As any architect will tell you, designing a small space can be a real challenge. Smaller footprints mean less space to put in all the necessities of living—real or imagined—like where to put a fully functioning kitchen, bathroom, and of course, a bed.
But with conventionally sized housing becoming more costly, smaller living spaces like micro-apartments, tiny houses, and vehicle conversions are now gaining more attention, especially among younger generations. We’ve seen great examples of how designers can shine under such constraints, and French architecture firm Space Factory is no exception.
Having converted a cramped Paris apartment into an adaptable family home for themselves and their young child, co-founders Ophélie Doria and Edouard Roullé-Mafféïs also brought their insightful vision to renovating this 236-square-foot (22-square-meter) micro-loft apartment in the Marx Dormoy district of Paris.
Carved out of a former schoolhouse, the empty shell of the original ground-floor space showed a lot of potential right from the start, thanks to its high ceilings, ample number of windows, and the fact that it overlooks a small garden. As the designers declare:
“When we found this surface, we immediately knew that it had enormous potential: the height under the ceiling already offered, without [anything built yet], a real volume; while the glass roof offered at garden level a superb luminosity, and the condominium itself — [formerly] an old school from the beginning of the century — completely won us over.”
To start, the architects thoughtfully considered how to define different zones in the overall space. Such spatial distinctions are important in smaller spaces, in order to promote a sense of spaciousness and fuller functionality. Given the small footprint, using physical partitions would have made the home feel even smaller, so the designers opted instead to use subtler strategies like playing with changes in floor height, as well as implementing a clean palette of colors, in conjunction with a selective variety of textures and materials.
For instance, the kitchen is defined by placing it one step up on its own geometrically tiled platform, overlooking the adjacent living room. Cabinets have been added here up to the full height of the ceiling to maximize storage space. According to the architects, this economy of elements was inspired by the space-saving strategies that are often used when designing interiors on boats.
To save space, a smaller, more portable rocking chair made with wicker and metal has been added here, in lieu of a larger armchair.
To further emphasize this distinction between the two spaces, a minimalist sleek bar counter is added here, using a mix of white-painted wood and affordable oriented strand board (OSB).
The bar counter is a clever slide-out affair that can easily double its surface area, transforming it into a full-on dining experience when entertaining. When paired with a set of hand-painted IKEA stools that can be neatly tucked away, it adds an extra place for guests to sit and eat.
The living room is outfitted with a couch made with grey fabric, providing a soft contrast to the overall palette of room-enlarging white. The radiator here has been covered with custom-built shelving to add more space to store things. To avoid the bulkiness of shelving units taking up precious floor space, wall-mounted shelves have been used instead, thus maximizing the use of vertical space.
The kitchen platform extends past and under the stairs (which of course have integrated storage) all the way to a sliding door …
… which leads to the bathroom. Here, the cramped space and low ceilings are balanced with the use of warm wooden textures, and the installation of a skylight and glass shower doors, which helps to keep the space feeling more open. To add more storage, a built-in alcove has been tucked into the shower.
The volume of the sleeping loft above the bathroom is defined by a box made with OSB and feels quite cozy.
Ultimately, these small but significant design moves help to create the illusion of a larger space, say the architects:
“Even if it is only 22 square meters, it lives and feels like a large apartment, thanks to its fully equipped kitchen, its comfortable living room and its long bathroom.”
To see more, visit Space Factory.
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