Small Paris Apartment Full of Charm, Vintage Pieces, and Funky Art

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Name: Kelly Miller, Nick Taylor, Leo the cat
Location: Pigalle — Paris, France
Size: 764 square feet
Type of Home: Apartment
Years Lived In: 4 years, renting

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Kelly Miller and Nick Taylor found their Paris apartment through an agency listing, “after hunting for what felt like an eternity across Paris for the right spot,” explains Kelly, who runs Kelly Miller Vintage and moved to Paris in 2008. all the more urgent as the Marais flat we were living in at the time was undergoing work on the façade, and there were holes in our living room wall — you could literally stick your arm out onto rue Vieille du Temple! It can be difficult to rent as a foreigner in France, so we knew immediately on arrival that this was it.”

But they did finally find their charming, storied home and say they “love the ceiling moldings that outline the front living room, the large, almost floor-to-ceiling windows, the hardwood floors, and the working fireplace with its antique mirror above. In a city where kitchens are often closed off from the rest of the apartment, we especially like the open window that looks onto the living room, allowing whoever’s cooking to keep an eye on dinner guests and join in at the party.”

“Passing through a hallway, our back bedroom looks out onto a large, calm courtyard that gets plenty of light in summer,” Kelly says, and “during the first Covid confinement, the courtyard was like an extension of our apartment, serving as the backdrop for elaborate outdoor meals and as a de facto photo studio for Kelly’s vintage business. Our cat Leo also spends a lot of time roaming and lounging around the courtyard, sniffing around and basking in the sun.”

According to the couple, “Pigalle itself is a crossroads of seediness and chic, having long served as the center of Paris’ sex trade and a base for the trans community since the 1970s — there’s even a book, ‘Pigalle People,’ by the American photographer Jane Evelyn Attwood, documenting the trans community in and around our neighborhood in 1978-79. Our building dates back to 1895, and shares a courtyard with an adult cinema, occasionally adding a saucy soundtrack to our trips downstairs to take out the trash.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Magpie flea-market chic, with strong pops of color and an eclectic mix of decades.

Inspiration: The pop graphics and op-art of the 1960s and ’70s, block prints and textiles from the 1920s-1970s, and bold, flat colors.

Favorite Element: We love the large front living room, where we spend most of our time when we’re at home, particularly during the spring and summer when the light floods in and we can open the windows, enjoy the noise of the city, watch people outside the bars downstairs, and the sun. In the winters we use the fireplace often.

We’re particularly fond of two decorative elements in the bedroom: a giant numbered and signed Sonia Delaunay simultané scarf that dates to 1977, the find of the century at the Paris flea for €20, and a handmade leather duvet cover from the 1970s that we’ve repurposed into a wall hanging. The latter we found via vintage dealer @lauredeleris, at a street brocante in our neighborhood. Both are mesmerizing to look at, and complement each other well.

Biggest Challenge: When we moved in we had almost no furniture, having lived in smaller, semi-furnished places for awhile, so the biggest challenge was staying patient and looking for things we both truly needed and also truly liked, versus caving into the familiar IKEA run. We used a French website that’s a sort of Craigslist, called LeBonCoin.fr, to source pretty much all the furniture in the front room. The rustic dining room table, glassware cabinet and a few lamps came from a barn of dusty treasures in Beauvais — we found the dealer on the Bon Coin, took the 30-min train and cycled to his place to see everything in person, before having it delivered in Paris. The orange Formica bar cart was via a Bon Coin lister in the neighborhood, and the 1960s school gym benches that we use around our dining room table were also via a Bon Coin source, who delivered them from Normandy. The couch is modern second-hand from AMPM, but we got it via a Bon Coin seller in the 16th arrondissement. The green and gold antique mirror came from the Marché Vernaison up at the Puces de Clignancourt, and the extendable green lamp from a lighting store Kelly happened upon in Milan on a work trip.

Proudest DIY: It’s pretty straightforward and not particularly impressive, but installing bars to hang the leather duvet cover in the bedroom, and Kelly’s vintage clothes in the office; they were both game-changers in terms of aesthetics and also maximizing space.

Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? I suppose the excess clothing storage is a bit out of the ordinary, and the use of the common-area courtyard for taking photographs and having the occasional midday meal.

What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? The farmhouse dining room table has seen us through many a raucous dinner party. It’s great to have such a large tableau to host friends for a nice meal or apéro hour. Mid-late Covid we’re not doing loads of that, but we’re looking forward to more fun times together ahead.

Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Exploit height. Hang pictures flush or close to the ceiling, install bars for wall hangings or clothing, etc. — anything to draw the eye upwards and maximize storage.

What are your favorite places to shop for home décor that can only be found in your country? The flea markets in France are just unbeatable, every time we try to hunt for vintage abroad we’re reminded of how good we have it here. We practically live at the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen, a 15-minute bike ride away, but the Marché aux Puces at Porte de Vanves is a great resource, too. Beyond those, there are weekly roaming markets and vide-greniers, or garage sales, all across Paris. You just have to keep your eyes open and make sure you hit the right spots.

Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? No matter where you live, if you have the patience and the eye, always ask yourself, “Can I buy this second-hand?” and look for ways to source items in a less conventional way. Whether it’s a local antique shop, garage sales, estate sales, auction houses, markets, etc. — you never know what you might find, and it’s better for everybody, for the environment, etc. You always get conversation-starter pieces this way, by choosing a less conventional mode of consumption. The same is true for Nick’s vintage synthesizers and drum machines. They’re not really items of decoration, but they are beautiful 40-year-old objects that can still be used today. What’s more, using older things often forces you to be creative about how you use them, whether that’s old instruments or clothes or lamps.

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