The Norwegian couple who own a weekend retreat on Carrer d’Argentona, in Barcelona’s fashionable Gracia district, needed its tiny kitchen to be unusually flexible, to accommodate their transient lifestyle.
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Since the 970-square-foot apartment is not their primary residence, they wanted the option of concealing the kitchen—to avoid collecting dust when the unit is unoccupied, and for entertaining. Because they seldom cook, they also didn’t want appliances to overwhelm the space.
The solution was to build a special enclosure.
“We had to propose something that worked best with the habits of these particular people,” says YLAB principal Yolanda Yuste López. The couple also wanted something that didn’t necessarily look like a kitchen. “But it had to have all the storage and functions of a proper kitchen. So we made a compromise,” López says, referring to the L-shaped plan she built, which is defined by floor-to-ceiling oak cabinets and sliding doors.
One of López’s challenges was to accommodate the couple’s desire to separately compartmentalize the room’s functions. She designated large, discrete cabinets for cooking, dishwashing, wine and bar, and a breakfast nook. Each holds the appropriate appliances, outlets, and storage for its purpose. And when a particular zone is not in use, its doors can be slid closed. Together with the closets that the architect added to the home office, these custom oak floor-to-ceiling units occupy 140 square feet of the apartment.
Although the results look clean and simple, López had to work around several existing constraints. The first priority was to relocate the kitchen from an anterior wall next to the entry where there was no daylight. The apartment, on the second floor of an early 20th-century residential building, was heavily partitioned with load-bearing brick walls. The design team removed these and supported the structure with steel piers and lintels. The only source of daylight was punched windows along a south-facing wall overlooking a courtyard, but the light was blocked by an interior wall running almost the whole width of the apartment to make a long, narrow gallery. So López and her team replaced it with fully glazed doors that fold out of the way, while installing enormous windows on the exterior, essentially removing the masonry facade except for structural columns. Light now pours not only into the gallery but most of the apartment.
The combined kitchen and living areas run alongside this solarium, which, when its doors are open, extends the social space. White-lacquered cladding and warm-toned Capri sandstone floors reflect daylight to illuminate the interior.
The apartment has a polished and fresh aesthetic, the capability to adapt to its inhabitants’ needs, and significant space for gathering with family and friends. “It breaks down the classical functions of an apartment to make everything more fluid,” López says, “so that the owners can do what they want, however they want to do it.”
YLAB Arquitectos Barcelona — Yolanda Yuste López, Tobias Laarmann,
Custom wood furnishings
Delta Light; Santa & Cole