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The world today is engineered around multi-function and customization. What started as a movement within the tech sphere for the millennial generation has migrated into the physical world of product design, spawning consumer options such as NikeiD and mi adidas sneaker customization tools, IKEA hacks, and online platforms for customized clothing and accessories, to name a few. More recently, even home design has appropriated elements of customization to the immediate environment and the unique needs of the inhabitants. Spurred by the increasing congestion of urban areas and skyrocketing property prices – the average price per square foot in New York City now goes for $1,400 USD according to Trulia – the most attention-grabbing innovation of late has been the transformer apartment, which throws out traditional conceptions of single-purpose rooms for an all-encompassing living space for eating, sleeping, playing and relaxing. Here, we have compiled seven of the best recent examples of the transformer apartment that offer lessons in how thinking out-of-the-box can transform your life for the better in this modern age.
Designed by famed architect Rem Koolhaas in 1998 and finished towards the end of 2013, De Rotterdam is one of the largest buildings in the Netherlands, within which 240 apartments reside. In challenging themselves to maximize the usability of these apartments, the interior designers settled on the solution of custom made furniture that would each serve a dual purpose — the sofa or the workspace compress to make way for a bed hidden in the wall; what seems at first to be wall-mounted paintings unfold into functional chairs, and a coffee table extends several times its length into a dining table for a dozen people. A prime example of the coming-together of aesthetic design and functionality.
Location: Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Total area: 60 square meters
Paris’ Napoleonic-era Haussmann buildings, grandiose in stature yet remarkably uniform throughout the city, are one of the largest defining features of the City of Light. Tucked away within these buildings just under the roof, however, are long-forgotten maid’s rooms, originally designed to house the servants of the residences below. Here, Kitoko Studio reimagines one such room into a living space for a client’s au-pair, filling up half of the original floor space with a massive cupboard of sorts that contains all the functionality needed in a home. Inspired by the concept of the Swiss army knife, everything is pulled out from the cupboard into the free space, from a stair-shaped bookshelf and wardrobe, to a dining table that stores two chairs. Meanwhile, the bed is suspended above all these functions and can be closed off entirely by a sliding door to eliminate light and sound.
Location: Paris, France
Total area: 8 square meters
No stranger to designing for small homes, the interior design firm MKCA boosted the functionality of this apartment in New York’s upscale Gramercy Park neighborhood by way of a sizeable sliding cabinet that combines the living room, bedroom and study into one space. Mounted on rails in the floor, the cabinet houses a TV and allows a spacious living room when resting flush against the wall, but it can be pulled towards the sofa to create space for a queen-size bed that flips down from the wall. Electronic wiring had to be custom designed for this feature, so that the TV — which swivels 180 degrees to be viewed from the sofa and bed — could still function when pulled out. Furthermore, a sliding wall conceals the adjacent workspace from view while simultaneously revealing the wardrobe.
Location: Manhattan, NY
Total area: 36 square meters
Building on the sliding cabinet concept, PKMN Architectures sought to update this single-story residence in northern Madrid that previously belonged to the client’s grandmother. The floor plan was effectively split in half — one side for the custom-built sliding units that create functional rooms in the spaces between, and the other half as an open studio space. The residence is built around the idea that a person’s meaningful possessions build a person’s identity, and as such, the final design places an emphasis on the display of these personal effects. Comprised of three units mounted to ceiling rails and supported by wheels, the modules contain everything needed for a studio, kitchen, bedroom, library and dressing room, with each particular “room” being instantly created or collapsed by the movement of the sliding units.
Location: Madrid, Spain
Total area: 50 square meters
In this apartment, MKCA designs a simpler, yet no less ingenious transforming solution for a smaller space. Contained within distinctive cabinetry that runs the length of one wall is a bed, nightstand, closet, home office and library, thus allowing the open loft-like arrangement and avoiding the conventional solution of having to divide the space into smaller, claustrophobic rooms. Lighting is also affixed to the top of the cabinet to provide evenly diffused light reflected off the ceiling. The end result is a space that transforms to suit the needs of the current time, folding away unwanted elements until the time that they are needed.
Location: Manhattan, NY
Total area: 37 square meters
Providing much of the functionality to this apartment is a single, geometric wall. Made up of uneven panels, the wall runs lengthwise down the middle of the space and hides various doors, a TV, and a kitchen, to say the least. While the extra space in this apartment affords the luxury of a proper bedroom, unlike many of the examples mentioned thus far, the design instead allows for a section with a wall-mounted TV that can swivel in all directions so that it can be watched from the bedroom, living room, kitchen and dining areas. Meanwhile, folding partitions in the center of the wall open to reveal a kitchen, with ample space to maneuver while cooking.
Total area: 60 square meters
Admittedly, the physical nature of transforming your apartment into different functions by hand requires a special kind of person. This increasingly rare breed is prepared to put a bit of toil into reworking their living space. However, for the overwhelming majority of the population, this latest concept from the MIT Media Lab’s Changing Places group may be a bit more agreeable. Equally designed for the exercise-averse as it is futuristic, the CityHome is a piece of mechanized cabinetry that incorporates a bed, dining room table, kitchen surface, a cooking range, a closet, and multipurpose storage, each of which is fluidly extended from within the cube at the flick of a wrist, a touch of a button, or by voice command. The unit can even move itself to increase the space in one room or another. Designed as a plug-and-play solution for tiny apartments, its designers intend to bring it to market in the near future through a startup or commercial sponsor.
Location: Concept design
Total area: 19 square meters