While it’s nice to own a spacious home that allows for plenty of movement and freedom, there’s something to be said for small homes that encourage simplicity and the best use of resources. These homes in fact, are part of a growing movement that promotes sustainable living. Many designers have figured out innovative ways to make small homes well-equipped, comfortable and cosy. Just like this house in Madrid, Spain.

Less is More

This 500-square-feet house, designed by international firm Husos for a young doctor and his bulldog Albóndiga (meaning meatball in Spanish), is remarkable. It’s location in a Spanish corrala, a traditional building built in the 1960s in the Acacias neighbourhood of Madrid adds an interesting dimension to the design. “Corralas typically have long communal balconies built around a central courtyard. This enables neighbours to interact with one another, especially while hanging out laundry—a very widespread custom in Madrid, as in other places in Spain,” explains Camilo García, co-founder, Husos Architects.

Climate Control

A key aspect that the firm had to consider was the city’s hot summer and ways to keep both pet and owner cool during the season. The original layout of the apartment had an east-west orientation, but the excessive compartmentalisation of spaces obstructed cross-ventilation in the bedrooms, which meant that the west-facing spaces were excessively hot in summer.

“Both Jaime and Albóndiga are very sensitive to heat, which is extreme in July and August in Madrid. Bulldogs, in general, are delicate animals, being sensitive to high temperatures. Besides, this dog, in particular, is especially fragile as he is a rescue dog, who narrowly escaped being killed at birth,” says García. The architects redistributed the interior space to create ample living area, open on both the east and west sides of the building. This allowed air to circulate during the hot summer months, at the same time turning the west facade into a kind of climatic cushion for the dwelling.

Green Patch

Another important aspect that aids the apartment’s passive cooling is a vertical edible garden on the west-facing balcony. Besides protecting the apartment from overheating in summer, the edible garden also functions as a thermal cushion, cooling the interior—the home therefore doesn’t require air conditioning. “Madrid and its surrounding areas suffer from a serious lack of water, which is progressively worsening as temperatures rise. So with the help of agronomists and programmers, we designed a vegetable garden. It is worth bearing in mind that over the course of this century, 80% of Spain will be at risk of desertification, as large Spanish cities put enormous pressure on regional water sources,” reveals Diego Barajas, co-founder, Husos Architects. The vegetable patch is protected on the inside by a set of two curtains, one made of transparent plastic, creating a greenhouse effect in winter and another made of a porous textile that provides shade in summer. It doesn’t hurt that the garden is easy on the eyes, too.

Living Room

House owner Jamie wanted the living room to be the focal point of the home. It had to be spacious and comfortable enough to stretch out and watch TV, write medical reports, or to receive friends. “In the gay culture in Madrid, the living room is often reserved for meeting friends while the bedroom is reserved for closer relations. Despite the small size of the apartment, the new home design needed to allow Jaime to invite friends to stay over without having to open out a sofa-cum-bed, which would take up a lot of space in the living room,” says Barajas.

Multipurpose Space

Another factor to consider while designing this room was Jaime’s sleep pattern. Since he works night shifts in hospital emergency rooms, his living room had to be designed for daytime naps too. The Husos team designed a multipurpose capsule that allowed Jamie to indulge in daytime siesta without having to open out a sofa-cum-bed. The capsule also doubles up as a cosy space for Jamie to read in natural light with a view of the tree-lined street outside. Sliding down the compartment door of the capsule gives the space some privacy while also serving as a projection screen to watch movies on.

The capsule is part of a 1.5 m wide strip, in which a dressing-room, a store room and the main bedroom for sleeping in at night are situated. The multi-use capsule also works as a space to receive guests who might stay overnight or wish to rest alone, as a place to take naps apart from the bed, or as a place to receive visits while lying down.


This Madrid home is a comfortable space for the pet too. Bulldogs have a tendency to overheat so in addition to opening up space, the architectural firm also designed a textured mat, made of cotton pads affixed to suction cups that the dog could rest on and that still allows air to flow under it. The cups can also be moved around the space depending on where Albondiga wants to sleep.

Sustainability Matters

In addition to its enviable design, the house also features an intelligent watering system. Greywater from the shower is temporarily stored and then filtered to irrigate and maintain the houseplants which apart from providing food also help to keep the interiors cool. So much so that it was not necessary to install any air conditioning, even during the hottest months of the year.

The walls, storage units and floors are made of a combination of plywood boards and pinewood pieces made in a carpentry workshop and assembled on-site. The team avoided plastering the walls, opting instead for a solution with breathable mortars in the bathroom, walls and ceilings. The colour scheme of the house is based on warm tones. Walls and floors are in shades of orange, cream and the natural colours of the pine and birch plywood, with a few details in pink and purple. This was done to bring some relief from the neutral and white ambience of hospital wards where Jaime works. The tubes and filters running from the shower to the vegetable garden have been highlighted as new ‘objects of desire’.

Food for All

In traditional Spanish ‘corralas’, the patio is a very important space that encourages exchange between neighbours. In this context, the vegetable garden is designed to further that social exchange. “Jaime’s vegetable patch will provide an excess of produce that he will be unable to eat on his own, giving him the option of sharing it with others—whether it be neighbours in the building, work colleagues or loved ones. In this way, the vegetable garden supplies not only food but also the potential for extending the relational capacities of the dwelling, questioning the widespread idea of the modern apartment as an isolated residential nucleus,” says García. The curtain at the entrance of the garden allows for different degrees of contact with the outer corridor. The door can be left open and the curtain pulled back in the summer, or the curtain can be drawn to reinforce the privacy of the home, as well as providing sound and heat insulation in the winter months.

Source : “www.architecturaldigest.in“. Nivedita Jayaram Pawar : This 500-square-feet home in Madrid is a self-sustaining, eco-friendly, compact haven
Image Source : Jose Hevia