An Ingenious, Multistory Bookshelf Organizes a Sleek Madrid Home

Spanning multiple floors, the open shelves designed by Zooco Estudio morph to provide storage and define spaces.
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When Madrid- and Bilbao-based design firm Zooco Estudio was tasked with a complete renovation of a semi-detached home in the northwest part of Madrid, they "sought to achieve a feeling of openness and visual communication between the different areas of the house."

Given the home’s tight and efficient footprint, the architects sought to use simple materials and strategic moves to delineate different spaces and uses. The lower ceiling height of the living room, for example, distinguishes it from the dining area, which has a taller ceiling.

But at just over 1,600 square feet parceled out over four floors (including the basement) with narrow footprints, accommodating this goal for the owners—a family of three—was a challenge. To do so, the architects decided to focus the more public, communal areas of the home around a single element that could carry through multiple spaces and even traverse distinct floors: a bookshelf whose function changes depending on its location and dimensions. 

Zooco Estudio hung multiple light fixtures at different heights to avoid distracting from the proportions of the double-height dining area. 

As soon as you enter the home, the all-white shelf winds its way throughout the space. "It functions as a wardrobe at the entrance, to store music in the TV area, and as a tableware display in the dining room," explains Zooco Estudio. As both a storage unit and a physical divider, the shelf allows for visual connection between spaces—joining the entry and dining area, for example.

The kitchen’s white oak cabinetry and island riff off the oak flooring in the rest of the house. By contrast, the floor, countertops, and hood are all white.

At the main entry level, the shelf greets you at the entry, with horizontal components specifically spaced to accommodate jackets, longer coats, and shoes. Elsewhere on the ground floor, the shelves wrap around the living room walls, extending upward to the floor above and creating a double-height space that feels open and larger than its actual footprint.  

The house can be entered from the basement or the street at the ground floor, and the stairs going up to the second floor are chunky and solid, with a more sculptural support system underneath.

The shelves, explains Zooco, "integrate aesthetics and functionality in a single element." They "work as a constant backdrop that adds neutral and bright nuances," with its simple construction and white finish that allow the homeowner’s possessions to take priority. 

On the second floor, wood slats along one wall conceal doors to two bedrooms, while the open shelving acts as both storage and a handrail for the double-height living room below.

Throughout the home, the finishes are simple and straightforward: Solid oak floors (usually laid out in a herringbone pattern) meet white walls, ceilings, and bookshelves. One exception is the stair, a sculptural element whose black, folded steel contrasts in both form and color with the white, rectilinear shelves.  

"Crossing the ground and first floors, the shelf solves aesthetic and functional aspects," says Zooco Estudio.

In a playful twist, the architects inverted the wood floors and white walls in the kitchen, instead putting white tile on the floor and making the shelves and cabinetry out of wood. The white tile keeps the general scale of the herringbone floor, but provides a contrasting pattern. 

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The shelves display the homeowners’ books, records, clothing, and more, bringing personality to the spaces while still creating a regularity with its straight lines and consistent spacing.

Upstairs, white shelving continues, this time acting as a railing as well as a storage solution. The two bedrooms and bathroom are distinguished from the hallway by vertically oriented slats, "hiding the access doors and bringing visual unity to this entire area," say the architects. 

Finally, the top floor is reserved for the master bedroom, where the same vertical slats found on the floor below are repeated as a separator between the bathroom and the sitting area. Above, skylights flood the spaces with natural light. 

"In the bathrooms, the oak flooring is replaced by ceramic tile, which covers floors and walls," explain the architects. The colors of the square tiles changes depending on the bathroom, but remain simple and straightforward.

Vertical wood slats at the upper floor, with its gabled roof, play with transparency and continue motifs found on other floors.

More by Zooco Estudio: White Metal Boxes Transform a Madrid Loft Into a "House Within a House" 

Project Credits:

Architect & Designer: Zooco Estudio (Miguel Crespo Picot, Javier Guzmán Benito, Sixto Martín Martínez) / @zoocoestudio
General Contractor: Nimbo Proyectos S.L. 
Photographer: Imagen Subliminal


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