Paris is the city of love. It’s the city of lights. It’s the city where you can live “la vie en rose.” And yet, it’s also a city that was built over 2,000 years ago — long before its founders had any idea how large it would become in the coming millennia. In an effort to accommodate the now massive population, living spaces in Paris are notoriously small. More often than not, you’ll find entire families residing within a single one bedroom apartment. The average apartment size for a family in Paris is 650 square feet, which is only slightly bigger than an American studio apartment. Because of this, space efficiency is of the upmost importance for those Parisians who live downtown.
Over time, the compact living quarters in Paris have inspired a decorating style that’s fundamentally different from most American styles. But for Americans living on a budget and/or in small spaces, adopting a more Parisian manner of organization could greatly increase space efficiency, and thereby increase their general satisfaction with their homes.
There are many Parisian techniques that can be adopted to help increase space efficiency in any apartment. Experiment with some of these French-inspired decorating methods, and you’ll be amazed by all the extra living space you find!
Rethink Your Kitchen Appliances
Parisians typically use far fewer kitchen appliances than Americans, and the appliances they do use are usually much smaller than standard American models. For example, you’ll very rarely find a microwave oven in a Parisian flat. Why? Because cooking food with a microwave is considered to be less healthy than cooking on a stovetop, and also because microwaves take up a lot of unnecessary space. Consequently, Parisians typically buy less food at a time and eat it fresh. You will also rarely see items like blenders, food processors, crockpots, rice cookers, and toaster ovens in Parisian homes. Most of the time, Parisians cook their food the “old-fashioned way”: dicing vegetables by hand and cooking their meals on the stove. This not only saves a lot of space, but you’ll also be amazed at how much better meals taste when they’re prepared fresh by hand! Another idea is to switch from a Keurig or coffee percolator to a traditional French press. Doing this will not only make your coffee taste better, but it will also open up a lot of counter space.
Use the Walls and Ceiling
Americans typically use their walls to display posters and family portraits. In Paris, however, the walls are not reserved for art and art alone. In fact, Parisians utilize their wall space better than just about anyone else. In a standard Parisian kitchen, you will find far less space dedicated to cabinetry. Instead, they often hang their pots, pans, plates, cups, and large utensils from hooks attached to the walls and ceiling.
Build Up, Not Out
The idea of building up rather than out is not exclusive to French architecture. This same mindset can be applied to apartment living. “Go big or go home” is the typical American ideal, but this is simply not the case in Paris, where items are typically revered for their craftsmanship and efficiency rather than their size. Make sure to utilize the space under your bed for storage. Many furniture items are built specifically for space efficiency and can be purchased at your local IKEA or furniture store. Things like over-the-toilet shelves, loft bed systems, and compact tables are all excellent options. Opt for an upright washer/dryer combo, too, if you can.
Bookshelves Are Your Best Friends
Floor to ceiling bookshelves are very common in Paris. This is because you can store a tremendous amount of items in them (and store them stylishly, to boot). Bookshelves are excellent space savers. They are usually only about a foot deep and can line any wall — whether they’re in a bedroom, living room, hallway, or entryway. You can literally never have too many bookshelves.
Get Out More
With all the tourist attractions, sidewalk cafés, parks, museums, and nightlife hotspots in Paris, it should come as no surprise that Parisians spend a lot of their time away from home. Who needs a large kitchen when you can eat out? Who needs a gas-guzzling car or a garage when you can walk, bike, or take public transportation? Why buy books and movies when you can rent them at the library for free? If you’re single, why take up your entire living room with a massive couch when you could opt for a loveseat or chair and take up far less space? Instead of inviting friends over for a movie at your apartment, suggest meeting at a local venue or catching a flick at the nearest theater.
It may seem like this type of lifestyle would be counterintuitive to people on a budget, but when you crunch the numbers, you’ll find that it actually isn’t. If you live in a smaller, more space-efficient apartment, you can save hundreds of dollars per month in rent. And never forget that time is money. If you think about how much time it takes to cook a meal, it may not seem like that big of a commitment — but that’s because most people don’t look at the whole picture. Cooking a large meal at home means spending time making a grocery list, commuting to the market through traffic, shopping, loading up your car, driving back home, preparing the meal, etc… and that’s not even including all the time it takes to clean up the dishes and kitchen afterward. All that time could have been spent finishing up that work report you’ve been putting off, making new business connections, or even working on that side project you’ve been considering.
Less is more when it comes to Paris apartments. Minimalism is an excellent lifestyle to adopt, especially if you’re a traveler or live in cramped quarters. As fashion/lifestyle blogger Annie Zhu states in her article How Paris Turned Me On To Minimalism & 4 Ways To Do it Anywhere, “[M]inimalism, for me, is not sitting in an empty room or having all your possessions fit in a duffel bag… A minimalist lifestyle is more about valuing what you own. But less space = less junk. I wish I took a photo of the closet I had when I was living in a shoebox apartment in Paris for almost three years. I was forced to have a capsule wardrobe before that was even a thing. Having a small closet was really a blessing in disguise as I learned how to live with less and to make the most of what I did own. Own an instrument you never play? Self-help books you don’t want to read? Ski equipment when you never go skiing anymore? It’s probably time to get rid of them.”