When less is more: Architects are breaking walls to make apartments roomier

From collapsible furniture to sliding doors, architects are breaking walls to make apartments roomier.

Written by Shiny Varghese | New Delhi | Published:June 14, 2015 1:00 am
In the Greater Noida house, the master bedroom flooring was redone with chequered tiles In the Greater Noida house, the master bedroom flooring was redone with chequered tiles

When architect couple Neha Bhardwaj and Gaurav Kapoor went house hunting in Greater Noida, only one thing mattered: its orientation. They wanted a south-facing apartment and were confident that they could fix the lack of space in their apartment with some spiffy design solutions.

Space is a constraint in metropolises, be it in the NCR, Mumbai or even Manhattan. However, owners and architects are not letting these limitations get in their way. Bhardwaj and Kapoor, who run their firm Layers Studio for Design and Architecture from their 1,540 sq ft home, punctured walls, expanded corridors and invested in Murphy beds and tables to clear up floor space. “Our guest room which doubles as a meeting space has a queen-size Murphy bed. It folds into the wall and when closed has scope for wall art. Our office room in the centre of the house has two openings on adjacent walls that offer views of the living room and the guest room. In our kitchen, we have a counter that doubles as a breakfast table and can be shut to isolate the space, when required,” says Bhardwaj. The couple believe in DIY solutions and testimonies are evident in a wall installation made from their recycled Enfield Thunderbird bike and Santro car parts. A painted lamp post on the wall hoists their Labrador KC or Kali Charan’s food tray. “In this house, there are over 16 shades of colours and over 20 finishes.

From blackboard paints to metal and wall paints, much of these are easy DIY solutions,” says Kapoor. Even as thresholds segue between closed and open areas, each room stands as a perfect, monitoring space. What was once a dark corridor has become a part of the house by simply opening up a wall, but it does not compromise on privacy . This is what French philosopher Gaston Bachelard called “the poetics of space”, where intimate spaces are created by suggestion.

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the Murphy table in the guest room can turn it into a meeting room

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In architect-designer Shabnam Gupta’s 1,250 sq ft Juhu apartment, nooks and corners have been deliberately created for the family of four to have moments of reflection and communion. She converted her balcony into a study with a dome ceiling. “It’s got a vertical garden as well. Of course, it meant waterproofing the wall and structurally strengthening it to carry the weight of the plants, soil and drip irrigation,” says Gupta. For someone who is surrounded by glamorous spaces and textures at work, she pared down the interiors to create pools of calm. “The house is sea-facing and open on three sides. I wanted to bring the outdoors in and did a textured finished blasted granite for the floor. It feels like you’re walking on sand. It’s also hardy so my boys can even skateboard on them,” she says. She kept to a white scheme to give a sense of space, introducing colour through soft furnishings.

The industrial monotone theme is taken forward in a Manhattan loft by architect Viren Brahmbhatt, principal architect, de.Sign Studio, which has offices in New York and Mumbai. On the top floor of a six-storey apartment, this almost century-old building overlooks the Hudson river. When Brahmbhatt arrived, he found a two-bedroom corner unit with the conventional layout of a bath and kitchen with a long corridor that connected the rooms. The floor was uneven and saggy. He soon figured out that the building’s bones were in good shape. It could become a charming space with the old sitting hand-in-hand with new aesthetics. After bolstering the ceiling and the floor, existing walls were removed. Brahmbhatt wanted a large fluid space for the graphic designer/advertising professional who lives and works here. “The layout was transformed into what I call FlexSpace, to generate a seamless spatial experience and create a loft-like space,” says the architect.

He brought in sliding glass walls, and a Murphy bed, which holds a glass enclosed bar. By leaving the walls bare and white and keeping the finishes sparse, he rid the house of visual clutter. Much of the storage is built-in while closet doors with mirrors work to reflect the entire loft and views of the river. “We decided to retain the existing structural wood beams in the ceiling and the stripped brick walls to dramatise and juxtapose the rustic with the modern. The lines of the ceiling beams alter the perception of depth, constantly flattening and elevating the sense of space,” he says. A found object in the house was the dumb waiter, which has now been enclosed in frameless glass, opening up an old, existing skylight that filters in natural light. That the loft can be divided into various spaces when required allows the client to alter its use.

Built-in storage and collapsing spaces are crucial strategies when dealing with smaller spaces. Bhardwaj and Kapoor, for instance, made alterations to the doors in the master bedroom. By bringing in a glass door that leads to the balcony, and shifting the original position of the toilet-cum-dresser door, they were able to expand the existing space and enlarge the natural light radius. “We re-laid black-and-white chequered tiles on the floor and it has been carried into the dresser as well, to make it look like it’s part of the room,” says Bhardwaj. With views of the Yamuna Expressway in the distance and an evolving green area in the balcony, it’s a cosy haven. “With extreme climates, it’s more important to get the winter sun. We chose a smaller apartment, because in winters, the living room is flooded with light,” says Kapoor.

Who’s Murphy?
The inventor of Murphy beds, William Lawrence Murphy (1856-1957) was in love with a young opera singer. In the later 19th century, it wasn’t proper for a lady to enter a gentleman’s bedroom. In his one-room apartment in San Francisco, Murphy figured out a solution. He tinkered with built-in beds, which could fold into the wall and make room for a parlour. His patented designs soon travelled the world and has now become a generic household name for collapsible furniture.

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