After hanging out on a friend's Parisian terrace, Raphaëlle and François decided they wanted their own. Their realtor shrugged and told them not to get their hopes up. But a year and a half later, she finally showed them a lovely 100m2 flat in an 1850s building near République with a rare private terrace. "It was love at first sight," says Raphaëlle. "It was the first place we saw, and luckily, we got it. Our friends said 'You don't buy the first place you see.' But when it's love at first sight, you have to go for it!"...
She and François live in the flat with their young daughter and son, who each have perfect rooms of their own. "We wanted them each to have their own space," says Raphaëlle, explaining that the handsomely made-up daybed in the spacious living room is actually their bed. "It's great because when the kids go to sleep, we close the door and have this space all to ourselves." In summer, the now-wintry terrace becomes like an additional room.
The apartment is painted white and a number of mirrors -- including two period mantel mirrors in the dining room that a neighbor was carelessly throwing out -- bounce light around and off the original parquet floor. And the kitchen is a study in compactness and charm, everything within reach, and includes a slim built-in bar. They've built in storage throughout the house so seamlessly that it looks like it was always there.
Raphaëlle is a graphic artist who produces interactive books for children about art from an office on the ground floor. Most of the house is furnished with finds from brocantes -- especially in Belgium -- and wherever the family travels for an apartment swap. In addition to large olive oil jugs from Africa and the South of France and a mercury light fixture from Canada by the bedside, Raphaëlle has made a number of lamps and sconces throughout the house from finds like old train car gas lamps.
"People think that decoration has to be expensive," she says, pointing out her grandmother's "Louis something" chairs that she self-upholstered in plain linen. "But it doesn't. You can do very simple things. You just have to find an idea."
- Kristin Hohenadel blogging from rue Vieille du Temple, Paris, France. If you have an idea for a European house tour, please write kristinh @ apartmenttherapy . com