Interior Decorating for Small Spaces in Paris

What better time of the year than April for a quick trip to the City of Light? Temperatures remain brisk, but the springtime sun is warming up the earth, and Paris is awash with springtime blossoms. And, no matter when you go to Paris, it is, after all, Paris - filled with some of the world’s greatest design, art, and architecture, all waiting for you to jump in and enjoy.

Le Pinot Noir

Although it’s known as the City of Light, Paris could easily also claim the title City of Design. You could spend an entire day wandering the rooms of Louvre that have been restored to the way they looked when the building was, literally, a palace. The gilding! The mirrors! The marble flooring! The brocade!

But while Louis the XIV had acres of sumptuous rooms to work with, most Parisians today face the very contemporary problem of how to make the most out of a small space. In addition to being known for its grace and beauty, Paris is known, especially among tourists, for its miniature quarters, including hotel rooms with barely enough space for admiring one’s latest fashions after an afternoon’s shopping at Le Bon Marché.

And yet, as students in the best design schools learn, with enough creativity and know-how you can make any space work.

We dropped in on the apartment christened Le Pinot Noir to see how designer Linda VanderMarliere solved the space problem while creating a tiny apartment fit for a king.

First, let’s get an overview of the space. At 410 square feet, the entire apartment is the size of some people’s master baths, and probably would have served Louis XIV nicely for a small broom closet. But "by Paris standards it’s a 'good size' for one to two  people,” VanderMarliere said.


Le Pinot Noir

The first thing that one notices here is that VanderMarliere breaks the rule about using neutrals or whites to make a space appear bigger. Instead, she faces the design head-on, going for a bold expression with reds and golds. The sofa in the living room is deep red, as is the large bed in the tiny bedroom.   VanderMarliere chose a heavy silk for the bulky drapes, in red and gold stripes, which is picked up by the silk throw pills on the bed and in the living room.

Le Pinot Noir

The effect of the red and gold, rather than making the apartment feel smaller, makes it feel sumptuous and royal.

The colors and the luxurious fabrics bespeak of royalty, as does the size of the bed, as if the whole space is refusing to skimp on anything just because of a mere lack of square footage . . .

Charming Dining Area :photo courtesy Le Pinot Noir

. . . and the chandelier over the dining table furthers this effect.

But the grandiosity isn’t overdone. The plain wooden chairs, the Shaker-style kitchen cabinets, and the exposed beams in the ceiling undercut the elegance just enough to make the place feel comfortable and homey, as if aware of its own attempt to overstep the boundaries of its caste.

There are many nice echos throughout the apartment, from the glass cabinets in the kitchen echoing the French doors between the two rooms to the tall windows that face onto the street.  

Le Pinot Noir

The red and gold is repeated in the tile in the kitchen area, but with green and white blended in so that the color scheme doesn’t seem overly intentional.

Le Pinot Noir

Throughout the apartment, VanderMarliere relied heavily on  qualities well-known to Parisian designers: creativity,  innovation, and a flair for doing making the unexpected seem like the only, perfect choice. For example, the doors to the bedroom closet are from an unusable armoire, but look as if they were born to frame the built-in bookcase. And VanderMarliere created the headboard for the bed herself, as she couldn’t find one thin enough to allow room for someone to pass at the foot of the bed.

Le Pinot Noir

The bathroom in this apartment is particularly impressive for a Paris-sized two-room apartment, and continues the palatial feel, with a marble sink and large stone tiles.

Le Pinot Noir

By paying strict attention to the restrictions of the space, VanderMarliere was able to utilize every bit, and by putting her creative talents to work, she managed to make it all feel perfectly intentional.

“It's an extremely small space by US standards so every inch had to be calculated in order to accommodate everything on my wish list,” she said.

Even if you can't visit Le Pinot Noir in Paris, you can take a virtual trip here. Bon voyage, and let us know how Paris is blooming in April!


This article has been reprinted with the permission of the Sheffield SchoolNew York, NY. Sheffield began as an Interior Design school in 1985, and then expanded its course offerings to train people in other design-related fields, including Feng ShuiWedding and Event Planningand Jewelry DesignWith thousands of active students and more than 50,000 graduates, Sheffield has trained more design professionals than any school in the world.