For the past 20 years, we’ve been helping people find and create their dream Paris apartments, and then transforming them into more than they ever imagined. From the real estate search to the renovations, interior design and rental management, it’s a long-term relationship in which we take great pride. Our focus is always on quality execution – the apartment has to be exactly right, including location, features, views and finally the structural works and interior design. When we get it right on the first go, we avoid unnecessary repairs in the years to come.
The first question a client asks is: “We love the portfolio of apartments you manage and we know you’ve helped create the design, but does our own apartment need to follow the same exact style?” The answer is easy: NO! Our owners should first and foremost create the apartment they have dreamed of. It’s their new home and they will spend a lot of time there themselves, whether numerous breaks in one year to a yearlong sabbatical another.
Designing “Twin” Apartments
Here’s a perfect example of how our owners’ different tastes are reflected in two separate apartments.
Only months apart, we happened to find two”twin” apartments in the same building for two separate owners. Each one is gorgeous and reflects the respective desires of their owners. The overlapping layouts mean that each apartment is about the same square footage, and we transformed both into two bedroom, two bathroom apartments. Seeing the differences between the two shows the different ways you can optimise floor space and how easy it is to personalize a space with personal touches, while maintaining an elegant Parisian atmosphere in both.
Apartment #1 – Montagny
The Montagny was purchased by a family of five who live in the San Francisco Bay Area. They have with 3 college-age girls who all want to spend time in Paris on their own… and also with the whole family. Luckily, this apartment came with a small chambre de bonne, or maid’s room on the top floor, so mom and dad plan to make it the girls’ semester abroad room.
Cooking and family gatherings are central to their lives. While the current trend in home layouts is to combine the kitchen, living and dining area into one large space, they preferred to keep the kitchen separate, with a La Cornue gas stove in order to prepare Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts as a family—and not have dirty dishes showing.
Apartment #2 – Monthelie
The Monthelie is owned by a professional couple from Southern California who are investors and property managers themselves. They engaged us to find their apartment after trying on their own for almost a year with no luck. They are fortunate to be able to work remotely, so it fulfills one of their lifelong dreams, to be able to balance work and life in a vibrant city like Paris, as well as in sunny Southern California. They don’t cook too much, so they liked the idea of converting the former kitchen into a large master bathroom instead.
These owners of the “twin” apartments have completely different personalities, wants, and needs, but they share one important common thing: a great love of Paris! We’re so happy to have them as part of the Paris Perfect family.
The Floor Plans
As you can see, the original layouts were almost the same in these twin apartments, including the footprint, the number of windows and the general layout. You would walk in to the large entry, find the kitchen on your left and a large living room on the right. Further down the entry area, there was a master bedroom, with en-suite bathroom to your left. The biggest difference between the two apartments is the extra bedroom off the living room of the Montagny. The square footage of the apartments is almost exactly the same, with the Montagny (Apt #1) at 880 square feet, and the Monthelie (Apt #2) at 818 square feet.
Above, you can see the final layouts of each apartment! Each layout caters to the specific needs of their owners.
Because the owners of the Montagny (Apt #1) had a larger family to accommodate, they kept the living room wide open and the extra bedroom off of it, which even has its own en-suite shower room! They also retained the original placement of the kitchen because they loved the idea of keeping all that cooking mess behind closed doors. They turned a little closet at the end of the entryway into a powder room, which was the perfect use of space, considering there wasn’t enough space to add a toilet in the second bedroom’s en-suite.
As for the Monthelie (Apt #2), we found a way to create two bedrooms, but in a completely different way. The former Master bathroom was transformed into the 2nd bedroom, which meant that the former kitchen had to be sacrificed for a spacious, double vanity bathroom. In the European tradition, the toilet is separated into its own space so that one person can be showering at the same time that another is making use of the toilet. You may be wondering what happened to the kitchen? Well, they combined it into the living space, where the dining table acts as a kind of large island. It’s an interesting design choice, but works perfectly for these owners.
Let’s take a closer look at all the different rooms we created in these apartments.
Living-Dining Area in Apartment #1 – Montagny:
Apt #1, the Montagny, retained the original, spacious living room. The windows face outward towards the street, allowing lots of natural light to flow in. The large dining table takes up half the living room, staying true to its original 1800s design. On the opposite side, the cozy seating area is arranged around the beautiful marble fireplace. It’s an open, inviting space that’s focused on relaxing together as a family.
