Lantern-Like Sleeping Pod Illuminates the Shoji Micro-Apartment

This Japanese boho-inspired renovation is clean and minimalist.

Shoji Micro-apartment renovation by Proctor & Shaw interior

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The growing lack of affordable housing in many of the world's big cities has sparked debates over how to best tackle the ongoing crisis: perhaps building more housing units, and improving urban density by distributing it better, building up, and infilling; or maybe implementing some kind of subsidies for renters, or developing more cohousing and co-living projects.

Of course, there's also the possibility of rehabilitating existing housing stock by updating it and making it more livable through good design. We've seen countless examples where smaller living spaces are improved by such an approach, whether that's in Paris, Sydney, Hong Kong, or of course, London. Local architecture firm Proctor & Shaw did just that with their recent renovation of a tiny 318-square-foot (29-square-meter) micro-apartment in a late 19th-century townhouse located in Belsize Park, a neighborhood in the northern part of London.

By doing away with the apartment's existing walls in order to overhaul the layout, and implementing a space-saving "sleeping pod" concept, the space has become a true haven in a busy city. We get a better look at the apartment's transformation via Never Too Small:

Done with a "Japanese boho" aesthetic in mind, the Shoji Apartment project exudes a clean and calm atmosphere, thanks to the restrained palette of neutral colors and materials like wood and polycarbonate, and the occasional pops of color and texture from accessories and furnishings.

The client, who is a young professional working and studying in London, wanted something more open and flexible to suit his lifestyle, in addition to having more space to comfortably socialize with friends. So to start, the design called for the removal of the previously existing partitions, which walled off the living room, kitchen, and bedroom—making an awkward layout with a warren of dark rooms that were separated from each other.

Shoji Micro-apartment renovation by Proctor & Shaw Never Too Small interior

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As the architects note, the new scheme makes the most of what's already there: lovely, Victorian-era bay windows and tall ceilings, while deploying more creative solutions to maximize space:

"This apartment renovation project is conceived as a prototype for micro-living in existing housing stock with constrained floor areas but traditionally generous ceiling heights. [..] The innovative sleeping pod creates delight through new vantage points and a sense of sanctuary, whilst solving issues of limited functional space and inadequate storage."

The living room now occupies what used to be the bedroom. With the removal of the old walls, natural light can now enter more of the apartment unimpeded, illuminating the entire space and bouncing off the clay-worked plaster walls, and light-colored birch plywood cabinetry.

Shoji Micro-apartment renovation by Proctor & Shaw interior

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Extra storage is built into the alcove in one corner of the living room.

Shoji Micro-apartment renovation by Proctor & Shaw living room

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The new kitchen sits in what used to be a walled-off living room and now feels much larger and more functional than before.

Shoji Micro-apartment renovation by Proctor & Shaw kitchen

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That increased functionality emerges from the addition of a full-sized dining table in the heart of the space, as well as the installation of a long quartzite counter, bracketed by long rows of storage both above and below it.

Shoji Micro-apartment renovation by Proctor & Shaw kitchen storage

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The lofty height of the apartment is accentuated by adding a minimalist pendant light over the dining table.

Shoji Micro-apartment renovation by Proctor & Shaw dining area light

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The star of the show is the elevated sleeping pod, which helps to make good use of the high ceilings by doubling up on the number of functions that the space serves. Access to the upstairs sleeping loft is provided by this series of alternating tread stairs, which shrinks the length of the staircase, but not its height.

Shoji Micro-apartment renovation by Proctor & Shaw alternating tread stairs

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The sleeping pod itself is wrapped in sheets of metal-framed polycarbonate, which can slide open or closed.

Shoji Micro-apartment renovation by Proctor & Shaw sleeping pod

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The idea here is to create a light-filtering device for both habitation and illumination, say the architects:

"Open or closed, illuminated or opaque, its surface and volume are brought to life in use, acting at once as a lantern to the wider room or a mezzanine with intimate views to the street."

The loft itself is equipped with a king-sized bed, providing comfort in a cozy space.

Shoji Micro-apartment renovation by Proctor & Shaw sleeping loft

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Below the loft, a series of storage closets have been constructed to hold clothes, equipment, and even a second mini-freezer.

Shoji Micro-apartment renovation by Proctor & Shaw closet corridor

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The bathroom is still located in its original location, off to the side of the kitchen and behind a birch plywood door, but has been significantly updated with new fixtures, a glass shower wall, and micro-cement coated walls.

Shoji Micro-apartment renovation by Proctor & Shaw bathroom

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The project is a wonderful example of one viable approach to green building, where we revisit old housing stock and explore how they can be updated, rather than demolishing them. As the architects point out:

"We are by no means suggesting that this is a new typology or housing solution. However, perhaps the project might add to the ongoing debate about how quality of space might be 'measured', and what that could mean for future city living."

To see more, visit Proctor & Shaw.