It’s been a heady few years for architect couple Hélène Pinaud and Julien Schwartzmann. The two, both 27, met as students at the Strasbourg National School of Architecture. After graduation in 2014, they moved to Paris and launched their firm, Heju, an abbreviation of their first names. They hit the ground running, designing apartments, boutiques, events, and a slew of clever DIYs: see, for instance, their Homemade Terrazzo Table, Metal Wall Organizer, and Tiled Plywood Side Table-Plant Stand with colored grout.
All the while, they’ve been living and working out of their own small apartment, a 538-square-foot garret near Place de la Republic. They sanded the wood floors and painted them white “to gain some sun.” And they overhauled the bedroom to their liking. But short on cash and time, they kept living with a Mediterranean-tiled kitchen that felt all wrong for them—until they decided to approach the project as “a giant DIY.” Their vision? A “minimalist design with clean lines and natural materials,” homemade rather than Big Box. But being extremely budget minded, they turned to Leroy Merlin, the French equivalent of Home Depot, for materials and parts. Come see the results and scroll to the end for an accounting of costs and a look at the kitchen as it was.
Photography by Heju (@hejustudio).
Above: Located in a chambre de bonne—translation: the top floor servant’s quarters—the light-suffused kitchen occupies the footprint of the 50-square-meter (approximately 540-square-foot) existing design. Hélène and Julien did all of the work themselves, including the demolition. “There were a lot of wires and cables on the walls, and the electricity was very old so we renewed everything.”
The enamelware pitcher is Ikea’s $14.99 Sockërart vase. For seating, they use four vintage Breuer chairs.
Above: Hélène and Julien created their clean and simple setup using Delinia cabinet units from Leroy Merlin, which they faced with doors that they cut themselves from birch plywood: “We drilled little holes as handles and protected the doors by rolling on a matte varnish; they’re hung with basic metal hinges.” Above: So as not to “overload the space,” the architects applied cabinets below the counter only, and for additional storage added L-shaped birch plywood wall shelves that were “designed to recall the doors.”
They say they chose Leroy Merlin’s cabinets because the store offered more widths than they found at Ikea: “We were tight on both sides, so we needed precise sizes. And even then we had to saw the units a bit so that everything fit; it was a dull, hard job but worth it.”
Above: The L-shaped white counter is laminated plywood with its “pretty slices” left exposed. Note the subtle backsplash: a band of pale gray washable paint.
The appliances are all by Smeg from Leroy Merlin and include an Elementi Oven (with an Elementi drawer underneath it) and an induction cooktop, plus a dishwasher, under-counter fridge, and washing machine hidden behind cabinet doors. (The perks of having a big following: knowing the project would be featured on Heju’s website and social media channels, Leroy Merlin didn’t charge for the latter three fixtures.)
Above: A new wire-glass window—made and installed by one of Heju’s workers (“the only job we didn’t do ourselves”)—draws morning light into the adjoining bathroom. “When we have guests, we add a little curtain,” says Hélène. Above: A pared-down selection of ceramics used daily are on display. The sconce next to the shelves is Areti’s Cone Wall Light, which they already owned. Above: The couple got their sink at Ikea (“they stopped offering our model in France, but it’s similar to the Havsen“). Their brass Tap Bath Tapwell faucet is from Ikea hack specialists Superfront. Above: The bottom shelf is detailed with brass rods that serve as hanging pegs to hold sink tools and pot holders. (Lola Tampico Bristle Dish Brushes, like this one, are $17.82 for a six pack on Amazon.) Above: The couple splurged on a round ash Profile Table from Remodelista favorite Stattmann Neue Moebel: see Pared-Back Furniture from a Fourth-Generation Company in Germany. “Everything they make is solid wood with a pure design and well-thought-out details. Given the quality, we don’t find their prices excessive.”The Tally: Heju’s Kitchen Remodel Costs Leroy Merlin cabinets: €180 Birch plywood for doors: €400 Laminated plywood counter: €500 New window: €300 Ikea Sink: €94 Brass faucet: €500 Smeg oven: €449 Smeg induction plate: €369 Under-oven drawer: €29.90 Table €820
Total: €3,641.90 (approximately $4,204)
Before Above: “Our place is small and has low ceilings, but we loved it at first sight,” Hélène and Julien tell us. Above: As was, the kitchen was a hodgepodge of tiles and appliances. A tile-framed small window with divided lights overlooked the adjoining bathroom. (The couple donated all salvageable parts to a charity.)
Looking to upgrade an Ikea kitchen with custom cabinet fronts? Take a look at 11 Custom Cabinet Companies for the Ultimate Ikea Hack.
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