News Home & Design Family's Minimalist Micro-Apartment Features Natural Materials, Flexible Layout To create an airy atmosphere, this 430-square-foot apartment was renovated with a palette of natural materials and earthy colors. 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 January 26, 2021 08:33PM 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 Never Too Small Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive With some of the most expensive real estate prices in the world, much of the populace of the tiny island metropolis of Hong Kong is familiar with living in small spaces – sometimes with one's extended family. With a population of more than 7 million people dwelling on 426 square miles of land, Hong Kong is a densely packed city where there's nowhere to go but up, making the soaring verticality of its residential towers a common sight. But as we've seen time and time again, even in the hyper-density of Hong Kong, thoughtful design can transform cramped, compact spaces into something else altogether. For instance, in this renovation of a 430-square-foot (40 square meters) apartment for a family of three, local architecture firm Absence From Island was able to convert the aging apartment – dating back to the 1990s – into a bright, airy space with a flexible layout, and lots of storage. Watch the detailed tour of this from Never Too Small, as explained by architects Chi Chun and Etain Ho: Located in Tseung Kwan O, one of the nine residential towns in Hong Kong built mostly on reclaimed land, the "Rattan in Concrete Jungle" apartment was redone for an advertising agency executive and his flight attendant wife, and their young newborn. Prior to the renovation, the layout was relatively typical for the island city-state, with five rooms and their doors all opening into the main living space. The clients, however, wanted a more flexible configuration that would maximize space, as well as more storage for baby items and the like. Never Too Small To start, the architects shifted the bathroom door over so that there would be more wall space freed up for placing a television in the living room. Never Too Small The designers then set about installing full-height wood cabinets everywhere, with rattan – a locally sourced material from Guangzhou, China – inserted into the fronts. Never Too Small The porous quality of the rattan allows for some air flow, and also helps to lighten up the color palette of the apartment, creating a calm, minimalist environment. Never Too Small The configuration of the cabinets reveals some of the careful thinking that's gone into the new scheme. For example, while most of the cabinets stretch from ceiling to floor, near the main entry door, the cabinet here has been deliberately truncated, creating a convenient bench to sit upon while putting on one's shoes. Never Too Small To free up more space, the sofa in the living room has been built in with the rest of the cabinetry. Underneath, there are cubbies to store baby's toys away from view. The wall adjacent to the integrated couch hides metal sheeting underneath, so that it can be used as a magnetic board for attaching family photos or kids' artwork. Never Too Small Right beside the sofa we also have a handy ledge, made with pale-colored terrazzo, which adds an extra surface to put things on, and serves as a step up to the baby's room. Never Too Small The floor area is opened up even more thanks to the dining table, which is tucked away in a slot between the cabinets. When it's needed, it can swing and roll out on its wheels, and the dining chairs taken out; once dinner is finished, it's stowed out of the way. Never Too Small The master bedroom features a bed elevated on a platform that's also used for more storage. There's a built-in reading alcove right by the window, which has some rattan panels partially covering the bottom of the windows, creating a comfy nook. Never Too Small Stepping up past the terrazzo step, the baby's room is conceived as a kind of blank slate: the elevated floor height means that there's a lot of underfloor space to hide storage. Never Too Small There's even a hidden, rattan-decorated desk that rises up on hydraulics with the push of a button. The idea was to keep this space flexible so that it "grows" along with the baby. Never Too Small The kitchen is quite small, but the design manages to enlarge it by extending the cabinets all the way up so that every inch is utilized. Never Too Small To align itself with the new placement of its door, the bathroom has had its toilet moved over, so that the entry view is of the mirror cabinet instead. The tiling has been kept to an earthier palette, to match the rest of the apartment. Never Too Small The overarching idea here is to make a small living space feel much bigger by shifting a few key elements around, adding multifunctional or convertible furniture, while also cladding the space with natural materials and down-to-earth colors. The result is an urban haven within this bustling metropolis, perfect for a small family looking to grow in place. To see more, visit Absence From Island.