By Marlene Ridgway
Photos by Cristóbal Valdés @zeube
In Northern Chile, miles upon miles of desert stretch out in a seemingly sparse landscape. It doesn’t seem like much is there. Yet, at a young age, Paula Gutiérrez drew inspiration from that vast space, which, through her eyes, felt limitless and brimming with hidden secrets. Among the rocks and sand, a creative mind like Gutiérrez’s discovered rich color palettes, imaginative shapes, and a complexity in the landscape that she now carries into her work.
As a child, Gutiérrez explored and entertained herself by drawing and painting. Armed with her discoveries and inspiration from Northern Chile, she has been translating colors and textures into works of art, first as a way to stay entertained and now as a designer and architect. Gutiérrez, the founder of a namesake design studio explains, “Interior design is a language to express oneself, and our vocabulary is furniture, lighting, art, objects, plants, and more.”
Just Starting Out
There were never any questions when it came to Gutiérrez’s career path, according to the designer. “Aesthetics, since childhood, was always a subject at home,” she says. “When the moment arrived, I had no doubts about going into architecture studies at a university. Interior design was a later development.” From there, in 1989, Gutiérrez was hired to be part of the team for Hyatt Hotels in Santiago. After a few years of working and learning about luxury hotels, she came to a defining conclusion about her next steps. “I discovered that there was a whole world between architecture and the final product, the real living space. And that was where I wanted to be — improving and refining living techniques and styles, through the unlimited means that this specific area gave me,” says Gutiérrez.
In order to pursue this, Gutiérrez founded her studio in collaboration with the Architect University of Chile. The studio covers a wide range of services and has completed many public and private interior design projects with a unique spirit, always balancing avant-garde and functionality. According to Gutiérrez, the studio has a global view of architecture and interior design, integrating cultures and different styles into each project.
A Unique, Functional Style
Functionality is crucial in interior design, but each designer has their own approach. “As an architect, I have always begun by studying the movements that will be playing a part in each space,” says Gutiérrez about her creative process. “Once that is clear and settled, I design and dream the space, choose palettes, textures, specific styles, eclectic mixes, and define the final character.” Gutiérrez also describes her unique style as a sort of classic avant-garde and prides herself on not being a maximalist or minimalist. Her style is more individualized for each project. “I’ve defined myself more as doing what is necessary to build a space. It’s more about creating a story that speaks on its own,” Gutiérrez explains. “As a boutique office with very personalized services, I care, in detail, about the circumstances of each project.”
Landscape and Surroundings
Gutiérrez’s connection with nature has guided her to carefully consider the landscapes and the surroundings when working on a new project. “It’s important to me that the continuums between architecture and interiors enhance the subtleness of luxury textures and colors,” notes Gutiérrez. “The consideration of landscape and surroundings are always part of my work.” This can clearly be seen in her work at the Awasi Boutique Hotel in Patagonia, where the mountains and relationship with nature are as important as comfort and style.
Projects Old and New
The Voyage Collection is a relatively new project that adds another layer to the Paula Gutiérrez Studio. The project was created by Gutiérrez and Carolina Garib, an independent art dealer and jewelry designer, with the hopes of preserving ancient decorating techniques. At this time, the collection includes items such as hand painted silk panels that are stunning in a variety of spaces, seven-layer glass Qianlong vases, and even rock crystal lamps.
With a range of completed projects from boutique hotels and private residences to vineyards and offices, it’s hard to choose favorites. A few other projects that stand out in Gutiérrez’s mind are the hotels for the Astronomical Observatories in Northern Chile, Paranal, and Alma. According to Gutiérrez, the design experience stands out because of the “extreme and pristine landscapes.” Also memorable are the Vineyard Los Vascos, in Colchagua Valley, part of Lafite Rothschild Group, which presented an interesting challenge because of mixing traditional Chilean architecture and French culture and many more private residences. “Most private residential homes are an excellent moment to talk about art and style, and to discover the best of what the world can offer,” says Gutiérrez.
Getting to know Paula Gutiérrez
Coffee or tea?
“Coffee in the morning, a lot! Tea in the afternoon.”
Do you listen to music while you work? What’s on your playlist?
“I adore silence! But I have a selection that goes from Turandot, and Gustav Mahler, to pop and Caribbean sounds.”
What does your creative process look like?
“A lot of concentration until images solidify in my mind. Once that has happened, I begin to draw and select furniture, shapes, and palettes.”