Corner Micro-Apartment Expanded With Clever Screened-In Living Space

A cramped corner apartment is enlarged with the addition of a protected balcony and some transformer furniture.

El Camarin micro-apartment IR Arquitectura interior

Fernando Schapochnik

In architectural and urban planning, there's often a lot of talk about how to make the best use of "residual" urban spaces, such as those found in rear laneways, the alleys in between buildings, or any bits of neglected urban fabric that could be fertile ground for some kind of architectural intervention or urban infill. Every city has these residual spaces that could very well be transformed into something useful, like micro-housing or a garden, with a bit of creativity.

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, local firm IR Arquitectura has enlarged a tiny corner apartment, a "residual product," with the conversion of a 75-square-foot (7-square-meter) balcony into a screened extension of the interior space, in addition to augmenting the micro-apartment with built-in transformer furniture. Called El Camarín, the small 193-square-foot (18-square-meter) apartment is located in Charcarita, a neighborhood in the north-central part of the city.

El Camarin micro-apartment IR Arquitectura exterior
Fernando Schapochnik

The architects describe their scheme to redesign the space:

"This small apartment, residual product of the fragmentation of a property built in the 1950s in the neighborhood of  Chacarita, forms an 'ochava' [chamfered corner] on the first floor with visuals as open to the outside as exposed to the curious look from the street. These three factors, added to the will of the client to inhabit a luminous and flexible space, determine the project strategy."
El Camarin micro-apartment IR Arquitectura balcony
Fernando Schapochnik

The new design remakes the under-utilized balcony space, which was previously on full view to the outside street, into a partially protected area that can be enjoyed during the good weather of the summer months.

Since the fragmentation of the original building resulted in this awkward space, this less-than-ideal existing condition was made into an advantage with the demolition of original layout and the insertion of a curved balcony slab, plus the addition of an architectural "diaphragm" of sorts. The architects explain:

"The incorporation of spaced enclosures offers a new device, a diaphragm able to expand the use of the apartment in summer and to contract it in winter. A thermal mattress that, due to its geometry and texture, will assume the responsibility of ensure the privacy of El Camarín."
El Camarin micro-apartment IR Arquitectura balcony
Fernando Schapochnik

This mesh screen offers a greater measure of privacy to the apartment's occupants, yet allows for fresh air and light to still pass through. With the addition of plants and furniture, it feels like a sunroom to relax in. During the night, or during the winter months, the interior space can be completely closed off with the help of accordion-like glass doors.

El Camarin micro-apartment IR Arquitectura balcony closed
Fernando Schapochnik

The awkward floor space inside the apartment has been transformed as well: rather than clutter the main living room with pieces of furniture, the firm has redesigned it so that there are now two walls with built-in furniture that can fold or slide out when in use, and which can be hidden away when it's not needed, thus saving precious space.

El Camarin micro-apartment IR Arquitectura interior
Fernando Schapochnik

On one side of the apartment, we have the kitchen "wall," which has a hidden, fold-down dining table integrated within, as well the usual suspects: a stovetop, oven, pantry, and counter space for preparing food. The refrigerator and washing machine are hidden within this kitchen 'wall', behind some doors.

El Camarin micro-apartment IR Arquitectura kitchen wall
Fernando Schapochnik 

Behind yet another door in this wall, one can walk into a small corridor that has the bathroom sink, and further beyond, the bathroom proper, with a toilet and shower. Besides that, there is a ladder that provides access to the roof.

El Camarin micro-apartment IR Arquitectura view to bathroom
Fernando Schapochnik

To reach the cabinets at the top, one can use a ladder that hooks onto a rail.

El Camarin micro-apartment IR Arquitectura ladder and kitchen
Fernando Schapochnik

On the other side of the micro-apartment, there is an elevated platform that holds the bed, a desk area that also has some extra space to lean back and sit against the wall.

El Camarin micro-apartment IR Arquitectura bed area
Fernando Schapochnik

There's plenty of built-in storage here, and to visually separate this space from the rest of the apartment, there is some open shelving here as well to place books and plants – part of which extends over the entrance door.

El Camarin micro-apartment IR Arquitectura bed area
Fernando Schapochnik

Overall, it's an excellent overhaul: though the original layout was problematic and constrained, the new scheme has managed to squeeze more functionality with integrated furniture and shelving. Things are opened up even more considerably with the expansion of the balcony into an extra living space -- one that feels much more connected with the rest of the apartment. To see more, visit IR Arquitectura, Instagram, and Twitter.