9 Small-Space Ideas to Steal from a Tiny Paris Apartment

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Paris architect Philippe Harden likes to work on a human scale. Paying close attention to “materials, proportions, and colors that let you feel good,” he creates rooms that are minimalist but also intimate and tailored for living. Case in point: this one-bedroom apartment in an Art Deco building close to the Eiffel Tower that Harden remodeled for a man who works in publishing.

Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, the architect reorganized the 592-square-foot space: The former kitchen was turned into a TV room, a closet became the kitchen, and the bedroom fireplace got replaced by a wardrobe—all of which now revolve around a central living area with a new hearth. Join us for a look at the many ways Harden artfully makes the most of every inch.

Photographs by Philippe Garcia and Philippe Harden.

1. Paint a recessed area a darker shade to create depth.

Small Paris apartment living room with fireplace niche designed by Philippe Harden

Above: The living room’s new feature wall has a gas fireplace and shelf tucked into a niche. Harden painted it a space-enhancing green-black that references the 1930s heritage of the building (and was also inspired, he says, by the bold tones of Adolph Loos’s Villa Müller in Prague, which he visited last year).

Framed by Farrow Ball Wimborne White walls, the niche, painted in Farrow Ball Green Smoke, gives the room added depth and visual interest. “Green is complementary with the brown wood of the floor,” notes Harden. “Dark colors are interesting because they change color according to the different moments of the day.”

2. Choose versatile furniture pieces.

Small Paris apartment living room with fireplace niche designed by Philippe Harden

Above: For the furnishings, the owner requested modernist icons, including a Noguchi coffee table, Eames Walnut Stool, and Eames Lounge. To make these pieces work well together—with maneuvering space—Harden pulled apart the Eames lounge chair and ottoman to create two seating opportunities. The standing lamp in the foreground is the Ella from Caravane.

Harden’s advice for arranging a room is to do it by instinct: “Forget about the rules; think with your feelings.”

3. Position a round dining table in an unused corner.

Small Paris apartment living room with Saarinen dining table and built-in shelves, designed by architect Philippe Harden

Above: How to fit a dining table into a small living room? Neatly tucked into a corner, a round Saarinen Tulip Table is a lot less imposing than a rectangular dining table, and gives the room a dual purpose without feeling crowded.

4. Keep sight lines unobstructed.

Small Paris apartment living room with Saarinen dining table and windows with pocket shutters, a design by architect Philippe Harden

Above: Eames Side Chairs with see-through bases that reference the Eiffel Tower keep the corner looking airy. So do the windows; Harden was able to forgo window treatments thanks to pocket shutters. The white on the walls is Farrow Ball’s Wimborne White.

5. Use mirrors to enhance a sense of space.

Small Paris apartment living room with fireplace niche designed by Philippe Harden

Above: A flea market mirror in the niche adds dimension, as does the vintage Roger Prigent fashion photograph hanging outside the new kitchen.

6. Unite spaces by using a single flooring material.

Small Paris apartment with streamlined compact kitchen designed by Philippe Harden

Above: In the streamlined kitchen, Harden installed a new floor stained to match the apartment’s existing wood floor and create coherence.

He also introduced subtle color and texture: The backsplash tiles are Zelliges from Emery Cie and the cabinets are two-toned: The lower cabinets are painted Farrow Ball Mouse’s Back, a neutral stone color (as is the wall outside the room), and the upper are Farrow Ball Old White.

7. Install wall sconces whenever possible.

Small Paris apartment TV room with Art Deco wall sconces, a remodel by architect Philippe Harden

Above: Sconces take up less space than floor lamps, and some, such as the TV room’s 1960s Art Deco design, pattern the wall with light. They’re by Belgian architect Jules Wabbes, reissued by J.J. M. Wever Ducré. Another space saver: The Bruce Sofa by Zanotta doubles as a guest bed.

8. Use pocket doors.

Small-space solution: A pocket door. This example is in a small Paris apartment remodeled—and lined with built-in bookshelves—by architect Philippe Harden

Above: Doors require swing space; they also add to the visual busyness of a room. For a tidy division between the bedroom and living room (which has several doors), Harden installed a pocket door.

Another graceful detail worth noting: The living room’s built-in bookshelves turn the corner and continue in the bedroom. The shelves are evenly spaced and sized to fit the owner’s literature collection; his art books go in the living room niche.

9. Splurge on luxe materials in the tiniest space.

Marquina marble tiles in a tiny bathroom with shower and Alape glazed steel countertop sink by Paris architect Philippe Harden

Above: Square footage gained for the living room meant the bathroom had to be tiny—but not uncelebrated. In a small space, you can splash out on materials because not a lot are required. Harden lined the walls and shower with natural marquina marble tiles and the sink top with marquina marble. The sink is glazed steel—”which allows for a very thin contour”—and is from Alape. The overhead light is a DIY, made “from spare parts: a glass globe and brass tube mounted by our work crew; it’s inexpensive bespoke.”

Floor plan by architect Philippe Harde, St Dominique 592-square-foot Paris apartment

Above: The floor plan details the allocation of space—and the way Harden was able to carve out the addition of a TV room by relocating the kitchen. The compact bathroom is situated on one side of the fireplace, which is flanked on the other by a WC.