In the enchanting neighbourhood of Madrid’s Rastro, architect Mariana de Delás’s apartment symbolises creativity and innovation. The neighbourhood feels timeless — groups of relaxed neighbours gather on the streets and this strong community spirit has a special place in de Delás’s heart.
Constructed in 1940, the apartment building was initially designed as a residential space for out-of-city workers. De Delás’s vision for her 44sqm/474sqft apartment has breathed new life into the space by transforming it into an awe-inspiring home where functionality meets adventure in every corner. In fact, this apartment is one of the tiniest yet most captivating in Madrid.
Inspired by Italo Calvino’s novel The Baron in the Trees, de Delás envisioned her apartment as a treehouse-like dwelling, capturing the essence of growing in altitude and embracing a sense of playfulness. In doing so, she needed to look within herself and work out what she needed to make her home a ‘happy place’.
“It’s easier getting to know oneself when deciding to live in a small space. Everyone can live in a big space but in a small space, you have to prioritise. Some people may prioritise hidden storage, a minimal lifestyle or a big kitchen. For me, it was a great opportunity to know what I really wanted to have and what I could live without.”Mariana de Delás
The apartment originally featured low gypsum false ceilings and a cramped layout. Originally 29 sqm/312 sqft, the apartment gained an additional 15sqm/161sqft through the creation of metal gangways suspended from a 3 x 3 tubular stairway. This extra space houses a relief panic storage space with an extra study table overlooking the main area, along with a tucked-in bedroom which sits on top of the bathroom and entry hallway. The elevated gangways have an added benefit, providing glimpses over the neighbouring rooftops. All these elements strike a harmonious balance between openness and functionality.
Right at the entrance, a hidden bathroom concealed behind a wooden panel adds an element of surprise. The hallway is adorned with red plywood, creating a textured ‘grounded’ atmosphere, which complements the elements of the gangway — the green metal is an homage to tree branches of trees, softening the steel and creating a feeling of being under a forest canopy.
The living area is an open space, featuring a steel fold-out couch and a custom-made hanging staircase/cabinet. A TMC floor lamp by Catalan designer Miguel Milá illuminates the space, while carefully selected rugs, plants, and artwork add to the cosiness.
In the kitchen and dining area, a portable electric hob in place of a traditional stove keeps the benchtop clutter-free. The walls are adorned with art pieces by local artists, another nod to the community.
The sleeping area, positioned on the mezzanine created by the gangway, is designed to evoke a sense of tranquillity akin to resting among trees, with a large skylight for a nighttime view of starry skies. Additional space beside the bed has been transferred into a cubby filled with art and pillows with storage compartments hidden beneath.\
Green and white tiles in the bathroom mimic the leaves of the canopy meeting the clouds, and the use of unique wood window systems adds character and experimentation to the space.
The apartment’s top gangway acts as a bonus space with various uses. ‘We dry the clothes in the railing, have a more intimate study area on the table above, which at the same time acts as a very warming lamp and the orange plexiglass creates a super warm environment at night,’ says De Delás.
While the interior is a sanctuary, the way De Delás speaks of her neighbourhood is a good reminder of why so often tiny apartments are in trendy locations. With a lot of larger homes in desirable neighbourhoods out of the financial reach of young singles and couples, small apartments provide access to places that would otherwise be unattainable. And designers like De Delás do a great job of making these small homes just as attractive.
Have a read of another apartment with a similar dark green and wooden palette, the warm DB Apartment located in Brazil.
Images by NeverTooSmall & Imagen Subliminal (Miguel de Guzman + Rocio Romero)