When Pascual Alberola and his partner went looking for a weekend house near their home in Valencia (Spain), they wanted to avoid the built-up Mediterranean coastline. While exploring a sheltered valley just an hour and a half south of their city, they stumbled upon a plot of land on a protected hillside zoned for agricultural use.
The land is covered in cherry trees, the views of the Mediterranean are spectacular and neighbors here are sparse, but the largest building they could legally build on their plot was an agricultural tool shed, a “casa de aperos”. So they called on architects Enproyecto Arquitectura (Jorge Cortés, Sergio García-Gascó and Borja García) to create a shelter within the maximum permitted size of 25 square meters (269 square feet) and they built a tool shed as a home.
“El refugio en La Vall de Laguar” (the refuge in the Laguar Valley) is arguably one of the most stunning tool sheds ever built, but the small, stone structure doesn’t call attention to itself. Its local stone walls- built in the “dry” method (without concrete)- mimic the stone containing walls of the surrounding fields. Most of the windows, except for the large openings providing a view of the sea, are tiny. So from a distance, the home resembles yet another of the boulders dotting the mountainside.
Inside, the house takes a more modern turn with all white walls and black-painted steel girders. To maximize space, the architects lofted the bedroom though without using any support columns downstairs, creating the feeling of a “flying bedroom”.
They also created a thicker lateral wall where they hid dozens of cabinets for “tools” large and small (cleaning and gardening equipment, table coverings and all types of storage). The wall also houses closets, a fireplace/oven and recessed windows used as reading alcoves.
Even the space beneath the stairs is used to maximum advantage. The bathroom is tucked under the taller side of them, resulting in a roof so sloped it allows for seated-only toilet use. Underneath the shorter end is a drinks dispensary and bbq storage.
With everything hidden away there’s plenty of space for guests. For Pascual’s recent 40th birthday, 100 guests fit quite comfortably (though the outside porch area was used as well).
Pascual says their house, despite it’s reduced size, fills all the requirements of a home, but he also clearly sees it as a tool shed as well. While their tool requirements- for farming the cherry and olive trees on their land- are at a minimum, the careful use of space in their tiny home reminds Pascual of the agricultural tool sheds from his childhood.
“Where I’m from, a lot of people are farmers. My grandfather had his land where he grew grapes. And normally when you have a big piece of land then you have a tool shed for storing tools. And since they were minimum-sized, they made maximum use of the space… The truth is that I never imagined my life would be so similar to my grandfather’s.”
In this video, we visit the tool-shed-sized shelter where Pascual takes us for a tour (complete with outdoor shower) and architect Jorge Cortés explains the concepts behind building a home that melts into the landscape and where, even indoors, so much is hidden.