Never Too Small: Brera Apartment
Micro Living
Milan, IT

Located in the the district of Brera, the area consists of remarkable examples of Milanese apartment typologies and gives a good example to the contemporary lifestyle of Milan.

The apartment is situated in a dense apartment building, typical of the center of Milan. This typology is called a "ballatoio" or "case di ringhiera” - a multi-storey building with access from the balcony.

The aim of the project was to create a space that includes the contemporary functions of a vibrant European city, in order to host various activities during the day.
The functions of the space are organized along the living room’s perimeter without blocking the light from the two large windows. The use of space is optimized thanks to compact functional elements, freeing the space as much as possible, and opening to the light. The interior is formally determined by integrated furniture which encompasses different functions and characteristics. The pieces of furniture act as a spatial boundaries. The shapes of the different forms of storage are conceived based on the items they are to contain. Their positioning depends on how easily they need to be reached.
We wanted to design a proper house, despite the surface area. One result of this was the ability to use the larger furniture elements as partitions which help to divide the space. Depending on the users’ requirements, a combination of private or semi-private areas can be created using these elements to give maximum flexibility.

In an apartment such as this, where we wanted to fit more functions than are actually possible, we had to use the concept of time as a tool.

The same space becomes a different space when the light changes during the day. We looked at Japanese houses, but also at the traditions surrounding European modernism and functionalism. From the Frankfurt kitchen and the integrated furniture of Gropius, to Italian examples of Mangiarotti where in a project called “La parete attrezzata, 1965” he puts different functions together in the same piece of cabinet. Or Cini Boeri in “gradonata attrezzata, 1971” (image on right) where she puts a walk-in wardrobe just under some places to set and rest, as is the case in this example here.

A terraced bedroom in a holiday home - Cini Boeri, 1970

La casa attrezzata. Qualità dell'abitare e rapporti di integrazione fra arredamento e architettura, Gianni Ottolini, Vera De Prizio. 2005

The house ensures maximum functional comfort with a double movement, one that can open spaces and the atmosphere towards the external landscape and the other can connect internal perceptions home environment, to become a tool to create and make evident relations. From the point of view of colour finishes, the colour of the walls tend to follow and reinforce the differences in quality of the different private spaces; from lighter to darker colour tones from the public spaces through to the private spaces. The small size of the apartment, led to the use of light colours and natural finishes. Domestic space is clear and ordered according to logical function. And it is able to accommodate different elements, even conflicting, to use as personalization (colourful chairs, books, elements of vegetation) but the overall atmosphere creates harmony.

The ambition for domestic comfort should be our main focus.

Guarigione del diacono Giustiniano - Beato Angelico, 1443

It's not only about trying to be functionalist, it's more about having different possibilities; and then choose.

The sleeping area is composed of two distinct areas defined by their heights: the real alcove with a height of 125 cm and a multifunctional free area on the side of the window. This free area can be incorporated with the living area and creates a bigger area for eating or relaxing. Alternatively, if the partitions are properly closed between this area and the alcove, and between this area and the living room, it creates a third space to be used for silent activities or multipurpose functions.
The table and chairs are the only furniture pieces which have the freedom to be moved. Depending on the needs of the person/people using the space, it can become a temporary bedroom, or an office/relaxing area.

Produced by: Newmac
Creator: Colin Chee
Producer: Lindsay Barnard
Director/Camera operator: Alessandro Carpentiero

Editor: Colin Chee
Interview: Andrea del Pedro Pera

Video Link: NEVER TOO SMALL Ep44

Project Link: Link