The Grand Tour

This 360-Square-Foot Apartment Is Built Around One Sneaky Storage Solution

The design pays a lively tribute to the Bordeaux building’s rich history
small space
Atop an Ethnicraft sofa, a throw blanket from Caravane. In front of the sofa, a Butterfly rosewood stool and a Carlotta table from The Socialite Family. Two works by sculptor Rémy Allamand hang on the wall.Lionel Moreau

Adjoining the Grand Théâtre of Bordeaux, renovated by architect and designer Matthieu Récopé de Tilly and interior designer Margot Le Métayer, this 360-square-foot apartment brings together all the practicality and comfort of a larger apartment, complete with a kitchen, bathroom, separate bedroom, and ample storage space.

“We had to make the space more fluid, keep as much natural light as possible, and find a solution for the low ceiling height,” Matthieu says. Within the L-shaped apartment the architects created three equally sized spaces to contain the living room; a wood-paneled box for the kitchen, storage space, dressing room, toilet, and the bathroom; and, finally, the bedroom. The box—the central core that organizes the apartment—is finished in stained oak and covered in mirrors that reflect light and make the space appear larger.

The doors of the built-in cabinets open to reveal a hidden desk. The Atollo lamp is by Oluce. The smoothness of the polished concrete flooring lends a feeling of being comfortably cocooned that’s enhanced by the rounded angles of the built-in furniture (Thomas Trabuc) and the cornice.

To increase the feeling of height and space in the apartment, the architects created an imaginary line running through it two feet from the floor that’s reflected in the shelving and furniture, beginning with the desk to the right of the entrance. “This rather low height serves as a visual anchor point for the eye from the moment you walk in and restores a feeling of vertical space,” says Matthieu.

This visual anchoring is also found in the bedroom, at the level of the bed and the storage units, as well as at the bottom of the fluted doors. In order to enhance the feeling of light filling the apartment, as well as furthering the flow within the space, the apartment’s existing rectangular formwork, with its various ducts, was transformed with a rounded convex cornice. That same shape is reflected in the rounded corners of the furniture, adding to the feeling of fluidity throughout.

A large oak joinery box (Thomas Trabuc) conceals the kitchen, bathroom, and shower, creating an open hallway that leads to the bedroom. Mirrored doors serve to enlarge this small space visually by reflecting light.

Early on during the apartment’s renovation, a section of Bordeaux stone wall was revealed. They chose to keep it in place and pick materials with a similar mineral aesthetic that are imbued with the same softness. Travertine, lime, and waxed concrete coexist harmoniously with the original limestone. The combination of fluted glass with the dark oak of the built-in furniture and the central box brings a sense of verticality to the apartment while providing privacy in the bathroom spaces—all without obscuring the light. For the best possible symbiosis with the old stone, Matthieu and Margot opted for clear and luminous tones in shades that contrast with the wood, creating a sense of volume. The beige waxed concrete floor is just a shade or two darker than the off-white lime walls and the ceiling.

The doors of the kitchen cabinets are clad in beige lime, matching the floor, and the countertops are travertine.

Everything is in sync when it comes to the apartment’s colors and materials—from the built-in furniture, with its soft curves, to the luminous effect of the raw concrete and natural lime reflecting in the mirrors. “We don’t really like using too many colors and we rather prefer raw materials. The color of the floor harmonizes perfectly with that of the stone,” the designers explain. A waxed concrete floor covers the entire surface of the apartment. The kitchen doors are coated with lime while the countertops are made of travertine. In the bathroom, polished concrete niches create a dialogue with the wooden washbasin cabinet—a theme that continues with the storage space in the bedroom and the wood and lime headboard. The effect is such that nothing stands out and everything meets beautifully.

The renovation revealed a Bordeaux stone wall made from limestone that ultimately set the tone for the entire apartment’s redesign. Similar to waxed concrete, the stone has an effect that’s shiny and dull at once, serving to both diffuse and reflect light. Rounded corners add to the fluidity of the space.

The bathroom opens onto the bedroom. It can be closed off for privacy with fluted glass doors that don’t detract from the luminosity of the space. A door hidden behind shelving conceals the washing machine.

There’s ample storage space throughout the apartment. Framing the bed, the cabinets are enhanced with fluting that stops at a height of two feet—the imaginary visual line the architects chose to help lend a feeling of more vertical space to the not quite 8-foot-high room.

The combination of materials creates an elegant color palette.

Niches built into the waxed concrete shower wall can accommodate products and small objects. One of the great successes of this small space is the flow of materials and finishes that carry through each room, creating a calming and uniformly elegant effect.

This 360 square foot apartment was first published by AD France. It was translated by Terry Ward.