When it comes to big ideas for small spaces, Paola Bagna and her design studio Spamroom thrive on working with constraints. Her designs for compact apartments in Berlin make the most of limited dimensions and tight budgets. This Catalan designer combines upcycled materials with retro and industrial elements, linked by crisp minimalist lines to capture the Berlin zeitgeist. As space in cities becomes harder to find or afford, Spamroom’s meticulous approach will no doubt put them in high demand. Homedit spoke with Paola Bagna to discover more about her design process.
So what drew Bagna to Berlin?
I love the mix of green and urban in the city, its pace -very different from London- but what I’m thankful to Berlin for is that it changed my concept of beauty in design terms. This half-done, almost improvised city or “urban-Lab” is very appealing to me.
Micro Apartment in Moabit
The Moabit district lies close to Mitte, at the heart of Berlin. In collaboration with Johnpaulcoss, Spamroom transformed a tiny 21-square-meter Altbau apartment into a stunning studio, complete with loft bed, compact kitchen and a tiny but luxurious bathroom plus plenty of hidden storage.
To satisfy a client who wants to have everything fitted in a tiny space and aims to live as if the space would be 100 square meters is a challenge and every centimeter counts immensely.
Thanks to a compact bathroom and kitchen the main living space retains it’s generous proportions, original wooden floorboards were uncovered, restored and stained white to complement the maritime plywood door fronts used throughout the studio.
The two-square-metre bathroom was built from scratch. Ceiling height was kept to a minimum, freeing space above for a cozy sleeping mezzanine.
Inside the bathroom the interplay of natural light and mirrors creates an illusion of a grander space. Deep blue Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) tiles reference the building’s age and set off the delicate beige colour scheme.
A long skylight brings natural light into the bathroom, the extra height offering spatial relief in an otherwise tight space. Upstairs, this structure provides a shelf for books and laptop use without blocking views and light from the studio’s main windows.
The sliding bathroom door is full of character, Bagna explained
I try to re-use some of the material that is there. The sliding door is made with the old Stäbchenparkett of the house.
Eight-centimeter steel structural beams keep the bathroom ceiling extra slim and add precious centimeters to the upper level. The two levels are joined via a 5mm steel staircase braced to the structural wall that appears featherlight. The minimalist staircase is a place to store books by day and an access platform for a second room-height pull-down wardrobe stacked vertically above the main wardrobe below.
The sleek and compact kitchen has all of the conveniences you could want from a modern kitchen. Plenty of storage space is found in the overhead cupboards, featuring custom whitewashed plywood doors which wrap around the corner into the living area.
Plus One Berlin
Plus One is an unconventional 30-square meter hotel room that stacks functions and reflects the raw creativity of its Neukölln setting.
The main structure is a bed that also creates a bar area next to the kitchenette. It also contains a third bed, which splits into three modules that can form three individual seats.
A neat wooden console next to the window functions as a desk, then on warm summer evenings can become a table with one person sitting inside, one outside. Recycled antique drawers and table leg add a quirky twist.
Salvaged materials like tiles, wood, lamps and door handles form a center point to the design process. The main unit is a collage of new plywood, salvaged panel doors and parquet floor boards. Spamroom works with a great network of local craftspeople.
Carpenters and metalsmiths with whom I had the chance to work with are always very inspiring, because they know well the material they work with and are able to transform it.
The bathroom mixes dark and pale grey tiles in an organised grid. Built-in tiled ledges keep belongings tidy and the large mirror makes the small bathroom appear larger.
Plus One features Spamroom’s signature custom-made lamps, crafted from recycled copper pipes. The shape of the fixtures is determined by the are that they have to illuminate. The charming steampunk-style Spamlamp came about through experiments with copper pipe by the designer’s father, a mechanic, in his home workshop.
Another micro private apartment on Neukoelln’s lively Weserstrasse takes repurposed wood to a new level. The basic studio is a typical Berliner Altbau with high ceilings.
All the kitchen cabinets fronts are formed from unwanted leftover pieces of wood sourced from the carpenter’s workshop.
A splash of blackboard paint provides a fun spot for lists and messages. Simple offset white tiles and grey grout prevent the kitchenette from looking too busy.
The bathroom keeps fuss to a minimum, with just one bright colour pop in the form of a pink mirror frame.
Spamroom’s Paola Bagna welcomes spatial challenges:
In general I am very motivated to get the best of “what is there,” either it is because of size or existing materials. Let’s not forget that cities are getting more and more dense and to work in small spaces is something that architects should contemplate as an important task in the present and future.
Currently, Spamroom is working on a commission to restore a 1500 square-meter oversized 60’s villa in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. We’re looking forward to seeing their work when this home becomes an 18-room hotel with the concept “urban, tropical and vintage”.
Photographer: Ringo Paulusch