The starting point for the design of this 35 sqm (377 sqft) apartment in Melbourne was its constraints and limitations, which included not only the small floor area, but also the lack of outdoor space, lack of access to daylight, low ceiling height, and limited kitchen. Striving to overcome these constraints, Melbourne-based architect and designer Jack Chen of tsai design transformed the original apartment into a functional living space, which can also operate as a home office.
To maximize the sense of space, the designer reduced the amount of stuff in the apartment, concealing appliances and fixtures behind cabinets doors. For example, the dining table is completely hidden when it is not needed, and the dining chairs are also fold away. In the living room, the TV is concealed behind cabinet doors as well as the home office / study setup, including the study table, computer, and laptops.
Maximizing natural light to each space was one of the main tasks of the project. In the original apartment, the only north facing window in the bathroom was heavily underutilized. To maximize the benefit of this window, the wall between the bathroom and kitchen was demolished and an internal window was inserted, giving the kitchen borrowed daylight from the bathroom.
The internal window features a switchable film that makes the glass frosted at the press of the button to provide privacy to the bathroom. The sliding door to the bedroom is constructed from translucent polycarbonate panel to allow light to pass through. Together with the large east facing windows in the bedroom and living space, and the small dimensions of the apartment, every corner is well lit.
The key element of the design is a timber joinery/puzzle box, which stretches the entire length of the apartment and connects all the spaces together, changing the perspective of the internal room from separate spaces to one continuous space. The timber box contains the 4m (13ft) long gallery kitchen with hidden or integrated appliances. A narrow cavity between the shelves and the wall hides the dining table that slides out via a sliding door mechanism. The table then folds down, creating a light floating effect to the table top.
The timber motif continues in the bathroom with timber texture porcelain tiles on the floor and walls. Together with the moss wall occupying one of the bathroom walls, it creates an illusion of the outdoor space, as if you are showering surrounded by green on the timber deck. This green wall is placed in your direct line of sight as you open the door and walk into the apartment to immediately set the mood of the apartment as a space that is organic and relaxing.
In the bedroom, the timber wall cladding becomes the bed head. A small cut-out to the timber wall panel folds down and acts as the bedside table. The end of the wall panel is the door to the bathroom. It is concealed, with only the leather door pull to indicate something more beyond.
Jack Chen: “I’m quite happy with the feeling of the space, I think it has a understated and easiness to the design. The kitchen for example is highly designed and considered but it also has a working country kitchen reference to it, with the everyday utensils hung on steel hooks on display. Together with the butler kitchen, it is a practical working kitchen.”
This article is a part of the ‘Compact Living’ series. You can read about other designs of compact houses and apartments on this page.