Building & Renovating

This 23sqm Condo Unit Shows How A Tiny Space Can Feel Like A Big House

Interior designer Kristine Neri-Magturo worked with nifty hacks and clever storage solutions to make the most of a compact halfway home for students

Photography: Paolo Feliciano and Pat Martires

Purchasing this 23sqm unit in Manila proved to be a wise decision for the owners. It can serve as a halfway home for their children who are studying in the city as the high-rise unit is closer to their schools. The challenge? How to turn an empty space into a real home that’s cozy, functional, and ideal for studying—in just one month.

They turned to a copy of Real Living magazine for help and stumbled upon the work of interior designer Kristine Neri-Magturo. Kristine rose to the challenge and came up with a hip design that’s inviting, functional, and perfect for the young occupants. Not only did the designer maximized every inch of floor space, she also incorporated customized pieces and clever small space solutions into the final look to make it look and feel bigger than it really is. Whether you’re renovating your space or thinking of investing in your own compact property, here are ideas found in the unit worth noting:

Consider the layout of the unit and work from there.

Like many small units, the kitchen welcomes guests into the home. Since a major renovation is out of the picture, spruce it up with potted plants and decorate the walls with framed pieces to give guests a warm welcome.

In this unit, Kristine defined each area without making it seem cramped by using customized furniture and accessories. As a halfway home, the space needs to be relaxing and ideal for schoolwork. To meet these requirements, the designer was able to carve out a living area on one side and a study/dining nook in front of it. With the pieces created to fit in the space, there’s still room for movement and accommodating guests.

Prioritize function and the activities you will do in the space.


The owners were very particular about having a comfortable space for learning. Kristine addressed this concern by setting up a customized desk that takes up an entire wall to serve as study area. It has two chairs for the kids, shelves for books and essentials, and a Pinterest-worthy wall treatment to help the kids take note of deadlines and other notes. The shelf beside the desk also moonlights as divider that separates the area from the kitchen.

Find similar seating pieces at EDIA, 339, Glorietta 4, Office Drive, Ayala Center, Makati City.

In any home, big or small, don’t forget the element of surprise.

How many times have you seen secret doors leading to concealed rooms or storage nooks? We’re sure that these design ideas inspire you. To maximize the study desk, Kristine worked on a little surprise to turn it into a dining nook. The designer and her team created a second level console table that the occupants can pull out under the main desk when needed. Friends are welcome to join in on the fun as there are stools hidden under the desk to accommodate visitors. Food and studying at the same time? Sounds pleasing to us, too!

Choose your furniture wisely.

Would you believe that this bedroom measures around 8sqm? How can two people sleep comfortably? The designer opted to add a slim bunk bed fitted with mounted task lights for late-night reading and studying. In furnishing a tight room, it’s best to measure the area first so you can pick the piece that will fit in the space. Opting for custom-made must-haves is a good way to go as well. Not seen in the photo is the closet with drawers for the kids’ belongings.


Always turn to tried-and-tested small space tricks.

In any small home, mirrors can do wonders. By installing mirrors on one wall in the living area, Kristine was able to create an illusion of a bigger space and still maintain the homey look. When it comes to choosing soft furnishings, take your cue from the living area setup. To balance out the strong pop of the customized sofa bed, the designer opted for pillows in muted colors and varying textures.

Find a similar sofa bed at SM Home.

The right partitions can help define the different areas in a small space while maintaining the airy look.

A 23sqm unit with a bedroom? It’s made possible in this unit with the use of low partitions. The occupants can enjoy privacy and a restful slumber in a cozy bedroom that’s separated from the rest of the unit. With a low partition, natural light can stream into the space and air can circulate properly. Aside from partitions, you can also work with shelves to define one area from the next. These pieces do double-duty—aside from helping you create zones, it can provide extra storage, too.

Click here to see more photos and view the complete home tour.

This article is based on an a story ("Home School") by Tala Singson, published in the May 2013 issue of Real Living Magazine.

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