Small Spaces/Big Ideas for Apartment Living


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Small Spaces/Big Ideas for Apartment Living

Flats, apartments, bachelorettes, bed-sits, boarding houses are all familiar in the Inner West. How have they evolved and what are the new directions? This talk will explore the architecture of small spaces, from the fundamentals when buying to clever ideas for an improved lifestyle and practical suggestions for maximizing space, storage and style when renovating.


Patrick O'Carrigan FRAIA AIAMA, has gained considerable recognition for his work as an architect + urban designer, critic and tutor. He has 30 years experience in both the private and public sectors. Principal of POC+P Architects, Croydon established in 1998 to provide architectural and urban design, heritage conservation advice, local government advice and related project management services.

He is qualified as both a Registered Architect [ARB #5025] in NSW and specialist Urban Designer, and is a Fellow of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. He is recognized as a heritage consultant by the Heritage Office of NSW. In 2010 he gained a Professional Certificate in Arbitration through the University of Adelaide.

Patrick’s firm has undertaken over the past 15 years diverse projects for the public and private sectors including numerous single houses, both new and renovations in the Inner West, Sydney, NSW. In addition POC+P Architects have completed multi-unit residential projects, sustainability projects, aged care and pre-school projects, medical suites, commercial/retail outlets, office fitouts, sports facilities, public infrastructure, heritage refurbishments and urban design masterplanning.

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Small Spaces/Big Ideas for Apartment Living

  1. 1. Small spaces-big ideas Inner West Apartment/Flat Design adaptations and conversions Patrick O’Carrigan FRAIA AIAMA Architect Burwood Library 27/08/11
  2. 2. Outline of my talk • Flats, apartments, bachelorettes, bed-sits, boarding houses are all familiar in the Inner West. • How have they evolved and what are the new directions? • What to look for when buying? • Maximising the outcomes + minimising the downsides. • Exploring the architecture of small spaces, from the fundamentals when buying, to clever ideas for an improved lifestyle and practical suggestions for maximizing space, storage and style when renovating. • Bibliography – hand out
  3. 3. A Brief History of Burwood’sMulti-unit Housing
  4. 4. Inter-war ArtdecoinspiredBrick[dark/liverbrick]threestoreywalk-ups, tileroofs, solidbalconies, limitedparking, metal+polishedtimber[acousticissues].Companytitle
  5. 5. 1960s Owner-occupiers inthemajority.Redtexturedbrick,useofcurtainwalls,commonbalconies,openstairs, concretefloors, generallytimberwindows,vermiculite sprayedceilings,2bedmaximum
  6. 6. 1970’s Strataact Introductionoflifts, basements,carparkingmandatory; enclosedbalconies,commonlaundries,gardens,well setbackfromlotperimetersingardensettings. Unappealingexteriors,reviledvermiculiteceilings,verylittlearchitectural inputmeanssomeblockshavedreadfuloutlooksandcross-ventilation.Manywerebuiltpurelyforprofitratherthanfor owneroccupation,soprivacyandaestheticappealwerenothighonthelistofpriorities
  7. 7. 1980’s Muchlargerblocks,diversestyles,openbalconies-railing,glass cantilevered;majority2-3bedroom;adaptivere-use continuousbalconies;buildingasperimeterblocks; introductionofen-suites
  8. 8. 1990’s Basementcarparking,improvedlandscaping,deepplanting,privacyscreens,noisetransference,minimal commonareas,moresitecover;onebedders+studios.Greaterclustersofunitsperblock+ higherstrata levies.Increasingnumbersofrentersvsowners
  9. 9. 2000’s InnovativeplanningSEPP65 patternbook, crossventilation,BASIXtargetsforenergy+waterconsumption,orientation,common facilities,urbanoutcomes;betterthermal performance;widerrangeof finishes.. Above-shopdevelopments. Topqualityfacilitieslikepools,gymsandconciergesareavailable.Someofferpet-friendlystratapolicies.Security parking,videointercomsandlargerbalconiesandoutdoorareasbecamecommonplaceinmodernunits.
