Rotated Volumes Cleverly Maximize Space in a Tiny Shanghai Apartment

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By Lucy Wang
In space-strapped Shanghai, local architects look to rotating boxes and playful pops of colors to create a delightful modern home.

When TOWOdesign was asked to remodel a 517-square-foot apartment in the heart of Shanghai, creativity was crucial in meeting the client’s long list of programmatic requirements.

Ironically, thinking outside the box led the Chinese design firm to spatially reorganize the home using four box-like volumes.

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The centrally located kitchen volume is faced with high-gloss lacquered panels and features a yellow tile backsplash with black artificial stone countertops.

The centrally located kitchen volume is faced with high-gloss lacquered panels and features a yellow tile backsplash with black artificial stone countertops.

The four "function boxes" individually house the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen equipment, and entertainment station. The dining and living areas are carved out of the interstitial spaces.

The apartment entrance and adjacent storage are clad in a mirrored finish to make the light-filled home appear more spacious.

The apartment entrance and adjacent storage are clad in a mirrored finish to make the light-filled home appear more spacious.

To prevent these volumes from blocking sight lines and to create a more spacious feel, the designers have cleverly rotated the structures by 10 degrees—a feature that inspired the project’s name, 10 Degree House. The angled volumes also have rounded edges to reduce their visual heft.

Space is maximized in the kitchen thanks to the functional boxes; the fridge and additional storage have been built into the bathroom volume on the left.

Space is maximized in the kitchen thanks to the functional boxes; the fridge and additional storage have been built into the bathroom volume on the left.

The existing concrete pillars have been left intact and provide an interesting contrast of texture to the renovation's new smooth, glossy surfaces.

The existing concrete pillars have been left intact and provide an interesting contrast of texture to the renovation's new smooth, glossy surfaces.

"The apartment changed from a space consisting of a regular room to a flowing space consisting of continuous space outside one box," explains the firm. "The yellow kitchen cabinet is the center of the entire flowing space. This change eliminates the sense of depression and also expands the space."

A large window at the end of the living space lets in ample natural light.

A large window at the end of the living space lets in ample natural light.

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The living area has been carved out from the space between the yellow kitchen box and the wood-paneled entertainment box.

The living area has been carved out from the space between the yellow kitchen box and the wood-paneled entertainment box.

Storage is hidden throughout the apartment and lighting is recessed in several areas to avoid visual clutter. Bright pops of color and curated textual elements add interest back into the minimalist design.

A triangular addition with a light box has been inserted behind the sofa to align the living space with the angled TV wall.

A triangular addition with a light box has been inserted behind the sofa to align the living space with the angled TV wall.

Mirrors have also been used to create the illusion of spaciousness. Because the Chinese culture has several superstitions related to mirrors, the team has carefully positioned the mirrors in a way to avoid "interference in daily life."

Feng Shui principles have informed the placement of the mirrored surfaces. In the living room, the mirrored panel has been placed so that the tenant can't see himself in the mirror when sitting on the sofa.

Feng Shui principles have informed the placement of the mirrored surfaces. In the living room, the mirrored panel has been placed so that the tenant can't see himself in the mirror when sitting on the sofa.

The entertainment box includes built-in shelving and a television mount.

The entertainment box includes built-in shelving and a television mount.

Some of the original concrete pillars and walls have been deliberately left exposed to draw attention to the building’s past. The extant pillars also serve as a reference point to the volumes’ 10-degree rotation.

The bedroom box is surrounded by hidden storage, from the white closet (seen behind the red dog) to built-in drawers. The wooden surface behind the yellow chair can be extended out to create a dining tabletop.

The bedroom box is surrounded by hidden storage, from the white closet (seen behind the red dog) to built-in drawers. The wooden surface behind the yellow chair can be extended out to create a dining tabletop.

The 10 Degrees House is located on Kangping Road in Shanghai's Xuhui district. The current tenant is an Apple employee.

The 10 Degrees House is located on Kangping Road in Shanghai's Xuhui district. The current tenant is an Apple employee.

"While respecting the nature of space, we magically enlarged the space through creative and practical design methods."

The bed is flanked by two staircases, one of which is hidden behind a white curtain. Hidden storage is also integrated into the stair design.

The bed is flanked by two staircases, one of which is hidden behind a white curtain. Hidden storage is also integrated into the stair design.

The second staircase is skinnier and sandwiched between the bed and window.

The second staircase is skinnier and sandwiched between the bed and window.

A look inside the cozy bedroom lined in wood veneer. A recessed skylight-inspired lighting feature helps keep the space from feeling too snug.

A look inside the cozy bedroom lined in wood veneer. A recessed skylight-inspired lighting feature helps keep the space from feeling too snug.

An exploded diagram of the bedroom unit. Note the exterior storage, which includes a wooden surface that flips up to create a tabletop for dining.

An exploded diagram of the bedroom unit. Note the exterior storage, which includes a wooden surface that flips up to create a tabletop for dining.

An axon diagram of the 10 Degrees House.

An axon diagram of the 10 Degrees House.

Here's a look at the floorplan.

Here's a look at the floorplan.

Project Credits:

Architecture & Design: TOWOdesign

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