Apparently, boring, bare bones student housing is a worldwide phenomenon. "They are all basic IKEA and white walls," says Ana Arana, cofounder of the local design firm Plutarco with Enrique Ventosa, of the options in Madrid. So when a good friend hired the duo to turn an abandoned medical practice into a shared apartment, they knew immediately that they wanted to go in the complete opposite direction. "We thought that giving each room a different treatment was necessary to make each inhabitant of the space feel special," says Ana. Sounds pretty straightforward, until you factor in the scope of the project. The new blueprint included five bedrooms and three bathrooms, with a shared eat-in kitchen and living room in the middle—that meant ten spaces to differentiate, all squeezed into a mere 1,184 square feet. Here's how they did it:
A focus on practicality
Given that five people could be using the combined living room and kitchen at any one time, functionality was top of mind. Quartz, the material of choice for the kitchen countertops, is both handsome and heat-resistant. Similarly, the arresting terrazzo floor defines the dining area while also hiding dirt and crumbs.
Tricks of the eye
Every space in the apartment is small, but none feel that way thanks to strategically placed mirrors, a few IKEA hacks, and some extremely cool bespoke shower stalls, among other genius solutions.
A major injection of color and texture
"We started by choosing colors and materials that would match inside a whole space, but could make rooms individual," says Ana. Various shades of blue and red make up the majority of the apartment's color palette, complimented by pops of green and yellow.