Compact apartments pose a number of challenges for designers, nonetheless, there are many creative ways to transform even the smallest spaces into functional and beautiful places to live. We cast our eye to Spain, France and Belgium, where we found five compact apartments that epitomise design innovation and resourcefulness.
In the Chamberi neighbourhood of Madrid, Spanish design practice Febrero Studio have restored a two-bedroom apartment to its former glory. The compact space is structured around a central timber module, which contains all the air conditioning and heating installations. To optimise the module, Febrero Studio have added in-built shelving and created a deep alcove for the living room sofa to nestle in. Additionally, the module shapes access to the kitchen and private areas.
In the ancient village of Vers-Pont-du-Gard in southern France, French design practice Studio Le Cann have realised a quaint yet elegant bed and breakfast. “We sought to create a space that felt natural, warm and friendly – ideal for relaxing on a hot summer’s day,” says Studio Le Cann co-founder Guillaume Fantin. To open up the space, the studio removed the central part of the attic, revealing a double-height living space with two vaulted ceilings on either side. “The contours of the ceilings draw the silhouette of the project,” Guillaume says; on the right is the kitchen and bathroom and on the left is the bedroom, office and dressing room. “We always work within very minimalist envelopes and like finding creative ways to open them up.”
Saint Antoine Apartment
On one of the oldest streets in Paris, French design studio Heju have transformed a former carpentry workshop into an innovative two-storey apartment. At 100 square metres, the space was compact, requiring Heju to be clever with how they approached it. To strengthen the connection between the two floors and optimise space on the first where the kitchen, dining and living areas were located, Heju came up with the ingenious idea to suspend the staircase above the kitchen and utilise the countertop as a landing. While this may sound illogical, it makes perfect sense, as one must simply walk up a smaller set of steps get up to the counter.
In the Belgian town of Oostduinkerke, Belgian design studio TJIP have realised a compact weekend retreat by the sea. The one-bedroom apartment, which measures only 40 square metres, reveals TJIP’s expertise in designing in confined spaces. The consistent use of warm, muted materials – namely oatmeal-coloured stucco and bleached elm – creates a natural and sophisticated sense of space. TJIP have also used joinery to conceal the bedroom from view, leaving only a small gap through which to observe the ocean.
In Paris’ Marais neighbourhood, French design studio Hauvette & Madani have revived a 60-square-metre duplex apartment – the brief for which revolved around optimising the apartment’s incredibly high ceilings, which serve as a natural trap for sunlight. The studio opted for a small mezzanine bedroom above the main living space, connecting the two levels with a sculptural, timber-clad staircase: the hero of the entire project. “We liked the idea of a spectacular central element in a small space,” says Hauvette & Madani co-founder Samantha Hauvette. “The staircase also allowed us to create distance between the different living spaces without partitioning them – potentially losing brightness or a feeling of comfort in the process.”