01 | belgrade apartment | in construction | WEEK 11 |

WEEK 11:

In this post I will show you our effort that have been done installing the parquet floor. It's been a hard and frustrating month dealing with all the difficulties that had come in the way. If one want to get a nice flooring one should be careful and very precise in all phases, from choosing the right wood, color and finish to the most important part; choosing the right team. Because let's face it.. you are doing it for well, no second chances.

For this project we have chosen the local Oak (Slavonski Hrast) , which is one of the most wanted timbers in Europe. Its renome got because of remarkable characteristics; hardness, sustainability and good balance between price and quality.

Concept of the renovation is bringing back the apartments qualities that had been forgotten since the original plans in 1930. That is why we have chosen the single Herringbone pattern. Which is a classy and almost forgotten way of installing the wooden floor.

Repairing the details on site is very effective. You never know what to expect from the building team if you leave them alone.. But after remarks an remarks we managed to get what we wanted.

After the installation the hole apartment had this amazing timber smell. Sadly you can't leave timber in its natural stage because eventually it will rotten and gray. So we decided to brighten the floor and cover it with white transparent lacquer. Which showed itself to be a very difficult and time-wasteful procedure., nevertheless with extremely beautiful results.

Everything starts with site models of three different tones of white stain. Eventually we decided to do the latter, because after the lacquer layer it losses a part of its whiteness.

After staining the floor we used three different sanding profiles to get the wanted tone and color. I have to admit that we did a very confident step, because we didn't do it "from the manual".. there was a lot of improvisation.

Nature is never perfect.. it is naturally perfect.

Timber is a beautiful natural material. It brings a special warmth to the atmosphere which is by my opinion a necessity in the residential domain of architecture. Like every natural elements is bound to decay if not treated. By preserving its characteristics is very hard to predict what is going to be the overall outcome. If you want a perfect floor than you should use a industrial one or a prefabricated laminate but than you lose the natural feel.

The final result is not perfect and this is a good thing. The end result is going to be visible when the apartment is going to be fully furnished and the user is going live it. Which is the goal, isn't it?

WEEK 10:

This week I wanted to present the work that had been done for the furniture elements. From sketching, drawing, talking with the carpenter, detailing to other meetings.

Floor plan of the apartment. The built in furniture elements are placed in front of the windows. This is because the basic idea was to clear the space as much as it is possible and make them part of the wall. And the results are multifunctional chambers that can be reused for a different purpose and we could keep all existing walls.


Wardrobe 02:

Wardrobe 03:

Dealing with the carpenter about details and other stuff.

We are also planning the outside bars for windows on the balcony.

Learning by planning...

It is interesting that when you finish the drawings the project is not even on 60 % of being done. The other 40 % are the most important. This represent talking with other construction workers, dealing for the materials, compromising with the carpenter and the client and finally keeping it all in the budget.

WEEK 09:

The renovation is slowly getting its shape and character. During these two weeks we have been working on the final touches before doing the wooden parquet floor. We have been filling joints between the ceramic tiles, renovating the doors and painting the walls.


I have to admit that I have been always fascinated by doors. Doors design has always been a quite discussed topic from Peter Zuthor to Jože Plečnik. They are always describing entering the building like some kind of a ritual, a story. A kind of metaphysical connection to the perception of space you are entering. Depending on the size, proportion and shape they can define different characters of the ambient.

We decided to reconstruct them and tried to bring them on the original state. Doors are original from the 1920's. We decided to recolor them in snow white, change the locks and door handles.

New door handle. Brass and wood. Closest to the original.

Painting the ceilings and part of the walls before the parquet floors.

The entrance hallway is finally finished.

I did some different tests for checking the level of humidity in the screed concrete.

DIN and JUS standards are allowing covering the concrete when is absolutely dry, which mean less then 2% of moisture. We are ready.


It is always satisfying to discover new moments in the apartment like this late afternoon sun reflection from the near glass facade. I have slowly got used to the apartments rhythms and patterns that create its charm. After a subtile reconstruction like this the apartment starts to breath and live again.