  10. 10. 2011 + beyond Designerlabel: Muchtallercapturingviews,moreintensivemixeduse[abovecommercialpodium/base];fully accessibleunits; ‘aginginplace’;down-sizingtrends;adaptableunits;highlevelof environmentalperformance+amenities; higherproportionofowner-occupied
  11. 11. The way of the future? Compact Design is the way to go… “Now that I am back in New York, I once again appreciate the value of space and how much space is valued at here in the city.”
  12. 12. Why maximise? • The first strata titles legislation in the world was written right here in NSW exactly 50 years ago. But how much do you know about it? • Considering half the population will be living under a strata title in the next 20 years, it would be nice to think most of us had some idea of how they work, and what works best . • There is no doubt apartment living will become increasingly common as the population continues to increase and land and resources become more valuable. • It makes $ and cents: “it only took 5 minutes to score a piece of Sydney’s most expensive real estate at the auction of 17 Little Buckingham St, Surry Hills. The 32 sqm apartment went for $560,000- that works out at $17,500 a square metre.” Domain 7 August 2011 • The average new apartment in Australia is 134sqm- yet look what you can achieve in as little as 35- 50sqm with proper design….
  13. 13. Why are some tentative? • Two common misapprehensions
  14. 14. The new ‘sweet spot’ McMansionsdownsizedasbuyersrealisesmallisgood SMH MatthewMoore,CarolynCumminsAugust11,2011 • ONE of the nation's biggest developers has said the size of new homes has peaked and that affordability issues would mark the end of the so-called McMansion and the growth of smaller, more efficient homes. • While the average new home grew 10 per cent to a world record 215 square metres in the decade to 2009, the managing director of Stockland, Matthew Quinn, said homes were shrinking and the trend was locked in. Already the average size of a four-bedroom house has dropped 20 per cent since 2007 while three-bedroom houses have shrunk by 26 per cent over the same period as living areas, media rooms and hallways disappeared in more compact designs. • Stockland's chief executive for residential communities, Mark Hunter, said smaller three- bedroom, two-bathroom homes were ''the new sweet spot'' in the market as customers realised the benefits of smaller houses in the same way they adjusted to saving water during the drought. • With power prices increasing, people wanted more efficient homes and were happy to sacrifice extra bedrooms, rumpus and media rooms and make do with a single open-plan living and dining area opening onto an outdoor area, Mr Hunter said. • see downsized-as-buyers-realise-small-is-good-20110810-1imvm.html
  15. 15. Strata By-laws RenovationbytheRules Why have By-laws? • By-laws are made to facilitate the administration and harmony (ie the smooth and dispute- free running) of the Strata Scheme. They generally cover the use of common property and the behaviour of residents but can also deal with many other aspects of the scheme. • Without them the scheme would basically operate as a 'free-for-all' situation where anyone could essentially do whatever they pleased to their property, the common property and each other. Just imagine the sort of chaos that situation would create over time. By-laws usually pertain to: • Parking restrictions and use of allocated areas • Keeping of pets • Garbage disposal • Use of facilities and common property • Behaviour of residents - noise, hanging of washing, offensive behaviour, etc • Security and Safety measures • Architectural and landscaping guidelines • Other appropriate matters specific to the type of Strata Scheme in use • Installation and use of floor coverings • Installation and use of air conditioners, pergolas, tv & satellite access All residents (tenants and owners) must adhere to the by-laws in accordance with the NSW Strata Schemes Management Act 1996 - Part 5: By-laws (Sections 41 thru 60) or face the possibility of penalties (usually in the form of fines) issued by the NSW Consumer, Trader & Tenancy Tribunal (sometimes referred to as the CTTT), a division of the NSW Dept of Commerce.
