Through the looking glass

As Francesc Rifé, the new winner of the 2016 “bulthaup | the kitchen as a living space” competition notes, when he set out to find a solution that would be fitting for the early 20th-century building in Barcelona’s Eixample neighborhood in which he was to renovate this ample duplex, he knew he could count on the owners’ full support. This excellent communication with the couple allowed him to strike the perfect balance between their particular needs and preferences and the solutions that the space itself suggested.

Given the value of the existing architecture, it was essential to preserve the moldings, the semi-circular arches and the high ceilings while also optimizing the use of the interior space. The original staircase connecting the two levels, concentrated in the entrance area, created a central block that broke up the space and called for a more streamlined solution.

An area of fluid smooth transitions

Francesc Rifé Studio’s solution consisted of designing a new staircase leading to the upper level, set into a large bookcase with two windows, which becomes an inhabitable and inhabited area that articulates the transitions between the upper and lower level as well as between the front and back areas of the home.

bulthaup through the looking glass

With a nod to the trompe-l’oeil tradition, Francesc Rifé does not enclose but rather opens up the kitchen to this central space with a glass cubicle that marks a change of use without interrupting the rhythm and the horizontal lines: a bulthaup monoblock in a vertical-grain oak finish spans from the first steps of the staircase on its left end all the way to the kitchen on the right, barely stopping for a couple of centimeters to recover its continuity at the other side of the glass panel. There, the monoblock becomes a high table with a distinct stainless steel surface, facing two lines of bulthaup units set at a right angle.

A warm meeting point

The continuity of the oak finish provides the sense of harmony and warmth that the owners–a couple with three children–were seeking: they cook daily for the whole family but also wanted a space where they could have lunch or breakfast together when just the two of them were home. The choice of the brand was never an issue: for a long time, the couple had been drawn to bulthaup. For the choice of materials, they were attracted to the high-quality stainless steel and to the touch of the oak veneer, which fits in so well with the use of wood throughout the project designed by Francesc Rifé. The result is an eloquent expression of this affinity.

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