Sketch Pad is a cool New York Times column that asks architects or designers to create a vision of what an apartment, house, loft or shack now for sale might look like in order to “help real estate shoppers learn to see past ugly paint, too-small kitchens and a warren of rooms.”

In one of the columns, Updating the Trundle Bed, architects Yen Ha and Michi Yanagishita of Front Studio give an imaginative makeover to a tiny, 380-square-foot studio. It’s a great case study that shows how embracing constraints can lead to creative solutions.

The big-picture goal was to get rid of clutter and give the idea of separation without actually closing off rooms. The top initial question: Where to put the bed? The solution: Raise the end of the living room about 18 inches, and slide the bed under it. This narrated slideshow explains the thinking behind the design (and lets you see the images without the gray bar in the middle).

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Other similar hideaway solutions followed. The office and the kitchen are enclosed by translucent panels which don’t close them off the way walls would: “In a solution like a Rubik’s Cube, the corners can swing outward, opening the kitchen and the office to the living area. Make dinner or type a letter, then shut off the area for the rest of the evening.”

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The idea for hiding the bed came to the architects during a trip to a Korean restaurant…

“In Asia, lots of things have double uses,” said Ms. Ha, who was born in Vietnam…

“We were frustrated thinking of all these different solutions, and we got hungry,” Ms. Yanagishita said. “We went to have Korean food in a restaurant on 32nd Street. We were eating kimchi — pickled cabbage — and we noticed the raised platform we were sitting on.

“Then all the little pieces came together like a Japanese puzzle box: things slide out, things fold in, things tuck away. It is clean, we hope, without any fussiness.”

Here’s a look at how the dining room table hides away and the kitchen panels close off the space:

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The architects end the slideshow by talking about their goal of making design look effortless:

We want our design to seem and feel effortless in the space so it’s not forced upon. We don’t want some sort of design element that’s really just stuck in… like some sort of signature piece. Our architecture tends to be seemless. Effortless is really a great word. It shouldn’t appear as if we did something and yet it should appear as if we did something.

This doesn’t really make any sense: “It shouldn’t appear as if we did something and yet it should appear as if we did something.” Yet any designer knows exactly what they mean.

More Sketch Pad articles.