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The budget was nearly as tight as the space in this cheerful renovation of a 516-square-foot flat in Bratislava.

Cabinet Level

The centerpiece of Lukáš Kordík’s new kitchen is the cabinetry surrounding the sink, a feat he managed by altering the facing and pulls of an off-the-rack Ikea system. The laminate offers a good punch of blue, and in modernist fashion, Kordík forwent door handles in favor of cutouts. “I wanted the kitchen to be one simple block of color without any additional design,” he says.

“It was quite a sad place, with yellow painted walls and a strange atmosphere,” says architect Lukáš Kordík of his home in Bratislava. “But I had a feeling it could be easily turned into a cozy and open space.” And by removing a few walls and emphasizing the 1930s flat’s existing rough-hewn charm—exposed brick walls and a ceiling of undulating concrete vaults—he’s done just that.

Now, an architect sprucing up a small, dingy apartment for himself may not be news, but it’s how targeted this modern makeover is that makes Kordík’s reorganization of the space so remarkable. For just a little more than $23,000, he transformed his home from a thicket of small rooms into a continuous, light-filled abode. Busting through a few walls took up much of the scant budget, but Kordík—who works for the Bratislava firm Gut Gut—also managed to redo the electrical, pipes, sewage, and heating while imbuing the place with a hip, old-meets-new vibe.

Nowhere is the overhaul more keenly felt than in the kitchen and dining room. The sharp, boxy geometry of a modified Ikea cabinet system sets the aesthetic tone, with a wall of black shelving separating the bathroom from the rest of the house. Yet for all the low-cost splash of the dining room, Kordík’s aim was ultimately more about improving his home life than sparing his bank account. “It was not about saving money,” he says, “but about saving the space.”

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