News Home & Design Gem-Like Micro-Apartment Features a Hidden Room This smart renovation of a 1960s studio apartment includes a better separation of functions and includes a delightful surprise as well. By Kimberley Mok Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who covered architecture and the arts for Treehugger starting in 2007. our editorial process Twitter Twitter Kimberley Mok Published December 31, 2020 12:01PM EST Tom Ferguson Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices By necessity, designing for a smaller living space will mean making every square inch of space serve some kind of function, no matter how inconsequential it may seem – in the hopes that the end result is something beautiful, useful, and feels uniquely like "home." That approach is especially important when it comes to redesigning existing housing stock in large cities, where space is scarce and newly built properties can be expensive, so readapting what's already there can be one way to ensure that housing can remain affordable for the younger generation. In Sydney, Australia, architect Brad Swartz transformed what was once an oddly laid out 258-square-foot (24 square meters) studio apartment into something that feels much more open, well-organized – and even luxurious. Located in Rushcutters Bay, a suburban neighborhood within walking distance of the bustling city and Sydney's harbor, the apartment is found in an older apartment building that dates back to the 1960s. Called the Boneca Apartment (or literally "doll’s house" in Portuguese), the apartment's previous layout had its kitchen in the entry corridor, with the living and sleeping functions mashed up in the same room. Needless to say, such compromises are to be expected in an ordinary studio apartment, but Swartz had some better ideas. We get a complete video tour via Never Too Small: To start, the architect's new design cleared out all the former partitioning, and moved the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom off to one side. The idea here was to create more of a separation between public and private, and between sleeping and living – something that one might expect in a larger home. Tom Ferguson This more distinct separation is achieved through the installation of a floor-to-ceiling, slatted wood screen that can slide from one end of the apartment to the other. During the day, it can cover the bedroom, thus opening up the kitchen, and focusing our attention on the living room space. Tom Ferguson During the night, things are inverted. As Swartz explains: "We decided it was really important to have a strong divide between what's sleeping and what's living, so we contained the amenities of the apartment and the sleeping space to the smallest possible area, so that the living area could be as big as possible." As we can see, this approach works: one common complaint about smaller studio apartments is that everything has to be done in the same space: cooking, sitting, eating, sleeping. It can feel cramped and disarrayed, but in this clever redesign, every function has its own defined area, and there's plenty of built-in storage to hide any clutter. For example, the kitchen; its appliances and cabinets are designed down to the inch. Everything has its place, from the mini-refrigerator and mini-dishwasher hidden behind the cabinetry to the other appliances smartly hidden in their own cupboard. Tom Ferguson Locally sourced Australian blackbutt timber was used for the screen and the flooring to provide a warmer texture to the otherwise minimalist surfaces of the apartment. Tom Ferguson The sleeping nook is also exquisitely designed, with the bed sitting on its own platform, and storage incorporated underneath. To let in even more natural light, the corner leading in the bedroom has been bevelled off – an interesting design move. Tom Ferguson But perhaps the best part is the one that is unseen: nestled in that line dividing the living-dining room and the bedroom-and-kitchen, there is a hidden door that leads into the bathroom. Upon opening that secret door, one is confronted with a full-length mirror that gives the illusion of a much larger space. Tom Ferguson It's an ingenious idea, allowing the bathroom to stretch out behind the kitchen, creating a longer, larger space to install a beautifully modern bathroom. Tom Ferguson There's a shower, sink, toilet, huge mirrored cabinets, concealed lighting, and even a hidden wardrobe for storing clothes. Tom Ferguson Some may reject the idea of living in such a small space, but for some, living close to all the action that the city offers is worth it. As Swartz points out, this apartment is a great example of how "living with less in a small space close to the city can be a luxury, not a compromise." He adds: "Cities like Sydney have amazing old housing stock that's been solidly built and isn't going anywhere. Repurposing that amazing housing stock to bring it up to the way we want to live our life now, or just giving it that refresh, is one of the most sustainable ways we can continue to grow our cities." To see more, visit Brad Swartz Architect and on Instagram.