Joy Division

With a little genius, Patchwork Architecture unlocks living in a tiny apartment.

Joy Division

With a little genius, Patchwork Architecture unlocks living in a tiny apartment.

After two years living in a 20-square-metre apartment in China, Vivien Lindsay was well used to small spaces. In fact, her previous home before leaving New Zealand – a 1910 villa in Whanganui – had always felt too big.

She wanted to return to Wellington, and to something small and close to the city. When an apartment in a 1960s block that a friend lives in came on the market the same day as her tenants in Whanganui made an offer, she bought it sight unseen. “It’s tiny but has drop-dead views and amazing sun,” she says.

There was work to do: the apartment was boxy, with dark carpet and no bedroom or storage. “I didn’t want my bed in the living space,” she says. “I needed to maximise the living space and get some storage.” After researching everything from Murphy beds to sofa beds, and with a very tight budget – less than what most people spend on a kitchen – the problem was still unresolved. So she called on Sally Ogle and Ben Mitchell-Anyon of Patchwork Architecture, who she’d got to know when she lived in Whanganui. 

Wellington-based Ogle visited and was immediately drawn to the space and views through floor-to-ceiling windows. With a single move in the middle of the apartment, Ogle could solve a number of issues at once. “The opportunity was to ditch the existing wardrobe, claw back that space and make something to do triple duty – storage, sleeping and privacy,” she says. 

The project left the original bathroom untouched but crafted a new kitchen – smaller than the old one, but harder working – and multi-functioning birch-ply cabinetry in the middle of the apartment. They also repainted and replaced the dark carpet with an elegant grey linoleum that unites the various parts of the apartment, is functional and still soft under foot. 

Working with joiner Sebastian Bissinger of Splinters & Pixels, Patchwork’s Steph Roughan resolved a number of complicated issues, including how to get airflow around the mattress. The ply pod contains a bed, enclosed by cabinetry that houses a wardrobe, and open shelving for cups and glasses. And it didn’t need any framed walls, saving valuable millimetres. “In 28 square metres, that really matters,” says Ogle.

The tiny apartment now has distinct zones – sleeping, storage, kitchen and living. The pod floats elegantly in the middle and the place feels generous and airy. “You can have a friend around and not feel like you’re sitting in your bedroom,” says Ogle. 

While Lindsay was initially a little worried it would feel like an oversized piece of furniture, she loves her new space – if she puts her pillows at the open end of the bed, she can lie there and look straight down the harbour. “I love that everything has a purpose,” she says. “It’s not spartan – it feels very open and light.”

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