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Vive La Différence

Paris, France

Clever layout changes plus a warm and characterful approach to the interior have seen this Haussmannian apartment in Paris transformed by Atelier OLK

Founded in 2019 by Olivier Lekien, Paris-based Atelier OLK specialises in reinventing existing spaces, exploring how past and future can create a happy marriage. Its latest project takes a typical Haussmannian apartment, changes a poor layout, and adds lightness and a sensual materiality that all together add up to a total transformation.

The home of a creative couple, the third-floor, 82 sqm apartment is in the city’s Square de Maubeuge in the 9th arrondissement. It had a typical Haussmanian layout, with a suite of rooms in a row, and lofty 2.7m ceiling heights. The old decor is described as giving off “a 70s vibe, but not in a good way.” Lekien had just six months to complete the project, from start to finish.

Lekien says that “the layout suffered from a lack of natural light penetrating the entry foyer and the main corridor, which led to quite sombre atmosphere.” The main layout changes have seen the small-cut-off kitchen move to become a part of a wider open-plan kitchen-dining-living space, with a generous bathroom in the kitchen’s place, and in turn the old bathroom has becomes a small laundry, with some of its space now incorporated into storage in the next-door kitchen.

As for the hallway’s dark, unwelcoming feel, this has been solved by adding a right-angled run of clerestory windows, allowing daylight to flow between the hallway and bathroom; where the windows sit next to the corridor next to the front door, a run of cupboards sits underneath, adding practical, functional storage just where it is needed.

The apartment’s previous two bedrooms ran directly into one another; now, the second bedroom at the end of the floorplan is what Lekien describes as “as a very special, unique boudoir area” – a dressing room lined with blush-pink cabinetry, with a petite vanity table framed by an arch. The arched opening is a recurring motif across the apartment, with arched doors creating a pleasing enfilade through the space.

I enjoy working closely with artisans and carpenters, and I think this human touch comes out in the studio’s work

Overall, the new layout creates more of a distinction between the open, “public” living spaces and the more intimate bedroom and dressing area, says Lekien. The “public” areas also have more of a sense of grandeur because of their architectural detailing, with an opulent cornice and ceiling rose, and dramatic period fireplace.

In the bedroom and dressing room, the look is more contemporary, although not stripped of detail, with a reeded wall panel behind the headboard. Colour has also been used as a differentiator, with a handsome grey-green used in the living area and hallway, and peachier tones employed in the bedroom and dressing room.

Custom-made furniture and joinery elevates this apartment, from the bookcases held on brass frames either side of the fireplace in the living room to the clerestory windows. Atelier OLK worked with Triada Bâtiment to realise all the made-to-measure cabinetry: Lekien says “I enjoy working closely with artisans and carpenters, and I think this human touch comes out in the studio’s work.”

This mix of muted colours, warm timber and bespoke elements is Atelier OLK’s signature. The architectural interventions are what makes this apartment light and liveable; and the sensual approach to colour and materials give it heart and soul.