Houzz Tour: A Genius Design Turns a Bare Room into a Stylish Home
A dark, abandoned concierge’s lodge gets a Scandi update and a clever new layout that brings in the light
Margaux, who says she likes updating small spaces most of all, made clever use of the double height of the room to pack more into the space. She also came up with an ingenious L-shaped layout that makes the studio look much larger than its 19 sq m.
Who lives here? Tenants
Location Quartier Nationale, 13th arrondissement, Paris, France
Size 19 sq m
Completion date February 2020
Project duration Four months
Interior designer Margaux Carnevali of Neva Architecture Intérieure
Budget €45,000 (approx £38,000) including furniture and décor; excluding fees
Photos by Agathe Tissier
This old concierge’s lodge, on the ground floor of a historic building, measures 19 sq m and is blessed with a 3.5m-high ceiling. The flat was dark despite its two large windows to the courtyard, as one of the windows was enclosed in a ‘box’ – probably the remnants of a kitchen or bathroom.
The property was completely abandoned for two decades, but it was “tidy,” as Margaux puts it, referring to its regular layout rather than its deplorable state.
At 3.5m, the very high ceiling was the key to making the most of the space. It made it possible to create a bedroom corner on a mezzanine, making the studio feel like a one-bed flat. It also meant the tenants don’t have to fold and unfold a sleeper sofa every day.
Margaux sited it at the entrance so it would neither overwhelm the living room nor block the light coming in from the windows.
The challenge was to find a way to fit the bathroom and the kitchen in a single line with the entrance, where the plumbing was located. Margaux was initially doubtful that she’d be able to fit the bathroom under the mezzanine, as she’d originally planned.
“If it were insufficiently high for a shower, we’d have had to install the kitchen under the mezzanine,” she says. “The layout would have been much less successful, because it would have meant partitioning the bathroom off on the window side and losing the view and light.”
“We created a mezzanine out of wood, with a minimal floor thickness of 10cm, which extends over the entrance. With a 15cm-thick mattress, there’s still a metre above the bed, which is enough to sit up comfortably,” Margaux says.
With a rod and some shelves, Margaux transformed the original cupboard at the entrance into a wardrobe. A linen curtain hides it from view. She proposed this solution because she likes “the gesture of opening a curtain, and it softens the angular entrance and adds an airy quality”.
The mezzanine overhead aligns perfectly with the wardrobe. The alcove area at the top has been set up with alternating open and closed storage. “This serves as a bedside table and storage for bedding, among other things,” she says.
To the right of the new bathroom, the kitchen takes up less than 160cm of width. It’s in the perfect spot, so that it, like the bedroom, would not be visible from the entrance.
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To fit everything in, she used a combination as rare as it is original: a shallow washing machine with a basin on top. “Optimising a space doesn’t mean sending its occupants to do their laundry at the laundrette. I spotted this solution online and searched extensively for a commercial version of this basin,” she says.
She also installed an 80cm-wide shower cubicle with sliding doors. “Its semi-circular shape frees up space and facilitates circulation in this small room,” she says.
Not visible in this photo is a clever towel warmer, which unfolds at the top to serve as a clothes line.
Margaux was able to fall back on one of her favourite tricks for the last time: using clever combined appliances – in this case, the combined oven-dishwasher, and the combined microwave-extractor. She’s used these in her projects for a long time. “They are terrific for making the most of a space, but unfortunately they have since been taken out of production by the manufacturers, Candy and Whirlpool,” she says.
The shallow top cabinets look as if they go up all the way to the ceiling. In reality, the boiler is fitted on its side in the uppermost cupboards. It can only be accessed via a ladder.
Inspired by the two large windows to the lush courtyard, she was also guided by the theme of ‘the countryside in Paris’. It’s in this spirit that she added enamel containers filled with herbs.
Margaux worked to differentiate the zones through the flooring and wall finishes. The kitchen is marked by a ‘country-style’ floor of cement tiles, while the living area has wood flooring. “In reality, we put in wood-look ceramic tiles, as the owner was afraid that solid wood wouldn’t last over time,” she says. “I prefer wood, because it’s warmer underfoot, but visually this finish does the trick perfectly.”
“It’s not easy to find a bright, not too patterned wallpaper. I chose this one in the Scandinavian spirit, with its silver geometric pattern, as it recalled the wire trellises that are used to train plants in the countryside.”
This resulted in particular in the green background of the bedroom alcove (see photos above), which draws the eye and brings a feeling of freshness to the interior.
The ladder to the mezzanine is shop-bought, but adapted so it wouldn’t block the passageway, then painted and affixed by the carpenter.
Margaux takes a lot of pleasure in optimising small spaces to the point where it’s difficult to find anything missing. “I love renovating small spaces, because it’s faster and requires more inventiveness,” she says.
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