News Home & Design Clever Micro-Apartment Renovation Features Theatrical Curtain To Hide Clutter Located in an Australian heritage building, this tiny apartment has been redone with a few simple but smart interventions. 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 February 17, 2021 03:25PM EST Never Too Small Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices Every growing city has its share of historically relevant buildings, some of which may perhaps be obsolete in terms of energy efficiency or function. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean they should be torn down to make way for newer, shinier buildings. In fact, the argument is often made that the greenest building is the one that is already built, and that such older structures should be retrofitted and readapted for affordable housing instead. With a population of over 5 million and steadily growing, Melbourne, Australia is one great example of how the importance of preserving the city's architectural heritage doesn't necessarily have to conflict with housing demands. Michael Roper, design director of local firm Architecture Architecture oversaw the renovation of this micro-apartment in an apartment block that's listed as a landmark heritage building in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy. It's also his own home, and we get to see the inside of this thoughtfully redesigned flat via Never Too Small: Never Too Small The 247-square-foot (23-square-meter) micro-apartment is located in the Art Deco-styled Cairo Flats, which were designed by Australian architect Best Overend and date back to 1936. Overend was influenced by modernism and the "minimum flat concept," where apartments are designed to "provide maximum amenity in minimum space for minimum rent." Of particular note were the building's cantilevered concrete stairs, which seemed "exotic, even unique, at the time of their design." Never Too Small In any case, the interiors of the modest apartments were something that Roper says he wanted to preserve as much as possible, while adding more functionality: "So when I moved in, there was very little storage. I wanted to respect the 'bones' of this building because it was really well-designed. I made a few minor modifications to the space – bookshelves, wardrobe, bed, extra objects – [are] stuck in the room, they're all integrated into the wall." Architecture Architecture To gain more storage space, Roper opted for what we'll call the "condensing" strategy. Never Too Small By adding elements like a fold-down bed, shelves, drawers, and an open closet, and then integrating them by pushing and condensing them all to one side, a lot of extra space is freed up. Never Too Small The existing 9.5-foot-high (2.9 meters) ceilings here also help to give the impression of a larger space. Never Too Small In addition, all that potential visual disorder of books, clothes, and knick-knacks can be neatly hidden behind a rather theatrical full-height curtain, which can also be pulled over the windows and balcony door at night to create a darker, cozier space to sleep in. Never Too Small Thanks to these smart design decisions, that big open space can now act as a multifunctional blank slate, where it can be easily converted into different uses just by bringing the bed down, or moving furniture around. Never Too Small For instance, when Roper wants to invite friends over for dinner, all he has to do is clear his work desk, and move it out into the middle of the main room, and set the table for a meal. Never Too Small Other nice ideas include the conversion of a former door into the kitchen into an open window, adding more functionality to the scheme. Architecture Architecture Before dinner, the window allows the host to interact with guests while preparing food, and at night, it offers a convenient ledge to set books or a glass of water on. As Roper explains: "When you are designing a small space, you want to make sure that everything needs to be performing at least one (if not two or three) functions." Never Too Small Beyond the main space, the small kitchen – which was already renovated back in 2000 by a previous resident – and the relatively large bathroom remain mostly untouched, suggesting that this particular overhaul has modified only the absolute necessities. Something that we all should consider whenever embarking on any renovation project. Never Too Small Roper adds the final thought that: "Populations are growing ... we need to be thinking about how we're going to house people more space-efficiently. I think when you've got a really well-built building like the Cairo Flats the last thing you want to be doing – apart from its historical value – is knocking it down, because it's providing another kind of housing which doesn't really exist elsewhere, which really suits a certain kind of resident at a certain time in their lives. [It would be] environmentally irresponsible to be knocking down buildings and building new all the time, when we need to be thinking about how we can repurpose what we've already got." You can visit Architecture Architecture to see their other projects. You can also read more about other renovated micro-apartments in Melbourne, like this clever "toolbox" renovation project in Cairo Flats, this "hotel-home" hybrid, and this micro-apartment readapted out of a 1950s building that once housed nurses.