Cultures and Colours Converge in This Taipei Apartment

Bold colours and space-saving strategies create new areas within this petite family home that reflects its owners multicultural sensibilities 


In Taipei, CHEN OFFICE and Yi-Hsiang Chao Architects have designed a multigenerational family home that serves several functions without sacrificing on aesthetics. The 120-square-metre apartment boasts plenty of storage space, as well as sleeping areas for up to nine people. The inhabitants of such a large home, however, still require sufficient privacy and private areas, which the designers responded to by using bold colours to delineate spaces. ‘The homeowner is a maximalist. She wanted high-performance spaces and multiple overlays of functionality in everything. We knew that it would be a challenge to provide everything she needed without cluttering the space, and that’s what led to our idea of wrapping the public space in a clean white swath, with concealed coloured boxes and storage behind,’ explains Steve Chen, director of CHEN OFFICE.

The design team gutted the entire unit before transforming it, drawing inspiration from international interior design standards rather than what they describe as a more Taiwanese look. ‘Yi-Hsiang and I both studied architecture in the States (although not at the same schools), so we both definitely have a different spatial frame of reference than one usually sees in Taiwan. As an Asian-American who grew up in the US, I noticed that Taiwanese interior design seemed to fall into a pocket of disappointing trends, with an emphasis on expensive materials like hardwoods and stones, which make spaces feel heavy and dark. The clients themselves wanted a lighter approach, not the general “dark equals luxury” notion of Taiwanese design. The client, being international and multicultural, shared a more diverse design taste. So, in the end, we took the opposite approach and went light and bright, and looked to Europe for design cues,’ Chen shares.

Flush doors lead to various ‘colour caves’ — private rooms carved out of the white facade that each have their own colour palette, from royal blue to dusty pink and mustard yellow, and furnishings in the central white space echo these striking colours. Cream-coloured walls, herringbone oak flooring and brass accents were selected to compliment the colourblocking found in the rooms, but the kitchen, entrance and closets are all in dark shades like grey and black to create the appearance of nooks carved out of the white wall. 

Multifunctionality is key to the home’s design, with built-in features inserted to maximise storage space. The sea green ‘tatami room’ is a play and study area for the children — and doubles as a sleeping area —with magnetic brass panelling behind the desks and ample storage in the raised platform, while the dining room can be transformed into a home office. 

Furniture is an eclectic mix of Taiwanese and international design, with dining chairs by Stockholm-based Taiwanese designers Hung-Ming Chen and Chen-Yen Wei of Afteroom, lighting from Taipei-based SEED Design, chairs from Danish brand GUBI and lamps from Spain’s PARACHILNA. Taken as a whole, the colours, design pieces and smart interventions result in a home that embraces multiple influences, cultures and generations without ever feeling overwhelming or crowded. 

Text / Babette Radclyffe-Thomas
Images / Studio Millspace