design, Life, Our Home

Our Home – The Kitchen

The kitchen has been the hardest room to work out in this apartment. Not only is it tiny, it came with only a sink and the accompanying cabinet. That space under the sink was literally the only built-in storage in the entire apartment when we arrived!

As with all the other rooms, the kitchen had been freshly repainted, which was a blessing, but was still sporting a strange little makeshift wooden counter covered in worn and peeling contact paper. I ripped it out before we even moved our things in. Here are Romain’s quick iphone snaps of the empty space when we signed the lease:

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Forgive his ghostly reflection. That window is the only source of outside light in the space and it looks onto a dingy open space between the buildings, getting no direct light what-so-ever. So apologies in advance for the poor light in all these pictures.

In French apartments, more often than not your washing machine goes in the kitchen and you bring all your own appliances with you. We had a fridge and washing machine but our previous apartment was an exception to the rule with a built-in gas stove-top but no oven. So for a few weeks, we lived in your new space with only a small counter-top oven for cooking. Luckily it was August and we were more than happy to eat most meals cold. Once the stove arrived, we started to really see how the space would function, not that there were a million possibilities! Here’s a picture with a tired pregnant girl for scale.

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Ugh, what a sorry sight. We lived like that with no countertop until months after Élie was born when we finally had the time to construct a hinged counter to allow our top-loading machine to open, and to add two critical Ikea cabinets, one of which was the Rationell cabinet which I think has been discontinued? But the open storage wasn’t as functional as it could have been and Romain built boxes to turn the open shelves into drawers. Now there is so much I can store in this sliver of space!

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Fast forward, here is where we are today.

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So much better than where we started! Now even the tops of the machines store platters and baking dishes under the counter – every tiny space needs to be working hard here! But we aren’t done. The counter needs to be replaced now that we have a different front-loading machine, eliminating the need for a hinged counter. A piece of this may be cut for the counter next to the stove. Also on the list: priming and painting the open storage shelving, toes kicks, and the drawers of the Rationell as well as finding hardware for them and building out a coffer on the back of the countertop to hide the water shut-off and, eventually, spice bottles.

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This wall of open shelving has been fantastic! We use everything on here in the everyday so dust is never a problem and unloading the dishwasher is so easy, especially since the shelves and dishwasher, on opposite sides of the room, can both be reached without moving. Tiny. Kitchen. They will be painted a pale gray color whose sample is on the right on the bottom shelf. The jars hold grains and flours.

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The under-sink storage was difficult to access because a pipe runs along the wall on the right and into the cabinet. You can see in the first images, a notch was cut out of the right door to let the pipe pass but this meant that the door would only open about halfway which was so frustrating! Then Romain had the genius idea of making them large pull-out drawers instead of doors which has made them a thousand times more useful. We built three drawer boxes (one on the right for the trash and cleaning supplies) and two on the left (for pots and food storage) and attached them to runners. The doors and the knobs will be replaced; while you can’t tell in the pictures, the doors are impossible to paint and even after four coats are showing through so we decided to save our sanity and grab some Ikea kitchen doors.

You can also see that I covered that window with an organza panel from our first apartment together to soften the view. We installed an wall lamp and the function is perfect (it swings side-to-side to let the window open) but I think I’d like to find something with a translucent shade.

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The fridge generated another big project: a big drawer to bring it to eye-level and create even more storage. Like the shelves and other drawers, it is waiting on paint and hardware.

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By the stove, I hide our pans and trivets and even a bag for the glass recycling on a row of hooks behind the door. On the door itself, a hook holds a tray for bringing dishes between the kitchen and living room. Hung below the level of the window panels in the door, the only thing visible from the hallway and when the door is open are our AHeirloom Maine and France cutting boards, used at our wedding. We use them a lot for serving little treats and cheeses and cured meats for lazy weekend lunches. On this side of the kitchen, I need to figure out a backsplash solution for above the stove and a way to hide the pesky vent hood cord hanging down on the right.

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While it may never be as grand as these spaces because a renter can only do so much, here are some of the images that I was inspired by:

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1. 2. 3. 4.

(While I try and be a stickler about linking to original sources, two of these images, 1 and 4, seem to be from sites that don’t exist anymore but did when I pinned them.)

Airy, simple, white, gray, metallics, linen, wood, and lots of open, easy-to-access storage! If only I could get some of that natural light too.

xo,

A.

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design, Life, Our Home

Our Home – The Living Room

The living room is literally and figuratively the center of our home. We spend the majority of our time there during the day – eating, playing, using the computer, reading – though our bedrooms find us hanging out together fairly often as well. Small spaces have no wasted space! But this room is in between our two bedrooms and across the narrow hall from the kitchen. This set-up has been perfect for a busy mama because I can be working in the kitchen and see my little love playing in the living room with just a glance.

