Creative Thinking

On the first floor of an old building in Valletta, this apartment boasts beautiful original features including arched apertures, detailed stonework and lovely original flooring, but is also rather small – when Valentino Architects first set eyes on it, it was little more than two small dark rooms, a total of 50 square metres.

So when the client asked the architects to create a liveable space, it was certainly a challenge. ‘We wondered how we were going to do it,’ says architect Zoe Mizzi, part of the team at Valentino. ‘Traditionally spaces are defined through four walls and each room that has a function. Given the size of the apartment, the design required a different approach – blurring the lines for a more fluid layout, and one that also used furniture in a different way, so maximising and creating the illusion of space.’

The result of this thinking is that two rooms have been cleverly transformed into seven different living spaces – the entrance, living room with kitchen, dressing table-style area, bathroom, bedroom and study.

With the apartment on a linear plane with one room leading onto another, the architects ensured that from the entrance one can see all the way down to the end which gives it a sense of spaciousness. As well, light has been accentuated by making some windows larger and making the most of others.

Spaces have been zoned using flooring, steps and platforms which create different levels and a sense of moving from one living area to another.

The architects have also squeezed the maximum use out of each space. The living room includes the kitchen, but with limited space, it is neatly housed in a wardrobe that can be closed for a tidy look.

Through the living room door the architects installed two steps. ‘The idea is that you go up the stairs to the private zone,’ explains Zoe. Here along one side is a bank of hidden storage, containing the washing machine and dryer. On the other is a small dividing light-weight wall that is mirrored to create a dressing table area for applying the finishing touches when getting dressed.

The other side of this wall is the bed headboard along with a recessed shelf that removes the need for bedside tables. Here, taking inspiration from the way the interior of boats are designed, the floor has been raised, creating more useful storage as well as space to hide unsightly services. The bed has been further elevated by a wooden platform. ‘Together they lead you up to the bed, giving it a sense of its own space,’ says Zoe. ‘It also means the floor of the bed is at the same level of the original window which is now a Juliet balcony, for a more open feel.’

The raised floor has also solved the problem of access to the communal spiral stairs at the back of the apartment – the door to it was unusually 1.2 metres off the ground, but with a raised floor is now easily reached, and the architects have also made the surrounding space a bijou study. Not a centimetre has been wasted in creating this remarkable home. [HW]