Small Cool winner 2021
Credit: Lucía Gogenola

The Winner of Apartment Therapy’s Small/Cool Contest Transformed Her Old, Dark Kitchen with Just a Bit of Paint

updated May 17, 2021
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Many of us used at least some amount of our quarantine time to update our kitchens. (We were at home more than usual, which meant more time to reorganize and/or redecorate!) But only one person can say that they used that time to update their kitchen so well, they’re now the winner of Apartment Therapy’s Small/Cool contest of 2021 … and that’s Lucía Gogenola.

If you’re not familiar with the contest, let’s back up for a minute: Apartment Therapy first asked readers to enter and show off their Small/Cool spaces. From there, readers got to scroll through hundreds of real-life homes and vote for their favorite small-yet-cool spaces. (It’s not just a clever name!)

After the public chose their favorites in four separate brackets — Small (751 to 1,000 square feet), Smaller (501 to 750 square feet), Tiny (251 to 500 square feet), and Teeny Tiny (250 square feet or fewer) — a panel of judges selected the 2021 Small/Cool contest grand prize winner. Which brings us back to Lucía, who has taken the prize for her 914-square-foot apartment in Rosario, Argentina.

Tour the space: A Botanical, Colorful With Personality Small/Cool Space at Apartment Therapy

“This was my favorite from the get-go,” says Erika Woelfel, a judge and the director of color at the Behr Paint Company (which sponsored the contest). “It felt like a space that I would love to spend some time in.” Alberthe K. Buabeng, another judge and an interior design content creator at Albie Knows, agrees: “There was a lot of balance. She seemed very intentional about where to put color, where to let the natural details come in.” Kitchn’s very own Maxwell Ryan chimed in, too: “They’re all winners, but this one stands out because I really had a sense of people living in the space.”

Lucía lives there with her partner, Agustin, and their two cats, Olivia and Lupita. The super cool part, though, is that Lucía’s grandparents used to own the apartment. Lucía’s mom grew up there and raised her three kids there, too. (So even though the apartment is on the small side, Lucía says it actually feels giant now that it’s just her and Agustin.)

Credit: Lucía Gogenola

The couple officially took over the apartment three years ago (Gogenola’s mom owns the home now and lets them stay in it) and made some small changes, but didn’t get to put their stamp on the kitchen until this last May. Their secret weapon? Paint. The couple painted the cabinets, the hardware, and even the tile backsplash. Yes, they painted tile! They updated the entire space in just four days and look at the difference their efforts made! It looks like a whole new space.

Credit: Lucía Gogenola

“This kitchen used to be too old and dark, that’s why we decided to it paint completely! We used white on the upper cabinets to give it a greater feeling of spaciousness and color below to give it more personality,” Lucía says. The blue-ish, green-ish color on the bottom even seems to change color throughout the day: “In the morning, you see the color as a lighter green. And in the night, it looks more blue.”

Credit: Lucía Gogenola

Of course, we should talk about the fact that the kitchen is also small (you know, in addition to being cool). It’s a galley kitchen, which people either love or hate. To maximize space, Lucía picked up a large cutting board from IKEA. (“We don’t have IKEA here in Argentina, but my mom is in Spain, so when we travel to see her, we always go to IKEA!”) It moves around the kitchen, based on where they need more space — usually either on top of the stove or covering the sink.

“Our kitchen is not so big, so we have to be smart about what is in there,” she says. “Don’t just buy new things to fill space, think about your necessities and use paint to add interest. With paint, you can make any space fit your style.”

Great points, Lucía! Thanks for sharing and congratulations!

Read more about the winning space at Apartment Therapy: Big News About the Small/Cool Contest! The 2021 Grand Prize Winner Is…