It's hard to find affordable, decently sized apartments in expensive cities like Paris or New York, so many try to maximize what they've got. In Paris, architect Jérôme Vinçon helped two friends convert a tiny apartment with high ceilings of 17 feet -- once a doorman's residence -- into a compact, four-storey micro-apartment with a lot of space-saving and quirky features. Fair Companies gives us this insightful tour into this 269-square-foot apartment.
Vinçon's friends Michel Craca and Gaelle Potel bought this small apartment next door to a restaurant where Craca is the head chef and Potel is the maitre d'hôtel (hostess). Vinçon says that the tight quarters required a lot of forethought, and the resulting design is overlapping in nature and quite open, in order to permit daylight to penetrate to most of the spaces from the single window.
Vinçon says that the apartment is conceived as an open staircase of sorts; the kitchen is on a lower half-level below and can be seen from the living room and entry level. At the top, the bathroom is situated above the kitchen (with a tricky detail of the shower being directly over the kitchen's air vent); the suspended shower is translucent so that there's a bit of a cheeky "peep show" concept going on here. Interestingly, the shower's translucence also means that it acts as a light source for the apartment.
Since Craca is a chef, the tiny kitchen still had to be highly functional on a professional level. Vinçon's design has apparently worked; Craca was able to prepare some complex dishes even in this cramped space. No doubt the careful organization and placement of storage and extra fold-down surfaces helped immensely.
Down from the kitchen is the bedroom, placed underground so as to provide better acoustic dampening from the noisy street above. A custom-made layer of sound-proof terracotta and concrete screed with metal supports form the ceiling. There's lots of generous storage here -- and in the closet hides the washer/dryer and hot water heater.
Vinçon says that the design was inspired by his studies of boats, dormitories and space stations, as well as convents -- he mentions his time living in one small, human-scaled room in the modernist La Tourette convent, designed by Le Corbusier, as one major influence. He says:
We often say that architecture is a matter of 10 centimeters. Ten centimeters less here (he says pointing out the bedroom stairs) and my shoulders don’t fit anymore. Ten centimeters are fundamental here. So I’m not working within 10 centimeters here, but one centimeter. So here I had to work more with the human body. So it required a lot of thought to find the best solution each time.
Thanks to these thoughtful and careful considerations to maximize the tiny space, Craca and Potel were able to live here quite comfortably, even after having a baby, though they have since moved to another apartment when baby got bigger. It's a great example of how even a small space can be remade to feel larger and more functional, with an extra bit of creativity. More over at Fair Companies and Atelier Architecture Jérôme Vinçon.