WEEK 08:

A few posts before I have been talking about the potential of separate chambers... When we were preparing the apartment for the renovation we had discovered that every room had different tiles and fresca- like colored walls. So we decided to create our own story with a similar concept. Design of every chamber will present its own ambient, light and texture.

Loft versus Rooms | Planlibre versus Raumplan | 8 chamber apartment

WEEK 07:

If we describe a house as a human body, the head could represent the library and the living room, arms and legs could describe all supporting programs from the toilet to the technical room, but the kitchen is definitely the heart of the house.

This post is dedicated to the heart. Tiles, floors, elements and its detailing...

Aluminum ending trim on white tiles. It creates a nice and elegant corner transition.

Sometimes drawings on paper are not enough. For a precise construction sometimes is handy to draw on site some schemes and details.

Working on floor joints between rooms. Working again with aluminum end-trim rods (L profile 10mm x 10mm). Ceramics-Aluminum and Wood transition.

Kitchen design presents a very pragmatic approach. Some important studies had been made in the late 1930's (Agner Christoffersen, 1937) about movement in the kitchen at a different time of the day. This study showed how important are the positions of elements in the kitchen and what are the relations between elements in standard cooking rituals. Therefore working attitudes and pragmatic solutions were the leading instruments in making of the concept.

Learning on site...

Working close with workers is a very important part of the construction process. Sometimes drawings on paper are not enough or maybe they could lead to some misinterpretations. Working on site when things are coming into shape is a must!... Beside being more economical and more time-saving you can always learn new things.

WEEK 06:

This week we started with the ceramics, sanding the ceilings and walls and redoing the balcony facade. Even though the temperatures are lower than the usual the floors are drying well. Here are some photos after finishing the concrete screed.

Interesting.. the apartment has little direct sunlight but this little is enough to create a nice and worm ambience.

Sanding the ceilings and walls. Well balanced.

We are also excited because the ceramics had come this week. We decided to use earth tones with two leading pattern tiles. Here are some tests and color combinations.

Hallway, toilet, entrance.



In the next few week we will finally see some bigger improvements. The workers work well and the weather is getting better. Perfect for construction works.

WEEK 05:

After a short brake feels good to continue with the construction work. This post represents a sum of works that have been done in the past two weeks.

You never know what lies under the carpet until you uncover it.

We managed to clean the apartment...finally. The workers managed to put out 11 m3 of waste material. Dust over dust.. Here are some photos of the apartment without its shoes.

After this we hired some professionals that did the floating screed. It was hard to book them but when they came they finished in 8 hours. On the concrete slab they put 50 + 20 mm thermal and sound insulation (XPS), separation layer, and 60 mm of screed.

The entire work was done with machines so they could be very precise and finish quickly. I have to admit.. this is not an easy job.

This guy definitely needs a recognition for his work. He leveled 80 m2 using only a steel ruler. Precision on! Real мајстор...

For fine leveling they used a concrete leveling machine and a hand spatula for smaller areas.

Now when the screed is finished it needs a longer period of time to rest and to dry. Now the apartment is closed for a few days so the screed can dry enough to walk on. To dry completely it means that the floor can not have more then 2% humidity, which translated means around 30 warm and sunny days depending on the microclimate in the apartment. Perfect conditions are: air temperature more then 22 degrees celsius and not more then 60 percent of air humidity. We will shorten this procedure by heating the apartment during the night and to use a demoisturizer.

When the floors are ready to walk on we continue with other works...

+ kitchen, bathroom, balcony facade...

WEEK 04:

Finally the first phase is finished. We have cleaned the apartment before the demolition-guys came in and started to tear-down the floors. Right time for a quick photoshoot...

Doors are ready for sanding and coloring. We are gonna paint them in natural white color with a light shine lacquer layer. Glazing and handles will be cleaned.

