Names: Muriel & Ed
Location: Paris, France
Size: 645 square feet
Moved in: August 2007
When Muriel and Ed first saw their now spacious and light-flooded 5th floor walk-up in the 10th arrondissement, it was not exactly love at first sight. "It was horrific!" says Muriel, adding that the place was filthy, stuffed with the previous owner's furniture, had too many walls, and heavy curtains hid the light from the south-facing windows. "I just couldn't work out the space because there was so much crap in it."
But the price was right, and Ed, who is a British photographer, had already started knocking down walls in his head. "It was so cheap, I kept thinking that there had to be a way to work it out!" he says.
So they opened up the space, knocking down a wall to make an eat-in kitchen where there once had been a narrow kitchen with a bathroom on the other side of the wall. Their builders dug a tunnel in the floor to move the bathroom and the separate toilet room to the other side of the apartment. They brought in architect Petra Marguc, who suggested that they create an interior window between the master bedroom and the kitchen to let light in during the day, and knocked down walls to create paths for light and cross-ventilation from both sides of the flat. It is now a spacious two-bedroom with ample room for the couple and their five-year-old son.
Muriel and Ed had signed the papers before they discovered that cheap linoleum and layers of paint were covering beautiful original 19th-century floors, which have been restored. They stripped off decades of wallpaper and painted the walls white, and were careful to respect the flat's period details, including a working fireplace with an original mirror and carved ceiling details.
They used similar natural terracotta floor tiles in the bathroom and kitchen, and red accent tiles on the walls of both rooms. They installed an IKEA kitchen in a beige color so that it would blend into the background, and furnished the kitchen with brocante finds like a suspension lamp over the kitchen table found for a euro, secondhand tables and chairs and a vintage photograph of a cricket player found in London. "In a small space, I think it's important to not have too many things going on," says Muriel, a French journalist with a British mother. Beige and red are repeated throughout the space, giving it a harmonious feeling. Red accents are scattered throughout the house in an offhand manner, from the living room rug to the teapot. On their long balcony, a red rose is in bloom, even in winter.
Apart from the IKEA kitchen and modern sofa, they prefer to shop in Paris brocantes and vide-greniers, but they lucked out by finding a vintage club chair that some departed soul had miraculously left on the street. "It smelled like Gitanes," says Muriel. "It took a long time to air it out!"
- 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