Big Design in Small Spaces

Armed with the luxury of time thanks to a sabbatical from his day job as an associate professor of industrial design at the University of Alberta, Tim Antoniuk has been working seven days a week determining how people can live more sustainably – and, even more importantly, happily in small spaces. The result? Antoniuk has built a completely livable 230 square-foot micro condo.

The desire to eschew traditional picket fence living for smaller homes has been growing; Antoniuk has seen this shift in mindset, first globally and now, increasingly, locally. 

“I’m no longer concerned with trying to motivate people to leave bigger houses, I respect that some people have different needs in a home, but that said, there is this growing demand,” he said. “People are wanting to move downtown, to embrace an urban lifestyle and are willing to trade off space for quality of life.”

Antoniuk, who will be participating in Edmonton Design Week Sept. 22-30, 2017, took the time to answer some questions about the importance of design in his work. 



What is the biggest challenge when people consider downsizing? 

The biggest hurdle is just the idea of it – it’s hard to envision and so that’s why I developed the Micro Habitation Lab. I wanted to test my ideas, to test the flow of a small space, and explore how people use and integrate with their environment. 


What’s your thought process when you begin designing micro-homes? 

For me when designing, everything starts with the people. It’s not about what I think or want in a space; functionality is driven by what the end user wants and needs. It’s about the meeting of soft tissue (the human elements) and hard tissue (the manufactured elements). 

In the Micro Habitation Lab, I worked on how to maintain storage, how to preserve sleek contemporary design, and how a person could seamlessly transition the space for various needs. There needed to be a blurring of product and space to capitalize on every square inch, which required integrating as much as possible directly into the interior architecture. 

Edmonton Design Week

If all your design work is created with a client-first mentality, who is the Micro-Habitation Lab for?

This space was designed for people who are looking to live sustainably with less impact on the environment in a high-density urban environment, those in search of a humble life that no longer requires a huge house.  


Do you have a favourite feature in the lab?

If I absolutely have to pick it’s the moving wall unit that functions as a bathroom wall, and also as storage. When I started designing the space, I simply couldn’t build a tradition bathroom without impacting the rest of the space, so I replaced a static wall with a moveable wall unit. Movability is so important in small spaces and yet it’s typically not a design choice.


Any final thoughts on the future of design? 

Developers will reach a point when there’s too much of the same. Everything is lovely, but there’s no focus on what people really want, and design for the masses isn’t the solution; tailored design for specific people is. The deeper you look and understand people, the better design can be.