What are Hybrid Spaces in Architecture?

The term “Hybrid Space” can have a myriad of meanings. It can mean revamping an old building into a new use, the combination of different construction systems or contrasting materials juxtaposed. It can also mean the intermingling of the physical with the digital “meta” world. However here we will analyze the definition of Hybrid Spaces as the now popular planning solution that has been on the rise due to the pandemic:

Hybrid Spaces refer to rooms or areas that serve two or more functions. This can be a kitchen that is also a dining room, a bedroom that doubles as a home office or bathroom that also serves as your laundry area. These functions can be switched back and forth according to the person’s use of space, or according to the time of day. Partnered with movable screens or convertible furniture, this allows multi-functions of a room without increasing any floor area.

Sparked by the Pandemic

“Remote Work”, Work from Home, Workout from Home, have been greatly strengthened this pandemic. Echoing this concept to spaces outside home, like “Hybrid Work Setups” have become the new normal for companies to have work part at home and part in person at the office.

Other sectors having to pivot to survive have brought about, “Work from Hotel” or provide Hotel rooms that have in room gyms while all common spaces needing to accommodate smart phone app functions. The idea of a hybrid space has been heightened in the pandemic, having to now fit all our daily functions within our existing space. (1)

Coming from being on community lockdown, some spaces were rendered obsolete or forced to change like abandoned large office spaces. Others, like our homes, were quickly asked to be convertible into other functions. Spaces can no longer rely on sticking to the one function they were built for and now need to incorporate flexibility or use, while allowing digital functions.

Making Efficient Use of Space

When planning or buying a house, our checklist is that it has the usual Living, Dining, Kitchen, Bedrooms and Bathrooms. Maybe we can add an extra room, patio, or home gym if we have more to spend. However, studies have shown that spaces as basic as a Dining Room are found to be barely used. It shows that the default formula of “spaces every home has” should not be followed to a tee.

It may be more time and an extra step in the plan and design phase, but it could save you a lot of space to analyze which rooms your family actually uses regularly and which are just maintained for special events. Perhaps living areas could just be combined to a large entertaining space when needed.

Image from This study suggests that you’re wasting a ton of home space (thinksaveretire.com)

When you map out your daily activities and habits, notice where you spend most of your time in, and dedicate the square footage to that space. For example, do you all watch TV in the Family Room? Maybe it doesn’t make much sense to have another Living Room then. Do you often just have family meals on the kitchen nook or outdoor patio? Would you then need a dedicated Dining Room? Do you feel most productive working in the garden or on your bed? Perhaps you don’t need that extra home office. (2)

It seems we’ve been blindly following formulas of “nice to haves” and rooms to accomplish the “dream home checklist”, when most of these areas are barely used and regularly paid for.

It is common that these cobweb spaces are those dedicated to entertaining guests, which when we think on, we’re spending much more money on: Building more square footage, finishes to apply, furniture to fill that space, a higher architect and builder’s fee, property tax, all while maintaining and cleaning that space for guests we have….twice a year? (3)

A sadder dimension to it would be, how often do we even entertain? And do we really need all that space to please and welcome those near and dear to us?

Merge those public areas, let in natural light and create views to the outdoors to give the perception of a big space. Utilize your outdoor areas by extending terraces when you have more guests than usual. Maybe a screened porch can serve as your foyer or service area. (4)

A Space for Live-Work-Play

How do we design and plan separation of private and public use in a small space? Take a look at this, “Zoku Micro-loft” in Amsterdam, which although is a hotel, has design concepts that can be applied to any home. This 25 square meter space was designed to attract those digital nomads and remote workers, a design between an “Airbnb and Coworking space” You can work, relax and even do pull-ups in one space! (5)

Images from Gallery of Zoku Amsterdam | concrete | Médias – 11 (archello.com)

Look at how the bedroom is seamlessly integrated and hidden away. The stairs are pulled out of the shelves while swing out shutters (like a regular window or door) cover the bedroom when not in use. The design vision is heading toward the direction of “no separation between work and leisure” and people not working a 9-5 job but across different time zones, anywhere, anytime. (5)

The key design points from the Zoku Lofts are to look how you can maximize the following:

  1. Use you upper ceiling space
  2. Tuck what you can in storage cabinets
  3. Use movable dividers to retain private/public functions with the option for flexibility.

Use Hybrid or Space Saving Furniture

It pays to spend more on furniture that can double up the use of your room. If all your office-work furniture can be folded or kept away, then it could open up the space as your gym and workout area when you need it. Investing in an extremely comfortable sofa bed rids the need for a separate room for a probable “you never know” future guest that comes once in a blue moon.

