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Athens tiny flat expands with built-in furniture & garden

Werner Maritsas is an Athens-based designer who used built-in furniture (kitchen, desk and storage), plus choreographed LED lighting and an open wall to the garden to create more space in a minimal-yet-multifunctional studio apartment. This post is in his words about his “House A”.

“Two years ago I was searching for a small downtown studio for a client when I found this 34 square meter apartment with a private garden in one of my favorite districts in Athens. Thiseio is one of the oldest neighborhoods in downtown Athens, part of the city’s historical center.

The area is located northwest of the archaeological park of Acropolis and is named after the temple of Thiseio (or Hemphestus), the best-preserved ancient Greek temple in existence and the only one of which any considerable portion of the upper part remains, as it was in antiquity.

The small size of the apartment allowed me to renovate it to the guts, for a reasonable budget. The materials I’ve used are glass, metal, plywood, and bamboo for the floor. The house looks high end but it’s not.

Small houses require efficient use of space. The activities essential to operation have been carefully considered and housed with built-in plywood structures (storage, desk, and kitchen) to allow freely circulated space.

With the first look at the house, I realized the potential. To open all the space, to lighten the main area by allowing more natural light in and leading the view to the garden was, for me, the only solution. In this spirit I’ve opened completely the house to the garden creating an indoor/outdoor effect and replacing the old light well walls with two floor-to-ceiling windows,  creating a more or less dual-light aspect.

For this limited available space, the use of a glass wall was essential and the LED-lit glass wall also creates an interesting kind of spacy element for the otherwise dark and small entrance. A full mirror wall at the end of the corridor is to reflect more light and create the illusion of extra length.

All the functions are built-in around the shell of the house, even the lights. I have designed many lighting scenarios, light is elementary for all my works.

As the bathroom and the kitchen are what you see at first when you enter the house, it was important they look discrete. The bathroom was relocated in the corridor, to allow more free space in the main living area (the marble sink was repurposed from the apartment’s previous kitchen).

Another key element of the design is the well-thought storage. All dimensions were carefully measured – and double-checked many times through the construction process – to ensure the right fit. The house has enough storage space: all available walls are cupboards, but it’s not clear at first, since all are united by the same color.

There is also a simple metal structure to support an extra upper big storage, the wardrobe, and the bathroom’s glass walls. Part of the upper storage can be reached from the living room and the rest through the bathroom.

The more difficult part to design was the kitchen. All the appliances were picked after research to get the right product (size and quality). The open kitchen is fully-equipped and designed to look least like a kitchen as possible. That is why I’ve used security glass instead of tiles and a minimal tap with flexible hose. The kitchen is equipped with a dishwasher, washing machine and dryer, fridge and a simple pull-out table (with laminated top).

Athens has a lower percentage of green urban areas per habitat than most European core cities so a private garden in a city drowned in concrete is a big luxury. Modern gardens are shadier now than they ever have been and this garden, unfortunately, is no exception (surrounded by tall apartment buildings from one side and an old huge pine from the other, the garden is partially shaded). The walls were painted with bright white to increase indirect sunlight and the right plants and herbs were chosen.

Special thanks: editor (rough cut): Haris Lalousis, photographer Michalis Dimitriou, Guerrilla Cinematography