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Before & after: Reconstruction of an apartment building

Alissa Ugolini—homify UK Alissa Ugolini—homify UK
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Today on homify, we have an absolutely mammoth before & after project for your viewing pleasure. In our series so far, we've seen houses, cottages and single apartments, but never before have we witnessed the painstaking process of gutting an entire apartment building. Yes, that's right—every single floor. Masters of space saving and building planning are German architectural firm Beissel Schmidt Architekten, who have taken on this complex and highly interesting project in Cologne. The brief included not only the refurbishment of each storey, but the attic was also removed, and an internal staircase was added to connect the ground floor to the first floor apartment. This second floor is now a separate entity, and the third floor forms a duplex apartment with loft space and spacious terrace. For us, seeing the different interior decorating styles on each floor is fascinating. You can clearly see that each level is occupied by a different person (or persons) with varying tastes and style. So, let's ease your burning curiosity, and take a look inside…

Before: Rear view

From this view, it is clear that the structural condition and exterior shell is in poor condition. The tiles, which act as wall coverings, are coated in a layer of moss due to the lack of sunlight on this side. The attic floor looks unsafe and in urgent need of restructuring before it can be deemed habitable.

After: Rear view

  by beissel schmidt architekten
beissel schmidt architekten

hoffassade _ nord _ nach umbau + ausbau + sanierung

beissel schmidt architekten

As you can see, the rear section of the building has been given a complete facelift. The structural issues with the top floor have been tended to, as well as the outer wall material, which is now crisp and contemporary. The step-like structure of the top floor gives the new residents a wonderful outdoor area to enjoy all year round.

Before: Street façade, East

  by beissel schmidt architekten
beissel schmidt architekten

straßenfassade _ ost _ bestand

beissel schmidt architekten

From the first picture, we can see a fairly typical scene from most German cities. As evidenced, the façade has been heavily affected over the years. Dull, uninviting and a victim of the past, the building has been neglected and forgotten.

After: Street façade, East

  by beissel schmidt architekten
beissel schmidt architekten

straßenfassade _ ost _ nach umbau + ausbau + sanierung

beissel schmidt architekten

After the conversion, it is obvious that the façade has changed dramatically. The biggest change, if you look to the top, is the construction of an attic space, which now blends flush with the existing external wall. The contour of the building is now straight and orderly, matching the neighbouring buildings. If you look closely, you will also notice that all the windows have been changed. To the right of the bay window, two former openings have been combined, and create a larger window pane. The protruding bay window has remained the same, animating the façade and paying homage to the building that stood before.


Stepping inside, we can start to give you an idea of how the interior has changed. Below, you will find examples from the ground, first and second floors. The whole house seems to be inhabited by people with an impeccable sense of style and attention to detail. Starting from the top and working our way down, we find ourselves in the newly created attic space. What was once a wasted roof area, is now a cosy and inviting living room. Through a large skylight, the room is gently illuminated. The recess in the back wall makes the most of the available space, giving the occupants additional storage for books, trinkets and small art objects.

Staircase, 3rd floor

 Corridor & hallway by beissel schmidt architekten
beissel schmidt architekten

treppenhaus _ 3. obergeschoß

beissel schmidt architekten

Bold geometry is presented to us in the private staircase of the third floor apartment. The design of the railing is precise and minimalist, yet is playful and interesting. Natural tones reign supreme, giving the space a light and airy demeanour. The unique wall lights (to the left), which ascend with the change in levels, are a bold addition to this purist space.

Office, 3rd floor

 Study/office by beissel schmidt architekten
beissel schmidt architekten

arbeitszimmer _ 3. obergeschoß

beissel schmidt architekten

Located also on the third floor, is this industrial themed study. Clearly, the designers and occupants have a flair for colour and raw structure, as the floor, ceiling and blue feature wall have an incredible balance and dialogue between them. Housing classic elements too, the large window invites natural light inside making this space conducive to concentrate and work. 

Kitchen, 3rd floor

The kitchen on the third floor has been decorated mainly in white, making it appear crisp and clean. The arrangement of the cabinets in the U-shape is quite unusual. The narrow work surface that is parallel to the wall, serves mainly as a storage area, with the indent acting as the main work space. The interior flow and line of sight is undisturbed, with the light beaming in from the rear. This area leads to a spacious balcony space meaning that this room is excellent for parties and those who love to entertain.

Bathroom, 3rd floor

Changing again in style, the bathroom has a really unusual ceiling design. Modelled from purple foil, this material can be matte, glossy or marbled. Made from high quality PVC film, this addition is definitely a talking point! If you are interested in this element, the process of installation is actually quite easy. The film only needs to be placed on a clean, dry surface, and heated between 40-60 degrees Celsius to bind. This can be done with a hot air blower, either by a professional, or if you are a game home DIY decorator. The injection of colour to this largely white bathroom makes it stand out from many of the contemporary designs we see today.

Kitchen, 2nd floor

Moving down a storey, we find ourselves on the second floor. Employing a far more minimalist approach to the floor above, this flat is more open plan with a white colour scheme dominating the space. The high ceilings and new wooden floors make this kitchen area look sleek and modern, yet hint at the fact it is indeed inside a classic old building.

Living room, 2nd floor

Directly off from the kitchen is the living room. Here, old elements of the building were retained to politely nod at what stood before. The space is positively bathed in natural light, with the exposed section of brick wall giving character and personality to the area. Interestingly, the cut out in the wall draws our eye to the rear of the space, where we find a balcony and landscaped backyard.

Living room, Ground floor

Now, we peer into the living room of the ground floor apartment. Smaller in size than its second floor neighbour, yet not lacking natural light in the slightest. It is true; urbanisation in large cities means narrow spaces and apartments will take shape, but for some, a quaint living room like this is all they need. The high ceilings however, help to open up the space, as does the white-on-white colour scheme and as we mentioned before, the wonderful amount of natural light.

Bathroom, Ground floor

To finish, we see the bathroom of the ground floor apartment. Oozing with regal charm, the chequerboard pattern on the floor and picture with a heavily embellished frame almost makes us think we're in a hotel in Florence or Paris. In contrast with the living room above, this area has a classic and traditional theme. Behind the wall, the shower unit is hidden, giving privacy to this intimate space.

We hope you have enjoyed seeing the huge changes that have taken place inside this entire apartment building. Perhaps you feel inspired to take on your own before and after challenge? If that's the case, check out the following ideabooks:

- Before & after: Renovation of a small apartment in Milan

- Before & after: An industrial Parisian loft renovation

Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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