Everywhere you look, housing is getting more and more expensive, especially in large metropolitan areas like Paris, London, Sydney, and New York City. There are a number of factors behind this, but potential solutions range from facilitating alternative models like co-living and co-housing to even shared ownership. There’s also the idea of upgrading existing homes and apartments to make them more functional to the needs of today, which can be a greener approach if one considers all the upfront carbon emissions that are involved with building new developments.
In addition, one has to consider the cultural and historical value that older buildings might represent to an urban community. Datong is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Taipei, Taiwan, and features important cultural landmarks like the Confucius Temple and a large urban park. In renovating an outdated apartment for a business owner who is often out of town, local studio Republic Design manages to create an efficient and fully functional home that considers both the client’s needs and the district’s historical past. We get a more in-depth look at this small urban haven via Never Too Small:
Measuring a meager 301 square feet (28 square meters) but blessed with high ceiling, this micro-apartment is located in a residential building that is populated with other small apartments. The previous layout was that of a studio apartment, with a series of half-walls but no enclosed bedroom, and a tiny bathroom that measured only 17 square feet, and inconveniently had the sink placed outside of it.
To start off, the new design involves removing the half walls and erecting a long wall from the kitchen to the bedroom area, effectively creating a long, hallway-like space and also closing off the bedroom and bathroom to augment privacy. A dining table was added, as well as a mezzanine above the kitchen, thanks to the extra space from the tall ceilings.
As one enters, one comes directly into the living room, which has been kept quite spartan because the client lives alone and travels quite often. There is a contemporary and curvy armchair here and a compact round coffee table.
One of the design highlights here is a “utility brick wall,” which looks like a wall made with exposed bricks, but is actually a multifunctional storage unit that has been built into the vertical surface. The colors mimic the terracotta tiles lining the roof of the nearby temple, and some of the bricks can flip down to act as hooks or shelves to hang or display things.
The color palette overall takes its cues from the local flavors of Datong, ranging from earthy reds, soothing grays and light-toned oak wood, like this new wall that extends down the length of the apartment, offering a spot to mount the television, places for integrated storage, and seamlessly concealing the doors to the new bedroom and bathroom.
Toward the rear of the apartment, we have the dining and storage area, which overlaps that of the kitchen. This niche-like space is equipped with a multipurpose table, used for eating and working, and can be removed to make more space. The storage cabinets above and below are made with easily-to-clean red and white laminate material.
The kitchen is quite small, but it suits the client, who often eats out. Despite its small size, the kitchen still has all the basics like a deep sink, two-burner induction stovetop, and space to put the refrigerator, microwave, compact dishwasher, and cabinet space for other items.
To get up to the mezzanine above the kitchen, one pulls down a set of retractable stairs …
… and up one can go to get a view of the apartment below. This area acts as extra storage or a place for overnight guests.
The bedroom is at the other end of the apartment, and features several space-expanding ideas like built-in wardrobes and shelving, and a full-height mirror to give the illusion of greater space.
The new bathroom is much bigger than the previous one and includes terrazzo flooring, and a privacy-enhancing glass block wall. The shower itself has some slim-profile metal shelving to store toiletries without taking up too much space.
This project is a great example of how important the reuse imperative is when it comes to long-term sustainability in the building industry. And as Republic Design founder Jack Choo explains, revamping existing buildings is an important part of a wider strategy for affordable housing in growing cities:
“Today, in urban areas like Taipei, more and more people are choosing to live on their own. An existing apartment can be a more affordable option for the next generation in urban areas. We believe we can upgrade the quality of space after renovation, especially for those old buildings, which contain cultural and historical value.”
To see more, visit Republic Design.