Micro-Rentals in Madrid Illustrate the Power of Great Design
After the Spanish economy tanked several years ago, many Madrileños were forced to move out of fancy neighborhoods into the dustier parts of town. One of those neighborhoods was Lavapiés. Despite its central location, Lavapiés was–and is to a large extent–underdeveloped. But over the last several years it has become a hipster haven, with many galleries, cafes and restaurants cropping up. Sensing a dearth of housing options in the area, real estate developer EnfoKa set out to build attractive, affordable housing to cater to the neighborhood’s artsy/left-of-center residents.
So far EnfoKa has done more than 50 renovations with their signature look. The apartments are almost universally small–sub 400 sq ft, with many under 200 sq ft. Their size is not necessarily by design. The two main guys behind EnfoKa, Alejandro Fernández de Oliveira and Wynn Williamson, explained that their size is “merely the result of the fact that many old apartments in the Madrid City Centre are this size.”
While EnfoKa has been experimenting with “flexible spaces” using modular furniture, murphy beds and built-in storage, he majority have more conventional layouts, albeit with tiny footprints. Their aesthetic is a mixture of modern and rustic elements. Elegant steel staircases mix easily 300 year old timber beams. One of the intents was to make the spaces appear and function like larger spaces. De Oliveira and Williamson wrote, “We are very focused on making these small spaces attractive and comfortable. Our architects and interior designers try to include visible/hidden spaces, heights, textures, etc. to give the impression of greater dimensions.”
EnfoKa’s attention to design seems to be resonating with renters. Williamson said the apartments are 100% rented, despite a 30-40% premium paid on top of comparable properties. The total costs are still fairly earthbound, with average rents running about €600-800 per month.
EnfoKa is working on expanding the concept to larger projects. De Oliveira and Williamson wrote, “We recently purchased our first small building and we are going to run them as short term ‘tourist apartment’ rentals. We are also collaborating in the acquisition of a larger building which is going to be run as student housing. This building has many 100-150 sq ft dorm rooms which will have our aesthetic as well as large common areas.”
One of the biggest problems with small spaces is that they are treated as third class housing. Making them beautiful and functional often takes a backseat to making them cheap. The EnfoKa flats illustrate that a little attention to design and detail goes a long way toward making tiny spaces livable, functional and even attractive.