  16. 16. Basic rules STRATASCHEMESMANAGEMENTACT1996-SECT117 Owners, occupiers and other persons not to create nuisance • 117 Owners, occupiers and other persons not to create nuisance • (1) An owner, mortgagee or covenant chargee in possession (whether in person or not), lessee or occupier of a lot must not: • (a) use or enjoy the lot, or permit the lot to be used or enjoyed, in such a manner or for such a purpose as to cause a nuisance or hazard to the occupier of any other lot (whether that person is an owner or not), or • (b) use or enjoy the common property in such a manner or for such a purpose as to interfere unreasonably with the use or enjoyment of the common property by the occupier of any other lot (whether that person is an owner or not) or by any other person entitled to the use and enjoyment of the common property, or • (c) use or enjoy the common property in such a manner or for such a purpose as to interfere unreasonably with the use or enjoyment of any other lot by the occupier of the lot (whether that person is an owner or not) or by any other person entitled to the use and enjoyment of the lot. • (2) This section does not operate to prevent the due exercise of rights conferred on a developer by the operation of: • (a) in the case of a freehold strata scheme, section 28L of the Strata Schemes (Freehold Development) Act 1973 , or • (b) in the case of a leasehold strata scheme, section 52 of the Strata Schemes (Leasehold Development) Act 1986 . • (3) In this section, "lessee" of a lot in a strata leasehold scheme means a sublessee of the lot.
  17. 17. Company titles have different rules 18. RENOVATIONS: • An application form must be completed and submitted to the Board prior to any structural alteration being made to any unit (including any alteration to gas, water or electrical installation). Any such alterations may not proceed prior to the written approval of the Board and the payment by the Shareholder of the relevant bond as specified by the Board. Such work may be carried out only between the hours of 7.30 a.m. and 5.00pm on Mondays to Fridays, and no work to be carried out on Saturdays, Sundays or public holidays, apart from no noise producing work such as painting. Cabinets, joinery etc. to be constructed offsite and assembled only within a unit. • Such works shall be carried out so as to cause as little inconvenience as possible to other Shareholders. The owner of the unit where such work is being carried out shall be responsible to pay the cost of all additional cleaning and for the repair (including replacement) of any damage to lifts, vestibules and other parts of the building and its furnishings caused by contractors and by the delivery of materials. • The shareholder shall indemnify the Company for all alterations to the unit or the services within the unit carried out by the shareholder. 19. REPAIRS: • Any repairs to Company property must be authorised by the Board or its agent. Only licensed tradespeople are permitted to carry out work in the building, even work at shareholder's expense. Trades people must carry full insurance cover and comply with all requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Repairs to the electrical and plumbing services within the unit is the responsibility of the shareholder. Extract from Greenknowe Apartment, Potts Point
  18. 18. By-laws
  19. 19. FurtherInformationandcontacts • NSW Land & Property Management Authority: phone 1300 052 637, • NSW Fair Trading website: (under ‘Tenants & home owners’ > ‘Strata schemes’) • Mediation Services Unit (NSW Fair Trading): phone 9338 7900 or free call 1800 451 431 • Community Justice Centres: free call 1800 990 777 or TTY 1800 671 964 • Community Legal Centres: phone 9212 7333, • Your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service: • Other factsheets: • NSW Fair Trading Information Centre: 133 220
  20. 20. How not to renovate
  21. 21. What to look for? 0000000073.html • APARTMENT QUALITY CHECKLIST • LOCATION: • Regardless of building style, the location is the deciding factor when it comes to quality. “If it is close to transport, schools and lifestyle facilities like beaches, it will be attractive to renters and owner occupiers,” LandMark White director of residential valuation Bill Fatouros says. A waterfront location is the premium spot to be in. • COMMON WALLS: • The less shared walls, the better. And it’s the same with floors and ceilings – being on the top floor is prized because there is no-one living above you. • VIEWS: • “It’s always, always, always about the view,” says Goodyer Donnelly principal Debbie Donnelly. Harbour views of the bridge and opera house are the most sought after, followed by beach or city views. “A park or a district outlook is also nice,” says Fatouros. A view of your neighbour’s wall or balcony is a distinct disadvantage. • ASPECT: • Living spaces and balconies that have a north or north east aspect are desirable because they will have the most natural light and better thermal performance. The aspect of the main bedroom can also be important. • POSITION: • Top floor is always the most prized for views, daylight and outlook – although if it’s the top floor of a four-storey walk-up it might not be quite as sought after. • BUILDING QUALITY: • Is it well constructed built by a quality builder or developer, is it surrounded by nice gardens or cracked concrete? How solid are the materials used for construction. A double brick building is the best quality. Has it endured?
