Online | Interiors

Soft Side

Madrid, Spain

De La Villa Studio was inspired by this Madrid apartment's brutalist architecture when they came to redesign it – but it has also been made welcoming by warm wood and stone

When architect and interior design practice De La Villa Studio took on this three-bedroom apartment in Madrid, it was not the light, flowing space that you see now. The brutalist architecture of the building has informed the noble materials used (travertine, marble, and dark and light timber), but it is the way that the practice has opened up the apartment’s central spine to bring in light from its two opposing terraces that really makes everything work.

At the apartment’s heart is a monolithic, floor-mounted travertine fireplace, which sums up De La Villa Studio’s approach to both materials and functionality. Its suspended flue acts as a room divider between the living area and the dining space, but it’s not so wide or bulky that it completely cuts off sightlines, or the flow of daylight.

“The biggest challenge was to achieve a layout that connected the day areas without integrating them into a single space,” says architect Alberto Espejo. “The client requested a home that would allow a continuous flow between rooms, with no corridors or wasted areas, to maximise the use of space. They also wanted to make the most of natural light through the two terraces, creating a bright atmosphere throughout the house.” The utility ducts that were previously integrated within the apartment’s light-blocking partition walls had to be relocated in order to achieve this perfect flow.

While timber and stone are the principal materials used here, the studio has played around with the contrast between light and dark. The floors are washed oak, while joinery is darker in tone; in the main bathroom, the lighter limestone basin and oak cabinetry contrasts with the black lines of the black lacquered iron of the shower doors, while the dark ceramic-topped dining table crisply stands out against the pale walls and floors.

Espejo says that “the light tones of wood and stone create a serene and luminous atmosphere throughout the house,” but the details also contribute to that serenity: full-height doors to emphasise the height of the rooms, elongated oak handles in the dressing room, again to draw out that sense of verticality, and the sensitive placement of artwork to draw the eye and create compelling focal points.

There are also some lovely contrasts between rigidly angular shapes – paying homage to the building’s brutalist style – and curves. A sweeping internal wall hugs the living area, creating symmetry with a curved external wall on the opposite side of the room. The furniture is on the whole relaxed, tactile and comfortable, all in warm tones of off-white and nutty browns, supplemented by pieces with a focus on natural materials such as jute rugs, alabaster lamps and linen cushions.

The biggest challenge was to achieve a layout that connected the day areas without integrating them into a single space

De La Villa Studio has used pieces from Madrid vintage and contemporary gallery Rue Vintage 74 to add soul and character to the interiors. This includes two gnarled timber columns standing sentry next to the dining table; a distinctive elongated Italian bamboo chair in the dressing area; and Celine Wright’s amorphous Nube light hanging over the dining table, made from washi paper with a suspended pebble at its centre. The studio has also designed many pieces itself, from the fireplace to the custom-made kitchen and the limestone washbasins in the main bathroom.

The apartment’s terraces overlook an outdoor garden, creating a feeling of a much more suburban setting that the city-centre location would suggest. De La Villa’s expert play of materials, and ability to create flow and order without reverting to strict minimalism, is a further reflection of this calm approach. “All in all, the home presents itself as a relaxed space away from the hustle and bustle of the city,” says Espejo. “We always start from the idea of a well-planned distribution, where spaces work and every square metre is used to the maximum.”