Julie’s Vermeer-Worthy Apartment in Paris

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Name: Julie Arrue, Elli, her 3-year-old daughter, and Celeste the cat.
Location: Canal Saint Martin, Paris, France
Size: 525 square feet, 2 bedrooms
Years lived in:1.5, rented

Look how the light falls from the gray Paris sky onto Julie’s beautiful spring table. If Vermeer was around today I’m sure the Dutch master would set up his easel and start painting. High above the quiet courtyard of a Haussmann building on the Canal Saint Martin, Julie, a French filmmaker, has created a home full of beautiful scenes.


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(Image credit: Celeste Sunderland)

Pretty much everything in the little apartment she lives in with her three-year-old daughter Elli was either inherited from family, found on the street, or bought for a bargain at a flea market. Pieces like the industrial metal dining chairs, cushiony bent steel lounge chairs, rustic wooden cabinet, and Asian-style side tables-turned-coffee table go together like a furniture collage of different styles and eras.

An intriguing assemblage of framed butterflies, Elli’s finger paintings, and an old black and white portrait of an unknown family hangs behind Julie’s desk, offering an interesting story, full of history and emotion, to her workspace. Throughout the apartment, little odds and ends are found here and there, like the Asian rice farmer’s hat hanging from a doorknob in Julie’s bedroom, and a stack of black and white tiles from one of Elli’s games in the living room.

The marble mantle holds a collection of mirrored votives, mismatched candle holders, and found bits of crystal chandelier. It’s like a shabby-chic shrine to the confectionery soirees of dusty aristocrats. Julie says these messy vignettes are reflections of who she is. She has, after all, been known to fill her bathtub with bottles of bubbly.


Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Homey. I want everyone who comes into my house to feel at ease.

Inspiration: Other people’s places; brocantes (French flea markets); movies — Bergman’s movies inspire me tons, but that doesn’t mean I love every object in the film, it’s more about the color and the light and the overall feel. Even when I go to the flea market, I’m more inspired by the way things are put together than the individual objects.

Favorite Element: My fireplace. It’s at the core of the apartment — this big marble piece. I think it’s awesome that it’s still sitting there. It’s really hard to dress. We had a giant mirror there, one night it fell — there was glass everywhere. It just exploded.

Biggest Challenge: Organizing the main room, because you have to walk through it to get to the other rooms. And the alcove is difficult — I keep trying out different things but it always feels odd.

What Friends Say: They say it’s comfortable. Some people say it’s cute. It is pretty rare in Paris to have space and lots of light.

Proudest DIY: The counter in the kitchen.

Biggest Indulgence: Beds, because they have to be comfortable.

Best Advice: Your apartment should reflect your personality, and everyone should have a space of their own.

Dream Sources: Caravan, ABC Carpet, Bo Concept, the Vanves flea market.


Resources of Note:


    • Dining room table – base fond on street, attached top.
    • Stool – A Chinese store in the neighborhood.
    • Cabinet – found on street in two parts separately. They fit together perfectly.
    • Tables – inherited from family.
    • Cushiony chairs with steel frames – they were throwing them out at the office.
    • Couch – Ikea covered in white coverlet.
    • Antique arm chairs – inherited.
    • Painting above sofa found on street
    • “Melting Pony” – pink paint on plexiglass, found on street


    • Painted the tile in the kitchen – they were old, disgusting.


    • My bed is from Ikea. It’s great actually. Everyone has the same bed but I don’t care, it’s comfortable.
    • Painting in my bedroom is by my friend Pino.
    • Elli’s bed – Ikea
    • Elli’s desk – Uncle Balthazar built it around a drawer that holds extra-large paper.


Thanks, Julie & Elli!

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