  22. 22. Problems
  23. 23. Practical problems to watch for… • Noise • The trend towards removing carpets and laying polished timber floors + manufactured strip flooring • Mould • Moulds are fungi that need moisture and organic material to grow. When disturbed or dried out, they release spores that can cause illness in some people. They may also cause structural damage if left untreated. • Smoke alarms • All smoke alarms installed from 1 May 2006 must comply with Australian Standard AS 3786. The power supply and location of smoke alarms depends on the type of building. • Asbestos • Asbestos is a mineral commonly used in building materials in the 1940s–1980s. It was used in walls, drains, flues, roofing and guttering. It is usually safe if not disturbed. If asbestos materials are damaged and fibres are freed, they pose a health risk. • Lead • Lead is a metal found in old paint (before 1970), dust in the roof and soil. Lead can be harmful, especially to small children and pregnant women. • Water sealing • Especially in wet-areas, the BCA requires impervious barriers that must be sound and well built. Inferior construction will lead to expensive remedies. • Safety Glass • Older premises may not have toughed safety or laminated glass in pathways, doors, balconies and shower screens which comply with contemporary standards. • Balcony Heights • Generally any railing under 1M, with horizontal climbing bars or with gaps greater than 125mm [a baby’s head diameter] will not comply with the BCA. • Widow locks • Recent press has highlighted the problems of beds/cots against windows that are openable whether screened or not. • Trip hazards • Multiple changes of level, materials and flooring with a low slip co-efficient.
  24. 24. Design planning CheckwithCouncilredevelopmentconsentrequirements.UseExempt&Complying provisionsifpossible.Ifitisstructural,itneedsconsent;ifit’scosmetic,itprobablycanbe donewithoutexternalapprovalotherthannotifyingyourStrata Manager.Rememberyour neighbours-dountoothersasyouwould havedonetoyou.
  25. 25. Design principles • Space is expensive = so maximise, think of a caravan • Life is complex = a small retreat is cocooning • Small is beautiful - comforting/delightful • Everything at hand – tranquil/centred- aim for a calming effect • Neat detailing + consistency of finishes are key factors in good, small design • Minimal furnishing = simplicity and elegance • Open plan = seamless flow of activities + daily events • Re-configure what does not work with an existing layout • Sliding doors = panels – folding walls expand or decrease your space • Mirrors increase sense of space + light, and give an appearance of more space • Think about circulation – our experience of space is not static, • Tight planning = maximum efficiency • Use mezzanines if floor to ceiling heights allow • • Dissolve spatial boundaries – downsize – seek cleaner lines • • De-clutter = stuff…. the dilemma of organisation • • Concealed storage is best- think about consolidating rather than dispersing • • A garden, however small, is a blessing, an oasis [also can be courtyard, terrace or rooftop]
  26. 26. Envision the total concept… before you start
  27. 27. Think about zoning: thinkofneedsandsolutions:clusterandfocuslikewithlike,considerseparating theessentialsonlysoyoucanachieveaflow
  28. 28. Think about each wall in turn whatgoeswhere,howandwhy?
  29. 29. What are the differences here?
