The Saga of My New Little Paris Kitchen

My old blue kitchen unit that came with the apartment.

The old kitchen unit that came with the apartment.

If you’re following along, you know I’ve been planning a kitchen update chez moi since 2013. But between the rising exchange rate at the time followed by a leak that made my home unlivable for nearly two years, my dream kitchen was put on hold.

That doesn’t mean I sat idle. Oh no. While I waited in hope of more favorable conditions, I went through not one, not two, not three, but four different kitchen designs with a Darty kitchen “concepteur,” and spent countless hours researching kitchen features and appliances. I weighed every option, priced out every solution—cross-checked, comparison-shopped, crowd-sourced. Because if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s chewing on an idea until it’s mush.

But by February, I was pretty sure I’d settled on a design that was the perfect combination of affordability and fabulousness, and by turning the orientation of the kitchen against the longer wall in my apartment, I could finally fit an oven and a four-burner stovetop. Christmas turkey was now possible!

Lisa Anselmo My (Part-Time) Paris Life

Then the estimate from my contractor came in. The prep work to move all the plumbing and bring in additional electric for the oven was going to add another 3000 euros to the cost of the kitchen. Ouch. Would it be worth the investment for a few more feet of counter space and an oven? While I stood in my apartment pondering, I decided to tape out the kitchen to visualize it. And it all became very clear: added cost aside, this was a bad idea.

With the kitchen in its new location, I’d be losing 24 inches of surface from the width of my apartment—that’s two precious feet of an already tiny studio (258 square feet). And with tall, heavy cabinets looming overhead, I was going to visually reduce that space even more. Nope, very bad idea, indeed.

There was a reason the kitchen had been installed on the shorter wall: it didn’t intrude there. And we’d designed my closet to align with it, creating a proper entry hallway. The space was defined, with a perfect dining nook.

Original kitchen. The table fit perfectly in front of the windows. Space is clearly defined, creating a nice dining nook.

ORIGINAL KITCHEN. The table fits perfectly in front of the windows. Space is clearly defined.

With the proposed kitchen, the space would be opened up into the entryway, blurring the lines between the spaces—but not in a good way. The hall closet would become part of the kitchen; the kitchen table would be pushed farther out into the room, giving diners a view of the closet and the front door. I was pretty sure that was a feng shui no-no.

Proposed kitchen. Space that's gained isn't really doing much except opening the kitchen up to the entry hall and closet.

PROPOSED KITCHEN. Space that’s gained isn’t really doing much except opening the kitchen up to the entry hall and closet.

Nope, the kitchen had to go back to the wall from whence it came, and that meant going back to two burners, zero ovens, and minimal counter space. After three years of designs and redesigns, I was going to end up with same efficiency kitchen, a just newer version. [Cue: heavy sigh.] The only consolation was the price: around 4000 euros total, including plumbing and electric.

Tiny new kitchen design. That's a fridge on the left. Washer-dryer is to the right of the teeny drawers.

TINY KITCHEN DESIGN. That’s a fridge on the left, washer-dryer is to the right of the teeny drawers, and a combination microwave/extractor hood above.

But that’s not where the story ends, because there was a fifth design on the horizon. Before I could say “hello crappy small kitchen,” my architect Daniela Busarello came to the rescue, whipping up a modified “L” design that solved every problem: it kept the space open but didn’t sacrifice counters or storage. The extended “L” on the long wall would be only about as deep as the shelving unit that was currently there, yet had cabinets and drawers.

Final kitchen.

FINAL KITCHEN. I lose no floor space but gain storage and counter space.

The result? Behold the new design, below! A gorgeous new kitchen that’s airy and open. I invested a little extra into hidden handles and an integrated extractor fan, making the look super minimal. I had to make a few concessions—for example, the refrigerator is woefully small, and I still have no oven, but I gain a four-burner stovetop, a large sink, and enough counter space to run an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Lisa Anselmo My (Part-Time) Paris Life

Lisa Anselmo My (Part-Time) Paris Life

Installation date: June 15th. Stay tuned for photos and video of the real thing. It’s been a saga, indeed, but I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been a heap of fun. And I’m convinced that after five designs and three years of shopping around, I finally have the perfect kitchen. Convinced. Convinced I tells ya!

