Rafael Alvarado delivers streamlined design and large living to his 525-square-foot condo in downtown Salt Lake. Maximalists beware! 

There are no doors inside Rafael Alvarado’s condo.

There are no hallways for that matter. There is no defined entry, not one conventional closet and no laundry room —although there are a washer and dryer cleverly concealed.

There is no moment-making chandelier, no dressy drapery, no papered accent wall and there is no mantel and no hearth, which makes sense because there is no heroic fireplace. There is no extra seating, no surplus bedding, no redundant dishes.

There is also no question that this home is as spectacular as it is spare, livable as it is lean. While Alvarado’s digs measure a mere 525 square feet, he wants for nothing. “I have everything I need,” he says convincingly. This condo gives serious credence to the claim “less is more.”

Located in the Uffens Marketplace building overlooking Pioneer Park in downtown Salt Lake City, the condo wasn’t always a showcase of bright light and spartan contemporary style. When Alvarado first spied the unit, stained-concrete floors, exposed ductwork and concrete-block walls defined its rustic interior. A two-bedroom floor plan cramped the cut-up interior and obstructed the interior’s natural light and spectacular city views. It was the antithesis of everything Alvarado esteems. “I’m a minimalist by nature,” he explains. In one fell swoop, he rid the flat of its industrial style and messy floor plan, then worked his magic to create a spacious feel and streamlined livability. “I’ve always admired classic, contemporary interiors and love designing them,” he says.

Big Ideas: – Deeply set windows add architectural interest; high-gloss paint accentuates their depth. – Italian limestone floors flow seamlessly to visually expand the interior. – Roller blinds don’t intrude on the décor, views or flow of light. – White walls throughout help unify the décor. – Low, streamlined furniture adds to a sense of space.

To begin, Alvarado “simplified” the space. He removed the second bedroom to form an open floor plan, enlarge the main living area and allow light to flow freely throughout. He installed Italian limestone floors and enclosed the exposed ceiling. He drywalled the block walls, thickening them to create deep window openings. “It’s an architectural feature I love in older European buildings,” he explains. He accentuated the deepened insets by painting them a glossy white—a subtle but swank detail— and dressed the walls and ceiling with a flat finish of the same space-expanding neutral. Kitchen cabinets, glass bathroom tile and bedroom built-ins are similarly colored. “The white envelope lets the architecture, craftsmanship and views do the talking,” Alvarado explains.

-Uniform use of richly patterned marble on walls and counters unifies the kitchen area. – White cabinets and walls promote a spacious look and feel. – Smaller scaled Miele appliances equip the compact galley kitchen. – A stacking washer-dryer combo hides in a floor-to-ceiling cabinet. – Highly edited appliances, cookware and dishes prevent cluttered storage.

Alvarado’s rigorous adherence to an edited palette extends to thoughtfully curated furnishings, art and personal possessions. Across from a small yet enviable kitchen generously clad in richly patterned marble, a bespoke dining table that Alvarado crafted from porcelain and glass all but disappears in front of broad windows framing sublime city and park views. Elegant Flos inset ceiling lights stylishly illuminate the space sans the visual clutter of a showy chandelier. Nearby, a large mirror resembles neighboring windows while reflecting the dining space and the adjoining living area simply furnished with a classic B&B Italia sofa, low-sitting Cassina cocktail table and single leather chair. Empty space abounds and art by Brad Overton delivers a pulse to the starkly white walls. The furnishings and fixtures are few, but they’re unmistakably choice. “When you have less, you can have better,” Alvarado says.

– A dark-painted wall conceals electronics and speakers; its deep color minimizes the TV contrasting dark screen. – Touch-latch panels behind the leather headboard open to abundant storage space. – Lack of hanging light fixtures makes the 9-foot-high ceilings appear taller.

In tight quarters, storage is notoriously a challenge, and Alvarado faced it head-on. Kitchen cabinets conceal the washer and dryer as well as an integrated refrigerator. The designer thickened a center wall in the living area to hold and conceal his electronics, and he painted it dark gray to help camouflage the black TV screen. Nearby, a wall separating the living and sleeping areas houses a custom closet exposed on the bedroom side. Curated clothes hang like art on exposed rods and stack neatly inside drawers. Behind the leather headboard across the room, touch-latch wall panels conceal shelves of smartly arranged shoes and other must-haves. Truth is, Alvarado has little in need of stashing. “Stuff makes me anxious,” he freely admits. “This is how I live. I use and enjoy every single thing I have, otherwise I get rid of it.”

– Open storage eases access and consumes less space than conventional closets. – The floor-to-ceiling closet design makes the bedroom seem taller. – Lack of doors between sleeping and living areas allows for free flow of light and views.

Throughout the home, masterful design, thoughtful editing and savvy storage serve Alvarado well. “They allow me to appreciate more the things I want to see—the views, the architecture, even the empty space,” he says. With little more than 500 square feet, the talented designer lives larger than a great number of those who reside in many times the space. 


Interior Design: Rafael Alvarado, Vecchio Design, Park City

Furnishings and fixtures: Vecchio Design, Park City

Kitchen Marble: Venetian Stone Gallery, SLC

Appliances: Miele through Mountain Land Design, SLC

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Brad Mee
Brad Mee is the Editor-in-Chief of Utah Style & Design Magazine.