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Michelet square BY l'atelier 

Michelet is a minimal house located in Vanves, France, designed by l’atelier.

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. Small apartments and related challenges have become all the more relevant in the context of lockdown when people need to study and work from home. As architects, our mission is to take an active part in the urban changes with high-quality projects in line with the current issues.


This project began with a rather surprising apartment tour with a new client. This client had recently bought an old apartment in the south of Paris, and he was looking for an architect to work on a quite ambitious project: converting this 50 sqm 1-bedroom apartment into a home for a family of five (a couple and three children). 

For this apartment, the diagnostic phase highlighted several elements. Despite its small size, the apartment runs front to back of the building and is only seven meters long. Therefore, every space benefit from maximum natural light. Finally, the three-meter high ceiling offers lots of opportunities for verticalization. The only constraint in the project is the load-bearing wall running across the width of the apartment. But this wall already has three openings, and they allow enough flow between each side. 

Based on these elements, we decided to create a living area running from front to back of the building to take advantage of the morning and evening light. This space is staggered to create open subspaces, kitchen and dining room on one side, and living room on the other, with entrance is integrated as part of this living area.

Then, we chose to design a compact and vertical area for the bathroom and the children’s bedrooms. In the boys’ bedroom, there are two one-meter high sleeping alcoves, one is located above the bathroom, and the other one is under the elder daughter’s bedroom. This latter sleeping area is reachable via a staircase in the living room. 

Another important factor in this project was timing. The two eldest children were soon to be independent, and the request was to design an apartment that could adapt and evolve so that there would eventually be only one bedroom left after the children had left home. Therefore, we staged the project in three phases, and we included easily movable partitions in the floor plan. As of today, the apartment can accommodate five people. When the two eldest children leave, the parents’ bedroom wall will be removed to create a bigger living room. Finally, when the youngest boy leaves, the two remaining bedrooms will connect to make a larger bedroom for the parents. 

The choice of materials also played an important role in this project. To make the apartment feel more spacious, we used the same material for all doors and windows; light-colored pine wood from Poland with a generous yet fairly uniform pattern. Very light pine wood was also used for the floor to optimize natural light.

Photography by Tim Van De Velde

JAN 11. 2023


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