Plywood islands create affordable apartment customisation possibilities

4 years ago
2 minutes

When searching for apartments, prospective buyers may find that some developments feature ‘cookie cut’ residences that are remarkably similar to each other. 

This issue is faced on a larger scale in the compact city of Osaka, Japan, where developers often used a more simplistic approach to save money.

However, a multifunctional furniture unit made up of raised plywood floors and pegboard walls may present a solution.


Nmstudio Architects were invited to create four apartment prototypes for the renovation of a public-housing complex in Senri, Osaka.

The 14-storey building was originally constructed in 1979 and contains 246 identical apartment units.

"The housing complex was built after a period of high economic growth, and it was a roomy plan compared to the original development of Senri New Town," said the architects.


"However, the floor plan, which assumed the lifestyle of the nuclear family at that time, was designed for modern life as it was 40 years ago."

The architects sought to produce apartment layouts that catered to the modern day and to a wider range of occupants and lifestyles.

The created concept is based around a large piece of multifunctional, space-saving furniture that allows residents to create their own room layout, regardless of the size and shape of their apartment.


To accommodate these plywood units, the existing apartment partition walls were removed leaving neutrally decorated, open-plan living spaces, with compact built-in kitchens and separate bathrooms.

The structures, called "Shima" – the Japanese word for islands — ‘gently’ divide the spaces, while offering customisable walls, floors and compartments for extra storage. The units can be used as a single room or can accommodate several functions such as a bedroom, dining area or office.

Curtains can even be implemented to create areas of privacy, while a recessed U-shaped compartment can be used as a wardrobe, or if fitted with shelves, a small desk area.


"Residents can lie on this Shima and relax with their favourite things displayed on the Shima walls," added the architects.

"This is a place that allows flexibility for the residents to use freely. These small housing-units gradually turn into comfortable living scenes.”

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(All image credit: Nmstudio)