Project Feature

Compact Living - Richmond Apartment by Tsai Design

Richmond, VIC, Australia

Browyn Marshall

An experiment in space and compact living, Tsai Design’s Richmond Apartment challenges how we see apartment living and explores the potential of full integration of furniture-as-joinery as a new paradigm for domesticity.

A jigsaw of sorts, the resulting spaces and the multitude of ways that the spaces can be transformed, Richmond Apartment presents an ideal case for tiny footprint living. Having lived in the same property (in a neighbouring building for a year prior to beginning construction on his own transformation, Jack Chen of Tsai Design saw the potential for a combined space; apartment and home office in one, without compromise on your standard residential offering.

Bespoke timber joinery provides an elegant solution to the design challenges caused by working within small spaces.

Natural timber featured heavily throughout the project.

Inspired by the lack of access to natural daylight, each room was an opportunity to play with geometry, materiality and texture, to make the limited ceiling-heighted space, feel vaster than it is. Together with an understanding of restricted outdoor space, ‘the starting point of the design (was) to overcome these constraints’, where ‘the solution (was) a timber/joinery puzzle box inserted into the apartment, stretching the entire length of the apartment, connecting all of the spaces together.’

Richmond Apartment by Tsai Design presents an ideal case for tiny footprint living.

Photography by Tess Kelly.

A multitude of methods were utilized to maximize the function of each of the four rooms (Bedroom, Kitchen, Bathroom, Living/Office) where the most obvious inclusion of fully integrating appliances is combined with hidden electronic cupboards, and multi-function fold-down joinery elements that served both the Home and the Office brief.

Jack Chen of Tsai Design saw the potential for a combined space; apartment and home office in one, without compromise on your standard residential offering.

According to Chen, ‘Layering and overlapping is the key to planning for small spaces’, where ‘two different functions can co-exist in the same space at different times, and it comes down to the detailing of the Joinery to make it an effortless transition.’ It is the combination of custom joinery design, together with clever and clearly articulated resolutions of function that make this such an interesting resulting space.

Each room was an opportunity to play with geometry, materiality and texture.

The minimalist interior aesthetic highlights the creativity of the ingenious storage solutions.

Influenced mainly by the typical Japanese approach, ‘where comfort and warmth is key’, the formal elements take see a combination of light-attracting whites, with the richness of the timber. The ‘rift oak veneer in quarter-cut sections, together with the black benchtop and splash-back’ show a ‘sense of practical luxury’ as key priority. All existing walls remained, and it is the insertion of sliding doors and a glazed bathroom door (which transforms into an opaque finish, when activated) which allow for the expected elements to be rethought.

‘It is important to know when to take a step back, and let the architecture become the backdrop.’

The ingenious kitchen is a true highlight of the project.

Photography by Tess Kelly.

Chen’s approach to the modern domestic life is more subdued, he believes ‘it is important to know when to take a step back, and let the architecture become the backdrop. He sees ‘a simple white space as an ‘ok solution, if it provides enough backdrop for the furniture, displays and the occupants themselves to animate and become the focus to the space.’ There is a pared-backness to what seems to be a complex and well-orchestrated operation, and behind that there is clearly a strong rigor.

The ‘rift oak veneer in quarter-cut sections, together with the black benchtop and splash-back’ show a ‘sense of practical luxury’ as key priority.

The hidden kitchen space unveils to reveal the genius of the Richmond Apartment design.

Tsai Design view success as a measure of when you make a space or detail seem easy, and effortless.

Modestly, Chen insists that his approach (compared to that of other players), is more grounded in a belief that ‘architecture that doesn’t force your attention’. He sees ‘success as a measure of when you make a space or detail seem easy, and effortless.’ Based in Melbourne, Victoria, Tsai Design is an experimental force, where exploration of each project as its own entity is at the core of his ethos. Richmond Apartment is his own experiment with space, based on a belief that ‘people are starting to accept living in smaller houses, on tighter sites.’ Through this project, and no doubt many others to come, he is ‘hopefully for the near future, (that) people will embrace the living small lifestyle’.

Through the Richmond Apartment project Jack Chen is hopeful for the near future, and that people will embrace the living small lifestyle.

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