Living-Dining Area in Apartment #2 – Monthelie:
Apt #2, the Monthelie, combined the living, kitchen and dining areas into one great room, but the living room is separated slightly by the addition of a half wall and a sliding pocket door, which makes the space multi functional: the living room can be transformed into a third bedroom by utilizing the Milano Frank sofa bed. The kitchen-dining combination makes for a convivial atmosphere perfect for get-togthers focused on food and drink.
Kitchen at Apartment #1 – Montagny:
The Apt #1 (Montagny) owners decided to retain the original kitchen, but remodel it in style. We love the clean white surfaces that really bring attention to the main event: the La Cornue oven! The overall feel is fresh and bright, with a touch of warmth and richness brought in with the amazing oven and warm toned floors.
Kitchen at Apartment #2 – Monthelie:
In Apt #2, the Monthelie, the kitchen is combined with the dining room, with french country style cabinets that blend beautifully with the French oak dining table—it totally works! The fridge is tucked into a corner and the cabinets are installed around the beautiful original fireplace. We can totally imagine a group of friends or a family all helping prepare a meal – one person sitting at the table chopping vegetables, another person sautéeing something at the cooktop, and another divvying out tasks over by the fridge, and yet another relaxing on the sofa with a glass of wine, watching the show unfold.
The Monthelie’s kitchen has a doorway that leads to the entrance hallway, and just outside that door on the right, is the bathroom. One of the best parts of this kitchen is the balcony, so you can enjoy breakfast with a view!
As mentioned above, even though both apartments are 2-bedroom, it was achieved in different ways.
Master Bedroom at Apartment #1 – Montagny:
With Apt #1, we didn’t have to do much to create a beautiful master bedroom, since the layout remained the same. It’s accessed via the main entrance corridor and is a beautiful spacious room that overlooks the inner courtyard. We did, however, add a set of built-in closets for lots of storage space. We adore the original fireplace in the corner, it really makes the room feel super Parisian. The second bedroom is on the other side of the house, and although it’s a bit smaller, we managed to include two armoires and an en-suite shower room!
Here’s another view of the master bedroom, looking towards the window.We love the soft gray tones in this room.
Master Bedroom Apartment #2 – Monthelie:
With Apt #2, it was a bit trickier to create two true bedrooms. Both apartments originally had large master bedrooms with en suite bathrooms. While that’s how the layout remained for Apt #1, it had been modified for Apt #2. At some point in the past 150 years, the owners of Apt #2 converted the original en suite bathroom into a second bedroom. This meant that the second bedroom was only accessible by walking through the first one—not ideal. Originally, the bedrooms would have been pushed right next to each other, so that it was necessary to walk through one bedroom to get to the other.
The owners used the second bedroom as their baby’s nursery, which was fine for a few years. But with another baby on the way, they realized it was time to sell and to look for a larger apartment. While the apartment ticked every single box in terms of location, view, sunlight, neighborhood — this second bedroom was a problem. The only practical use, unless a corridor could be created, would be as a den or study.
In fact, an investor had agreed to purchase it and then pulled back several months later. This created an opportunity for our buyers as we rightly advised they could make a lower offer because the owners were becoming desperate to sell. Our buyers made a low bid and commit firmly to the purchase. The sellers accepted and the project was born.
We were still left with the problem of the access to the second ‘bedroom’. If we were to create a corridor by cutting into the first bedroom, the window would become part of the new hallway. So, we came up with a fantastic solution, thought up by our genius general manager. She suggested changing the bedroom door to double French doors that faced the large corridor window—so that air and light shone in! Add some blackout curtains to the french doors for privacy and it was perfect. The bedroom door is directly opposite the new corridor’s window so it’s airy and light all day long.
Here are the double doors leading to the new corridor, directly facing the window:
Second Bedroom at Apartment #1 – Montagny:
If you look at the floorplans, you’ll see that Apt #1 had one extra feature: a small second bedroom off the living room, while Apt #2 did not. Although it’s a compact space, it has a lovely window overlooking the street, and we managed to include two armoires and an en-suite shower room!
