News Home & Design Journalist's Attic Micro-Apartment Redesigned as Urban Beach House This concept brings seaside relaxation into the heart of the city. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Published October 26, 2022 02:04PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email Imagen Subliminal News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in so many ways. It has changed the way we work, how we parent our children, how we shop and dress, and even the way we think about our cities. Many of us took up new (and sometimes absurd) hobbies and fostered new pets, while others took on renovation projects that had been on the back burner for some time. For Manuel, a journalist based out of Madrid, Spain, the onset of the pandemic meant staying home and working out of a dark, cramped attic apartment in the Lavapiés neighborhood that he owns and has been living in since 1993. With pandemic restrictions keeping him confined, he realized at the end of 2020 that it was finally time to overhaul his dark cave of a 322-square-foot home, which had two big walls that separated it into three rooms—a kitchen/dining area, plus bathroom and bedroom—in addition to an under-utilized terrace. A sloping roof and exposed beams made the space feel even more gloomy. Imagen Subliminal Manuel, who is a lover of rock music, opera, and social media, tapped local design firm Gon Architects for the job, who set about putting a new creative scheme that "injects domestic optimism" into the space. It's not just an attic apartment, it's now a place to relax, reminiscent of a vacation house that one lives in full-time. As the architects explain, the Beach House project is all about bringing memories of the sea into the heart of the city. "When we arrived, we were very clear about the actions needed to transform the space," says the architect. "They can be summed up in three words: demolish, perforate, and furnish. The answer is a bright, carefree and comfortable house, adjectives intrinsic to a beach house. The materials used are few but very well chosen: ceramic, paint and mirror." The architects started by demolishing the partitions in order to change the existing layout and to create a unified space that is flexible and which can be modified according to Manuel's moods or needs. Imagen Subliminal The bedroom now sits next to the terrace. More natural light is brought in via a series of new skylights, two of which have been installed above the bed. The bed has been decorated with futuristic-looking LED lights, and is now equipped with speakers to suit Manuel's love of listening to music. A soft gray curtain can be pulled across the ceiling to give more privacy when needed. Imagen Subliminal As one can see, more storage has been built in on either side of the bed, and around the entire perimeter of the apartment. Imagen Subliminal Some of the integrated storage cabinets have mirrors installed on their fronts, so that sunlight is reflected off and further brightens the interior. In addition, the mirrors allow Manuel to take selfies, with his newly renovated apartment as the backdrop. Imagen Subliminal Another gray curtain here can be used to cover the entire wall to hide the entrance and kitchen. The architects say there is a bit of theatricality intended here: "[The] attic is a large qualified room, spatial, luminous, thermally efficient and with an atmosphere that can be modified, turning the room into a scenography that opens and closes according to the mood, as the curtain of a theater opens and closes; a unitary and continuous environment, yet changeable if desired, where the passage from one room to another occurs in a fluid way." Imagen Subliminal Even though the space has been redesigned as an open plan, the judicious selection of a few furniture pieces—such as a table, three chairs, and a lamp—help to define the function of each spatial zone. Nevertheless, the whole scheme is brought together with the floor, which has been painted a vibrant color called International Klein Blue. This blue not only helps to soften the sunlight coming in, but also evokes the sense of a beach home by the sea. The designers say that this "marine carpet" helps to blur the boundaries between inside and out, private and public, and what is open and closed. Imagen Subliminal The terrace has redone to give Manuel a connecting outdoor space to work, rest, and entertain: "The terrace, which is connected to the interior through a ceramic wall turned 45 degrees, becomes another room that introduces light and ventilation in which there is a bench of the same material that invites you to lie down to take a nap on summer afternoons, eat with friends or just sit and read." Imagen Subliminal With simple but powerful interventions like adding mirrors, and design strategies to let more light in, a small space such as this is cleverly transformed to feel much larger than its actual footprint. To see more, visit Gon Architects.