Masters of the unexpected, Ester Bruzkus Architects are back with an audacious and playful apartment articulated around a single joinery box. Skilfully balancing restraint with exuberance, a varied palette of deep green, warm gold, violet and brown tones harmonise between planes of raw concrete in this considered Berlin home.
The box was arranged away from the walls in place of conventional rooms, as circulation flows on all sides rooms materialise between it and the existing volume. “It is a really simple idea – to put one box in the middle of the space – but it does so much,” says Ester Bruzkus.
Finished in a seductive deep green, the unit indulgently contrasts with the apartment’s industrial bones. “This is the essential strategy of Mies’ Farnsworth House – a box of richly contrasting material inside another box,” explains partner Peter Greenberg.
Previously empty, the existing top floor apartment was wrapped in exposed concrete walls with floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides. This format informed the spatial planning with the kitchen and bedroom occupying the two glazed sides with continuous balconies blurring the inside and out and, on the interior, a more private enfilade of rooms for bathing.
The kitchen takes up one of the long sides of the green box. Decidedly monochromatic vibrant sheets of green quartzite are interlaced with the lacquered cabinetry, extending to the kitchen island. “I thought it would be fun to have a green kitchen,” says Bruzkus. “When you expect everything to be one way, it should absolutely be another.”
Tubular lighting by PSLab extends from the ceiling adding a playful edge to the boxes’ rigid formality. Decked out with a hidden rollout modular sauna the colour combinations are not the only surprise in the design.
Sitting between one edge of the green box, anchored by a built-in library and an existing wall is the living room. Weaving a compelling web of contrast a brass box seemingly rests upon blocks of Sierra ebru stone and red travertine, a fireplace snugly embedded between the monolithic volumes. Startlingly focal, these rectilinear forms engage with the overarching design strategy, exploring a relationship with boxes.
Materials are artfully paired in the bathroom with a double sink made from green marble, black steel and pink basins meeting with the muted limestone of the shower and bathtub. “The actual material details are super important: how materials […] combine can determine whether something is beautiful or not,” Greenberg shares. Curvilinear additions interplay with the blocky architecture with circular cabinetry handles, a rounded oversized mirror and a strikingly Turrell-ian orbed skylight above the shower.
With a sense of discovery around every corner Ester Bruzkus Architekten blissfully blends materials, colours and textures with more detail than The Secret Lives of Colour to create a home that is at once cool and cosy.