When presented with a compact floor plan, designers seek innovative ways to optimise space and functionality. In the case of ‘The Green Box’ – a small, rectangular apartment in the heart of Berlin – architect Ester Bruzkus incorporated a single millwork box in the centre and formed a series of intimate rooms around it. “It’s a really simple idea – to put one box in the middle of a space – but it does so much,” she says.
The apartment is centred around a green millwork box, detached from the perimeter walls and ceilings, making it a freestanding object within the space. The design combines the deep-green lacquer of the box, the cool concrete of the walls and ceilings, and the surrounding warm golds, violets and brown tones.
The kitchen occupies one of the long sides of the green box. “I thought it would be fun to have a green kitchen,” Ester says, referencing the palette of green quartzite and lacquered deep-green wood. The space also features sculptural ceiling lights by PSLab, who provided all the lights for the apartment, and a pair of Menu Afteroom dining chairs.
EBA partner Peter Greenberg explains that to be a good designer, you must be a good listener – not only to the client but to the building itself. “The building tells you what it wants to be,” he says. The Green Box, initially characterised by two glazed concrete walls and two solid concrete walls, with a balcony wrapping around the glazed sides, prompted EBA to create a logical floor plan, positioning the box away from the perimeter walls to create circulation around it.
One of the short sides of the box, facing the wall, features a built-in library, which anchors the living space, while the other, facing the city, houses a cosy bedroom. The long side facing the city contains the kitchen, while the long side facing the wall accommodates two bathrooms.
One of the short sides of the box features a built-in library, which anchors the living space and creates a moment of colour. A view through the window reveals the balcony that wraps around the glazed sides of the apartment.
The living room features a custom built-in fireplace made from reflective brass and two types of travertine. “We love material contrasts and surprising colour combinations,” Peter says.
The apartment’s shell of floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides and exposed raw concrete walls on the other sides informed EBA’s material selections. “The original space was raw and open, and we wanted to hold onto that in the new design,” Ester says. “We also wanted to contrast the new materials with the cool, neutral palette.”
The end result combines the deep-green lacquer of the box, the cool concrete of the walls and ceilings, and the surrounding warm golds, violets and brown tones. “Mixing cold with warm tones in just the right way was very important,” Ester says.
Favouring a clean, simple look, EBA clad the apartment in muted oak floorboards.
Ester Bruzkus and clients Moritz Ulrich and Niklas Noack in the apartment.
Two bathrooms occupy the space between the green box and the long solid concrete wall. Both bathrooms feature bespoke sinks made of forest-green marble, black steel and dusty-pink Corian. The entrances are lacquered in grey with round dusty-pink door handles.
The guest bathroom features a shower with a built-in skylight.
The bedroom is located between the green box and the short glazed concrete wall. The space features a custom bedhead upholstered in exuberant fabric by Josef Frank and an aluminium bedside table by Frama.
Walls of mirrored glass playfully reflect the green box and the raw concrete shell.