Second Bedroom at Apartment #2 – Monthelie:
Remember this was the tricky one, where the access was only from the master bedroom. Well, a corridor was built so access is independent and voila! Here is the new, real second bedroom:
Bathrooms in Apartment #1 – Montagny:
As a reminder, Apt #1 retained the original master bath which is en suite to the master bedroom. However, they transformed it into an elegant room covered in white marble. The bold black and white claw-foot tub, classic floor tiling and copious mirrors make this space feel super luxe.
With the toilet tucked into its own private room, the owners added a second powder room in the entry hall. Combined with the shower room in the 2nd bedroom, this apartment has ample bathroom space, dispersed evenly throughout the entire place.
Here is a photo of the extra shower room off that is attached to the 2nd bedroom in the Montagny:
Master Bathroom in Apartment #2 – Monthelie:
The largest bathroom in Apt #2 took over the original kitchen space. It has a spacious double vanity and a walk-in shower. On the other end of the entry is the 2nd full bathroom, which offers a shower-tub combo, so that whether you’re more of a shower person or a bath person, the options are there! We love the bright white subway tiling on the walls, and the amazing natural light coming through the frosted windows.
Personal Design Touches
It’s the personal touches that make a home, and we couldn’t call these apartments complete without distinguishing them with different design styles.
During the interior decorating process, we helped both owners find some beautiful antique pieces at the flea markets of Paris, including the gorgeous golden mirrors for the mantelpieces. In fact, you can read about the flea market adventures I had with the owner of Monthelie here: Finding Hidden Treasure at the Best Parisian Flea Markets!
Even though both the Montagny and the Monthelie have beautiful Parisian style, the overall feel is distinct. The Montagy is filled with warm tones, rich textures and creamy whites. The Monthelie is slightly more modern, with tones of gray, yellow and stronger contrasts. You can see the difference just by looking at their entryways. The Montagny features a beautifully textured wine storage cabinet with an antique chair next to it. The Monthelie on the other hand, has a sleeker, more elegant dresser, with bolder lines and simpler accessories.
Just compare any of the apartment photos and you can instantly see the design differences, but both are equally stunning!
Eiffel Tower Views
What makes both these apartments so special is their location and history. Both are next to the wonderful Champs de Mars gardens where you can picnic, run, cycle or jog. But the best part about the location is that they both have views of La Grande Dame!
View from Apartment #1 – Montagny:
View from Apartment #2 – Monthelie:
Both apartments have such beautiful structures and history! We found this postcard of the exact street dating from the turn of the century – during the famous flood of 1910! You can see how high the water went that year and at the foot of the street, Eiffel’s famous tower.
Both families have met and become friends, a serendipitous outcome. We hope that both couples can join us on our next Paris Perfect owner’s trip to Alsace next summer—We visited Burgundy en groupe last year and had a wonderful time! Philippe has already found the best restaurants in Alsace in preparation for our upcoming trip, although he does claim that only a handful of good wines are produced in the region… I will have to be the judge of that!
I feel so incredibly lucky to work with so many wonderful clients. Every job and career comes with its fair share of challenges, but with this job, working to overcome all the challenges that get thrown my way is such a thrill. I truly love what I do!
Last, but not least, we’d like to share a little bit of the Paris renovation wisdom we’ve acquired over the years.
We never impose a specific design style onto our owners, but what we do suggest are ideas and standards that we’ve learned from remodeling over 60 separate apartments in Paris over the past 18 years, as well as an entire building. These tips are called astuces in French and often include the following:
- Install the largest water heater available, which means the contractor cannot buy a small one and install it on the ceiling above the toilet, like they often do. I’ve always hated seeing hot water heaters hanging on the ceiling anyway, wouldn’t you?
- When we’ve found a place to put a standing water heater, to make sure there is an access door to it, because some contractors take shortcuts and wall them in. You can imagine what happens when there’s a problem!
- Insist on double plugs, not single plugs. I don’t know why, but European contractors can be parsimonious; they still buy single plugs when the cost of installing a double one is virtually the same price. Also make sure that the kitchen has at least 6 plugs for any appliances as well as a device charging station.
- Wherever we can, we install central air conditioning, but only if it doesn’t contradict building rules in Paris – they can’t be visible on the building’s exterior.
- Always try to squeeze in a second toilet.
For most French architects and contractors, these ideas aren’t at the top of their minds — but we’ve worked with several contractors for years and they know what we insist on. With a ‘can do’ attitude, we’ve succeeded in cases where others thought it was impossible.