Custom woodwork and natural light invigorate a formerly cramped space.
Much like the boxes, castoff clothes, and odds-and-ends crammed inside attic spaces, the top floor-unit of an old Bucharest apartment building that architect Andreas Heierle was tasked with renovating hadn’t seen the light of day for quite some time. A cramped, dark space he described as a “stack of rooms exhibiting strange geometry,” it was far from the bachelor pad the client desired. But by opening up the floor plan with big windows and a multi-purpose kitchen island, he brought a comfortable spaciousness to the 645-square-foot dwelling. We asked the Lucerne-based architect to take us through this Romanian renovation.
The main issue Lucerne-based architect Andreas Heierle faced during this attic renovation in Bucharest, Romania, was bringing natural light into the cloistered, closed-off rooms. His client, a bachelor in his 30s, wanted a floorplan that was flexible and open, a radical departure from the cramped, dark upper levels normally found in these types of apartment buildings. Heierle installed large windows, which flood the space with sunlight and provide a view of the church across the street.
With limited space, Heierle maximized the living area with a multi-functional kitchen island. The side facing the living room acts like a bar; a sink and countertop extend the kitchen area; and the counter across from the entryway often holds key or packages when the client arrives home. "It's a miniature of the entire apartment," Heierle says of the centerpiece, "one object having multiple uses." The island, along with all the oak furniture and custom casework in the apartment, was all built and designed by a friend of the owner who lives in the same rural Romanian village where he grew up.
Before the renovation, the tiny terrace was more symbolic than practical. Since a modification of the historic building's facade was off limits, Heierle carved out space from the interior to expand the unit's outdoor footprint.
A different perspective of the terrace shows where the wall was knocked down to provide more outdoor space. As the balcony connects with the wall, a small seat was cut from a gap between two planes.
Discreetly wrapped around the center of the unit, the open bath and shower create a continuous flow within the apartment. The manner in which the bath extends out into the living space, uncommon for Romanian homes, "profits from the generosity of the space," says Heierle.
The view from the open bath, which allows someone to soak in the sunlight without feeling totally exposed, pleased the owner, a civil engineer who deals with water works for a living and wanted something unique for his own home.
The calming, minimal bedroom follows the same design direction as the rest of the home; simple color contrasts, with the earthiness of the oak playing against the stark white walls, and custom woodwork. The house benefits from radiant heating in the floor and insulation and soundproofing in every wall.
The ladder from the kitchen leads to this "sleeping box," a tucked-away room perfect for visiting relatives, or as Heierle discovered during a trip to work on the project, visiting architects. When light streams through the skylight and down into the hallway below, it adds an "almost mystic element," says Heierle.