Architect’s Micro-Apartment Renovation Is Inspired by Japanese Design

Cities continue to attract people of both the younger and older, “active third-ager” subsets alike, as places that continue to offer exciting opportunities for work and leisure. Whether it’s Madrid or Hong Kong, many of the world’s big metropolises have existing housing stock that is relatively more affordable than newer developments. On the other hand, these aging properties are often in dire need of updating and retrofitting to make them more functional and liveable.

Such was the case with one micro-apartment in the eastern part of Paris and is now home to local architect and engineer Marlice Alfera of maaxi. The young professional bought the property recently, which is located in a building dating back to the 1850s.

Alfera purchased the 270-square-foot (25-square-meter) flat with an eye to renovating it to her own needs and tastes, as the existing floorplan of the bedroom, living room, and an enclosed kitchen and bathroom hadn’t been changed since it was built. We get a look at how Alfera thoughtfully redesigned the whole space via Never Too Small:

Alfera’s starting point for the new design scheme stems from her time spent in Japan, as well as a desire to have a space for her collection of books, as well as a place to work from home when needed. As Alfera explains, there is a synthesis of cultural inspirations here:

“My idea for this apartment was to use traditional and natural materials, such as granite and plywood. I took inspiration from the Japanese concept of the shoji. It’s a sort of merging of French inspiration and Japanese inspiration, and I think it’s at the core of my practice as an architect.”

Alfera’s strategy started with eliminating the existing partitions separating the entry, bedroom, living room, and kitchen, thus creating an open-plan layout that feels more spacious and filled with light coming in from the apartment’s two main windows.

The first thing one sees upon entering is the translucent panels that function as the bedroom’s shoji-like screens. Since Alfera could not source actual paper-based shoji screens locally, she reinterpreted this element “as a new style of shoji”, using polycarbonate panels and plywood cleats, creating the same effect of letting light into the bedroom, without compromising privacy.

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The living room is now equipped with a convertible sofa, which can be transformed into a bed for overnight guests. The coffee table was reclaimed from the curb and repainted to give it a fresh look. The bookshelves here are made with plywood that has been painted white.

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The low piece of furniture under the shoji screen functions both as a bench, and as a place to put a television. There is also a couple of cabinets built in underneath to store various things.

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The kitchen is right beside the main living space and is done with the same aesthetic of white-painted wood, along with a band of durable granite.

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The minimalist look is maintained here, thanks to the installation of a induction stovetop, and hiding appliances like a dishwasher, washing machine and small refrigerator behind cabinet doors.

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Over in the corner of residual space that sits between the bedroom and window, Alfera has designed another full-height storage unit. Here she can hide away things like clothes, as well as tucking in a fold-down desk that allows her to work from home.

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Alfera’s creativity shines in how she’s done the wardrobe too: It’s hidden in a nook between the bedroom and the desk area and can be accessed from both inside the bedroom and on the other side.

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The bedroom itself is quite simple and has a wall-mounted light for reading in bed, as well as that aforementioned wardrobe. This minimalist bedroom feels cozy, as it has been designed to “feel like a cabin”, and is intended to glow like a light box at night when the light is on, says Alfera.

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The bathroom had already been renovated when Alfera moved in, so she chose to keep it mostly untouched.

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Overall, Alfera says that she has redesigned this tiny space to be more functional and cost-effective, as well as keeping small-scale sustainability in mind:

“I try in general to have a frugal approach with with reduced carbon footprint materials, and natural materials. When you make a project with good materials, you had better think about the design, because you’re going to keep it for a long time. When you manage to find a way to make it last in time, in terms of not only materials, but also in the use also, that is how it becomes sustainable.”

To see more, check out maaxi and Instagram.


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