When designer Monica Potvin (of the eco-design store Matteria) and her husband Markel Otaola bought a small apartment in Barcelona’s Poblenou neighborhood (once industrial, now full of artist lofts), they had no plans of having children so they knocked down walls to create an open studio space with plenty of light.
A utilitarian cube
Instead of creating a separate bathroom, laundry room and kitchen, they built a cube in the center of their home to house all of the “useful stuff”. It houses all the apartment’s plumbing, as well as his and hers closets and plenty of storage space. It also serves as a divider between the open kitchen/living area and the couple’s bedroom (an all natural escape carpeted with tatami and a non-synthetic futon bed).
Even the floor space under the hallways around the cube is used for extra storage; this was inspired by the tuck-away elements on sailboats (Markel is a sailor).
When they designed it, it was the couple’s ideal apartment: light, airy and open. “The concept was that you could circulate around this volume freely, and for us this worked great.”
Three in one bedroom
Then Monica got pregnant and they became three, in a one-room studio. Monica admits that sharing a bedroom with a toddler hasn’t always been ideal (Gaël is now three), but she also recognizes that the big open floorplan was an ideal setup for raising a young child.
“I’m really happy we were here when he was a baby and up to now because having everything just be so easy. So I would wake up and we’d take our shower together and then washing diapers and stuff so the washing machine is right there and it was very kind of fluid and easy. Because you’re cooking and they’re playing and it’s not like the kitchen is separate so it’s just perfect.”
The beauty of a wet bathroom
Even their “wet room”, where the shower is open to the bathroom, has worked out well. Originally they designed it this way to recreate something in nature- it has a rainwater showerhead and wooden floors-, but it became something very practical once they became three.
“We can all be in here, like someone’s brushing their teeth and it’s super functional and easy. In a way it’s like every day you’re kind of washing your floor.”
Why smaller homes can = more quality time
Monica thinks 70 square meters is an ideal amount of space for one or two people- “it’s probably what most people use on a daily basis”- and even for a couple with a young child, she thinks smaller can mean more parent/child contact.
“Is it better to grow up in a 70 sq mt space than a 200 sq mt space? Yeah, for a small child, probably yeah, because they want to have more contact, or feedback, from you so if you’re around… he knows it’s easy access so I think it’s definitely better.