11 Transforming Apartments That Make the Most of Minuscule Spaces

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By Michele Koh Morollo
With shifting configurations and hidden compartments, these incredible apartments transform to suit their owners’ needs.

Retractable furniture, multifunctional built-ins, and other moving elements are excellent ways to make homes with limited floor space feel much larger—not to mention more flexible and responsive to changing situations.

To illustrate our point, we’ve collected 11 transforming apartments below that exhibit awesome shapeshifting abilities. From moving walls, to hidden rooms, to sliding furniture, these transforming apartments feature smart, space-saving solutions that you’ll be keen to adopt.

1. From a Studio to a Two-Bedroom 

At a push of a button, the walls of this 750-square-foot apartment in Madrid designed by Enorme Studio can move to reconfigure the interiors—helping the home evolve from a studio into a one- or two-bedroom apartment.

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The entire project hinges on the seamless functioning of the large, movable elements, an integral design feature that was not without complications. When initially fabricated, the movable walls were rigid and heavy, requiring too much effort to move. The team had to re-engineer a harder wheel, which would not absorb as much friction from the floor.

The entire project hinges on the seamless functioning of the large, movable elements, an integral design feature that was not without complications. When initially fabricated, the movable walls were rigid and heavy, requiring too much effort to move. The team had to re-engineer a harder wheel, which would not absorb as much friction from the floor.

The second of two bedrooms includes a hidden desk, a fold-out bed, and ample storage.

The second of two bedrooms includes a hidden desk, a fold-out bed, and ample storage.

2. Batipin Plywood Camouflage 

Milanese architecture practice Studio Wok uses Batipin plywood—a type of pine plywood—to create a box-like wall paneling system to hide the kitchen, bathroom, bed, and built-in furniture in this 301-square-foot studio in a 1950s Milanese building. 

One of the walls hides a pull-out sofa and a wardrobe.

One of the walls hides a pull-out sofa and a wardrobe.

One of the wall panels is a Murphy bed that folds up when not in use.

One of the wall panels is a Murphy bed that folds up when not in use.

3. A Concealed Room in the Kitchen

In the neighborhood of Chacarita in Buenos Aires, Argentinian studio IR Aquitectura bestows a 269-square-foot apartment with a "secret" bathroom tucked away behind the kitchen wall, and a pull-out dining table hidden within one of the white kitchen panels. 

A pull-out dining table is concealed behind one of the white kitchen panels.

A pull-out dining table is concealed behind one of the white kitchen panels.

One of the kitchen's panel doors opens to reveal a hidden bathroom.

One of the kitchen's panel doors opens to reveal a hidden bathroom.

4. Tiny "Pop-Up Book" Compartments

This artful pied-à-terre in Paris, designed by Batiik Studio, has bespoke cabinets that hide a dining table, stools, and a small fridge, all of which unfold like characters in a children’s pop-up book and announce themselves with cheerful colors.

Located in an elegant larger home in the 10th Arrondissement, the unit—also known as the Marie-Joséphine project—has been characterized by archways, alcoves, and an overall chic, muted color scheme. The clever design includes a hidden dining table, stools, and a fridge.

Located in an elegant larger home in the 10th Arrondissement, the unit—also known as the Marie-Joséphine project—has been characterized by archways, alcoves, and an overall chic, muted color scheme. The clever design includes a hidden dining table, stools, and a fridge.

The small table with two stools pops out.

The small table with two stools pops out.

5. Functional Space in Furniture Units 

Although only 140 square feet, this London micro-flat by Studiomama has carefully constructed, adaptable furniture units that come together to create cohesive, flexible living zones.

"We have created small spaces before, but this was a great challenge as it was impossible to get a small space like this to work using off-the-shelf furniture," says Studiomama cofounder Nina Tolstrup, who hired East London carpentry firm Commission by you to build the bespoke furniture units. A fully concealed workstation and storage reside next to a cozy bench seat.

"We have created small spaces before, but this was a great challenge as it was impossible to get a small space like this to work using off-the-shelf furniture," says Studiomama cofounder Nina Tolstrup, who hired East London carpentry firm Commission by you to build the bespoke furniture units. A fully concealed workstation and storage reside next to a cozy bench seat.

A pullout desk is hidden underneath one of the shelves.

A pullout desk is hidden underneath one of the shelves.

 6. Nautically Inspired Riviera Home

Taking cues from nautical design, this 377-square-foot dwelling in La Spezia in the Italian Riviera was designed by Genoan firm llabb. Plywood cabinetry walls camouflage a bedroom entrance, and a small portico leads up to a compact mansard sleeping loft. 

