Once the renovation of our Paris studio was complete, the fun part began – making it our own. When an apartment is only 18 square metres, everything in it has to be perfect (well, as perfect as your budget allows). In a tiny space, there is nowhere to stash plastic storage boxes, no space for fold-out beds or extra chairs. There is very little room for maneuver.
The apartment should be simple and stylish. We would have a beautiful bed, an armoire, a table and chairs and a squashy armchair. The space should be comfortable and cosy, yet minimal. The terrace would become an urban oasis, with jasmine climbing the rails and pots of leafy herbs waiting to be picked. Here’s how it turned out:
The beautiful bed
The bed was our first compromise. The problem was not finding a bed we loved, but getting our hands on it. We had originally set our sights on a cast-iron, bespoke bed from Celtic Beds. However, they’re made-to-order and the delivery time was 12 weeks. We couldn’t wait four months for a bed! In the end we ordered something in a similar style, but nowhere near the same quality, from CD Discount. It works well and is the right size and style. We can wait for the bed of our dreams.
For an armoire large enough to hold everything needed to serve a Paris studio, we headed to the famous Marche St Ouen, thought to be the biggest flea market in the world. Today it is often blasted for being over-priced and over-gentrified, but I love the place. The armoires came in all shapes and sizes, from simple wooden trunks to 16th century works of art. We were searching for something large enough to stash suitcases in, that wouldn’t dominate the whole flat. We found this one that met the bill. We haggled on the price and brought it down remarkably easily. I suppose that means we still paid too much.
A bistro table
We knew exactly what we wanted but it was difficult to find: a simple bistro table like those crowding every corner and every terrace of Paris. We unearthed overpriced options at the Marche St Ouen; we found chairs, but no table, at le Village St Paul; then finally, the perfect table on laredoute.com. The delivery time was 5-7 days and I had planned to place the order at exactly the right moment so that it would be delivered while we were in Paris. I frequently checked the site to make sure the delivery time hadn’t changed until the day before I was going to place the order. The day of order arrived. Suddenly, it was gone. Swept out from under my feet. Out of stock. Vanished. We have a temporary table in its place and the hunt for the perfect one continues.
The chairs proved easier to find. We picked up these ones at Maisons du Monde, of which there are several branches in central locations around Paris.
Fermob was a brand recommended by a friend who, tired of rusting IKEA patio furniture, had splashed out on a French brand that specializes in weather-proof outdoor tables and chairs. We headed to their flagship store on Avenue Ledru-Rollin and picked out a small round table and matching chairs, in prune. All of their products are specially designed for outdoor use with a high protection treatment and Anti-UV coating.
A faux fireplace
When we imagined the perfect Parisian apartment, it had a fireplace in the corner. When I mentioned this to the property finder she said, “well, you can easily buy one of those!” We picked up this one in a small brick-a-brack shop just next to Les Jardins de Luxembourg in St Germain de Pres, which has a mix of old and new furniture and nick-knacks. It weighs almost nothing and we walked back to the Marais with it tucked under our arms.
Mirrors are great at making small spaces appear larger. We wanted a big one on the wall above the fireplace. The famous Marais department store, BHV, often has really good sales. We got this simple, elegant mirror with 20% off.
Finding decent lighting was the most difficult part because couldn’t agree on what to go for. We were also shocked at the price of a simple pole and lampshade. It was difficult to find something that was neither too kitsch or old-fashioned, nor too modern or designer. We ended up with two. One has a simple black pole and a plastic, copper coloured shade. The second, picked up in Helsinki, is more in line with the style we had in mind.
Our Little Piece of Paris is still a work in progress. Watch this space for more finds and finishing touches.