Like our bedroom, this room has a marble chimney mantle but it also has beautiful molding on the ceiling and paneling on the lower half of the walls. These elements were exactly what we had hoped for when we were looking for our next apartment as the studio was in a building from the 60’s or 70’s and had a very different feeling. We got so lucky finding a space with so much built-in personality! Here was the blank slate moving in (quick iphone snaps):

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From the start, I knew getting the layout of this room right would be critical to efficient use of the space but also our enjoyment of it. One can’t relax in a small space that doesn’t also function well. Maximizing storage and using it in a smart, accessible way has meant that we are encouraged to tidy up because it is easy to do with open storage in pretty baskets and easy to get at sliding drawers. But it has taken us a while to get where we are today because so much of what we needed we had to tweak or build custom to fit the space. The evolution has been slow. We started with a big futon for a couch and a tiny garden table for a dining table. Before the kitchen was workable (no counter, no cabinets, bring your own appliances which is the norm here), I even had our Ikea island set up as a sort of breakfast bar in the corner.

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Here you can see the stove when it arrived and the inspector checked it over (apparently pregnant girls aren’t supposed to move stoves by themselves? Or at all? hmm.) but also the little garden table in the background. It was our first dining table when we lived in a tiny one room apartment together in Grenoble for a few months so there are some sweet memories attached to it.

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This corner has definitely been the focus of our DIY efforts in this room. I knew from the start I wanted to do a banquette in that corner with a pedestal table for easy sliding in and out. We haven’t found our dream pedestal table yet but when I found this old one for 30€ online, I sent R over to get it as a stand-in. It has been actually great for Élie because his little highchair can attach to it and the wood only gets more character with each mark. Here you can see when we first moved the table in and I had taped out the banquette dimensions on the floor to get a feel for them:

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(Rogue cat tail)

Our computer was set up on a little wood desk that belonged to Romain’s grandmother but the mess of cords and other supplies was obviously not working.

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We measured and planned out a continuous computer desk and L-shaped banquette for a unified look but it required custom pieces that we built over time. This first step, though, was a huge one in terms of improving storage and function! Here we installed the first Besta units and the wall of shelving:

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The drawers of the desk unit hold our DVDs and office supplies with the Playstation above on one side and a pull-out tablet for the keyboard and mouse on the other. Below that the printer and other computer gadgets are hidden behind one door and our board games behind the other. The banquette, it probably won’t come as a surprise, is all dishware and ktichenware storage. And here is where we are today with this corner!

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We built two corner boxes to complete the L-banquette and faced them and the side of the banquette with more of the same style doors from the Besta range. Then we raised the bookshelves on a custom built box to make them the same height as the corner shelves on the other side of the door, where the breakfast buffet had been for a time.

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This side of the room is the really ‘living’ part of the living room with the couch and chair. I’m planning a slipcover for the little sofa but just tucked the vintage linen around it for the time being. And the wooden desk was moved to this side of the room for lighting and it now holds the stereo as well.

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We keep Élie’s toys in the baskets under the table and not only are they easy for him to get at, it is quick to scoop the toys into at the end of the day and have it not look like a toy warehouse. The poster above the couch is Fathom’s All Streets map that I gave to Romain a few years ago for his birthday. It is beautiful and a wonderful quality and I can’t wait to get it in a frame (and center it on the couch).

The mantle has been a joy to get to play with! It has evolved countless time already! This past weekend, I brought clippings of branches (here hazelnut) from our trip to Belgium just for this spot. I have been wanting to do this for at least a year!

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And this is the beautiful antique faux bamboo high chair we bought before Élie was born. He’ll use it someday soon (and after I retrofit it with a harness) but for the moment we opted for a clip-on high chair to save precious floor space. It has been a perfect solution (you can see it on the table two images above this one) and traveling with it has been a breeze too! If you need a clip on high chair, this one is the Lobster from Phil & Ted.

There is still so much to do in this room but we love being in here anyway. Some things on our list are installing a toe-kick on the banquette/desk, finding two storage ottomans in place of a coffee table, replacing a little side table on the bookshelf side of the couch, sewing the couch slipcover, making cushions for the banquette, hemming the curtains and putting them on curtain rings, finding a rug that works in this space for in front of the couch, properly framing the collage over the banquette and the poster over the couch, and possibly replacing or refinishing the armchair (another steal of a stand-in at 12€!), among other little tweaks. Ekk, I had better not look at that list for too long.

Next week I’ll be taking a break from the apartment tour for a few other fun posts and then we’ll pick back up with the last, much smaller, rooms: kitchen, bath, and hall/entry. But here’s a sneak peek for next week from instagram!

Hallerbos Bluebells | egg & dart blog

xo,

A.

P.S. I had really wanted to have this post ready for Monday, while we were away, and I worked hard last Thursday to get everything ready but at midnight, when I was transferring my photos, I clicked too fast, thought I had saved but hadn’t, and permanently deleted all my images. Learn from me: back-up all your files! Ugh.

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