News Home & Design Light-Filled Tiny Apartment Is Inspired by Japanese and Scandinavian Minimalism It's all part of a growing trend toward simplicity and smart functionality. 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 Published August 5, 2022 02:00PM 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 Karolina Howorko / Dymitr Kalasznikow/ Wnetrza Zwenetrza News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Whether it's a self-sufficient tiny house, a humble yurt, or a cutting-edge micro-apartment, small spaces are thankfully gaining traction around the world, as more and more people are prioritizing energy efficiency, simpler lifestyles, minimalism, and affordability over the pressure to conform to consumerist social expectations. Smaller is indeed more beautiful, and it's always heartening to see designers doing it right. Having recently completed the renovation of a 312-square-foot (29-square-meter) tiny apartment in Warsaw, Poland, Polish-French architect Karolina Howorko of Studio HOKA shows that with the careful consideration of light, space, and color, a formerly cramped space can be transformed into a versatile and spacious urban haven. Karolina Howorko / Dymitr Kalasznikow/ Wnetrza Zwenetrza According to the firm, the newly revamped Studio H used to be a part of a warehouse during World War II, before being transformed into a studio. During the process, a false ceiling was added which unfortunately disguised the true height of the 14-foot-tall (4.3 meters) ceiling. So to start, the new scheme did away with this obstacle in order to reveal the full potential of the space. A new loft measuring 97 square feet (9 square meters) was added in order to add more space for sleeping and working in this small urban residence, which is located in Warsaw's Old Town. The new concept involved "mak[ing] the space bigger and more functional" by creating a "blank canvas", which functions as "a metaphor of space where you can add colors, and modify its usage and atmosphere," explains Howorko, who is also a creator of artful posters and paintings. Karolina Howorko / Dymitr Kalasznikow/ Wnetrza Zwenetrza To accentuate this notion of a habitable blank canvas, much of the apartment's interior has been done in white, to offer the visual illusion of greater space, and more, says the designer: "The white colour not only makes the space bigger but serves as a base for experimentation where you can add decoration and transform its use. The whole design can be seen as an exercise in subtle manipulation of the system in order to perfect the experience of the place. Thanks to two big sunny windows, the light plays with the shades and makes different perceptions of the space. It is a cosy place to cook, sleep, relax, breathe and enjoy the city, even with limited floor space." Karolina Howorko / Dymitr Kalasznikow/ Wnetrza Zwenetrza The compact space is maximized with smart, space-saving elements like storage cabinets a mini-refrigerator that is integrated into the stairs leading up to the loft, as well as a countertop table that slides out for dining, food prep, or work. Karolina Howorko / Dymitr Kalasznikow/ Wnetrza Zwenetrza Extra flexibility and sensory variety is added through the integration of softer textural elements, such a curtain that can easily pull over to hide the visual distractions of the kitchen. Karolina Howorko / Dymitr Kalasznikow/ Wnetrza Zwenetrza Here, the full height of the ceilings are also optimized with built-in shelving that runs from floor to ceiling, allowing the client to both efficiently store and display their books or treasured items. Karolina Howorko / Dymitr Kalasznikow/ Wnetrza Zwenetrza The sitting area is also maximized with the addition of convertible pieces like a plush sofa bed that can quickly transform into an extra space for a guest, and more storage in the the form of the shelves that top off the existing radiators. As Howorko says: "All the furniture in the central part was chosen to be easily moved, allowing the atmosphere and usage to be transformed. There is a decorative shelf with an optional place for a TV, a painting, and mirrors for reflecting light and sky. The shelf was designed to store little objects and tall flat paintings." Karolina Howorko / Dymitr Kalasznikow/ Wnetrza Zwenetrza Howorko, who is a well-traveled architect who has spent time studying and working in Europe, Asia, and Central America, has translated these life experiences into the minimalist aesthetic of this project. In particular, she says that it is inspired by marine interiors and a synthesis of Japanese and Scandinavian design, an emerging design trend that's been popularly called "Japandi": "The interior design of this space was inspired by travels: Japandi style, Japanese modularity (hiding kitchen, stairs with hiding stools, foldable table, and storage), and sailing the ocean (boat staircases that are smaller but comfortable). The design was also influenced by artsy decorations from journeys and works of art from the atelier." Karolina Howorko / Dymitr Kalasznikow/ Wnetrza Zwenetrza The sleeping loft above features a folding desk that juts out of the minimalist railing system, as well as a large wardrobe and a double bed. Karolina Howorko / Dymitr Kalasznikow/ Wnetrza Zwenetrza To maximize and better illuminate the space, a full-height mirror has been added to the side of the wardrobe, and more storage shelves are built into the wall. Karolina Howorko / Dymitr Kalasznikow/ Wnetrza Zwenetrza The bathroom below the loft utilizes some of the same space- and light-maximizing tricks. A thick banded mirror weaves a path around the interior, and almost all surfaces have been done in a slick white, except for the simple glass wall, and bits of wood-like bits of resin that have been embedded into the light gray floor tiles, which help to suggest a visual and spatial linking of the bathroom with the rest of the home. Karolina Howorko / Dymitr Kalasznikow/ Wnetrza Zwenetrza By combining these elements of smart functionality and rustic simplicity from both Scandinavian and Japanese design traditions, Howorko has managed to create a project that exemplifies the best of both worlds, while creating an expanded sense of home out of what might initially seem like a compact footprint. To see more, visit Studio HOKA and Instagram.