-Re House

“Re” House no 31 – An exercise in futility

“-Re” House together with “-Re” Adapt are two series part of a project in which I review, refine and redesign residential projects available on the Dutch housing market. “-Re” House touches projects that have been completed after the year 2000 and could have been done more efficiently to begin with, while “-Re” Adapt looks at how to better adapt older residential architecture that was designed in a different cultural and historical context. 

I have been in this apartment. Well not exactly this one, but a similar one in the same neighborhood, if not in the same building…
I didn’t find it small, but then again it wasn’t used as a three bedroom and only as a two bedroom apartment. I did however, find it’s bathroom and toilet rather unfriendly. 
Important to keep in mind in this case, that this is a type of apartment that was often used in cheap and fast blocks of flats built in the 60’s. The Netherlands had experienced a massive loss of real estate during the Second World War and those effects were still part of the back seat drivers of housing construction. Add to that the fact that the  architectural program of the block of flats historically started as social housing for the poor and the cramped layout no longer feels out of place. 

Original layout:
•  Completed: 1965
Surface: 53m²
Terrace: 3.25m²

This is an apartment completed in 1965, long before my stop point for “-Re” House. Working on it for “-Re” Adapt would imply that I find its base reusable. Which I don’t anymore. I don’t believe that 53m² provide a decent surface for a 3 bedroom apartment. 

Despite its limitations, I wanted to believe that there still was a better way to do a three bedroom version. I understand and appreciate the limitations of space, the historical time when this was built, but the existing layout is simply unfriendly. It completely excludes the option of a four people family being able to live in this apartment for a prolonged period of time. 

If you take a look at the original layout, on the top side under the balcony, there are two bedrooms. The smaller one located next to the living room has a width of 1.39m. A typical indoor door varies between 0.8m and 0.9m width. Using a little bit of mathematics we are left with 0.59m or 0.49m usable space on the short side. A regular one person bed has a minimum of 0.9m width, which would be literally impossible to fit in there. Going down in scale, children beds start at 0.75m. Going even further, cribs are 0.66m. The only ready to buy thing that would barely fit on that side of the room is a small 0.5m width desk. However the chair typically found behind a desk tends to use about one meter with its size, the human sitting on it and the maneuver space… Lastly but not the least, the balcony door located on the diagonal is simply the cherry on top of unusable elements.  

In the end, there is only one defining element to how this can pan out: the kitchen. Want a separate kitchen, then the three bedroom version stays a very cramped solution. Compromise on the living room-kitchen setup and get larger bedrooms. Want both a separate kitchen and a decent size living room? Then two bedrooms is all you get!

Lastly, but not the least, let’s not sacrifice anymore the bathrooms. I have recently enjoyed the sight of a floor plan of 88m² with a bathroom + toilet totaling under 4m². Just as a place to sleep and a place to cook are basic needs, the same way being able to use the bathroom without sliding all over the walls in an attempt to move is a matter of basic decency. 
Ideally, the shower and the toilet are located in different spaces, however, when it comes to small residences, I personally vote for the decent sized one room fits all than two separate but “oh, have mercy” cramped spaces.  

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