Bravo, Costa Rica
Mario López-Cordero -- Interior Design, 4/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
The real-estate developer who commissioned this house in Llafranc, a village on Spain's Costa Brava, specializes in cookie-cutter domiciles chock-full of middlebrow moldings and faux stone details meant to appeal to a broad swath of the public. But when it came to building a summer place for himself, his wife, and their two school-age children, he felt the need to simplify. U.D.A. Arquitectos took that imperative to heart with a 1,600-square-foot design that employs a few materials to great effect while adroitly embracing a dramatic setting, a bluff that plunges right into the Mediterranean Sea.
"The site is fantastic. You have the green of the treetops, then the blue of the sea beyond," principal Toni Olaya says.
Besides those views, the house delivers haute simplicity in spades, via three linked concrete boxes. The two on the ends hold public rooms below and sleeping quarters above. In the center is a double-height volume sometimes used for dining. This is also the circulation hub, with a flight of stairs leading up to a bridge that connects the bedrooms.
U.D.A. constructed the bridge of iron and an African hardwood that needs little treatment, save a coating of teak oil. "Most types of wood stretch and crack over time, but doussie will last for years without damage," principal Tote Moreno says.
She and Olaya used the wood both inside and out: for decking, cladding, and sunscreens, for door and window frames, for the living room's bench and cocktail table. In the four bathrooms—three on the second floor and one for guests on the first—storage modules are made of doussie, and doussie vanity counters support ceramic trough sinks. Even the shower stalls' floors are doussie slats, with the water draining through the gaps between.
In the kitchen, another material dominates. "It's all stainless steel, from the appliances to the hood," Olaya says. "The central island's stainless-steel counter is a wonderful place to eat breakfast." To offset the metal surfaces, the walls are painted gray, as opposed to the white in the rest of the house.
Gray is also the color of the flooring, which looks like concrete but is actually ceramic planks. "Concrete tends to settle and crack. On such a steep site, with so much direct sunlight all day, that definitely would have happened," Olaya explains. Installation took four tries, as the planks kept lifting up because of the hot weather. Tiles made of the same ceramic were much easier to install in the bathrooms' shower stalls.
The white envelope and spare furnishings are punctuated by splashes of bright color, such as bolsters on the children's built-in bunk bed and sling seats on the deck chairs. It's an unfussy aesthetic for a family on vacation, a place where the mere thought of a faux stone archway would seem ridiculous.