News Home & Design Couple's Design-Forward DIY Makeover Transforms 1960s Apartment It was redesigned with small-scale sustainability in mind. 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 December 16, 2022 01:58PM EST 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 Simple Dwelling News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Renovating an apartment can be a daunting experience, especially if one is aiming for something customized on one hand, yet is constrained on a tight budget on another. One potential solution is to go down the path of doing it yourself. With new technologies like computer-aided design and manufacturing, it is indeed possible to achieve something beautifully bespoke with a bit of adventurous DIY spirit, and a sprinkle of know-how. That's exactly what Australian couple David Chapman and Jess Grunow did with a revamp of their small two-bedroom apartment in Thornbury, a suburb of Melbourne. Chapman, an industrial designer, and Grunow, a graphic designer, wanted to update the 1960s unit by choosing to tackle the renovations themselves, with small-scale sustainability in mind. They achieved this by designing the furnishings in the project themselves and assembling it with the help of a local builder. The results are impressive and refreshing, as we can see in this short tour of the newly renovated apartment via Simple Dwelling: As Grunow explained, going DIY has always been a habit of theirs, and this apartment is no exception: "Even when we were renting we were always highly motivated to customize our spaces and we would always come up with nifty ways of hacking off-the-shelf furniture, or going all out and building something custom to fit a particular space, and I think that this apartment is just that same DIY spirit on a far greater scale." The apartment's layout features a corridor that branches out to allow access to the living room, kitchen, bedroom, and home office. Already existing were large windows, which provided views out over the city. Simple Dwelling The living room features a lot of built-in cabinetry that occupies the perimeter of the space, thus eliminating visual clutter like cables, while also providing plenty of storage space. The continuous line of the cabinets also offers lots of spots to display design objects, which are backlit by a row of LED strip lights. Simple Dwelling Much of the new cabinets in the project have been cut with precision using a CNC machine. As Chapman explains, this helps to make the process more efficient, and reduce waste: "By using CNC processes, this would allow us to design and engineer the parts here on AutoCAD, have it sent off-site to be cut, brought back here and it allowed us to take our time with the assembly, and then have a builder help us install it." Simple Dwelling Like the living room, the kitchen has numerous personal touches to make it unique. Once again, we have custom-CNCed cabinetry, topped off with one-of-a-kind metal drawer pulls that were locally made with a press break. As Chapman noted, birch plywood was the best choice for this DIY project: "We wanted materials that were hard-wearing and would have good longevity. The first material we selected was the exposed birch plywood. We both love the style of plywood, but we also love the style of joinery that celebrates the material itself. And we just love the warmth that natural materials bring to a home." Simple Dwelling Grunow customized the refrigerator as a homage to her favorite food item, the tomato. The countertops are made with large format tiles that were pre-cut with a water jet and assembled on-site. In the corner, there is a dinette with customized bench seating, which incorporates storage underneath and was built using scrap pieces of plywood. Simple Dwelling The same birch plywood has been used here in revamping the hallway closet, which now has a sliding door to either reveal the coat and linen closet, or a mirrored alcove. Simple Dwelling The bedroom is small and simple. Simple Dwelling The home office has a wall for open shelving on one side and desks on the other. Grunow, who dabbles in doing ceramics as a hobby, can display her ceramic works here. Simple Dwelling By doing it themselves, the couple was able to save money, and have more control over the process of designing and building their own home in the city. As Chapman pointed outs, living in an apartment isn't a barrier to keeping sustainability in mind: "When we were planning out the build, we weren't really able to tackle some of the bigger sustainability aspects that we would have liked—so these include things like solar, insulation, glazing, and in particular, the building orientation as well. So what we had to do was think about how we can be sustainable on a smaller scale through the material choices, and also the efficient use of those materials to minimize waste."