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Zen meets tiny homes: movable "paper" walls transform spaces

Rui Miguel and Sonia Lopez both work in confined office buildings so they wanted a home with plenty of outdoor space and natural light. They settled on a 40 square meter (430 square foot) apartment with few windows, but a roof space, a small deck and potential.

Hole in ceiling creates natural shower

Enter Miguel Angel of Miel Architects who convinced the couple to cut a hole in their roof to create an indoor/outdoor shower as the centerpiece of the apartment. From above the hole appears to be a simple planter on their roof deck with the ivy plants disguising the depth of the descent (though the wood of the planter is the same wood of the shower).

From inside, the hole turns an otherwise windowless bathroom into a magical place. During a storm, Sonia and Rui now shower in the rain. During summer, the air is cooling and in winter, even with the glass closed, the sunlight and plants create a tropical feel.

“Paper” doors transform 1 room into 4 options

Inspired by Japanese homes, the architects not only made the bathroom the center of the living space, but they copied the concept of Shoji “paper” panels (they’re often created using rice paper on a wood frame) as a way of dividing the home.

Rather than traditional translucent panels created from rice paper over wood frames, the doors in the home are solid, but like their inspiration they move in multiple directions, allowing for softer closings of one large space.

There are four main options:

  • The bathroom can be closed off from the living area, creating an open bathroom/bedroom unit.
  • When a guest wants to use the bathroom it can be closed off to both the bedroom and the living area.
  • The bathroom can be closed off leaving the bedroom open to the living quarters.
  • Or all the doors can be left open, creating one large space.

The Miel Architects don’t simply view the doors as dividers, but as a way to change their clients’ perspective on their home. “When you just have a bedroom, bathroom and a kitchen, you are always using them the same way, but if you have something that changes the relationship with the other pieces of the apartment suddenly you start to use it differently.”

Built-in toilet, closet & kitchen appliances in same wall

To unify the space, one entire wall covered with a rendered black metal includes three roomfuls of built-ins: the kitchen, the closet and the toilet (hidden behind a very subtle quarter-sized doorknob).

The space might be compact, but it functions like a large home explains Rui Miguel. “I used to live in a very large house. At the end of the day you end up using the kitchen, the bathroom and the bedroom and right here we use everything… so basically we have everything in a very small space.”