Learn more about the journey that led to My (Part-Time) Paris Life in my upcoming memoir of the same name, ON SALE NOW:
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23 responses to “The Saga of My New Little Paris Kitchen

  1. Hi Lisa….love the final design…but what about a microwave? don’t see one in the new look…how will you heat up dinner from Picard?

    • Ha! Love it. I am totally obsessed with Picard. There is one a block from my place. I actually don’t use microwaves, which is why I killed it. But I have enough counter space for a decent-sized mini-oven—just enough to heat up some appetizers from Picard for my next soirée, and even heat up a small roast chicken from the local boucherie!

  2. Nice solution! Personally, I would make the cupboards go to the ceiling–you can always use more storage and that space just collects dust. I totally regret not having done it and now trying to match doors without going custom is very expensive.

    • My ceilings are way too high for that! Nearly 10ft. I’m short and anything too tall is useless. I actually have tons of storage, with a closet across the hall. I had taller cabinets initially, but I have a very tiny space and too much overhead cabinetry feels oppressive. I chose a streamlined upper to open the space visually. But in my NYC place I will be ALL about the upper cabinets to the ceiling when I redo that kitchen (one day). I need to sell a lot of books first!

  3. I am jealous of your kitchen! And I normally never suffer from kitchen envy. Well done for coming up with something so appealing.

  4. Your research and working with the architect really paid off! Very, very nice! Not too long before you can enjoy it. Any thought as to your first meal to celebrate your new kitchen?

  5. Lisa, I am always following your posts. The kitchen looks wonderful – so exciting! I am happy this is all working out. Great job! Enjoy!

  6. Hi Lisa – I have been following your renovation journey and can’t wait to see what your home looks like when you are FINALLY able to actually move in! A small apartment, to be sure, but I’m sure your décor will be fabulous and make the most of every inch of space,

    • You mean move BACK in. What a crazy journey. But yes, it’s coming along! I will move back in June 2! I can hardly believe it. Once that kitchen is in, I’m having one hell of a party!

  7. Looks lovely. Good job. A good result. When I lived in LA, I had a guest house in the back of my main house. The kitchen was a lot like yours. I looked around and found a ‘mini stove/oven’ that was about half the size of a normal oven (it actually cost more than a big oven but did have 4 compact burners). This is a link of what I’m talking about:

    They don’t have those in France? You won’t get a turkey in one but you could get a lot of normal stuff in there. It worked great too. Very happy for you that you can finally get back in your apartment. Cynthia

    • That have amazing space-saving appliances in Paris. I have the burners already, I just need what’s called a mini-four, toaster oven. They come in all sizes and are quite nice. But you’re right some of the are the same price or more than an in-wall oven!

  8. Hi Lisa,
    I’ve been rooting for your since Day One of your humidity saga. So happy you have finally seen through the worst of it. I have also been reading your posts religiously and repetitively to aid me in my search for an apartment in Paris. I finally succeeded and will sign the final closing papers in a few weeks. I was wondering if you might have a renovation company to recommend? I would love you hear from you. Thank you for letting me live vicariously through your posts!

    • Great news on your place! I do have a great guy for renovation and an architect who is not expensive. My guy is contractor and not good for anything regarding space reorg (but no contractor is here). I will email you with the names if that’s ok.

  9. Pingback: Coming Home (Again) | My (Parttime) Paris Life·

  10. Hi Lisa
    Brilliant writing. Long shot but we are in the process of buying a tiny apartment next to the canal in the 10th and wondered if you could recommend a reliable contractor for new kitchen, bathroom etc.
    Many thanks


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