81 square feet is a small place to live, and a challenging space for which to design a furniture system. In downtown Vancouver, where rent and space is at a premium, the client with whom we worked has repurposed old buildings to create single occupant dwellings. These apartments have a sink station, and nothing else. The developers wanted to make these rooms more livable in order to increase the average length of stay, which is currently only 3 months. Their constraints: a permanent, durable system (no MDF allowed) and it had to come in under $500CAD.
When working with a 9 foot by 9 foot room, almost everything seems to take up a lot of space, so visual lightness was a priority for us. We used wireframe-style construction to open up the room wherever possible instead of closed in panels. When flat panels were needed, we used bent steel for its low visual profile. By orienting the hanger rack so that the clothes face the user instead of the conventional method, the wardrobe unit can be pared down to 12 inches deep, taking up less of a footprint into the room. One of the four beams has been removed so hanging clothes are more easily accessed. Even reducing visual clutter helps make a room seem bigger, so we included a cable well behind the desk so the user can keep important things on the desk and power cords out of sight.
Modularity and multifunctionality are really important when designing a system for an entire apartment building in order to keep costs down. Keeping this in mind, we designed drawers that fit in the wardrobe units, but are just as easily used as stand alone storage. The side table can also be used in other orientations as a magazine rack or umbrella stand.
Sustainability was a priority during this project. Locally sourced Fir was used for the wooden beams. The wardrobe and desk can be flatpacked and assembled on site to reduce shipping costs.
The minimalist aesthetic of this system was also key in our approach to encourage “nesting” or longer tenancies. The system should have its own beauty, but ultimately should compliment the user’s belongings rather than overshadow them. There are still, of course, drawers for hiding your unmentionables.
The system consists of four pieces: the wardrobe (30″w 72″h 12″d), the desk (48″w 29″h 20″d), the drawer (13″w 9″h 12″d), and the sidetable (12″w 21″h 12″d). Materials used are locally sourced fir, baltic birch plywood, and sheet steel.
On both the wardrobe and the desk, the fir beams on the side are fit together with simple half lap joints, and can be pre-constructed before being assembled on site. The steel in the cable well, drawer, and sidetable are easily brake-bent and powdercoated, making them quite durable. Wherever possible, plywood shapes were done in multiples to reduce costs, such as the shelves in the wardrobe, or the sides of the drawers.