The average size of developable residential areas in Metro Manila has been dwindling since the past couple of years. More residents settling in the region results in shrinking living spaces.
A 2015 analysis by Lamudi revealed 42 percent of “for sale” condominiums have floor spaces of less than 50 square meters, “for rent” condos were not trailing far at 41 percent.
Fifty square meters, a property developer says, is the average size of condo units here in the Philippines. But this can go way smaller, as our building code allows a minimum of 18 square meters for a single occupancy condo, or 12 square meters if it is in highly urbanized areas.
There are several ways to maximize a limited living space, from creating an illusion of a bigger room (let natural light in) to incorporating built-in furniture pieces.
But before you go into a studio-unit-friendly-furniture shopping frenzy, interior designer Katherine Anne Correa and architect Harvey Vasquez recommend “identifying the purpose of the space.”
“Ask yourself: What do you intend to do in that small space during daytime and nighttime? Can we compartmentalize those specific functions within the available space or make it flexible that we can convert anytime?” shares Correa, who’s also the chairperson of the Interior Design Program of the School of the Design Arts at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.
Once the intention has been set, Correa suggests choosing furniture pieces that are useful for day and night. While it could be difficult—if possible—to have a living space, a dining area, and a bedroom in a studio type, multipurpose furniture can somehow make it possible.
“Murphy beds can be tucked in or folded and be converted into a dining table, work table, or sofa during day time,” says Correa. “Another option is to design a bunk bed which you can use the bottom part as a work space or a living area.”
Building on the concept of functional spaces, Vasquez says the concept of open spaces, now deemed a trend, is the main design feature of a bahay kubo.
“It was ahead of its time. In the morning, it served as the working area for the housewife, play area for the kids, dining area during family meals. At night, it became the sleeping area. With minimal fixed furniture and just one cabinet, it successfully hosted the basic role of a house.”
Vasquez, the chairperson of the Architecture Program of Benilde, stresses, “Flexibility of being able to adapt different scales of activities is a welcome feature in an efficient house.”
To provide privacy in open spaces, the architect proposes portable partitions. He added that full-height cabinets are a great way to organize the limited space (or to serve as partition, too). “It can also be a room in itself; a full kitchen can be inside a cabinet if designed right,” he shares.
“Flexibility has always been related to mobility as it gives us the potential to transform spaces simply by moving the furniture around,” explains Vasquez. “Different configurations of spaces can be achieved by reconfiguring chairs, cabinets, and tables.”
To create an illusion of a more spacious room, Correa recommends using cool colors. “Receding colors are those that are high in value, lower in saturation, and cooler in hue,” she expounds. “They are perceived to raise the ceiling height.”
She also suggests white-painted ceilings and walls, matched with bright lights to make a space look bigger than it is. For those who do not want to go all-white, however, can opt for cream or pastel colors. To complement the soft backdrop, she recommends home décor such as pillows, artworks, or indoor plants for pops of color.