Alba Home 2, Manila

Making the most of space in a small footprint home is already a challenge in itself—to comfortably fit a family of five into a 28sqm/301sqft apartment is, undoubtedly, an even bigger one. Fortunately, designer Josef Karol Egwaras of Studio Josef Karol was afforded a few advantages before embarking on the project.

Having resided there for four years, the family had developed an intrinsic understanding of the apartment’s strengths and opportunities for improvement. A self-renovation had already taken place to create a solid foundation, with the owners jointly possessing knowledge of construction, property management, and civil engineering, along with a combination of creativity and business strategy. Due to their children growing up and their needs quickly evolving, Egwaras was brought on board to help them maximise the space.

My motive was to evoke the same vibrant personality the couple and their whole family exuded, while still retaining intentionality in the space.

Josef Karol Egwaras

One of the intriguing inspirations for the redesign were the family’s gravel bikes (road bikes built for all-day riding). As Egwaras had personal ties with the family through cycling, she noticed that their bikes were always clean and well maintained, as well as having a muted colour palette against their steel accents. This informed her ideas for an open and clutter-free space with innovative storage solutions, tinged with colours that had a meaningful connection to the family.

Three main colours were chosen to signify their sons; dark forest green, mustard yellow, and rustic orange-brown. These recurring tones not only make the home feel pleasantly personalised to its owners but also offer points of connection between the distinct spaces within it.

In the living room, the TV cabinet showcases these colours, outlining a dedicated drawer for each child’s clothes. A multi-purpose sofa pulls out into a bed, turning the living area into a bedroom for the two eldest sons. Behind it, fluted PVC wood-finish panels serve as a point of interest and texture for this multipurpose living room and sleeping zone.

Since the majority of the cabinetry is fully blocked out in colour, a clear polycarbonate door in an adjacent storage cabinet helps visually lighten the living area. For more flexibility, a swing arm wall light acts as a reading light above the sofa or is tucked behind to provide an ambient glow in the evenings.

The three preeminent colours carry through to the hybrid kitchen and dining area, with colourful subway tiles in the same palette used as the kitchen splashback. An extendable IKEA dining table sits next to a gold accent wall that demarcates the entrance, providing versatility for the family’s dining needs. To subtly delineate the dining space, a quirky bubble-shaped pendant lamp hangs above, next to a round mirror gently echoing the bikes’ metallic accents.

A striking terracotta orange door opens into the bedroom, immediately revealing the same fluted PVC panels used in the living room. The panels also conceal floor-to-ceiling cabinets, visually heightening the room and separating the bed from a built-in office niche with a floating desk. The desk’s reflective vanity reflects off another curved wall-length mirror hanging on the opposite wall, allowing the small space to be visually maximised.

For more tips on how to effectively use mirrors to expand your small home, click here.

“The mirrors and round IKEA donut lamp accentuates the whole space and gives it the softness it needed to complement all the storage and rectilinear lines we put in.”

Josef Karol Egwaras

The platform that the primary bed is elevated on has space for a second mattress to be stored underneath, creating a pull-out bed for the couple’s youngest son. Oval shapes hand-painted in the three repeating colours playfully mark out wall-mounted lights, which offer a more relaxed ambience at night.

In the bathroom, the recurring trio of hues appear in the terrazzo tiles, enhancing the sense of continuity. A quaint mirror that curves around the wall marks out a small personal refuge; a corner that provides a momentary escape from everyday life.

The underlying design philosophy followed by Studio Josef Karol is to “design with intention.” It emphasises that each design element should align with the project’s goals, reflecting both the designer’s and the client’s intentions

Josef Karol Egwaras

Egwaras has transformed the apartment into a dynamic, multifunctional space that beautifully reflects the owners, while still ensuring room for growth and change.

Josef Karol Egwaras (designer), Lester and Fatima (owners and talent), and the NTS team

For more thoughtfully designed small homes in Manila, Philippines, check out the urban Avida Sola.

Images by NeverTooSmall & Josef Karol Egwaras