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Renovated apartment places multifunctional cube front and center

Putting a bespoke spin on making the most of available space

Woman walking through compact apartment; a central module includes storage, surface area, and seating. Jiaqi Wang

This compact apartment in Xi’an, China, is custom built for the Airbnb economy. Located in a bourgeoning commercial district, the 430-square-foot apartment intended as a short-term rental plays with scale and space in order to transform a simple layout into something much more interesting.

Wall Architects of XAUAT removed a wall that split the apartment between a living room-bedroom area and a kitchen. Now, the open-plan layout flows from one end to the other, save for what’s best described as a built-in seating cube that floats in the center of the space.

Cube seating area in middle of apartment. Jiaqi Wang

This volume aims to facilitate different activities depending on where you are in the space. A large opening connects to the apartment’s corridor, while a desk on the west side of the cube connects to the bedroom area. A built-in storage space is closest to the bathroom, while cushioned seats at various heights encourage relaxing in the cube like a private hideaway.

It’s an interesting, if slightly counterintuitive, take on how to get more out of a small space: Instead of leaning into open and airy, a roadblock adds a layer of utility that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

Open plan kitchen next to bedroom area. Jiaqi Wang
Woman sitting on platform ledge near bed, facing a wall of windows with curtains. Jiaqi Wang