Photographer: Amit Gosher
In the northern-Tel-Aviv neighborhood of Ramat Aviv, a couple with a preschooler, an elementary school student, and a friendly dog, lived in an apartment which seemed to address all their needs. The apartment had been renovated and included a spacious master bedroom for the parents, two additional rooms for the kids (given their young age, one served as a bedroom and the other as a play room), and a generous kitchen which allowed the mother to practice her cooking hobby. There were also two separate bathrooms, an office next to the master bedroom, and a designated spot for a washer and a dryer. The occupants also liked most of the furniture in the apartment and didn't intend to replace it. So at our first meeting with the homeowners we asked ourselves: what is our job here, really?
Renovating a Lived-In Apartment Compared to a New Apartment
People living in the apartment which they intend to renovate have an advantage over those buying a newly-built apartment: they are well aware of its advantages and disadvantages, and we can learn about their needs from the way they currently use the different spaces in their apartment. The homeowners here conscious of the green views seen from the south-facing windows, letting in a lot of light, and wanted them to be visible as soon as one enters the apartment. Once we removed the wall separating the living room from the spacious master bedroom, not only did we make another window visible from the common space in the home - we also gave a once-dark and narrow apartment an open and spacious feeling. Now every movement in the home - from the bedrooms, along the work and play area, through the living room to the dining room, kitchen, and entryway - is flooded with sunlight and green views.
From Separate Rooms to Continuous Spaces
After meeting our clients at their home we saw that this project had two major challenges that needed to be addressed:  the low ceiling (2.5m is the minimum allowed by the Israeli code for a residential apartment)  the fixed partitions separating the common spaces in the apartment. The walls which created separate spaces gave a feeling of tightness (high "perceived density" in XS Language). The walls prevented direct visual contact and blocked light and air from flowing across the different spaces. The home office was removed from other activities in the home, and was accessible only through the master bedroom. An island served as a divider between the kitchen and the living room, rigidly separating the two spaces and adding a redundant dining area in addition to the dining table. Other activities in the home were divided in a similar, rigid fashion: work was supposed to be done in the "office" space, which was next to the master bedroom and away from the rest of the home, and the kids were allocated a play space in their "play room", it too a closed-off room.
The previous layout was made up of separate rooms for every function.
In the new layout, the lines separating one function from the next are blurred out.
An Airy Divider Replaced Solid Walls
In order to preserve the sense of openness obtained by removing the master bedroom wall, yet still creating an airy separation between the work and play area and the living space, we designed a sheet metal divider with a geometric pattern made using a milling cutter (using CNC technology - Computer Numerical Control). The divider is meant to allow people sitting on the couch to feel that they are in a designated TV and entertaining area, but that they are also still part of a larger common area. Unlike the old bedroom wall, which limited the sense of outdoor space to just one window, here light, air, and the green landscape are ever-present.
The Blue Box: One Prominent Central Element Arranging the Entire Apartment
The home is centered around a box which serves as an organizing element (XS Language). It serves a number of different functions in the apartment with a clear, continuous design. This piece of furniture begins with the main side facing the cooking area, continues to a second side which turns toward the work and play area while concealing a bedroom door, and ends with the last side along the hallway leading to the master bedroom and children's bathroom. It then enters the master bedroom, serving as a wardrobe. The interior of the box contains the son's bedroom.
Surprising Oddities :)
One unusual sight was a narrow storage space at the edge of the kitchen. It is only 57cm wide, only slightly wider than the shoulder width of a healthy adult. We decided to make it accessible through a hidden door. The original kitchen had a heavy cabinet on coasters which blocked the access to the hidden cavity, and which had to be dragged out in order to access the storage space. Here we decided to translate the original idea into a more modern solution: we planned a light, mobile metal cart featuring open shelves for everyday use, which can also be used for serving when entertaining.
The homeowner's cooking and baking hobby also meant we had to designate space for cookbooks and a number of bulky, heavy appliances. Two boxes meant to contain these appliances were placed next to the main countertop and next to the additional countertop across the kitchen. This allows to pull out the appliances quickly and to put them back into place easily.
Fewer Corridors - More Usable Space, Light, and Spaciousness
In Israel, corridors commonly separate public spaces (living room and kitchen) from private spaces (bedrooms and bathrooms). This convention "costs" us a lot of precious, wasted floor area, with the sole purpose of leading us from one space to the next ("empty movement" in the compactness index). In our case, we preferred to combine the long corridor with the work and play space. The bedroom door of one of the children faces the work and play space; in order to compensate for the lack of privacy, the door leading into the bedroom blends into the blue box and is barely noticeable.
The original apartment had one of the children's bedrooms dedicated for play. The room was surrounded by walls and a door, and was removed from the rest of the home. In the current layout, people in the work and play space can feel that they are staying in a clearly-designated space on one hand, but can still have a sense of "togetherness", engaging in conversation or communicating with their family members staying in other common areas. Despite the limited size of this space, the fact that it is combined with the pathway leading to the bedrooms while not being surrounded by walls makes it feel much bigger than it would if it was set along a corridor and surrounded by solid walls.
The blue box ends in the master bedroom. An old, much-loved bed regained its original function, while a picture painted by one of the tenants' grandfather was hanged on the wall.
The diagram shows the space of empty movement in the previous layout compared with the new layout. Empty movement has been reduced by half!
Character and Privacy in the Children's Bedrooms and Bathrooms
When designing children's bedrooms, there is a dilemma whether they should be designed thoroughly, preventing an option for future change and reorganization. Or whether it is best to allow some freedom and flexibility, especially in the case of young children who will grow into these bedrooms, with their needs changing over the years. Given the young age of the children living in this apartment, a simple, flexible design was chosen, allowing for change and personal expression in the future.
The bathrooms in the projects were decorated with colorful, single-color, horizontal tiles. The remaining furniture was tailored for designated niches and painted white.