In searching for a home in the Vanves suburb of Paris, a family of five realized that a one-bedroom apartment in a 1930s building was the only option that suited their budget. With practicality top of mind, the clan purchased the apartment and called on architect Pierre Escobar of Nomadic Architecture Studio. Over the last three years, he and his firm have redesigned more than forty small apartments in the Paris area. “With a real estate market always under pressure and the growing attraction of Paris both locally and globally, small housing is becoming an undeniable reality in the French capital,” says Escobar.
Knowing full well that space is a pricey commodity in Paris, Escobar and his team, which included project manager Yvanna Herbé and project architect Lucas Jalife, set about making spatial adjustments. They divided the apartment’s single bedroom into three, and converted the cramped kitchen, dining, and living areas into public spaces with an open feel. Despite its small footprint, the apartment features high ceilings, and runs 22 feet from the front to the back of the building. As such, each room is bathed in natural light, which helps to enhance the sense of space.
The only constraint in rearranging the floor plan, says Escobar, was the load-bearing wall that runs the length of the apartment. He chose to maintain it, using it as a starting point for his redesign. “The overall floor plan is almost a square, which was an advantage in terms of fitting the required spaces,” the architect says.
On one side of the wall is the living room and master bedroom. The open-plan kitchen-and-dining area, the bathroom, and two bedrooms for the three children are on the other side. “We designed a compact, vertical area for the bathroom and the children’s bedrooms,” Escobar explains. For the two sons’ bedroom, the architect designed two sleeping alcoves: one is slotted above the bathroom, and the other is beneath the daughter’s bedroom. “The one under the bedroom is accessed via a Donald Judd–inspired staircase in the living room,” he says.
For the family, having a home that balances both private and public spaces was important, but the parents also wanted to be able to make adjustments later on when the kids move out. “The two eldest children will be independent soon,” Escobar says. “My clients requested a home that can adapt and evolve so there will be only one bedroom once all the children have left home.”
The architect responded to the clients’ request by devising partitions that can easily be removed to alter the spaces. When the two eldest children leave in a few years, the wall between the parents’ bedroom and the living room will be removed to create a bigger living room. The couple’s youngest boy will likely leave in around ten years’ time, at which point the two remaining bedrooms can be connected to create a larger bedroom for the parents.
To make the apartment feel even more open, Escobar employed light-colored pine from Poland for the flooring, the doors, the window frames, and the kitchen cabinetry. “I used the same material for all of these things to create a feeling of spaciousness,” the architect says. “It has a generous, yet fairly uniform pattern, and it optimizes natural light.”