Before and After: This 290-Square-Foot Paris Apartment’s Transformation Is Stunning
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Location: Paris, France
Type of home: One-bedroom apartment
Size: 290 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year, owned
My apartment is located in the 11th arrondissement, which I’ve loved since I first lived here back in 2014 for its vibrant atmosphere. It’s packed with culture, great restaurants, and cute shops, and is right next to the trendy Marais (another favorite district), a wonderful maze of narrow streets lined with gorgeous hôtels particuliers, hipster cafés, and quirky boutiques.
It’s my very first time being a homeowner, and as anyone who’s ever bought property in Paris can attest, it’s truly been a work of patience, resilience, and sacrifice! After months of searching and dozens of apartments visited, when I saw this one located in my dream district I immediately called the broker. And so I was the first person to visit it, almost one year ago to the day, on a cold but sunny Saturday afternoon. As cliché as it sounds, as soon as I walked in I had a feeling it was finally the right one! Just one glance at the hardwood floors and sunshine flooding in, and I was sold. I literally said “I’ll take it” after 10 minutes inside. Of course, months of self-doubting and existential angst followed, which I guess is “normal” when buying your first apartment solo, before finally closing in early June 2021.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My style: I would describe my style as “organic modern” with an eclectic Scandi vibe! I wanted my apartment to be chic and neutral but also inviting and casual, with lots of textures, light-toned woods, rattan, and touches of black and brass. My goal was to achieve a layered and collected look, with a clean but cozy aesthetic — if that makes any sense!
The very best compliment I can receive about my apartment is that it feels homey, and that it looks like me. I started with a very neutral base, to make it tranquil and relaxing but also to create the perfect backdrop for some unexpected elements I carefully curated over the years: objects I thrifted, travel souvenirs, photos I took or family heirlooms — one of my favorites is the brass heron I got from my maternal grandmother!
Even before moving in, I spent months pouring myself into the interior design of my “dream” apartment — through hours spent on Pinterest and Instagram, multiple mood boards, phone calls with my mom to bounce off ideas, and watching YouTube videos to learn how to properly paint walls or add moldings. It’s been an amazing creative outlet, and I’m so proud of how it turned out since it truly looks (and feels) like an expression of all the things I love, as well as who I aspire to be.
Inspiration: I’ve been following Emily Henderson for YEARS, and it taught me so much in terms of design, styling, and organizing. Hers and (obviously) the Apartment Therapy blogs really fueled my love for interior design, and introduced me to other favorites such as Sarah Sherman Samuel or Amber Lewis.
I’m also a sucker for a good before/after transformation and just loved watching “Dream Home Makeover” on Netflix, through which I discovered Studio McGee and their gorgeous aesthetic — you have no idea how much I regret not having Target here in France; McGee’s collaboration with Threshold looks amazing!
The French interior design scene is also quite exciting at the moment: I really enjoy the work of several Paris-based design studios such as Masa, Transition ID, Beau Faire, Inée, Ett Hem…
Finally, I’m a huge fan of Kate Spiers, Anna Page, and Carly from @mycityapartment.
Favorite element: Probably the Vernon Panton-inspired seashell pendant light in the living room. Fun fact: my grandmother used to own an apartment in the French Alps that was this proper time-capsule, unchanged since the 1970s with bright green Tam Tam stools and a similar chandelier. Unfortunately we couldn’t save it when we sold the place, so I was incredibly happy to find a similar one for my first home!
Another favorite is the wallpaper in the entryway — I’d never used wallpaper before, and I love how fancy it makes me feel! Like this is a boutique hotel rather than a teeny tiny apartment. It absolutely sets the tone for the whole place when you set foot in the apartment.
Biggest challenge: My main challenge is undeniably the small square footage, which is probably most Parisians’ biggest hurdle, too! I had to find how to neatly and optimally add storage without it being too obvious or cluttered. I managed to fit a big wardrobe in the bedroom, but I also use the space under my bed to store my foldable laundry drying rack, spare bed sheets, and yoga equipment; my summer clothes are in a box under the couch; suitcases and Christmas decor are stored away in the entryway’s ceiling…
It was also a lesson in compromise: I really wanted an actual place to sit down for meals, but decided to go for the smallest bistro table and stools to keep the space feeling as open as possible. Having a tiny home requires careful space planning and ingenuity — it did encourage me to be more creative but most importantly more mindful when purchasing anything.
