May 2, 2018

Colombo and Serboli Architecture Infuse Historic Barcelona Apartment With Gentle Curves

When Colombo and Serboli Architecture first encountered this apartment, located in a 13th-century building in Barcelona’s El Born neighborhood, it was dark, cramped, and rather timeworn. “The layout was completely wrong, with living and kitchen facing a dark shaft and three bedrooms overlooking the street,” says Andrea Serboli.

He and partner Matteo Colombo are Italians living in Spain, as is the client, a hip thirtysomething fashion professional. Wanting a vibrant home suitable for entertaining, she asked for a complete transformation of the 700-square-foot interior.

In the living area, an aluminum-frame chair by Patricia Urquiola meets a trio of side tables. Photography by Roberto Ruiz.

CaSA responded by reconfiguring the floor plan and installing boldly colored volumes that now define zones for storage, living, cooking, and sleeping. The intent was to reinstate and enhance proportions from earlier centuries. “We envisioned a big space with a lot of light,” Colombo says. Out came walls that had partitioned the apartment into tiny bedrooms and small common areas. They preserved only one load-bearing wall, which encloses the new sleeping suite, and added steel beams to support the floor above. False ceilings were removed, exposing Catalan vaults and raising heights to 13 feet.

In the entry, a new floor-to-ceiling storage unit in blue-lacquered MDF holds clothing and home items. Concealed within the cabinetry is a door that provides direct access to the bedroom. Guests, however, proceed to the living-dining area through a pale-pink portal whose whopping 4-foot depth disguises more closets. The bright and airy room beyond has a whitewashed ceiling and comfortable furnishings by the likes of Patricia Urquiola and Doshi Levien. “We chose playful pieces that fit the tone of the space,” Serboli notes.

A coral-painted volume contains the powder room. Photography by Roberto Ruiz.

Anchoring one end of the kitchen is another colorful volume, an arched-roof structure that houses—and hides—a powder room. The coral-painted unit’s dramatically curved top echoes but doesn’t quite touch the ceiling’s ancient barrel vaulting. Similarly rounded forms, such as the kitchen counter, the dining table, and various spherical motifs, are found throughout the apartment. “We do like those shapes,” Colombo admits. Not that CaSA has a limited vocabulary: The firm’s next project features sharp angles and geometric gestures that respond to the site.

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