Inspirations

269 Square Feet in Paris: 12 Design Ideas from a Shoebox Apartment Reinvented By Marianne Evennou

There are certain tricks Paris interior designer Marianne Evennou has made her own. She has a daring approach to color and always paints rooms in more than one hue: “colors,” she says, “are like musical notes—they’re all good, you just have to adjust them to make a nice melody.” And she never fails to find a wall that could benefit from an interior window. Every project she takes on is rigorously ordered and easy to identify as hers—and yet never fails to feel singular and inspiring.

A perfect example is this Saint Germain des Près apartment that she remodeled for Xavier and Chelo, a couple who are based in Barcelona but come to Paris frequently. A mere 25 square meters (269 square feet), it was a one-room shoebox that Evennou describes as something like a dorm: “the kitchen was in the entrance and all the activities had to take place in the same room.” Rather than leaving the apartment wide open, as one might expect given the lack of space, Evennou filled it with life and charm by compartmentalizing it. Here are 12 design lessons learned from this Paris pied-à-terre.

Photography by Stephan Julliard, courtesy of Marianne Evennou.

1. It’s worth carving out an entry.

even when space is at a premium, evennou advocates for an arrival spot to & 9
Above: Even when space is at a premium, Evennou advocates for an arrival spot to “create a transition between the outside world and your private sphere”— and to offer a place to stow coats, bags, and shoes. The tropical wallpaper is from Ananbô: “They have a large choice of panoramiques, a very efficient way to make an entrance personal.”

Evennou figured out how to reorganize the setup by downsizing the bathroom: “This enabled me to change a one-room apartment into a real apartment with different spaces. We have now an entrance, a kitchen, a living room, and a bedroom with a desk. The price for this reorganization is a smaller bathroom, but just as efficient as the previous one.”

2. Use bands of color to add depth and nuance.

evennou points out that rooms are much dynamic when you use more than one shade 10
Above: Evennou points out that rooms are much dynamic when you use more than one shade of paint. In this project she used a palette of foggy blues and delineated the spaces by painting them in different tones: “I treat the colors like imaginary borders, so each space feels like a specific world,” she tells us. “That’s how I push back the walls in a small space and prevent it from feeling like a narrow box.”

All of the paints are from French line Ressource, which is now available in the US. Note the colored ceilings: “The ceiling is like the sky,” says Evennou. “Don’t you find that always seeing a white or gray sky is boring?

3. Downsize your kitchen components (but don’t skimp on storage).

to keep the space from feeling crowded, evennou stocked it with above  and belo 11
Above: To keep the space from feeling crowded, Evennou stocked it with above- and below-counter cabinets and compact appliances, including an induction cooktop, a wall oven, and under-counter fridge. On the entry side, she even fit in a washing machine concealed behind a door.

The café table and folding chairs are from Maison Gatti. For more sourcing ideas, see 10 Easy Pieces: French Bistro Chairs, High to Low.

4. Display beautiful objects and hide the rest.

plentiful enclosed storage enables the owners to be selective about what goes o 12
Above: Plentiful enclosed storage enables the owners to be selective about what goes on the open shelves. Evennou advocates editing out the extraneous and in small space “choosing only useful and at the same time beautiful stuff.”
the ceramics are by parisian artist catherine magdelaine. “i like t 13
Above: The ceramics are by Parisian artist Catherine Magdelaine. “I like to have art in all the rooms, especially the kitchen,” says Evennou,

5. Invite the eye to travel.

as mentioned, evennou loves interior windows—we have yet to see a projec 14
Above: As mentioned, Evennou loves interior windows—we have yet to see a project of hers that doesn’t incorporate inside glazing. And every example sells us all the more: why don’t we all introduce indoor vistas? In this formerly dark apartment, custom steel-framed interior windows draw light into every room and there’s also a balcony. 

6. Combine built-ins with flexible furniture.

a banquet (that opens up as a bed), plus “flexible furniture&#8 15
Above: A banquet (that opens up as a bed), plus “flexible furniture”—pieces that can move around and serve as seating or side tables (or fold up)—enable the apartment to have a nook-size living room. The Oak and Straw Stools are from Ailleurs Paris and the rug is from Kilims ADA.

Another space saver: energy-efficient under-floor heating. Evennou added it before the chevron-patterned oak parquet floors were installed.

7. Multiple light sources make a room feel bigger.

lighting introduces “optical depth,” says evennou. her 16
Above: Lighting introduces “optical depth,” says Evennou. Here, she paired sconces—Atelier Areti’s Sliver Wall Lights—with a patterned and fringed ceiling light from Maisons du Monde.

8. A bathroom doesn’t have to be big to do its job.

evennou says that organizing a small space is about finding the right balance f 17
Above: Evennou says that organizing a small space is about finding the right balance for all the “indispensable activities: sleeping, relaxing, eating, working and washing up.” The bathroom, she points out, “doesn’t need to be spacious to be efficient.”

“The tinier it is,” Evennou adds, “the more important it is to make it look nice by working on the small details, such as storage under the sink, a good light, a place to hang towels, and a niche in the shower for the soap and shampoo.” Here, Evennou went with a black-and-white theme. The tiles are Moroccan zellige with a border that she cleverly also used to frame the mirror. Note the linen window shade set off in black.

9. Rather than taking down walls create indoor vistas.

views from one room to the next make the small spaces feel much more open. & 18
Above: Views from one room to the next make the small spaces feel much more open. “Both the gaze and the light can escape and push back the walls,” says Evennou. Here, a glimpse into the bedroom, which has a linen shade. The black Bakelite light switches are an Evennou favorite by German brand THPG.

10. Stripes add order.

the underpinning of structure in the apartment partly comes from the fact that  19
Above: The underpinning of structure in the apartment partly comes from the fact that all of the patterned surfaces are striped. The blanket and Raana cushions on the bed and in the living room are from Caravane.

Note that for visual interest, the bands of paint color in the bedroom are the reverse of what they are in the living room: “‘This helps to both distinguish and link the two spaces,” Evennou told British House and Garden.

11. A desk can be slotted into a tiny spot.

evennou always finds a place for a desk, and notes that built ins take up very  20
Above: Evennou always finds a place for a desk, and notes that built-ins take up very little space. This one is slotted between two wardrobes that also conceal the water heater.

12. Small rooms can be more exciting than open space.

open spaces are the default these days—and often for good reason. but ta 21
Above: Open spaces are the default these days—and often for good reason. But taking down walls needn’t always be the solution. Thanks to Evennou’s masterful planning, this tiny apartment feels both cozy and dynamic, and like a true retreat. “You have the impression of moving around, rather than being stuck in a box.”

Take a look at three more Marianne Evennou projects:

For small-space ideas, also see:

9 Design Ideas to Steal from a Tiny Paris Apartment

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