Douglas Wan's Tiny Apartment


Douglas Wan’s Tiny Apartment

An Architect’s Home | ep02

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Words | Anthony Richardson
Video |
Design Emotive Studio

The tendency in micro-apartments is you tend to have a lot of gadgetry and a lot of moving parts like the folding bed, and the fold-out tables, and the six chairs. Yeah, so thinking about what if you had this simple thing that’s not designed to an inch, to every inch, but can be sort of a few things at the same time?
— Douglas Wan

Douglas Wan, architect and Director of WHDA, wanted to live a monastic life, but still be in the city with access to amenities. The idea of a cabin in the woods, whilst appealing, isn’t always practical, so how could Douglas achieve this in the city? After inspecting property after property, and imagining how he might design the space, he eventually came across what is known as George Apartment. Built in the 1950s as nurses quarters, the 28sqm apartment is small, mircro even, but it provided plenty of opportunity for the young architect to explore.

Going against the grain of what is typical for small studio apartments, Douglas did not want a completely open space. “The tricky thing about small spaces railing against the idea of the open plan or the open space, and sort of separating these spaces into zones.Douglas says in the video. So in order to give himself freedom, he removed a couple of load-bearing walls and replaced them with a couple of steel beams. This freed up the floor space, where he split the apartment into thirds. Two-thirds in one direction would be living, and the remaining one-third would split further into thirds the other direction, allowing kitchen, bathroom and threshold. What ties everything together and creates a sense of continuity, softness and warmth is the plywood. It truly acts as a statement in terms of keeping things simple, and while it does have that “trendy” minimalist apartment look, it goes beyond a stylistic decision.

The apartment looks simple, and that’s because the big idea is rather simple in itself. The simple of gesture of having a horizontal plane that orientates towards the easterly view results in what is simply seen as a “platform”. This platform however transforms the space without any folding or sliding parts, okay you may need to slide the mattress on-and-off but as Douglas told me, it remains in “bed form” the majority of time. When he does have friends over, the bed goes under the platform and then it becomes a space to hang out and watch movies, play video games or just chat.

Even though the apartment is 28sqm, having been in the space myself, it did not feel small. The kitchen is double the depth of typical kitchens, the platform is generous and the free space in front of the easterly window gives you plenty of room to yoga… Providing that’s your thing.


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Project Credits

Designed by Douglas Wan
Main contractor was Caple Builders

Filmed by Design Emotive Studio


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