Layout optimization and interior design of an apartment in a new development

Author: Milena Zindović

Collaborator: Aleksandra Savović

Year of realization: 2022.

Surface area: 150 m2

Location: Novi Dorćol, Belgrade

When purchasing an apartment in a new development, it’s always wise to involve an architect from the very beginning, ideally during the initial consideration phase. Since these apartments are designed for a generic “unknown” user, the original plans might not cater to the specific needs and preferences of a particular buyer. An architect hired by the potential buyer can assess the space’s potential, determine if it aligns with their needs, and propose modifications. These adjustments can then be communicated to the developers for implementation during construction, ensuring a more customized living environment.

This is precisely how the initial design process unfolded for a four-person family’s apartment in a new Belgrade development. Given that the apartment was purchased during the construction phase, there was an opportunity to redesign the space to better suit the client’s wishes. Following the conclusion of construction, the focus shifted towards furnishing the new apartment’s interior.

The chosen apartment already possessed qualities the clients wished to retain: a dual-aspect living area, a master bedroom with an en-suite bathroom, and access to a large terrace with a view. Modifications to the building’s exterior were out of the question, as this would have disrupted the overall architecture of the complex. Therefore, all adjustments were made within the apartment, with a particular emphasis on utilitarian zones like the bathroom and kitchen.

The primary constraint in reconfiguring the apartment layout was the presence of structural elements – concrete walls that could not be moved. In the initial plan, the apartment was designed as a five-bedroom unit, featuring a living room and four bedrooms. While the size and proportions of the master bedroom were satisfactory, the remaining three bedrooms were smaller than standard dimensions. The initial idea of transforming the three small bedrooms into two larger ones was impractical due to the distribution of structural elements. As a result, one of the smaller rooms was preserved as a study, while the other two were combined to create a large children’s bedroom.

The bathroom adjoining the bedrooms was modified to accommodate a bathtub instead of a shower. The entrance was also repositioned, slightly expanding the study area.

The main drawback of the original floor plan was the undersized kitchen, which lacked the storage and functionality required by a modern family. Consequently, the most significant alteration involved removing the guest toilet located opposite the laundry room. A portion of this space was incorporated into the hallway to create a designated area for storing coats and linens, while the remaining section was annexed to the kitchen. The kitchen was further expanded towards the exterior wall and the previously planned main dining area, resulting in a completely open layout that seamlessly integrated with the living space.

By utilizing the entire wall length between the master bedroom and hallway on one side, and the kitchen on the other side, ample space was created to accommodate all the necessary kitchen elements. When combined with the kitchen peninsula featuring a bar counter on the opposite side, the result was a kitchen with adequate dimensions to comfortably house everything required.

This approach of completely opening up a space originally envisioned as solely utilitarian, and therefore separated from the rest of the apartment by walls, presented certain challenges. To conceal the machinery and other technical installations planned for the kitchen, a lowered ceiling was designed in that section of the apartment. Additionally, the kitchen flooring differed from that of the living area, necessitating a solution to visually unify the use of ceramic tiles and parquet flooring within the same space. Even after removing the kitchen walls, the lowered ceiling and ceramic tiles continued to visually differentiate the utilitarian space from the living area.

These existing elements were leveraged as a starting point and ultimately influenced the selection of a two-toned kitchen concept. To keep the lines of the lowered ceiling and ceramic tile floor cohesive, the length of the kitchen peninsula was designed to adhere to them. This area is distinguished by its blue cabinetry. As you transition from the kitchen space towards the parquet flooring of the living area, the materiality of the kitchen transforms.

The kitchen elements were arranged to minimize the need for extensive modifications to the existing building installations. The blue section houses the oven and microwave (in a tall unit), the cooktop with ample workspace, the sink, the dishwasher, lower and upper cabinets for storing dishes and cookware, and a wine refrigerator. Beside the sink, a cabinet conceals the trash bins, with a pull-out cutting board positioned above them, featuring an opening that allows waste to be directly discarded into the bins.

Continuing along the kitchen, tall elements clad in oak veneer accommodate the refrigerator, additional storage for food, and a small coffee and tea station tucked away in a niche. A round table from the Floem brand, surrounded by four designer chairs in the same color scheme and a striking Foscarini pendant lamp, establishes a dedicated breakfast area adjacent to the kitchen.

A high counter bar extension off the kitchen peninsula accommodates the client’s already owned designer stools by the local brand Hookl und Stool in the living area. This bar partially conceals the kitchen workspace from view while maintaining comfortable circulation between the living and kitchen zones. The bar’s design subtly contrasts the kitchen cabinetry. Although both elements utilize the same blue color, the bar countertop and sides showcase natural marble with a pattern that complements the quartz used on the kitchen surfaces for practicality and easy maintenance.

Given the living area’s unalterable size due to structural elements, the large dining area was incorporated within this space. Positioning the existing dining table and chairs straight ahead from the apartment entrance, emphasizes the sightline through the entry hallway, inviting guests directly into the living area and avoiding detours through the hallway towards the master bedroom or kitchen.

Custom entryway furniture was designed to fit the compact space and aesthetically complement the living area elements. The expansive dining area features a table from Ethnicraft with vibrantly colored chairs, a painting by Zsolt Kovács, a graphic rug, and a linear pendant lamp from Miloox that further emphasizes the visual flow.

Following the kitchen’s integration with the living area and the placement of the dining area, a key challenge was incorporating the television with all the requirements of modern technology and user needs. Additionally, the clients desired a sizeable saltwater aquarium in the living space. To visually define the living area and partially separate it from the dining area, a custom shelf unit was designed. It combines metal supports and veneered elements, seamlessly integrating the specific needs for technology, the aquarium, and decorative elements within the living space. The screen’s background is cleverly camouflaged with tinted glass facing the dining area.

The living room furniture comprises a Prostoria Cloud leather sofa that will develop a patina over time, adding character to the space. Existing side tables and family heirloom armchairs were reupholstered to complement the chosen furniture scheme. The living area is further enhanced by another Miloox pendant lamp. Large terraces accessible from both sides of the living room offer city views and are furnished with seating and a dining table for outdoor entertaining, featuring pieces from Prostoria and Ethnicraft.

As per the client’s request, the children’s room features a custom designed fun bunk bed with a slide. Integrated stairs leading to the top bunk double as toy storage. Three sleeping spaces are provided: the top bunk, the lower bunk, and a pull-out trundle bed on casters for sleepovers. A lighter shade of blue is used behind the bed to accentuate its design, crafted from a combination of white MDF and lacquered chipboard.

The children’s room also incorporates a wardrobe tailored for their clothing needs, along with a desk and additional shelving and cabinets for storage. Neutral colors were chosen for these elements, as the vibrancy of children’s books and toys will naturally add a playful touch to the space.

The home office features a wall unit in neutral tones, combining oak and cashmere grey finishes. It offers a mix of open and closed shelving in the upper section and a work desk with drawers below. A hidden toy train nook with tracks is cleverly integrated into the mid-section, extending from the work surface. When open, it transforms into a platform for toy train tracks, while the shelves it conceals when closed provide additional storage.

The master bedroom embraces a minimalist aesthetic with a Scandinavian wooden bed from Ethnicraft and accompanying console nightstands. Built-in wardrobes with sliding doors offer ample storage. A dark wallpaper placed behind the bed creates a contrasting backdrop to the light wood, highlighting the headboard design. Neutral tones throughout the space contribute to a calming atmosphere befitting a bedroom.

Photos: Miloš Martinović

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