Kids' Room Renovation

Kids' Room Renovation

By Amara Holstein
A baby's arrival is cause for celebration—and for many, it's also a time to confront limited living space. For one Parisian couple, living in a cramped but loved apartment in the 10th arrondissement with a four-year-old, a new baby on the way, and one tiny bedroom to work with, a space-saving solution was needed badly. Enter h2o architectes, a young firm led by principals Charlotte Hubert, Jean-Jacques Hubert, and Antoine Santiard. The trio decided the smartest way to approach the problem was to subdivide the older child's room in two, making separate places for both children to sleep and play.

The bed seems to soar above the playing space, held up by bookshelf columns and a carefully angled staircase.

Rather than simply building a partition down the middle of the 140-square-foot bedroom, which would have created two constrained rooms, the architects decided to build up and within. "The idea of putting the bed on a higher level came up quite quickly in order to win space," explains Santiard. "At the same time we decide to incorporate many ways to use the bed/partition (storage, office, climb, hide with interior windows, doors, etc)."

The result is a massive piece of what is essentially furniture, crafted out of several large sections of painted MDF and secured to the ceiling to keep it from toppling. Six-year old Eva plays and sleeps in the upper level, while small cubbies hold her toys, books, and dolls. There's also a built-in desk for schoolwork and drawing. Jean, now almost two years old, mainly scampers around on the bottom level, where easy access to his bed and toys defines his area. The whole structure is painted light blue, keeping it lightly ethereal. And hidden staircases and peepholes abound to create an overall effect is of a fantastical modern playground for two very lucky children.

 To see more images of the project, please visit the slideshow.

A multitude of shelves and storage let Eva hide her stuffed animals, books, and secret notebooks -- with a small corner looking out of the window onto the Paris landscape outside and the window to her brother inside.

The geometric lines and muted blue color of the inserted architecture make the space feel cleanly divided without cluttering the space with extraneous design flourishes and decorations. Its Lego-like appearance from below helps keep the project from becoming overwhelmingly monolithic while also making it whimsically kid friendly.

When baby Jean is older, he'll join older sister Eva in frolicking in and around the nooks and crannies of the partition. For now, however, he sleeps in this compact space with room for his crib, books, and toys. A small window with a sliding shutter placed next to Eva's pillow looks onto the crib, so she can watch over her brother at night.

Eva illustrates how the sliding door can be pulled shut to divide her brother's sleeping space at the bottom of the stairs from her bed at the top.

It's hard to be small and see the world from the eye level of adults' knees. In the children's bedroom, Eva's viewing perspective is reversed, and she observes her brother and parents from on high as she perches in her bed.

The beauty of the design is that there's no one way to use the space; the architects let the children determine how to use the different elements of the room. Though the desk is often used for tea parties and drawing, it can also become a handy hiding place from parents or a nosy toddler brother. "It's a house in the house," says Santiard. "What's better than hiding under a table to play?"

For additional storage, the floor of the partition (shown here beneath the pink stool) easily opens to reveal additional storage space below.

Overlapping volumes provide visual interest and make the space seem dynamic, as can be seen in this view of the steps, base, sliding door, and desk. Julo, Eva's flying guardian angel dog sits on the desk.

Eva clambers up and down steps from her bed to her brother Jean's sleeping area; hidden lighting makes it easy to find her way even at night. "She has a quiet pride in her world," says architect Antoine Santiard of Eva's new room.

Even the most petite Parisians are chic. For this 10th arrondissement kids' room renovation, a multitude of shelves and storage let Eva hide her stuffed animals, books, and secret notebooks—with a small corner looking out of the window onto the Paris landscape outside and the window to her brother inside. Photo by Stéphane Chalmeau.


Get the Dwell Newsletter

Be the first to see our latest home tours, design news, and more.