Looking for a way to include a children’s bedroom in a modest Barbican flat, the resulting design offers an adaptable space that honours the home’s location.

desk folding out and away from alcove - grand designs - home improvement


The owners of this much-loved but modest flat on the Barbican Estate asked for a lot from the internal reconfiguration of this one bedroom property. Their demands were for a children’s bedroom within the existing space, a workspace for working from home and additional storage, creating a space that could evolve with the family’s needs. 

Studio Ben Allen was the team to take up the challenge, and the resulting design not only offers a clever solution to this small-space conundrum, but works in a stylish homage to the flat’s heritage. 

The solution was a singular new wall that divided where the dining room used to be. But so much more than a wall, this installment includes the office, storage and children's bedroom all in one combined element. 

Design inspiration 

Barbican Centre London - grand designs

Image: Barbican Centre by Andy Oxfords, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The basis of the design for the bespoke joinery was the arch and reverse arch motif of the Barbican Centre. These arches form the desk, office niche, the children's bed area and, using a clever two-colour joinery, the storage in the main living space.

"The idea of defendable or refuge space is also important - particularly in this case where the apartment and new bedroom are relatively openplan," explains Studio Ben Allen. "Therefore the wall thickness provides deep niches for both the bunkbed and work area and the space under the bunkbed provides a covered sitting area."

Door and cabinet handles have been designed to reflect the shape of the seating pods in the Barbican's iconic sunken gardens. 

This structure was fabricated off-site, which made for quick and easy installation, with little fixed to the fabric of the Grade II-listed building. 

The workspace

folding down office table in a living room - grand designs - home improvements


The creation of a working space is centred around a desk which folds away when not in use. The use of a cable and counterweight offers this design a bit more solidity than you’d expect from a fold away area, and storage has been included above and below to help keep the office space clutter-free. 

The use of materials - painted  birch plywood, through-coloured wood fibreboard and brass - hints at the Barbican’s Brutalist structure, but mixes sombre grey with muted primary colours with artful ease. 

Read more: How to find extra space for a home office

The new bedroom 

colourful bunk bed in kids bedroom - grand designs


The new children's bedroom uses the space it's allocated even more cleverly. The lower steps of the bunk bed can be retracted and turned into a small child's desk, while the green upholstered seat can be moved around, freeing up the space under the bed and providing access to underbed storage. The bed can be demounted easily too. 

Childs bedroom with moving elements


"We hope to challenge the norms of what these objects should do or how they function or might be used and through their adaptability allow a more thoughtful and inquisitive use of the space both for children and adults (who are often as excited about using these spaces as their children," says Studio Ben Allen of the space. 

When the door to this room is open, the home retains it's openplan feel, with the large windows running seamlessly across the two rooms. 


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