  30. 30. The Building Process Budgetsetting,allowtime,thinkaboutaccess,waste,noisecontrol;pre-orderitemswith a lead-time. • You might hire a professional to renovate and decorate, but it's best to be around to discuss options and problems. Stay actively involved…. That holiday in the sun can come later. • Look at the Living Space Constructions website for a good run- through of the typical process. For example, the entrance to the apartment opened up to a large living area. The ceiling was textured with vermiculite and sprayed white, a common trend in red brick unit blocks built in the 1970s. Top hats, electrical rough-in, new gyprock lining, seal + paint….
  31. 31. Design strategies Converting30-45sqmstudioflatsintoone-bedders AnnmarieSullivanDesign • Convert Studio Apartments [bed and lounge in one room] to 1 bedroom apartments – transform the kitchen area into a bedroom. • Minimum sizes that work- too small is too small • Bedroom min size 2.6m x 2.6m • Ceilings- step/recess/raise/lower to expand/compress spaces • Use glazed or mirrored double pocket doors • Additional foldout or slide-away beds, tables • Plenty of storage- not too deep/double stacking/waste Ikea cubes 30cm • Build-in balcony too small for furniture- built in café bar • Use mirrors to expand the space • Greening- indoor plants • Storage cubicles- mirror top and sides • Window dressing/frosted glass
  32. 32. Design tips Asmallspacecannotreplicatewhatahousehasorcando-worthy compromisesareoften necessary-useacriticaleye • Don't be afraid of dark floors in a small space. A dark floor can appear to push pale walls and ceilings up and out. • For casual dining in a small space, incorporate the dining table into the work bench. • In other words- save space by compressing functions + • Use sliding walls
  33. 33. ApartmentPodgerHolmes A tightlyplanned,denselypackedZ-shapedjoineryunitwasinsertedintothisinterwar apartment.Thenewunitcontainsthekitchen,laundry,storage,internethub,closetand library,modernisingtheprogramoftheapartmentwhilehonouringtheoriginaldetailing. TribeArchitects
  34. 34. Interiors that intrigue
  35. 35. Interior design clues • It’s easy to make mistakes when furnishing a small space, by pushing all the furniture to the edge, under the illusion that it’s creating a feeling of space. • Use the entire area and don’t be afraid to use large furniture. • Large modular sofas work well as they define the seating area and can give you two sofas in one. • Favour low over high for items such as bookcases, and modular designs are also available. • Free up more space by regular de-cluttering. Use boxes and baskets to hide bits and pieces. • Extendable tables are great for accommodating extra guests. • Focus lighting on the walls and outer edges will open the space. Mirrors also bounce natural light and bring exterior views inside. • Do adjust dimensions eg bench height to suit your particular size and style • Borrow light where ever possible – add walls/screens/if no need do not make full height
  36. 36. Interior surfaces: Tofurnish….Adoptatheme: Finishes,textures,tones,coordination+contrast
  37. 37. ‘Thick walls’ : Front + back units Eliminatewallstructures-putunitsbacktoback,anduseunitsforacousticseparation Plumbingisbacktoback,unitcreatesdefinitionbetweendifferentzones.
