In an elegant 1930s block in Madrid’s Chamberí district sits an apartment that’s as bright as a pack of crayons. It’s not always been this way, though. Once a dark series of small, boxy rooms, the apartment has been transformed by Ana Arana of design studio Plutarco, who was tasked by its cooking-mad owners with creating a joyful space perfect for entertaining.
‘They told us the most important part was the kitchen,’ says Ana. It was an unconventional brief. ‘In Spain it’s not common to have the kitchen open to the living room.’ Even the clients briefly wavered, worrying about food smells, but Ana’s team delivered a compelling solution for this 140-square-metre home.
‘We tore everything down, removed all possible walls and started redistributing the space,’ she explains. Alongside the L-shaped living/dining area, which wraps around the kitchen, there are two bedrooms – each with an ensuite – plus a third bathroom that doubles as a utility room, with the washing machine and cleaning clutter tucked neatly out of sight.
Carving out zones within a confined footprint was a welcome challenge for Ana. ‘The more restrictions you have, the better the outcome,’ she says, ‘because you really have to think about solving problems.’ For her, the answer here was a sensitive approach, deploying light, colour and materiality to uplifting effect.
From the rainbow-bright furniture and art on display, to the unexpected bloom of lilac cabinetry under the kitchen counter, there’s a painterly quality to the whole scheme. Balancing playful elements – Terje Ekstrøm’s tomato-red ‘Ekstrem’ chairs or nougat-like terrazzo flooring – with a subtle refinement makes the rooms easy to look at and live in. This is a home that doesn’t take itself too seriously, designed for having fun.
Exuberant, bright colour is never far away – just look at the coral-pink and sky-blue bathrooms – but it’s cleverly contained by a series of black fixtures and fittings. ‘We used black as a neutral, from the handles to the lights,’ explains Ana. ‘It provides a sense of unity.’
The effect brings to mind Spanish artist Joan Miró or Dutch abstract master Piet Mondrian’s paintings, where primary-coloured shapes sit crisply on the canvas, linked by structured black lines.
It’s a surprisingly bold design scheme for an otherwise traditional Spanish property but, despite its fresh-faced appearance, this home still feels rooted to its location. That’s because its most typically Madrilenian aspect isn’t aesthetic but functional.
‘In Madrid, we place a lot of importance on being together, making dinners as a family,’ says Ana. ‘People would happily lose a little living room space to make a bigger area for parties!’ This home, with its emphasis on food, friends, family and fun, has the balance just right. plutarco.design
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration March 2021
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