The ever-increasing cost of rent in major metropolises over the past few decades has got quite a few brows furrowed with worry. Cost-of-living database Numbeo reports that San Francisco charges an average rent of $3,340 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, while London costs $2,495.34. Paris, meanwhile, is a little more affordable at $1,303.32 -- but still nothing to sneeze at considering how most students and young adults struggle to make a decent living in their first few years of independence.

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With this growing concern in mind, many young men and women are turning to an alternative option. The au pair industry has been around for decades, and it revolves around a very simple concept: Families who are frequently busy with work hire someone to live in their house or apartment with them for free but pay them in exchange for watching over their children, taking care of them, and helping with their education. It is often seen as a "win-win" situation for all parties involved -- the family gets extra help with their children, and the au pair gets room and board for free, which is a great way of keeping up with studies without having to worry about the cost of rent.

One Parisian family, however, chose to do things a little differently.

Kitoko Studio explains that due to the family's apartment being unable to accommodate an additional body living on location permanently, they instead chose to house their incoming au pair in a separate flat: a chambre de bonne, literally "maid's room" in French. These minuscule apartments are very commonplace in older Parisian buildings. As My French Life details, chambres de bonne used to house maids, as their name implies, in typical Haussmannian buildings -- grandiose, expensive apartment complexes built in the 1800s for the wealthiest of Frenchmen. These buildings featured a separate, much less glamorous staircase, hidden away in a corner, leading up to these cramped top-floor rooms for the staff to live in. Nowadays, maid's rooms provide cheaper living opportunities for people with restricted means -- but at what cost?

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The maid's room pictured above, which this family wished to have their au pair live in, was a catastrophic sight. Clocking in at a horrific 86 square feet, the tiny flat ideally needed to "be functional in order to sleep, and also to cook, eat, wash, work and store a maximum number of items," according to Kitoko Studio, a French landscape and interior design company tasked with the remodel. A tall order, considering the entire place was roughly the size of a single room.

The company's answer to this significant dilemma was a remodel based on the "concept of the Swiss Army knife," as the studio explains on its website: A small, innocuous-looking knife that conceals many different appliances which can slide in and out when needed. 

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The final result, a spectacular improvement on the flat's initial conditions, allocates about half of the space to the "knife," while the other half remains empty so the different compartments can slide out into it and occupy it one at a time. 

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The bed is located in the upper left corner of the closet-like wall, and panels slide in and out to hide it or shield the sleeping user within from daylight, as needed. The other compartments around it slide out to reveal a clothes rack and shelves, one of which is stair-shaped to allow the inhabitant to climb up into the bed. A somewhat precarious solution, perhaps, but one that allows the bed to be concealed when it isn't in use; a great necessity with such a tight living space.

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One of the compartments contains a table, complete with a pair of stools. The table "drawer" can completely slide out and be moved around the space for extra convenience. The only element in the apartment that is exposed at all times is the kitchen counter under the window. The cabinets don't look like they carry much, but they not only house a cupboard for dishes and cookware, but also a small refrigerator and a microwave. The kitchen sink is hidden under a portion of the countertop that flips up and down, providing extra work space if necessary.

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Against all odds, a full bathroom fits into this apartment design quite nicely. Its door is concealed next to the other shelves and drawers. Again, the system is a little cramped, but considering how small the entire flat is, and how most tiny home designs tend to omit proper bathroom-related amenities out of lack of space, the presence of a functioning toilet, shower and sink, with mirror and cupboard in tow, is more than welcome. The video below offers a better view of said amenities.

The renovation project, which was completed last year, is a perfect example of what solid interior design can do with even the smallest of apartments. It's a great thing to keep in mind, especially when a tiny chambre de bonne-like flat is all that one can afford. With some clever ideas for renovation, anything really is possible. Unless you're claustrophobic.