Living in a small urban apartment is not easy, especially if one is about to start raising a family. But it can be done: Australian architect Clare Cousins makes some intelligent compromises of space and materials for a young couple expecting their first child in this lovely, budget-conscious conversion of an 807-square-foot, one-bedroom flat, located in a heritage building in downtown Melbourne.
Seen over at Dezeen, and taking cues from the clients' preference for the efficient layout of Japanese micro-apartments, Cousin's design erects a full-height wooden box to one side of the apartment, which is further divided into the parents' bedroom, and a smaller bedroom to the rear for the baby. Each room is about the length of the bed, meaning that extra space is freed up for the open-concept living room, kitchen and dining areas, while a bit of surplus headroom is converted to a sleeping loft for guests and hidden storage near the entrance.
The flexibility of Japanese-style shoji screens is utilized in the three sliding doors that are used to give the main bedroom privacy, or which can be left open to make the living room area seem even larger. The main bedroom is elevated on a platform, creating a ledge that also serves as extra seating for the living room.
There is plenty of built-in storage cabinets and shelving, allowing the family to hide their possessions to give the small space an uncluttered feel.
Cousins primarily uses pale-coloured Australian hoop-pine plywood, an inexpensive material, to accentuate the natural light that filters into the high-ceilinged space. Cousins explains that "much of the joinery was designed to be constructed by a carpenter, further minimising construction costs."
With more and more 30-somethings choosing to live, work and raise families in the cities rather than the suburbs, smart conversions like this may be the way to go. As Cousins puts it:
The sensitive adaptation of existing heritage spaces to suit the requirements of their users is fundamental to the sustainable development of our inner city. This project demonstrates that high-density inner-city living and modern, functional family homes need not be mutually exclusive.