The owners of a 237-square-foot Paris apartment on Rue de la Bûcherie, separated from the cathedral of Notre-Dame only by the Seine, had a vision for their humble space: It would be a perfect pied-à-terre for young Americans studying in the city. The space consisted of only one room with a long hallway and, at the end, the kitchen. “It was bold of them to want to do something with it,” states architect Pauline Borgia of Atelier Steve. “Our initial reaction was to say to ourselves, ‘This very small, poor space has no redeeming qualities except its high ceilings and the small terrace it overlooks. It will need to be programmed very precisely to make it comfortable.’”
Their goal was to fit a welcoming kitchen as well as a bathroom, an office, a library, a dressing room, and plenty of storage space in the apartment. To do all that, Pauline decided to maximize the space by introducing a lot of customization and curves that facilitate circulation. The L-shaped plan created challenges, though. The corridor could only be slightly modified and the existing mezzanine couldn’t change much. Atelier Steve chose to play with three principal material treatments: plaster and oak in the living area, green concrete with touches of oak in the corridor that leads to the bathroom, and concrete in the kitchen where it is paired with another wood—oak with a dark walnut stain.
The effect of Atelier Steve’s design is to create different distinct areas using different materials, which gave the apartment a new richness. “When spaces are larger, we try to keep a unity and not to multiply the materials too much; here it is the opposite, with a number of different materials though there is always a link to the neighboring space.” Atelier Steve’s team also relied on forms and curves. Nothing is to be overlooked in tiny spaces: a small table in the kitchen with a rolled cutout, for example, makes use of that space while the desk set against the wall has a curve that creates a smooth connection between the hallway and the window.