As our cities continue to grow, architects and designers are faced with the challenges of adapting and repurposing historic buildings for commercial and residential uses. In Rua dos Andradas—one of the oldest streets in Southern Brazil—a 1950s building is now home to both businesses and residents, including the owner of this 29sqm/312sqft micro apartment designed by OCRE Arquitetura.
For Ananda Maciel Oliveira and the team at OCRE Arquitetura, “the most important aspect is understanding the client’s habits and needs[…]when it comes to designing a small space.”
In this instance, the owner wanted a large living room to easily entertain friends, a condensed kitchen space, and a “small hanging chair”. With clear specifications in mind, the team kept the original layout largely unchanged, choosing instead to work within the open-plan design to maximise a sense of space.
In order to create specific zones in such an open area, the team decided to use custom joinery in marine plywood to structure their design around a concept of horizontal and vertical planes. The most dominant expression of this idea is an overhead shelf that stretches from entrance to window, defining the internal layout.
The concept continues with a vertical marine ply panel separating the kitchen from the main living space, situated at the entrance of the apartment. While the owner entertains regularly, she does not often cook, so the kitchen is deliberately compact and simple.
Graphite-painted plywood with cutout handles and a grey quartz splashback and countertop make for a neutral palette. Dark parquet floors, retained as a nod to the building’s history, create a contrast with an otherwise light and bright colour palette in the rest of the apartment.
A pair of striking forest-green wardrobe doors demarcate the living space, with a matching green wooden slatted panel alongside. The panel cleverly conceals a retractable bed, revealing storage space above the bed frame and a reading bench at the footrest when pulled down from the wall. When visitors come over, the bed can be easily stored away, freeing up space in the living room.
This cabinet/Murphy bed combination can also be seen in Mid-Century Retro Apartment, Sydney.
Flooded with natural light, the living space offers stunning views of the nearby Metropolitan Cathedral from a large window. Pine and plywood armchairs were custom made by the OCRE Arquitetura team, taking design inspiration from notable architects such as Le Corbusier, Rietveld, and Lina Bo Bardi.
A built-in desk made with marine plywood beneath the window creates another horizontal plane, doubling as an office space and a dining table. As per the client’s wishes, a white macrame swinging chair is suspended from the ceiling from a braided rope, adding a playful and lighthearted touch—much like the hanging seat in Catalin Apartment, Buenos Aires.
A recently renovated bathroom meant little needed to be changed in terms of function and facilities, but reddish-orange cabinets were added to bring another pop of colour against geometric grey and white ceramic tiles.
“By balancing simple solutions with an appealing visual aesthetic”, OCRE Arquitetura has helped to breathe new life into a historic building. A home like Apartment Andradas demonstrates how contemporary small-footprint homes can comfortably exist in sympathetically designed mixed-use buildings in our cities.
If you’re interested in other Brazilian tiny homes, check out Serrana House, Brasília, our first episode in Brazil.