  38. 38. Potts Point Apartment AnthonyGillArchitects38sqmSeidler Joineryiskey
  39. 39. Everything in its place & a place for everything
  40. 40. ApartmentBarnesMcManus Inthelimitedspace,allopportunitiesaretakentodesigninstoragespacesandframe internalviewsthroughelementshighlightedwithboldcolour. TribeArchitects
  41. 41. Conceal for clarity Tribearchitects IKEA
  42. 42. Stack,slide,push-pullloftcomponents,multi-functionfurniture; raisedcomponentsonlegsaddtotheperceptionofspace
  43. 43. 21st century apartment living The apartments are large, small and in between, and come from many countries. The common thread is clever, contemporary design. • An Austrian apartment, at just 75 square metres, is one of the smaller to feature in the book but the real surprise is this single room houses five people. • The architects explain: "Room-defining furniture has been placed in the centre of the volume and can be opened in every direction. This furniture is part of the room but it also forms a 'room within a room' combining several different functions in one centrepiece." • The kitchen is behind a folding panel, the dining table hides away in the wall, a bench becomes a bed; innovations of space are accompanied by innovations of decor. The floor, walls and ceiling are painted in a soft, shadowy botanical pattern. • A 30-square-metre apartment in Slovenia takes the opposite approach and places service areas around the wall, closing them off when not in use with semi-transparent perspex doors printed with a soft tree pattern. • By contrast, Rice Design in Melbourne shows off 455 square metres of a former office building in Spring Street. • The fitout is dramatically luxurious, with pale marble, dark wood and moody lighting, and the numerous rooms include a library, a wine room and spacious living areas. • The Manhattan apartments are also large and luxurious but probably the less said about them, the better; they will just make you sick with longing. • The book showcases clever storage, clever integration of work and living spaces and interesting decor touches, such as the abstract florals on the ceiling of a German apartment.
  44. 44. Clever ideas, smart solutions Foldawaybeds–Interfar,Gladesville Lift-upclotheshoist–Haefele Fold-awayironingboard–Haefele Materials,pulloutstorage–garage, HyloftCeilingStorageUnits,ProSeries1&2[availablethrough,] IKEA 2012Catalogue:Ahomedoesn’tmeedtobebig,justsmart.
  45. 45. To summarise… • Do make a wise choice in buying your apartment- there are fundamentals such as good aspect which cannot be overcome no matter how good your design is. • Do research and check Strata rules and Council requirements before starting. It’s the only way to be a good neighbour and keep costs manageable. • Do take the time to design- remember its cheaper to make changes by far on paper than it is when the builder is hovering … • In the limited space, be authentic- take all opportunities to design smart + clever big ideas that makes urban life easier. • Everything in its place & a place for everything – a sustainable compact solution • Do ensure innovations of space are accompanied by innovations of décor- you cannot have it all, so edit, de-clutter, simplify- go for quality not quantity • A small space cannot replicate what a house has or can do - worthy compromises are often necessary, without sacrificing special experiences.
  46. 46. Where to find more information
  47. 47. BIBLIOGRAPHY–[availableinBurwoodLibrary] • Books • Baker-Laporte, Paula. (2002) Prescriptions for a healthy house: a practical guide for architects, builders and homeowners, New Society, Philadelphia PA, USA [728 BAK] • • Brammall, Bruce. (1970) Investing in real estate for dummies, Wiley Publishing Australia, Milton, QLD • [332.6324 BRA] • • Butler-Bowden, Caroline. (2007) Homes in the Sky: Apartment living in Australia, Miegunyah Press in association with Historic Houses Trust, Carlton, VIC [728.314 BUT] • • Mobbs, Michael. (2010) Sustainable House, Choice, Sydney, NSW [696.099 MOBB] • • Sales, Leonard. (2005) Getting the builders in: how to manage homebuilding and renovating projects, How to Books, Oxford, UK [690 SAL] • • Saint-Onge, Stephen. (2011) No place like home: types and techniques for real family-friendly design, Wiley, Hoboken NJ, USA [747 SAIN] • • Staines, Allen. (2007) How to be a successful builder owner & renovator, Pinedale Press, Caloundra, QLD [690.8 STA] • • Thomson, Jimmy. (2006) The ultimate guide to Buying & Renting Houses & Apartments, John Fairfax Publications, Sydney NSW [333.338 THO] • 21st Century Architecture - Apartment Living Images Publishing Group • Magazines • Architectural Digest • Australian House & Garden • Australian Smarthouse • Belle • Better Homes & Gardens • Inside Out • Smart Investor • Library Locations • Architecture 720 • Interior Decorating 747 • • Websites • • • [for book reviews] •