When the doors are shut, the sleeping areas are completely concealed.

When the doors are shut, the sleeping areas are completely concealed.

A cabinetry wall  is constructed with marine plywood.

A cabinetry wall is constructed with marine plywood.

7. Pliable Platforms 

Italian architect Silvia Allori transformed this 452-square-foot Roberto Monsani flat in Florence into her home and office with a built-in white laminate panel system with cleverly integrated wall storage, and platforms with niches and storage spaces underneath. The platforms can be topped with cushions to become a bed or sofa. 

From the living room wall, a panel folds down to reveal a bookshelf and form a table.

From the living room wall, a panel folds down to reveal a bookshelf and form a table.

Slim, white, brise soleil-like beams run along the length of the ceiling in the mid-section of the apartment.

Slim, white, brise soleil-like beams run along the length of the ceiling in the mid-section of the apartment.

8. Life Edited 

LifeEdited designer and entrepreneur Graham Hill designed this 420-square-foot Manhatten apartment with moving walls that reveal a second bedroom, and a swinging shelf that doubles as a handle to pull down the Murphy bed above the sofa. 

The Swing from Resource Furniture uses a swinging shelf to form the bed support.

The Swing from Resource Furniture uses a swinging shelf to form the bed support.

The moving wall opens up a second room, which features bike storage, a second office space, and can be converted to the guest bedroom.

The moving wall opens up a second room, which features bike storage, a second office space, and can be converted to the guest bedroom.

9. Robotic Furniture 

A collaboration between MIT Media Lab and Yves Béhar and his team at Fuseproject, the Ori Full and Ori Queen Systems are the first family of robotic furniture that allows a single studio to flow between states—living room, bedroom, walk-in closet, and office. 

The system—which is available in a variety of materials, finishes, and colors—moves along a mechanical track through a simple, physical interface, the Ori mobile app, or an Alexa voice command. Hidden at the bottom of the unit is a full- or queen-sized bed that can be deployed to convert the space into a bedroom. On the same side, plentiful storage and a concealed desk serve as a closet and home office. On the other side, a media center boasts further shelving and a pull-out surface that can act as a coffee table. With the Ori system, says CEO Hasier Larrea, "you can start thinking about how a space really adapts to us and our activities and not the other way around."

The system—which is available in a variety of materials, finishes, and colors—moves along a mechanical track through a simple, physical interface, the Ori mobile app, or an Alexa voice command. Hidden at the bottom of the unit is a full- or queen-sized bed that can be deployed to convert the space into a bedroom. On the same side, plentiful storage and a concealed desk serve as a closet and home office. On the other side, a media center boasts further shelving and a pull-out surface that can act as a coffee table. With the Ori system, says CEO Hasier Larrea, "you can start thinking about how a space really adapts to us and our activities and not the other way around."

Ori takes its name from the Japanese art of origami. Says Béhar, "Every element such as the logo, app interface, and furniture design was designed to represent a sense of playful and elegant origami, a seamless intertwining of shapes."

Ori takes its name from the Japanese art of origami. Says Béhar, "Every element such as the logo, app interface, and furniture design was designed to represent a sense of playful and elegant origami, a seamless intertwining of shapes."

 10. Flexible and Fluid NYC Apartment

Using multifunctional, custom furniture that folds or slides away, Russian architect Peter Kostelov created a flexible, 700-square-foot New York City apartment for himself and his wife that can easily be rearranged to suit different purposes.

Custom furnishings that fold or slide away when not in use, as well as a new floor plan, give the couple a flexible, singular home with many options.

Custom furnishings that fold or slide away when not in use, as well as a new floor plan, give the couple a flexible, singular home with many options.

Peter and his wife, artist Olia Feshina, relax inside their apartment in New York’s Washington Heights.

Peter and his wife, artist Olia Feshina, relax inside their apartment in New York’s Washington Heights.

11. Sliding Shelves For Countless Configurations

Using a structure of three particleboard shelving units set on a track system, Madrid-based firm PKMN Architectures designed an apartment that can be configured in countless ways, making space for a bedroom, kitchen, sitting area, changing room, and more.

The unit can be configured to allow room for meal preparation around a built-in kitchen.

The unit can be configured to allow room for meal preparation around a built-in kitchen.

One of the shelving units includes a Murphy bed, making for a comfortable sleeping space.

One of the shelving units includes a Murphy bed, making for a comfortable sleeping space.