8 Top Transforming Apartments for Compact Living

Nathaniel Berman Nathaniel Berman

Nathaniel Berman is founder of housely, a design and real estate blog tracking trends in domestic architecture. Here, he explores the compact living trend and finds ingenious solutions for every personality type.

With housing and rental prices rising, the days of finding an affordable apartment that also offers plenty of square footage are long gone, which is why transforming apartments are becoming increasingly popular. While these apartments may have as little as 280 square feet, they can accommodate everything you need to live comfortably. Best of all, you’ll be able to make both your monthly payments and buy food, something that is getting harder and harder for some renters in major cities.

What Are Transforming Apartments?

Transforming apartments are just what they sound like: spaces that can be easily converted to perform all the functions of a much larger home — despite their unbelievably small size, usually between 300 and 450 square feet. From furniture that folds away and walls that move, to hidden storage in the floors and kitchens that completely disappear, these apartments are truly remarkable spaces. Additional features include:

  • Bathtubs that transform into a comfy place to sit or sleep when not being used
  • Toilets, dining tables, closets and even fully equipped kitchens that are hidden within the walls and accessed by pulling out or opening a panel
  • Beds hidden in the ceiling or walls
  • Pull-down TVs and/or movie screens
  • Storage hidden in the ceiling, under the floors and within the walls

In the last couple of years, an increasing number of architectural firms have been working to create amazing transforming apartments that maximize what little bit of space they have. Here’s a look at the top styles currently available.

© Miguel de Guzman

© Miguel de Guzman

The Hipster’s Paradise: Pop-Up House by Taller DE2

At 730 square feet, the Pop-Up House is larger than most transforming homes, which makes it ideal for couples. This particular design consists of 54 different elements that can be folded, unfolded, moved, closed or opened to reveal storage spaces, shelves, windows, tables and much more. For maximum versatility, dividing walls have been replaced with particleboard partitions that are moved around to form the desired space, whether that’s a bedroom, office or kitchen. According to the manufacturer, this design gives the homeowner the use of 77 percent of the floor space to use as they wish, while a conventional home only offers 50 percent of the floor space.

The Minimalist’s Abode: Barcode Room by Studio 01

Due to the unique design of this transforming apartment, it recently won a competition by a Japanese real estate company. It is composed of furniture-walls (referred to as bars by the manufacturer) that also serve as storage space and can be easily moved from side to side, allowing the homeowner to customize the size of the space depending on their needs. Each bar hides a specific component of the design, such as a table or chair. As an added bonus, the 12 different types of bars can be used in different combinations to create entirely different layouts.

The Socialite’s Party Pad: The Life Edited Apartment by Graham Hill

Although the Life Edited Apartment is just a mere 420 square feet, it can be transformed into eight different rooms. For example, simply pushing a bookshelf to the side can convert a living room into a bedroom. In addition to a bathroom and fully equipped kitchen, a wall can be slid out to reveal a closet and guest room. (You read that right … a guest room!) You can even throw dinner parties thanks to the large table hidden in the walls. If you are worried about having enough chairs, don’t be. Inside one of the closets is a set of ten stackable chairs you can pull out for any occasion.

The Modernist’s Retreat: Micro Apartment by LAAB Architects

Although it is a mere 309 square feet, LAAB, a Hong Kong–based architecture firm, utilized every single nook of space possible. This apartment includes a bathroom that transforms into a living room and bedroom, floorboards that lift up for storage, a chopping board that folds over the kitchen sink to provide counter space and kitchen cabinets that drop down from the ceiling.


The Deconstructivist’s Digs: Transformer Apartment by Vlad Mishin

Mishin, a Russian designer, deliberately cut this 645-square-foot apartment in half with a wooden and black metal frame wall that can be opened and rotated. One side of the wall hides away a fully equipped kitchen, as well as the bathroom door, while the other side includes a TV, storage area and the door to the bedroom.

Via Business Insider

The Techie’s Pod: CityHome by MIT Labs

The CityHome isn’t an apartment in and of itself. Instead, it’s an entire apartment packed into a box that can be used inside your existing tiny apartment to make the space “more livable.” At just 200 square feet, the CityHome is best described as a mechanical closet. However, it has everything you need including storage space, a bed, dining table, kitchen and closet. Built on rollers, the module can be moved in different directions to make a room smaller or larger. Keep in mind that the CityHome was developed by MIT students, so it incorporates the latest technology by the brightest minds. Instead of moving things by hand, it is done through touch, gesture or voice control.

The Homebody’s Haven: Domestic Transformer by Gary Chang

Although it spans just 344 square feet, the Domestic Transformer can be converted into 24 different designs using the convertible furniture, walls on wheels and ceiling-mounted tracks. For example, the sofa disappears when the foldup bed is pulled down, while the kitchen is tucked behind the TV, and the guest bed is pulled down from the ceiling above the bathtub.

Via Barbara Appolloni

The Architect’s Choice: Lego Apartment by Barbara Appolloni

Created by Barbara Appolloni, a Spanish architect, this 258 square foot apartment consists of different pieces that fit together. With the exception of the sink and shower, everything is hidden within the walls of the apartment. By opening or pulling out panels, you can access the toilet, bed, dining table and kitchen.

As the cost of real estate continues to rise all over the world, it is inevitable that more and more people will look toward transforming apartments as the answer. Not only are they less expensive, but they also cost less to heat. Are you ready to move into a transforming apartment?

This article first featured on Housely. All images are from Housely unless otherwise stated. Architects: Showcase your next project through Architizer and sign up for our inspirational newsletter.