Cover Furnishings such as the Zanotta William sofa by Damian Williamson, and the Knoll Grasshopper coffee tables and Knoll KN02 reclining lounge chair by Piero Lissoni contribute to the cosy tableau in the airy living room

An enduring love of the outdoors inspired the design of this Madrid home by Spanish design firm Ábaton, which is a calming sanctuary rooted in eco-conscious principles

For Madrid-based design firm Ábaton, sustainability is indeed a key pillar of its creative approach. Founded in 1998 by Camino Alonso, Ignacio Lechón and Carlos Alonso, the Spanish design and construction company strives to unite their creative vision with sustainable principles to build timeless, eco-conscious abodes.

This beautiful house in Madrid is a prime example. Home to a family of five,the 7,534 sq ft abode stands on a large plot measuring over 32,000 sq ft, close to the Casa de Campo park. The clients hired the firm 12 years ago to build their previous house; in the time since, the couple have had three children and wanted a new home that could accommodate their family’s growing needs.

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“As this was the clients’ second project with us, we knew their tastes and interests very well; they had full confidence in our decisions, which made the job very easy,” says Camino Alonso, co-founder of Ábaton and lead designer on the project. “Aesthetically, they did not set any conditions, letting us experiment with shapes and materials, within the studio’s own style.”

Ábaton was in charge of all elements of the project, from the architectural and interior design to the landscaping and construction of the home; Alonso worked closely with his architect colleagues Guillermo Santos and Carlos Jiménez as well as interior designer Miriam Arias and landscaper Fernando Alonso to create a home in perfect sync with its setting. 

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“We wanted to design a very comfortable and functional house that would take advantage of the entire plot and blend in with the vegetation,” says Alonso. “The first decision was to place all the spaces for daily use on a single floor, and in order not to lose natural light and ventilation, to incorporate patios that would also function as other rooms in the house itself.”

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Thus, the firm proposed a two-storey floor plan with all rooms having direct access to the outdoor spaces. Besides featuring architectural elements that reduce humidity and loss of temperature, a mechanical ventilation system improves air quality and minimises the reliance on heating and air-conditioning. The home also uses mineral wool for insulation instead of petroleum-derived products.

Spanish architect Javier Carvajal’s brutalist house, Casa Carvajal, served as a key source of inspiration. Built in the 1960s, Carvajal’s family home was designed around its hilly site; Ábaton’s project faced a similar challenge given the uneven plot.

“Within the minimalist Mediterranean style that exists in all our projects, we also kept in mind the reference of Casa Carvajal. Its relationship with the environment, and the presence of patios that order (the layout of) the entire house, were fundamental influences on the final result.”

Furthermore, this energy-efficient abode has been built with eco-conscious materials such as cross-laminated timber (CLT). “We like to use CLT for many reasons,” says Alonso. “It is a more environmentally friendly material compared to concrete, it greatly reduces the execution time on site, and it is cut numerically so the margins of error are minimal, saving on money and the unnecessary use of materials.”

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The ground floor incorporates amenities such as a guest area, gym, garage and a separate entrance that connects to a patio which serves as the nexus of the home.

“This patio makes the spaces that surround it visually relate to one another. It allows the entry of light from the south into the north of the house, and vice versa. It is also designed to remain open during the warmer months of the year,” says the architect.

The patio leads to the dining area, kitchen and living room. The calming sounds of the pool and water feature contribute to the tranquil atmosphere in the dining area, where the firm sought to create a multisensorial experience. “The dining room is a space where great attention has been paid to details like how the smell of the orange tree will enter the interior, to how the reflection of the sun on the water produces shadow play on the ceiling.” 

In contrast, the kitchen is designed as an intimate space with its lower ceiling height. The concrete ceiling also references the materials used in the sheltered barbecue porch, which has become the family’s regular hangout: “Their favourite space is the barbecue area, an extension of the kitchen that is completely surrounded by nature.”

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While the owners made frequent visits to the property during the renovation, they were still pleasantly surprised by the result. “After the first few nights there, they invited us to come back to their home to tell us about the things that still surprised them,” quips the architect. Just like how every home can be said to be a work in progress that adapts to its owners’ changing needs, the landscaped gardens too will grow and change with the passing of time.

All in, this project beautifully combines the firm’s technical finesse with an elegant and eco-conscious design that will stand the test of time. “With every new project we take on, we try to reduce our carbon footprint. This has been our most ambitious project in terms of the search for comfort and energy efficiency, and trying to ensure that this does not affect the design at all.”

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