Retiree's Dramatic Micro-Apartment Renovation Plays With Color and Light
This retiree is living her best life in this lovely, revitalized urban home.
Retirement is a whole new stage for many people—it often means taking some time to reassess one's life, perhaps to write that book, or to finally go on that big trip (hopefully in slow travel style), or perhaps to downsize one's home to move into something smaller and more manageable.
For French retiree Dany, this new stage of life meant purchasing a 355-square-foot (33-square-meter) pied à terre in the chic Puerta del Sol neighborhood of Madrid, Spain. The original state of the micro-apartment—which dates back to 1905—was cramped and dark, so Dany decided to hire local design firm Gon Architects (seen here previously) to give the flat a much-needed makeover.
Originally, the apartment's existing layout included a living room, with a separate kitchen behind a wall, with both rooms being lit with a row of windows. In the center of the apartment was the bathroom and entrance door, while the rear of the apartment was occupied by the bedroom.
Aiming to maximize light and space, the architects first did away with the partition wall separating the living room and the kitchen, in order to create a larger space with an open-plan configuration.
The living room of the refurbished Sola House, which the home has been dubbed, was redone in an aesthetic inspired by the early French modernist architect Le Corbusier. With deep blue, bright red, yellow, and neutral gray on the walls, cabinetry, and furnishings, this primary color palette reflects the pioneering architect's idea that certain colors affect how the eye perceives space. In particular, the design uses a lot of RAL 5005 blue, a bright "signal blue"— typically used for signage—that Dany wanted to include.
The open shelving in red allows Dany to display books and other items within easy reach, while the statement sofa is actually a multifunctional design that hides a pull-out bed for visiting family members to stay overnight.
Above the sofa, Dany had a classic pendant lamp by Louis Poulsen installed, resulting in a timeless modern ensemble.
The kitchen similarly has been redone in a minimalistic modern style, with white cabinetry and a seamless, U-shaped kitchen counter that serves as both a surface to prepare food, or to dine, using the accompanying blue dining chairs.
The mirror that spans from floor to ceiling at the rear of the kitchen offers an optical illusion of space expanding beyond the confines of the apartment—a clever trick. Large-format gray tiles have been used throughout the project in order to connect all the different spaces into a whole.
Overlapping into the kitchen is the design scheme's protagonist, a large, built-in volume that houses not only the kitchen appliances like the refrigerator, microwave, oven, wine cooler, and pantry, but also the bathroom.
As the architects explain:
"The most emblematic feature of this house is a chest-cabinet lacquered in a blue RAL 5005 that adapts like a glove to the space and is located in the heart of the house; it contains and brings together the storage of the house and hides inside a secret room: the bathroom."
The door to the bathroom is hidden in this big blue volume, and it sits right across from the main entry door.
But as the architects also point out, the location of the bathroom right in the middle of the apartment meant that they had to get creative about how to get natural light into the bathroom:
"This space for the care and maintenance of the body is naturally illuminated and visually connected to the bedroom through a large interior window that changes its opacity according to the privacy needed at different moments."
It's a pretty ingenious solution for an interior room without its own window—installing what is called smart or switchable glass, which uses electro-chromatic technology to switch between a transparent and an opaque state with the flip of a switch. Thanks to this smart glass window, the bathroom is now able to receive indirect light from the bedroom, while conversely, the illuminated bathroom acts as a lantern of sorts for a darkened bedroom.
At the rear of the apartment, past yet another mirrored door that functions to make the interior look larger, and as Dany's full-length mirror, we find the bedroom.
It's a simple but well-lit area, thanks to the inclusion of a skylight over the built-in wardrobe that spans along the far wall.
Once again, we see here the interior window that permits light to pass from the bedroom and into the adjacent bathroom.
Through the use of vivid colors and a smart sense of spatial reorganization, the renovation has updated the apartment in a dramatic way, so that it now fits with Dany's mode of living, say the designers.
"Dany's house seeks to be a good house for a good life, alone or in company. A home that’s expanded in the city and augmented through the network; rich in details and that, in very few square meters, has the ability to adapt to different space-time situations: from meeting with friends, inviting her children for a season or simply enjoying the space alone; the house is an optimistic and contemporary urban refuge where to live the Madrid dream: dressed in red, within a space and with objects that look like they came out of a Pedro Almodóvar movie."
More over at Gon Architects.