On a warm evening in downtown Warsaw, Bogusz Parzyszek, who’s just pulled down the Murphy bed from a flat panel in the wall of his small studio, jumps up on the mattress. “You’ve reminded me,” he says.
He reaches above the recess of the bed, opening a cabinet door, previously flush with the wall. Out comes a stand-up oscillating fan in two pieces—first one, then the other. “I need to return this to a coworker.” It’s like a magic trick—this big fan pulled from a space that doesn’t look large enough to hold it.
That’s why Parzyszek likes the place. So many surfaces in his 500-square-foot studio apartment fold, open, roll out, slide, and serve multiple functions. Even the largest object in the flat, a nearly 10-foot-long, white quartz-topped kitchen island, can move around the apartment. The custom island rests on a steel frame with wheels.
The 33-year-old left his hometown of Tczew, near Gdańsk on the Baltic Sea, 12 years ago. In 2012 he started Workplace Solutions, a business he now runs with a partner, designing office interiors and consulting with clients in Poland and Scandinavia. After renting a place a little over a mile away, Parzyszek started looking for an apartment in the heart of the city center. The building Marszałkowska 87 caught his attention—it’s within easy walking distance to his office and in between two large parks where he can go running.
Under Communism in Poland, the government owned and leased most apartments in the city of Warsaw. Everything was upended when the system fell in 1989. As in many Eastern European cities, patches of real estate were apportioned to previous tenants or sublet. Empty places drew residents or communal tenants who would improve the property; prewar owners sometimes claimed restitution. If residents stayed long enough, they could claim rights or purchase the property from the city below market rate. Marszałkowska 87, one in a set of large box-shaped residential buildings fronting the newly rebuilt, proud boulevards of 1950s postwar Warsaw, was no different. Parzyszek’s flat has a recent history of long-term subletting and at one point a connection to a local mobster. When the former tenants left, the place needed a lot of work. Parzyszek heard about it and was able to secure a deal.
It came with some costs. “There was a painting of a tropical beach,” he says, waving at the length of the flat’s open wall. The apartment was subdivided. The bathroom felt like it was in the kitchen. The tiles on the bathtub were held together by black electrical tape.
Parzyszek turned to the 32-year-old architect Jolanta Janiszewska. The two had met when Janiszewska applied for one of Parzyszek’s office design jobs. He remembered her portfolio. “When we came here the first time, it was a ruin,” Janiszewska says. “We ripped up everything—every wall, every pipe.” The two collaborated closely. He gave the go-ahead for a design brief calling for a contemporary space that would be comfortable for him and his six-year-old son, Bartek, who visits on weekends, but that could also serve as a work space when needed.
“It’s quite small,” Janiszewska says. “Everything needed to be flexible. In the morning it can be an office, and in the afternoon an apartment with living space.” Parzyszek can use the custom, built-in desk next to the kitchen for work and fold it into the wall on weekends as the Legos come out. Move the island aside, and father and son can swing from two seats made from oversized skateboard platforms that hang from the ceiling.
Janiszewska dropped the ceiling by almost four inches and used felt-like material made from recycled plastic bottles by Belgian firm BuzziSpace for soundproofing. She wanted to create a plant wall near the kitchen with three rows of herbs, but Parzyszek doesn’t cook. The two settled on four varieties of maintenance-free mistletoe cacti.
The tropical painting was replaced by a large whiteboard that covers the 16-foot-long sidewall. Parzyszek uses the board to sketch and create business plans, while Bartek is responsible for the jets and cosmonauts.
“I realized years ago that if I have a whiteboard marker and I’m drawing, the ideas come out much faster,” Parzyszek says. “And it was very nice—one time my son was watching Kosmoplanes on television. And he copied it up on the wall. Like normal.”