still in existence in Paris today. Revamped with added plumbing, chambres de bonne and other small flats throughout France now serve as affordable accommodation for students, tourists and weekend commuters.
So how do you turn such spaces into not only liveable, but beautiful and even comfortable homes? We talked to the professionals behind some of Houzz France’s most inspiring tiny flat renovations to find out. The small spaces we’ve rounded up below all come in at less than 20 sq m, and all mix impressive functionality with a big dose of style.
“I put the bed by the window to redraw the space orthogonally and make it easier to forget the unpleasant geometry. My idea was to design a ‘chill out’ zone based on the habits of young people, who like to live lying down and no longer necessarily work at their desks,” Sophie Graves of HomebOxcreation says.
Let Houzz find the best pros for you
“I wanted to put the washroom in a kind of cabin in the studio. I worked with rounded forms to add some style. We installed an arched door leading to the bathroom. The kitchen splashback and the bathroom basin also adopt markedly soft, rounded forms, like most of the decor and lights throughout the space,” Nicolas Payet of Marn Déco says.
“[The owner] wanted to enter [her pied-à-terre in Paris] as if it were her own home and to shrug off her life outside, then proceed into the cocooned space behind the openwork divider. Differentiating the spaces was very important to her,” Charlotte Astruc says.
“This large, seamless mirror gives the impression that there’s another room. A colleague who visited the studio had previously used this kind of mirrored wall, and thought he could take it even further,” Léo Berastegui of Miogui Architecture says. “It’s interesting to see how a feature this enormous, which was difficult to get in – getting it into the stairwell was memorable! – could disappear to create more space.”
“In the top section, three cupboards offer shelves and a wardrobe,” he continues. “The cupboard on the right conceals the electricity meter and a niche that can be reached from the entrance for setting down keys.”
Aude Groshaeny of Décodage Création encouraged the owners of this flat to use colour to set off this box containing all of the flat’s functional components and add a little pep to the small space. “They were partial to a palette of blue and green, and we had fun with these tones,” she says.
“We came up with the idea of a 140cm x 190cm bed that slides into the 40cm-deep wall unit. This way, the bed creates a 100cm-deep banquette during the day, while aligning perfectly with the bathroom divider in the nighttime position,” Nicolas Payet of Marn Déco says.
“The divider between the bathroom and living room seemed central to me for regrouping the technical functions and freeing the space in the rest of the flat,” Aude Groshaeny of Décodage Création says. “The creation of all of the custom joinery moreover made it possible to transform the studio into a unique and personal place,”
The kitchen was previously packed entirely into this flat’s entrance. “The small size of the entrance made it impossible to include all of the kitchen features and integrate both a fridge and a washing machine. We therefore extended the kitchen right up to the living room, with the two sections separated by a load-bearing wall. This made it possible to include a large worktop and maximum storage,” interior designer Marie-Sophie Donnedieu says.
Back in 2014, designer Sarah Campet and her husband, engineer Olivier Taliani, devised a clever retractable system to double the functionality of a tiny bathroom. They applied it brilliantly in this 14 sq m Parisian flat. The trick is a wall that opens on a pivot and incorporates a basin in front and a shower behind.
Despite a tight budget, every corner of this flat was fitted out with a view to improving its functionality. The kitchen was extended – it had previously been limited to the space around the living room.
“When I discovered Nicolas [Véger]’s Cube Box, I fell in love with this concept and the design of this solution, which combines into a single module everything you need to outfit a studio: The bed, the living room, the kitchen, the bathroom, the office, the closet,” homeowner Auguste Gréau says.
A clever rising bed was key to the success of this design. “It’s a mechanical bed, with a system of counterweights, which you can manoeuvre very easily with one hand. It’s robust and reliable, made in France out of pine from Landes [in the south-west],” Clément Monnain of l’Akolyt says.
“To make a small space liveable, there needs to be places to store everything, including rubbish bins, the vacuum cleaner…” Lauren Havel says. “A single unit unfurls like a ribbon around the space, encompassing the whole entrance, the kitchen, a banquette, the staircase supports, the TV unit and the office.”
“I played along with a proposal to renovate what was there to the agreed budget, but I also risked presenting a second, more ambitious proposal, which bet on originality in design and tried to respond to all of [the owner’s] needs: a furniture structure separates the kitchen and a stationary bedroom corner, and conceals loads of storage,” Laura Loustau says. “The toilet room turned into a bathroom and there was still 10 sq m left over for the living room.”
“We created a mezzanine over the entrance out of wood, with a minimum floor thickness of 10cm. With a 15cm-thick mattress, there is 1m left above the bed, enough to sit up comfortably,” Margaux Carnevali of Neva Architecture Intérieure says.
“I went for the option of a central box enclosing the bathroom, with the kitchen unrolling around it,” Lara Grand says. “The hallway created by this partition was placed behind it, on the darker side. We optimised it with loads of storage space that can be accessed from three sides: the entrance, the bathroom and the bedroom.”
“We opened up the kitchen space and envisaged a bedroom corner in the mezzanine, placed as high as possible (at 2.3m) to pass comfortably over the top and to fit the dining corner underneath,” Margaux Carnevali of Neva Architecture Intérieure says. “Because of the window, it was impossible to make the mezzanine extend all the way from one side of the room to the other … We therefore adapted its dimensions to a 140cm x 200cm bed. So we wouldn’t lose space at the foot of the mezzanine, we replaced the ceiling on the kitchen side to avoid the window, but in this way we also created a niche that’s accessible from the bed.”
Which ideas would you borrow from these clever small living spaces? Share your thoughts in the Comments.