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Located in the bohemian Paris neighbourhood of Montmartre, a stone’s throw from the historic Sacré Coeur basilica, this 37sqm/398sqft apartment ticks all the boxes needed for a bright and airy feel. Curved features, a light colour palette, and smart furniture choices — not to mention the healthy dose of natural light — were all key in transforming this young couple’s small space into a fresh and functional home.

From Terrace to Bedroom

Set inside a building constructed in the 1960s, this apartment had a unique feature that practically set into motion its bright and airy future: two terraces (and rather large ones at that) at opposing sides of the space. The couple saw the hidden potential of this layout: how by enclosing one terrace they could increase the unit’s interior floor plan. So, together with the help of architect Bertille Bordja of ovo/ studios, they set about expanding their space to create a more contemporary and functional shared living space.

By converting one terrace into a bedroom, Borja was able to completely reconfigure the layout. All internal walls were removed and an open kitchen, dining, and living area was created in the centre of the apartment, with direct access to the remaining terrace through a set of sliding glass doors.

Light and Bright Design

This multipurpose living zone features all of the hallmarks of Bordja’s design inspirations for the apartment, which were instrumental to producing its light and bright feeling: “I was influenced by the style of the ’70s. I also love the works of architect Alvar Aalto and American mid-century architects. Their use of colours such beige and white as well as natural materials like wood creates such a light and warm space”.

The beige tone of the painted micro cement floor throughout the entire space is met by a similarly coloured polished concrete countertop backsplash in the kitchen. The walls, with the exception of the bathroom, are all painted in white, which is seen across much of the furniture as well.

Bordja deftly balances this wash of light colours with a considered and consistent use of okoumé, a wood from Africa, across the apartment’s custom-built cabinetry and shelving. She selected the wood for its interesting grain patterns, which are beautifully showcased in the large pieces cut for the closet doors beside the dining table.

I think it is very important to deal with urban sprawl by encouraging residents not to buy in newly built homes but to purchase existing ones. Fixing up existing homes is better for the earth and allows us to keep the heritage designs of the apartment and the buildings.”

Bertille Bordja

Another important design detail that could go unnoticed by the untrained eye is the use of curvature peppered throughout the space. From the more obvious circular dining table to the not-so-obvious curved dropped ceiling or the curved sofa base, curvature is tactfully employed to balance out the straight lines and emphasise the airy, flowing feeling of the room.

Designing for the Future

This design is a great example of how there may be more than meets the eye in an existing apartment. With a little imagination (and the right permits) even features that feel permanent like terraces can be transformed to accommodate the current dweller’s needs, which can be both more sustainable and better for upholding the heritage of our cities. 

“I think it is very important to deal with urban sprawl by encouraging residents not to buy in newly built homes but to purchase existing ones,” Borja noted. “Fixing up existing homes is better for the earth and allows us to keep the heritage designs of the apartment and the buildings.”

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Images by NeverTooSmall