Keep it Simple
High above the Mediterranean Sea, in the arid hills outside the Spanish resort city of Alicante, a couple lived in a nondescript house for more than 20 years.
Raul Barreneche -- Interior Design, 7/1/2011 5:46:00 PM
firm: Noname 29
site: Alicante, Spain
High above the Mediterranean Sea, in the arid hills outside the Spanish resort city of Alicante, a couple lived in a nondescript house for more than 20 years. Demolishing it, then building a 1,450-square-foot replacement, Noname 29 principal Alfredo Payá designed a house that carefully-very carefully-tiptoes through the landscape. Payá made sure to preserve virtually every tree and shrub on the property, a double lot in a subdivision. The ribbonlike concrete roof and terrace, which extend far beyond the house's compact nucleus, wind through the existing plantings, in the process preserving a swimming pool and a vegetable garden.
Appropriately for home cooks who grow their own produce, there are two kitchens: one indoor, one out. The alfresco kitchen is below the house proper, sheltered by an overhang and separated by a foundation wall from the carport and the
enclosed laundry room and powder room. Upstairs, a galley kitchen hugs an equally substantial wall, a giant question mark that curves through the center of the free-form hexagonal floor plate.
Payá ganged all the mechanicals inside the core wall. Open-plan areas cluster loosely around it. There are few permanent divisions to demarcate distinct rooms.
"We liked the idea of concentrating everything on that central wall and liberating the entire perimeter. When you walk around, you don't have the sensation of being in a house so much as inhabiting a landscape," he suggests. "It's about maximizing connectivity and minimizing effort, about joining rather than separating."
Symbolizing the flow, an almost continuous line of stainless-steel tubing meanders through the house-acting as a hang bar in the dressing area, becoming shelving in the living area. Indeed, everything in his design is about blurring boundaries: between functions, between interior and exterior, even between architecture and nature. A glass wall with sliding doors encloses the living and dining areas, overlooking the pool and garden.
Solid concrete, punctuated by porthole windows, wraps the other side of the house, where the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom are. He calls concrete "a malleable material that integrates the house with the garden, like a sand castle on the beach."
The exterior's untreated concrete reveals the grain of the plywood formwork. Inside, machine-polishing revealed multiple colors of aggregate in the floor, from black to white with grays in between. Walls in the kitchen and bathroom bear the reflective, velvety texture of hand-finishing, with gradations from rough to fine.
Kitchen cabinets have a matte white surface. Extending from them, toward the dining area, a hefty counter and sizable backsplash curve to follow the central wall-creating a breakfast perch, with two stools, along the way. Both the counter and backsplash are Corian, chosen for its ease in bending.
The other end of the kitchen is separated from the bathroom by nothing more than a clear glass door. And even that is typically left open to encourage undirected wandering. Still, though the toilet and bidet are alarmingly close to the oven and pantry, just a matter of feet, they're invisible from the kitchen, tucked around a corner.
Like the kitchen cabinetry and solid-surfacing and the bathroom fixtures, the few pieces of furniture tend to be white-crisp, modern classics set off by the Spartan vibe of so much exposed concrete. "I like the double perceptions. The house can be spectacular and discreet at the same time," he enthuses.
If he could liken the house to a person, as he readily does, it wouldn't be Verner Panton or Eero Saarinen, however. Payá prefers Kate Moss.
Photography by David Frutos/BIS Images.
BULTHAUP: CUSTOM CABINETRY (KITCHEN).
DUPONT: COUNTER, BACKSPLASH MATERIAL.
KNOLL: TABLE (DINING AREA).
VITRA: CHAIRS (DINING, DRESSING AREAS, BEDROOM), CHAISE (EXTERIOR).
GAMMARQUITECTURA: STRUCTURAL ENGINEER.
BLASCO CONSTRUCCIONES EN MADERA: METALWORK, WOODWORK.
CONSTRUCCIONES BORONDO: GENERAL CONTRACTOR.