Santos kitchens in small rooms, by the designer Natalia Zubizarreta
19 / 06 / 2020
Natalia Zubizarreta is, first and foremost, a meticulous designer. This quality can be appreciated even more so in her small kitchens, where every centimetre counts in order to achieve the desired balance between aesthetics and functionality. Her love of cooking lets her anticipate what the best way of moving and working in the room will be, as well as determine which resources will be essential. This is why to a certain extent, every design she creates is born of her own experience as a cook. For this article, she chose four small kitchens fitted with Santos units—a brand she has trusted in for fifteen years now due to its quality, reliability and versatility. All of them show her way of designing and dealing with these special and startling projects to good advantage.
Natalia Zubizarreta: principle-based design
Interior design is in Natalia Zubizarreta’s blood. Literally. Her first influence was her grandmother, an Argentine advertising creative with a great personality. She lived with her as a child, and she remembers how she usually put her penchant for decoration into practice, reorganising the furniture in the house or changing the colour of the walls. She also recalls the first renovation of that home when she was fourteen, and how her curiosity was piqued after getting involved and participating in the experience. She felt a pull inside her and, when she was eighteen, while working weekends at a homeware and interiors shop, she knew for a fact that that was what she really wanted to do.
She began her training Fine Arts—to a great extent to make the people around her happy—, but it wasn’t long before she was juggling it with Interior Design, which was what she really wanted to do. After finishing her studies, she joined a studio, where she worked for ten years until she decided to branch out on her own to blaze her own trail in 2015. At present, with the support of a great team, she offers architecture, technical architecture, interior design, styling, decoration and construction management services throughout Spain, carrying out refurbishments and getting involved in new-build projects.
One of the keys that led her to open her own studio was the need to move away from a pervading line of thinking in her profession: putting the creative ego before customer needs. This reflection led to her concept of ethics in interior design, where the priority is on truly listening to people, seeking to understand their ideas in depth to bring them to life in the best way possible. An ethics that also seeps over into the financial aspect of things, where she makes every effort to stay within the budget and even raises awareness among clients who want to spend more than is strictly necessary.
Likewise, this philosophy gives rise to her concern for the projects’ sustainability in the long run, looking after aesthetic aspects but without losing sight of practical factors that help them stand the test of time. Natalia defines her style as neither modern nor classic, as she considers everything on a case-by-case basis. Her concept of home as a temple leads her to create bright, harmonious, cosy and serene atmospheres. She always errs on the side of caution, conceptualising homes with subtle, neutral colours as the backdrop to allow for some creative licence with the furniture or styling. In short, she does her best to attain this ideal: that, even after ten years, her work will look as if she had just turned it over.
A lot can be done with five square metres
This flat is the summer home of a couple of grandparents with a very modern spirit, who receive their grandchildren’s visit over the holidays. They needed a hard-wearing and practical kitchen, which would let them work comfortably, have everything to hand and enjoy breakfast or a quick meal in peace. Natalia Zubizarreta managed to meet all their expectations in just five square metres.
The preparation, cooking and washing area comes with a dishwasher, washer, dryer and sink unit with recycling bins and inner drawer, plus a hob unit with three full-extension, large-capacity drawers. This row is rounded out with easily accessible wall units.
Facing it are two tall units housing a fridge freezer, an oven, a microwave oven and several storage units. Right beside the tall units, making use of the remaining section of the partition wall, there is a comfortable counter for two people.
The predominance of white in the interior design enhances the room’s brightness, making it feel bigger. The whole is balanced using touches of wood found in the counter, the Light Elm wall section and the Quick Step flooring which—with the warmth they give—contribute to creating a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere.
Wear resistance and space for day-to-day use
This kitchen belongs to a single-family home owned by a couple with two young children. The mother is usually in charge of cooking, which is why one of her main concerns was to have plenty of resources at her disposal for storing and organising supplies and utensils. Furthermore, she wanted the units to be easy to clean and highly resistant to blows and scratches, not only due to the work sessions themselves but also to the possible doings of the little ones in the house.
Natalia Zubizarreta designed the Santos units in a parallel layout, with a row of base units including a washer, dishwasher, sink unit, hob unit and drawer unit—the latter two with three levels of drawers to store cutlery, crockery, large utensils and food items. Above these units, the wall units house the canopy hood and provide additional storage space.
The furnishings are rounded out with a set of tall units that—using up very limited space—include storage units, a fridge freezer, ovens and a larder unit with pull-out drawers. Outside on the terrace, another tall unit houses the boiler and a chute to hold dirty laundry before washing.
In accordance with the owner’s wishes, a small breakfast counter was fitted beside the tall units, in front of a glass panel with a sliding door that connects the kitchen to the living room. This solution makes the room look lighter, giving it a more spacious feel and visually connecting it to the living room.
The minimalist design of the base and tall units—with their white, plain handle-less fronts—is complemented by the more classic finish of the wall units, achieving a unique and startling result that is a mix of modern and traditional.
Fully equipped and with an eat-in area without going overboard
The owners of this flat, a couple with two children, knew exactly what they wanted: not only did they want a practical, multifunctional kitchen with a lot of storage space, they also wanted an eat-in area for family meals—all in scarcely eleven square metres. Nevertheless, they feared that the room would turn out to be dark and oppressive given its long and narrow shape. The project posed a real challenge, but Natalia Zubizarreta took up the gauntlet, and based on the results, overcame it with flying colours.
As it was a new-build home, the designer was able to plan the layout from scratch and the first thing she did was to open a window to the living room to favour the entry of light and connect both spaces.
As for the furnishings, she used a parallel layout for the Santos units, running along both sides of the entrance door. Thus, one side was designed to be the work area, with a hob unit, sink unit, drawer unit, dishwasher and wall units. Opposite, occupying the same linear metres as the other side, there is a set of tall, wall and base units that include storage units, a fridge freezer, oven, microwave oven, washer, dryer and chute for dirty laundry. Laundry solutions were integrated into base units to avoid going overboard. What’s more, a worktop was fitted on top of these units, serving as an additional food preparation surface.
To round out the whole, she used the free space at the back of the room as an eat-in area, featuring a custom-made table that benefits from the light streaming in through the window.
The pleasant surprise of using a well-designed kitchen for the first time
In this case, the kitchen is located in a new-build home owned by a couple with two young daughters. The owners wanted a room with a minimalist style, which is very clean and bright. In order to cater to their preferences, Natalia Zubizarreta chose a colour scheme with a predominance of light colours and chose Santos units suited to it—featuring simple lines, plain fronts and a white finish—, which would seamlessly blend into the interior design and the architecture. To harmonise the atmosphere and add a touch of warmth and contrast, she interspersed touches of walnut wood such as those in the table and bench of the eat-in area, as well as details in black found in lamps, wall lights and auxiliary furniture.
The less visible part of the kitchen is occupied by five tall units that, aside from housing the fridge, freezer and ovens, provide solutions to store supplies and cleaning utensils in an orderly manner. The work area is found facing the set of tall units and is fitted with a sink unit, dishwasher, integrated washer and dryer, hob unit and drawer unit with three levels of storage, plus a row of wall units housing the canopy hood. This layout reduces the tunnel effect by making the whole look lighter upon entering the kitchen.
As the finishing touch, Natalia proposed an eat-in area in the free space at the back of the room, consisting of a table, a custom-designed bench and chairs, where the family could get together every day for meals.
Although the owners’ previous kitchen was very small, they considered it enough for their needs, which is why aspects such as organisation or storage space were not among their priorities. Nevertheless—perhaps due to the fact that they did not expect it—, they were pleasantly surprised to discover everything their new kitchen offered.
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