This is how we talk about the next phase with the construction workers. Dirty job is on; demolishing the existing wooden floors and al the layers until the concrete slab. We are talking about a few tons of waste material.

The existing layer of parquet board is sitting on a 20 mm wooden deck. Under it are 100 mm wooden beams. The space in between them is filled with sand, small pieces of bricks and stones.

Perfect place for hiding valuable things...

The floors are original form the 1926. This apartment witnessed many different stories. Before the second world war this was a prestigious part of the city where many powerful merchants and other important people have lived.

Therefore it was a perfect place for hiding valuable things. If you have a rich imagination like my sweetheart you decide to investigate with a screwdriver. Nevertheless she found some interesting stuff like a nice piece of ceramics and an old lottery ticket.

WEEK 03:

We are still working on the electricity and water installations, leveling the existing walls and ceilings. This is probably the phase in the project where you ask yourself; are you demolishing the flat or actually renovating it because it doesn't look like it.

Nevertheless it's interesting to see how much architecture is actually hidden, how many technological requirements are needed for one flat to function.

Plaster boards are in final positions and are waiting to be covered and painted. We decided to renew all walls with windows, because in front of them we will put large, wall-like closets and paravanes.

The whole concept of the renovation is to bring back the apartment to its existing first stage, with few programatic modifications. We keep all walls and its beautiful doors, frames and big double windows.

Kitchen was quite a problematic area because of the old installations. To fulfill the modern requirements of a cosy kitchen we had to redo some walls in plaster boards and to work hard on the new water pipe system.

First stage of the renovation is almost over. Next stage is to put out the existing wooden parquet floor. After that we have to redo all layers; insulation, sound barrier and light concrete. The parquet is going to be oak with a high- shine black lacquer. We managed to find a guy who is doing parquet "old school" in a fishbone pattern.

Loft versus Rooms | Planlibre versus Raumplan

Yes it's nice to have a big open studio like apartment with a kitchen facing the living room and the bedroom but in this case i noticed the power of separate rooms and how I can work on different environments and ambients in them. Every room will have its own light, ambient and mood. Nevertheless they are all connected with huge doors so it can work as a unified element but still have its different stories.

WEEK 02:

Renovation of the flat goes on in a higher gear. This week we are still revealing layers of older adaptations. While demolishing we have found some interesting artifacts: a piece of newspaper depicting the fear against nuclear war between Russia and U.S.A. and an old leather clock belt. Interesting!

Demolishing the old stucco layer with water, spatula and the level tool. Walls have to be even and perpendicular to the floor so we can easily put wardrobe elements next to them.

Working on the electricity plan revealed to be quite risky because of the old brick walls. On some parts of the wall the old plaster and cement layer had fell off, so we had to repair it.

Reconstruction of the wall consist of a layer of plaster board applied on the existing wall with a light expandable cement paste. Thickness of the board is 12 mm.

All doors have to be sanded and repainted in snow white with 30 % shine lacquer. Doors handles cleaned and sanded. They are very elegant, aren't they?

Learning by mistakes. It's interesting how the project changes when you start to repair the existing plan. Sometimes it feels like I spent too much time in front of the computer... waste of time. Next time I have to first prepare the ground before doing the project on paper.

WEEK 01:

This week we started with the renovation of an apartment in the old city of Belgrade.The apartment went through a vast number of renovations and divisions witch denied the elegancy of the enormous rooms with large double-wing glazing and tall ceilings.

As the chaotic character of the Serbian capital drifts it's day to day life it is still possible to observe some beauties from the past. The building was constructed in the "in between war era", in the late 1920.

After a long time spent in front of the sketch paper and the computer is finally time to jump in to reality. From the computer mouse towards the tape measurer and construction plans.

Reveling the layers of the past. It's interesting how the plans are changing with the demolition plan. In the kitchen, after demolishing two layers of floor ceramics we found the original terrazzo pavement. Sadly it's too damaged to keep it. Anyway we found some nice granite ceramics to cover the kitchen floors.

project | Ivan Zuliani

client | private