Image by Pinterest

If it’s not preferable to use furniture you have to tuck away and reassemble when in use, opt for furniture that serves two purposes like naturally dividing a room, having storage, racks or shelves. Maybe desks and sofas can have integrated charging stations, or shelves with fold out desks to avoid it as an open surface for clutter.

Designing your furniture layout in a modular system (meaning in combinable blocks of standard dimensions) allows a space to quickly convert into another function or size.

“The idea of a room within a room responds to the need for shelter and finding a barrier but bridge at the same time between work and private life.” (6)

Merging Passion or Work with Home

What if we learn from the old models of a shop house wherein the ground floor is where your work and your living space is right above? What if we stretch the concept further by integrating our hobbies, like a skate park in your living room? Or a basketball court as your basement? Or your start up retail clothing store can save on lease space and just be in the mezzanine? (7)

Images from Hybrid Homes: Living and Working Collide in These 26 Projects | ArchDaily

Hybrid Spaces beyond Residential Use

We see this concept of space play more often in commercial and office buildings, commonly referred to as “mixed use”. This is not a foreign concept today, but perhaps we can tweak further in that extra basement space can be a showroom or exhibition space. You could merge a cafe with an office coworking space, or salon with a cocktail lounge. (8)

Images from 3 Next-Level Spaces Redefine the Meaning of Hybrid (hospitalitydesign.com)

Interestingly, we are entering an age of mixing uses to convey the feel we want, like how hotel or hospitality design is being integrated into hospitals to give the sense of relaxation and luxury instead of clinical stress. Residential design is infused into our offices to feel homey and give the sense of family. (9)

Notice how our spaces are evolving into hybrids all around us. Due to space scarcity and the changing living patterns of people, our working spaces need to have the coziness of a coffee shop, or break room with the serenity of a hotel — our spaces are being asked to adapt. (9)

What does the Future Hold?

We are entering an age where we can redefine the functions of our space. A home isn’t strictly residential and must have spaces x,y and z. In the same way an office space is not purely built for plain office work. Humans are adaptive species and the time now is asking us to further innovate on how we shape our space.

This may be daunting, delving into completely new and uncharted territory with no guidebook to follow. At the same, this may be an opportunity to infuse that chef’s block into our kitchen, our walk-in closet like a mall, a library in our hall or staircase, or a pop-up dance studio in our bedroom. What creative use of space will your passions produce?


  1. Actiu berbegal y formas, S. A. (2021, February). Hybrid spaces, a solution on the rise. actiu.com. Retrieved March 2022, from https://www.actiu.com/en/articles/news/hybrid-spaces-a-solution-on-the-rise/
  2. Wagner, K. (2018, July 11). Our homes don’t need formal spaces. Curbed. Retrieved February 2022, from https://archive.curbed.com/2018/7/11/17536876/great-room-house-size-design-square-footage
  3. Geffner, M. (2020, May 18). Just right: How much square footage fits your family? NewHomeSource. Retrieved February 2022, from https://www.newhomesource.com/learn/how-much-square-footage-fits-your-family/
  4. Gowen, Z. (n.d.). Here’s why 1,500 square feet is the best size for a home. Southern Living. Retrieved February 2022, from https://www.southernliving.com/home/1500-square-feet-home-size
  5. Garfield, L. (2016, October 10). A new hotel is like WeWork combined with airbnb – take a look inside. Business Insider. Retrieved March 2022, from https://www.businessinsider.com/zoku-hotel-amsterdam-us-2016-10
  6. Herder, G. (2021, February 1). Hybrid living: A room within a room. Eclectic Trends. Retrieved March 2022, from https://www.eclectictrends.com/hybrid-living-a-room-within-a-room/
  7. González, M. F. (2018, July 22). Hybrid homes: Living and working collide in these 26 projects. ArchDaily. Retrieved March 2022, from https://www.archdaily.com/898641/hybrid-homes-living-and-working-collide-in-these-26-projects
  8. HD December 2020 Issue. (2021, February 24). 3 next-level spaces redefine the meaning of hybrid. Hospitality Design. Retrieved March 2022, from https://hospitalitydesign.com/projects/retail-commercial/hybrid-spaces/
  9. Contract Staff March 18. (2020, March 18). Hybrid Spaces & creative collaborations are changing the way we live, work, & play. Contract Design. Retrieved March 2022, from https://www.contractdesign.com/practice/design/design-collaborations-hybrid-spaces-creative-collaborations-are-changing-the-way-we-live-work-play/