News Home & Design Small Italian Apartment Revamped As a Flexible, Open Living Space A new layout, lots of curtains and sliding doors help make this apartment roomier and more functional. 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 Updated June 10, 2021 02:54PM EDT 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 Never Too Small News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Building anew isn't always the best or greenest solution, especially when it comes to considering things like embodied carbon (also known as "upfront carbon emissions"). In these situations, preserving and rehabilitating aging buildings are a greener option, especially in older cities that often have aging housing stock. More often than not, renovating an existing living space will often result in a project that can be surprisingly better tailored to current needs, while still maintaining the original character of a neighborhood. At least, that's the case with this remarkable transformation of a dark, cramped studio apartment in a historic 1930s building in Milan, Italy. Located near the famous shopping district of Corso Buenos Aires, the 473-square-foot apartment has been transformed by local architecture firm ATOMAA (previously) from its previous compartmentalized layout into something more flexible and open. To reflect its new spatial framework, the project is nicknamed A House In Constant Transition, and we get a short tour of the project via Never Too Small: The prior layout had a narrow, poorly lit bathroom right in the middle of the apartment, effectively bisecting the tiny floor plan and monopolizing one of the home's three windows. To improve the situation, the architects decided to alter up the layout by connecting the kitchen, living, dining, and bedrooms into one open, flexible space bathed in natural light, while condensing less-used spaces like the laundry, bathroom, and wardrobe into the darker areas toward the rear of the apartment. Never Too Small The architects explain their rationale: "The main project intervention was to move the bathroom from the previous location and to relocate it near to the perimeter wall, furthest from the natural light from the windows. This presented the possibility to centralize the elements needed for fixed functional uses, such as storage furniture, the wardrobe, washing machine and entrance, all positioned along the perimeter wall, in a sort of act of thickening that wall. The result was that the main spaces for everyday life, were located near the light sources, in a sort of continuous open and free space." Never Too Small With the main living spaces all located into one long interzonal space and benefiting from natural light, the new design scheme gives the impression of a much larger space. Yet, there is the freedom to divide up space as needed. For example, the client can close the curtains in the living room to create an enclosed room of sorts. The curved wall here—painted in light and bright colors—helps to reflect light. Never Too Small An exposed brick wall, painted in white, has been added here to create an entry area on one side, and a laundry room on the other. Gregory Abbate The kitchen has now been shifted to the middle of the apartment, with cabinetry and furniture constructed with high-quality beech plywood. To unify all the different zones in the apartment, wooden flooring has been set in a diagonal pattern throughout the main living spaces. Gregory Abbate The remodeled kitchen has all the typical home appliances: a stove, oven, range hood, as well as a refrigerator and dishwasher cleanly hidden behind cabinet doors. Never Too Small Rather than install heavy, solid cabinets for storage, the floating shelves here help to create a lighter and more open atmosphere. Never Too Small The same flexible modus operandi is applied to the bedroom, where two sliding doors can be used to separate the sleeping area from the kitchen. Gregory Abbate There's a reading nook just beside the bed, right in front of the window. Gregory Abbate Like the other zones in the apartment, there's an extra layer of division here in the bedroom with a curtain that can be used to close off the bedroom completely from the adjacent reading nook. Never Too Small There's another set of multipurpose sliding doors in the bedroom that can close off either the closet or the bathroom, depending on what's being used at the moment. Gregory Abbate Having been relocated to the rear of the apartment, the bathroom is now a much wider and brighter space, with enough square footage for a shower, toilet, bidet, and sink. Never Too Small There are also two convenient points of entry into the bathroom now—one from the laundry room and the other from the bedroom. Never Too Small In renovating this small historic slice of Milan, a kind of urban continuity is assured well into the future, says ATOMAA founder Umberto Maj: "Cities are the place of opportunity, and that's why the population of Milan is growing. Reusing all these beautiful buildings of the 1930s can give the opportunity to house people more comfortably, and in a sustainable way." To see more, visit ATOMAA.