In Paris, a 540-Square-Foot Apartment Becomes a Forever Home for a Family of Five

In Paris, a 540-Square-Foot Apartment Becomes a Forever Home for a Family of Five

By Laura Mauk
Nomadic Architecture Studio opens up the interior of a one-bedroom dwelling to accommodate a young family as they move through life’s paces.

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. 

The reimagined 540-square-foot family home by Nomadic Architecture Studio features a narrow doorway that provides access to an elevated bedroom off the kitchen.

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 adjustments to optimize the square footage. 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 living room is outfitted with light pine flooring, and connects to the kitchen via a wide opening.

The architects selected a similar pine for the kitchen cabinetry to tie it to the flooring, and the light color creates a spacious feeling throughout the interiors. 

The kitchen-and-dining area is bathed in sunlight thanks to a tall window, and the apartment’s orientation.

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. 

The narrow doorway and small staircase that lead from the dining area to an elevated bedroom for the family’s daughter is inspired by the work of American artist Donald Judd.

A custom industrial-style light fixture suspended above the kitchen table matches the home’s aesthetic. 

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 apartment’s entry is flanked by the living room on one side and the kitchen-and-dining area on the other.

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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. 

The bathroom, accessed from the living room, is divided into two areas. "In the first part, there’s a sink, a washing machine, and storage," Escobar explains. "This transitions to an area with a shower and a toilet."

A detail shot of the bathroom sink shows off the natural grain of the pine cabinets.

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." 

In the boys’ bedroom, a ladder, sliding door, and flooring, all in pine, continue the aesthetic. 

Escobar designed two sleeping alcoves in the sons’ bedroom. One is located above the bathroom, and the other is beneath the daughter’s bedroom.

Floor Plan

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