In search of an affordable home in Paris, architect Matthieu Torres and his partner picked out a small, dark 31sqm/334sqft space with a beautiful view of the city.

This beautiful Parisian apartment is located in the diverse village-like neighbourhood of Belleville. Narrow, curvy streets and hills wind through the neighbourhood, yielding occasional stunning views of the Parisian landscape. 

The apartment was designed by Matthieu Torres, an architect as the primary residence for himself and his wife. With property prices in Paris so high, affordability was a key factor in choosing this apartment, with Torres knowing he could rely on his expertise to make the tiny footprint comfortable.

When he took over ownership, the apartment was split into three tiny rooms, the ceiling was low, there was no toilet or shower and what little light was able to enter revealed a run-down and dirty home. 

Torres completely gutted the apartment, every wall and every closet providing a blank canvas. Once the ceiling was removed, there were incredible exposed beams, a lot more volume to play with, and the ability to add skylights to bring in precious natural light. The extra height also provided the option for a mezzanine, which housed the main bedroom.

On a tight renovation budget, French pine plywood was chosen as a wood that was both economical and durable. Natural linoleum was used for the floor to provide a sustainable and reflective surface, amplifying the natural light.

The flow from space to space has been carefully considered. The expansive living room is the first impression upon entering, natural light, original exposed beams and lighting features create a splendid entrance. The living area has been organised around a sofa with the ply bookshelf providing a home to the owner’s many books. 

“The facade of this wooden volume is designed precisely and symmetrically. There are five identical 45cm bookshelves sections centred around our old integrated sound system and two 60cm doors we made ourselves”

Matthieu Torres

When my grandfather died and his apartment was sold, as a memory of this family place, I took every handle of the kitchen and used them for our closets and door handles. I really like their simple designs and patina over time.

Matthieu Torres

The bathroom is designed around a small window, and bright white tiles have been used to maximise the reflection of the little natural light that finds its way in. Plywood is also used in the bathroom and a found, broken sink has been restored as the bathroom’s centrepiece.

The owners love entertaining, and the kitchen design reflects this. With a cooktop, oven, and fridge, everything the owners need to prepare meals for their guests is equipped. Plywood is again used as the cabinet surfaces, and the handles were designed by a ceramicist friend.

Torres likens designing his own space to “having a private conversation with yourself and what’s important for you. By choosing what’s really important, you make these functions easy for everyday life. If you have a tiny space, it might mean that you have fewer pieces of furniture, so I like the idea of including them in the project and giving them the space and place they deserve”.

Images by Matthieu Torres