Less is more is not only relevant to minimal design aesthetics, but is also a lifestyle concept which nowadays people are more conscious about
Most microspace are rented. ‘The design of these microspaces in particular is very functional, which is one element that makes them so popular,’ says Thomas Cremona, founder of property management company Casa Rooms. ‘If you’re organised, they’re easy to manage because they’re extremely low maintenance. The people renting out these spaces are young, single professionals and the spaces are not necessarily less expensive than larger spaces. It’s more about the design and finish. You can get a larger space that isn’t as nicely done and these clients are going to opt for the smaller space because it’s more functional and suits them better to live there.’
In Malta, it is Valletta that is attracting this kind of development. ‘People want to rent in the city, sometimes regardless of the size of the space,’ says Thomas. ‘These apartments have high ceilings and large windows so they do have features that are typical of Valletta, which is also a deciding factor.’
Says Elisa: ‘With its rich charm and history, the capital city makes for one of the most desired rental locations. In general, there’s an increase in demand for rental spaces, which may be attributed to the influx of foreign nationals for an undefined period of time.’
In a compact residence, a floating sculptural staircase creates a striking focal point from an architectural necessity. Complimenting restored historic features with minimalist design, the staircase hangs like a lantern from a double-height ceiling, connecting a ground floor living/kitchen/dining area and a first floor reading nook and bedroom. Extending four metres up through the heart of the property, the custom staircase structure is anchored by a slimline perimeter frame. Its interior spiral form is fully wrapped in white steel mesh which allows light to travel throughout. Safely cocooning the user as they make their way up or down, its perforated volume filters daylight into the stairwell and through to the kitchen behind it. By night, it illuminates the ground floor areas with a softly diffused glow
What it is like to live in such a small space? ‘The truth is when you are given a limited space you learn how to adapt to it and base your daily routines and functions around it,’ says Elisa. ‘There are pros and cons – you can’t host a dinner party but then you don’t spend a lot of your time cleaning. If you love food, you don’t have the space to cook on a big scale, but then you save on kitchenware, food and electricity, which you can spend on exploring restaurants instead.’
From a design perspective, designing a truly functional space this small is a tour de force of architecture. ‘It is not about quantity of square metres, but rather quality of space per square metre,’ says Simon.
‘One has to think about the resident’s day to day functions and routines, and how to best accommodate them within the space,’ continues Elisa. ‘In such tight spaces clutter is your worst enemy. It’s important to create as much storage space as possible and to have a location to store day-to-day items when not in use. When designing, it’s important to keep in mind a day-to-day program and a clutter-free, organised environment.
‘The key is to allocate just about the right amount of area for each room. When designing within the parameters of an existing fabric, the focus is shifted into fitting functional installations to a high level of detail which assist making day to day life easier for the user.’
To the rear of the property, a kitchen with Carrara marble countertops and open shelving spans the width of the back wall. To its left, a generously proportioned bathroom with original floor tiles and a soft grey colour palette is an exercise in simplicity
Creating high functionality in a small space does not come cheap. ‘One of the biggest challenges in designing a small space such as this is that generally clients are under the impression that the relationship between the price per square metre to finish and furnish a space is directly proportional, whereas in reality, this is not the case,’ says Simon. ‘The price per square metre to finish and furnish a small space is high for the simple reason that in the limited square metres available to make a self sustainable space, all the fittings and furnishings that would also be available in a standard size dwelling need to be included.’
On the first floor, the staircase leads directly into an intimate reading space with contemporary furnishings and a view out through restored apertures. The bedroom, just off the landing, features warm birch flooring underfoot and simple white walls. A traditional Maltese gallarija extends the room out into the quiet streetscape and floods the room with light
Elisa adds: ‘Detailing custom-made functional installations usually work out at a premium. There’s challenge in utilising honest simple materials for complex functional structures. On a long term basis this investment
usually pays off, given the quality of the space achieved within a small space.
‘Another important challenging aspect is respecting the existing fabric of the space, especially when dealing with properties within a historical context. Reversibility is key. There might be a point where the necessity or
appeal of small spaces decreases, which would leave us with a multitude of one-bedroom apartments. I think both architects and contractors alike must be aware of this risk and be able to revert these spaces so that their usage can change.’
Read Part 1: MICRO Management – Part 1