Big interior design ideas fill this shoebox-sized apartment in Taiwan.
In our land of the diminishing quarter-acre dream many people still think of apartments as nothing more than shoeboxes – devoid of light and a basic capacity to nurture humans. And… it is true, there are many horrific examples of such spaces in our cities. Yet, this doesn’t need to be the case; an apartment, even a minute one, can be elegant, fun and efficient and its limitations can push architects and designers to be highly inventive.
As cities across New Zealand and Australia become increasingly dense and real estate prices continue to defy all logic, it is important to think about how small spaces can create living experiences of greater efficiency, but without stripping out all of the things that make us feel good.
Perhaps good sources of ideas are the dense Asian metropolises where the efficiency of space is paramount and examples of tightly planned, but beautifully detailed, apartments are much more common. In the Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung, HAO Design has created such a space in its Block Village project. The apartment is a mere 40m2 but it uses clever storage and a mezzanine floor to comfortably house a family of three.
The palette of materials lends a latent freshness and a playful cosiness to its interior. Pale plywood stairs and cabinetry are set against white walls with accents of olive, mint and nest egg greens. Rendered masonry and a warm engineered timber floor add some mass to create a balanced collection of material textures and colours.
The inbuilt cabinetry provides vast areas of storage with refined detailing and a rhythmic panelling of colour. The architects chose the colour scheme and material palette to make the space feel bigger than its quantitative dimensions and highlight the ideas of assemblage that underpin the concept behind the interior.
The architects describe their approach to planning the apartment as a collection of “several buildings blocks in the house, with different functions… connected to [make] a home”. The space may be small, but the connection of the spaces, with carefully placed screening elements allows for privacy and collectivity at the same time.
The visual connections created in the interior, particularly the internal windows that subtly link private and public realms, are reminiscent of the Raumplan designs of Austrian and Czechoslovakian architect Adolf Loos. The master of modern interior planning, Loos created spaces that were interlinked in such an intricate way that they started to feel woven together. Small volumes were suddenly given greater agency with the interior and any feelings of claustrophobia were banished. HAO Design has quietly applied the philosophies developed by Loos within the Block Village, while evolving the aesthetic to be more light-hearted.
The couple that occupies the apartment, with their little girl, has defined spaces for eating, relaxing and working, but none of these feel compromised by the overall size of the apartment. For the architects, the tuning of the spaces to the clients’ needs was a paramount concern; “we spent lots of time [trying] to understand the owner’s habits, living style [and] interests, to make the space more cosy for the family”.
This personal approach to the clients’ way of life has resulted in a carefully considered, beautifully detailed and playful interior. The Block Village demonstrates a human approach to the design of small spaces and one that could be applied more widely in growing Pacific cities to great effect.