Milan is a city rife with hidden beauty, especially where living spaces are concerned. Behind even the most banal of street-front entrances might be a courtyard planted with bergamot trees, or a marble-paved lobby lifted straight out of a Wes Anderson film. The same sleight-of-hand comes into play in a new apartment renovated by the young Milanese team of Casatibuonsante Architects for a screenwriter and film critic. In the city’s historic Navigli worker’s district, an overlooked area crisscrossed by canals that’s undergoing a major rebirth, the firm shaped a 350-square-foot alcove studio into a practical, storage-rich “mini loft” that is designed, the firm’s partners say, “to clear the view as much as possible from everyday clutter.” Here’s how they did it—and 8 clever ideas to steal for your own renovation.
Photography by Francesca Iovene, courtesy of Casatibuonsante Architects.
Ideas to Steal:
1. Level up to gain space.
The architects carefully measured the new elevated space to ensure that a single bed would fit lengthwise, and they made it high enough to suggest a real division from the adjacent hallway.
2. Curtains make a room.
Suspended from hospital track in the ceiling and parted in the middle, white silk curtains have the weight and opacity of a wall in the evening hours, but allow light to enter during the day. The screened-off privacy of the room evokes a medieval canopy bed; the curtain folds become a decorative highlight.
3. It’s all about proportion.
Playing off the strict geometry of the platform, the architects built another “level” with the mattress by placing it directly on the floor. White linens play up the bed’s sculptural look; blankets are stored in the nearby closet. A simple porcelain socket light fixture adheres to the loft’s minimalist theme, and a bedside lamp sits directly on the platform.
4. Hide in plain sight.
In a previous life, the bedroom served as the apartment’s kitchen. A fireplace opening that was closed up long ago held plates, cups and cutlery; it makes better storage for books and small personal objects. In Milan, as in so many cities, fireplaces are now forbidden. As the architects suggest, “Less romance and more green ideology, we can sadly say.”
5. Now you see it….
Both closets offer hanging space, and three built-in drawers inside corral smaller and irregular items that don’t lend themselves to stacking. And building the platform had another, space-saving benefit: an additional hidden drawer underneath stows away a spare pillow or blanket. To keep it stealthy, no hardware pulls were used—the drawer opens via a recess at floor level.
6. Make it bespoke.
Inside the closet, simple wood chipboard is covered with paper-backed canvas in cool gray for a luxurious finish. A shallow column of shelves at left makes the most of every bit of space, while a hang rod occupies the main compartment. Shoe and boot shelves are below.
7. Play down the pattern.
In a small space, even subtle patterns like the honeycomb effect of the loft’s tile floors can seem magnified. The hexagonal design helps to breaks up the module’s linear geometry without drawing too much attention to itself. The material ingredients here are tightly edited: white chipboard in the galley kitchen, flamed oak in the bedroom, white plaster walls, and tile floors.
8. Precision is everything.
Planned down to the last square inch (or millimeter, actually), the loft is an exacting study in small-space living. The module floats in the loft almost like a piece of furniture, hovering just beneath the ceiling and raised slightly off the floor, but it functions more as an architectural element. By taking on the role of kitchen, bedroom, closet and wardrobe, the unit frees up the rest of the apartment to be reconfigured as time passes.
More in small-space living:
- More from Less: 10 Storage Ideas to Steal from a Cape Cod Beach House
- Expert Advice: 11 Tips for a Tiny but Efficient Kitchen
- Expert Advice: 12 Tips for Making a Small Bedroom Look Bigger
N.B.: This post is an update; it was first published December 2017.
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