This Bilbao Apartment Takes the Open Floor Plan to the Extreme

This Bilbao Apartment Takes the Open Floor Plan to the Extreme

By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
Stripped to its basic elements—no walls, only curtains to divide the living spaces—this colorful flat is inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s concept of the Readymade.

When Iñigo Berasategui and Ane Arce, two of the partners from the Bilbao-based architecture firm AZAB, purchased a condo for their family to call home, they were well aware that the flat's semi-circular floor plan would present them with a very particular design challenge as they embarked upon a gut renovation. 

BEFORE: The original configuration of the home that was "quite conventional with a succession of rooms linked by a corridor," shares Berasategui. This is what the kitchen looked like before the renovations began. 

Set in an elegant high rise on the edge of the city, the building was designed by Spanish architect Hilario Imaz and can be defined as "typical bourgeois housing of the 1960s," according to Berasategui. He adds that the unit's original configuration was, "quite conventional, with a succession of rooms linked by a corridor." Despite its former dated and lackluster appearance, the couple knew that the apartment also possessed definite untapped potential—it's light-filled corner location and a graceful semi-circular floor plan made the space particularly unique, but also made renovating it a unique challenge.

AZAB tore down the walls of the 969-square-foot flat using curtains to define and separate the living spaces. They also chose to embrace the unit's gentle curve and incorporate it into their design. 

Armed with a fixed budget of 45,000€—including furniture and kitchen appliances—the couple and their firm embarked on a gut renovation. They stripped the unit down to its basic elements and transformed it into a fresh and flexible space that would "center the force of the interior space" and embrace the building's delicate curves. 

One of the apartment's two bathrooms is tucked behind a curtain adjacent to the kitchen. 

Deciding that a totally open floor plan was the best solution,  all of the interior walls were removed to create one expansive open space. "The inspiration came through an exploration of new ways to enjoy the domestic space," shares Berasategui. Another major source of inspiration for the design also came from the ideas of Dada pioneer Marcel Duchamp and his concept of 'Readymades'—a concept that also gives the project its name, the Ready-Made Home.  

Also somewhat Duchampian in nature is the employment of DIY techniques and the use of elements that were found in the unit and recycled from its former life. The Nero Marquina marble flooring, which now lines the edge of the kitchen and serves as a square backsplash in the master bathroom, had its first life as the original kitchen flooring. Another relic of the pre-renovation kitchen is the former white marble countertop which has been upcycled into a table that now sits behind the sofa. 

The Nero Marquina marble floor in the kitchen is actually repurposed material from the unit's original kitchen flooring.

Color was a fundamental element of the project and the pink range hood certainly makes a bold statement. The birch plywood boards that are used for the kitchen cabinetry match the flooring and reflect the firm's embrace of DIY techniques 

The calculated use of color throughout the home was another important element of the redesign. There are the long, light blue curtains, a bold pale pink range hood, and the bright yellow steel frame that supports the shelving system. "Color is fundamental to the project and the fresh color palette serves to qualify the objects and to sweeten them," explains Berasategui. "The background is softened with a creamy tone, and objects range from pink to blue in a gradient of color that places a focus on the elements and the furniture over the architecture." 

Color also plays a role at the home's front entrance's where patches of olive green paint remain giving the space an unfinished look. Berasategui states that it was an intentional decision made during the construction phase, one that reinforces the questions of what it means to finish a home—a home that will certainly continue to evolve. 

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Contributing to the home's DIY look are the birch plywood boards that are used as flooring in the living room and the expansive shelving system which is suspended from a bright yellow steel reinforcing frame. "We are book lovers so the bookshelves are a central part of our home experience.," says Berasategui . 

The white marble table that sits behind the sofa had a past life as the former kitchen countertop. The ceiling moldings are original. 

Berasategui also cites inspiration from "the atmosphere of the Factory and the first houses of Frank Gehry,"—but above all, he adds, the spirit of the home is lighthearted, "a playful liberation where humor leads".

A blank wall leaves the family room for a home entertainment system. 

The front entrance's unfinished look was an intentional decision made during construction and explores the concept of "finishing" a home that will certainly continue to evolve. 

A small portion of the hallway remains and leads to the unit's two bedrooms. 

The bookcase is suspended from a bright yellow structural frame that runs the length of the apartment and down the hallway. 

The master bedroom has an ensuite bath set behind a curtain. 

The bathroom is tiled a bold blue, with repurposed Nero Marquina marble which was originally part of the kitchen flooring.

The Ready-Made Home's semi-circular floor plan. 

Related Reading: A Divine Intervention Is Staged For This 16th-Century Spanish Church

Project credits: 

Architect of Record: AZAB, Iñigo Berasategui, Ane Arce, Cristina Acha, Miguel Zabella

Builder/General Contractor: ALUR S.L

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