Proudest DIY: The apartment already had beautiful floors but was lacking a bit of character. Most of the pictures in my Pinterest board were of historic apartments with tons of details, so I knew when I made an offer that I would have to find a way to recreate some of it myself. Consequently, my proudest DIYs are the ones that gave some flair to the place, such as to the molding I added to the living room’s walls and doors: my first time using a saw and first real attempt at handiwork. I’m happy to report that I made it through unscathed and it’s actually very easy to do!
Another really cheap and accessible DIY was adding black diamonds to my entryway’s basic white tiles with paint. It took a few hours but turned out even better than I expected! Quick word of advice when choosing your next apartment: location truly is the only thing that matters, you can add your own fancy molding anywhere but can’t change your neighborhood!
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it: I am an avid reader, and over the years I’ve collected a LOT of books. Most of them are at my parents’ but I really wanted to find a way to keep my favorites with me. With limited square footage, wall space is at a premium and I didn’t want to crowd my bedroom with too many pieces of furniture. The solution I found was to build this long shelf at the very top of the wall, right below the ceiling. I found it reduces visual clutter while keeping my books easily accessible. And I guess having a pink kitchen is not that common either… I figured, if I don’t have one when living alone in my late twenties, then when?
Does your home reflect your home country / city in any way? I guess there is a sort of Parisian vibe to my decor aesthetic. When it comes to decorating, even though the “French style” is in fact a wide spectrum, there are some common elements you’ll find in most homes: a mix of classicism and more modern pieces, elegant muted tones, a lived-in, eclectic look that feels assembled over time. In interior design like in many other areas of their lives, French people usually put considerable effort into appearing effortless!
But it also entails making sure that every room has something that is a bit unexpected or feels off — it makes your home even more interesting and personal.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: I am a big advocate of keeping your home tidy at all times (yes, that includes making your bed every morning!). I’m convinced that clutter is a HUGE stress trigger — usually when I’m getting overwhelmed by work or my to-do list, mess creeps in and it’s always a downward spiral from there. But once I have a big clear out, I physically feel calmer and more centered. I read somewhere that you should aim to always keep your home “five minutes away from DPR” (dinner-party ready) — meaning that, should some friends drop by unexpectedly, it wouldn’t take more than five minutes to tidy up!
Some of the following can probably be found in other European countries, but here are some of my favorite affordable places to shop:
- Søstrene Grene
- Kave Home
- Maisons du Monde
And of course, Zara Home and H&M Home!
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? My advice, especially when living in a really tight space, is to make sure you take the time to think about what is really essential and meaningful to you — and from there, fill your home consciously, strategically and slowly with pieces you truly need, use, and enjoy! Creating a mood board beforehand can be a great way to make sure you don’t lose focus of the look you want to achieve, and that it flows effortlessly from room to room. Mine was quite specific, with inspiration pictures of course but also color swatches, patterns, textures… and most importantly, how I wanted the place to FEEL.
One last advice would be: don’t be afraid of unexpected paint colors! Painting the entryway this dark charcoal was a bit of a gamble since it was already such a tiny room, but I actually love how moody and sophisticated it made it look. And bonus point, the high contrast it created with the rest of the apartment somehow makes it feel bigger! (This is actually an example of “color-zoning,” a technique particularly useful in small apartments.)
PAINT & COLORS
- Entry — Tollens Orizon color 019D
- Kitchen — Tollens Orizon color 115B
- Rest of the apartment —Tollens color 011A
LIVING ROOM & ENTRY
- Wallpaper — La Redoute
- Couch — Maisons du Monde
- Striped pillow — Alinea
- Rug — Søstrene Grene
- Oval mirror — Søstrene Grene
- Coffee table — IKEA (I took the wheels off)
- Rattan armchair — IKEA
- Cane sideboard — MaCabane
- Pleated-shade table lamp — H&M Home
- Chandelier — Maisons du Monde
- Dining table — ManoMano
- Stools — Alinea (I added the faux fur)
- Record player — Crosley
- Record player stand — Thrifted
- Round vase — H&M Home
- Round metal candlestick — H&M Home
- Holly Golightly Party Art Print — Society6
- Sunrise Art Print — Mahogany Street
- Rug — Urban Outfitters
This tour’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity. Share Your Style: House Tour & House Call Submission Form