A Ballet Dancer’s Tiny Barbican Studio Has a Choreographed Routine of Its Own

With a budget of $13K, Intervention Architecture revamped a 388-square-foot flat into an airy home/ballet studio with shape-shifting furniture.
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Creating live/work areas can be challenging in tiny apartments—and all the more so when the homeowner’s occupation requires room to move. This was the bind a professional ballet dancer was in when he recently tapped Intervention Architecture to turn a micro-flat into a space to live and practice his routines.

Designed in the 1950s by British firm Chamberlin, Powell, and Bon, the Barbican Estate in East London is one of the largest examples of the brutalist style. Construction extended through the ’70s, and the complex was officially opened by the Queen in 1982. Today, it remains highly coveted for its unique aesthetic and convenient location.

The young client owned a small flat in the city’s Barbican Estate and wanted to reimagine the space to serve as both his home and ballet studio. Up for the challenge, the Birmingham-based firm imagined a multifunctional bed, storage, and dining unit to serve the space’s many needs.

With a budget of £10,400 (approximately $13,000), Intervention Architecture transformed a tiny apartment into a minimalist studio. The firm worked with a cabinetmaker to design a custom unit and centerpiece for the space.

"As a young dancer, the client’s energy and dynamism was something we really wanted to capture in the ergonomics of the design," explains Anna Parker, studio director at the firm. "We also wanted to allow the original features to shine through as much as possible."

The firm designed a shape-shifting unit made up of several modules to maximize storage and flexibility. "It takes around two minutes to assemble or disassemble from the main modes," says studio director Anna Parker.

To achieve their vision, the team "injected movement throughout the space with a changeable joinery solution to maximize storage and create alternate uses and zones within the compact floor area." Shape-shifting furniture creates and contains a fold-down bed, hidden bookshelf, bench seating, as well as a flat-pack table which rests on removable legs when the bed is folded down.

Small niches on both sides of the Murphy bed function as bedside tables. Drawers and cabinets of various sizes offer storage on both sides of the bed.

Engineered oak flooring was installed in the living area, complementing the plywood unit. The design team selected a light-gray Marmoleum for the kitchen and refreshed the bathroom with gray grouting.

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The standalone booth at the foot of the bed can also be moved, creating open floor space so that the client can practice his choreography.

"We were keen to approach this project with a minimal aesthetic to amplify the brutalist architecture of the Barbican Estate," explains the firm.

A small kitchen tucked in the corner received cosmetic updates during the renovation.


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