Marvila Attic, Lisbon

The Marvila district of Lisbon, Portugal, has been undergoing a process of urban regeneration, with many of its old factories being transformed into galleries, creative studios, co-working spaces, and artisan establishments.

Eliza Borkowska, Magdalena Czapluk, and the team at KEMA studio took on the challenge of revamping a small apartment in one of the district’s oldest buildings, which was built in the 20th century and located in a heritage-protected area.

The apartment, situated on the top of the building, follows the shape of the roof and tapers from half a meter at its lowest point to about three meters at the highest point. Before the renovation, the apartment was difficult to access and had a kitchen, two small rooms, and a toilet. The renovation team’s main objective was to open up the apartment to the surrounding area and take advantage of the beautiful view of the industrial zone surrounding it and the Tagus River.

The team removed all the internal walls and redesigned the plan to create an open-plan kitchen, dining, and living area, and a small bedroom. The entrance to the apartment is through the stairs in the common area of the building, and the walls and door have been covered with beige fibres and cement panels. Sustainable materials are used throughout the apartment, such as fibre cement panels, coloured wood fibre panels, plywood, metal, and brick tiles.

The living room is an open space that takes advantage of all the available space under the sloped roof. Two niches were created along the wall, one serving as a kitchenette and the other as a sofa that comfortably seats three and has the same width as a single bed, making it convenient for guests to stay over.

The sofa’s back is finished with handmade brick tiles, and a small window brings in additional light and airflow along the entire back wall.

The storage has been integrated into the gable wall, containing storage space and part of the kitchen, made from coloured MDF with push-to-open panels. Four new skylights and two other windows draw even more light into the space, and in the centre of the living room, there is a circular dining table that seats up to four. The sleeping area is a compact space that could accommodate a double bed and additional storage space. A skylight above the bed allowed you to see the stars at night, and a closet for clothes was located by the door.

The bathroom, formerly lacking a designated space, has been transformed into a light and clean space with all the necessary functions. The shower, although located in a nook, receives lots of natural light from the floating glass window in the corner of the shower and the light opening in the custom-made vanity. The vanity, custom-made from metal and wood acts as a piece of décor but also a divider for the shower. 

In designing this small apartment, the team optimized the space without compromising comfort and filled the space with natural, borrowed and reflected light to create a feeling of openness and spaciousness, rare in an apartment of this size. 

It’s an opportunity for the team to showcase their passion for giving new life to aging residential stock.

Renovation is a really important process that gives a possibility not only to improve the functionality of the space but also to upgrade the performance of the sometimes very outdated buildings, which gives the opportunity for more people to be able to use the city and use its life.

Borkowska & Czapluk

Images by NeverTooSmall