Often used as second residences, apartments in the Saint Germain des Prés neighborhood of Paris connote insouciant French glamour. But as Alon and Betsy Kasha of A + B Kasha will tell you, transforming these slices of historic real estate requires a practiced eye and a knack for what you might call spatial literacy.
For one, pied-à-terres are small. “The proportion of the apartment is key,” explain the couple, both native New Yorkers who have been shepherding Parisian apartments through extensive restorations for over 10 years. “We look at the overall space, the height of the ceiling relative to the room sizes, the placement and views of the windows, the ability to move walls.” Highly edited, with everything you need and nothing you don’t, pied-à-terres are the design version of a capsule collection – that is, optimal places to find inspiration for your own small space overhaul.
“Our primary objective is creating a floor plan that is comfortable, elegant, and most importantly, efficient,” says Betsy. The biggest challenge for this 6th arrondissement getaway just off the Luxembourg Gardens? “Creating an elegant bedroom out of 270 square feet.”
Drawing on unapologetically French elements like parquet flooring and classical molding, A + B Kasha pulled off the impossible, gutting the space and reorganizing it into a roomy, move-in ready haven. The eventual owners, Patrick and Florence Mornet, who primarily reside in the South of France and asked their real estate agent for something “completely done, with no headaches,” agreed. Just when they were ready to write off the listing for its size, they reconsidered. “Fortunately, we were open-minded enough to visit the apartment. When we entered, we were pleasantly surprised how big it felt!”
Alon and Betsy relied on a few impactful trompe l’oeil interior design choices to set the tone for a space: floating sconce fixtures, warm wood furniture that recedes into the chevron floors, and cabinets that carry the molding motif into the kitchen. Plus, simple-but-thoughtful floorplan. These conspire to create a high-functioning space that feels more spacious than it is. “If the four walls were pushed out to 40 square meters,” adds Patrick, “It wouldn’t give me anything more than I have now.”
While a city apartment seems to run counter to the do-nothing bliss of a vacation home, it was precisely the sort of respite Patrick and Florence had in mind. “For us, Paris is a perfect stop-over when traveling and offers a nice change. Our home down south is large and complex, a constant work-in-progress. Our home in Paris is our stress-free property.” Here’s how the made so many functions fit into such a soothing small space.
Embrace an open floor plan. It’s tempting to think about putting up dividers in a studio, but here the functions mingle and it works. “In this apartment, the dining table feels part of both the kitchen and the living room. And with the French doors open, the living room feels like part of the bedroom,” says the design team.
Warm up the architecture. It might seem counterintuitive for a small space, but trust us: Adding textural details to the walls, ceilings, and floors will make it feel special rather than blank. “We work with old, reclaimed floorboards, mainly oak, and install them in traditional French patterns such as the ‘point d’hongrie’ and ‘parquet Versailles,’” explains Betsy. And if ripping up the floors isn’t an option, you could much more easily add molding the way they did on the walls.
Choose multi-functional furniture. Try two end tables instead of one coffee table, for example. Centered together, they work as a large table. Used separately, they’re functional tucked away in nooks throughout. Similarly, a large wall mirror is a super-useful install because it opens up the room in addition to, you know, working as a mirror.
If it’s in the cards, live like a Parisian. “French kitchens are typically designed for daily food shopping,” Betsey explains. “The refrigerators here are much smaller than the ones found in typical American kitchens. The same is true for pantry storage because Parisians typically do not buy in bulk.” Smaller appliances mean more space for storage and prepwork.