Making small spaces beautiful – Sol Quintana Wagoner

Sol Quintana Wagoner is an award-winning interior designer and architect

By Nina Garin, U-T 05:00 p.m. July 15, 2014

Sol Quintana Wagoner

Sol Quintana Wagoner – Peggy Peattie

Earlier this year at the National Kitchen & Bath Association Awards in Las Vegas, San Diego’s Sol Quintana Wagoner took home the prize for the country’s “Best Bath.”

Wagoner, an interior designer at Kearny Mesa’s Jackson Design and Remodeling, turned a tiny, 37-square foot space into a luxurious, Asian-inspired powder room.

The Argentine-born architect and designer moved to San Diego in 2002, and for the last eight years she’s been transforming kitchens, bathrooms and other spaces.

Wagoner, 43, who lives in Santee with her two young daughters, explains her inspiration.

Q: When did you first become interested in architecture?A: In Argentina I was always surrounded by architecture and design. Walking down the street you feel like you’re going back in time with the different styles, cultures and periods. I went to the same architecture school in Argentina as the renowned architect Cesar Pelli. I was inspired by his design of the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia, which were the world’s tallest buildings at one time. When I was very young, my mom used to say that I was more interested in making the doll house than I was with the dolls themselves. I was always interested in my visual surroundings and how I could make them more interesting and colorful.

Q: What was the first thing you ever designed?A: At architectural school I designed a quincho, which is a type of outdoor kitchen that’s very popular in Argentina because of our love of good meats and barbecue. It is an eating and socializing space, typically separated from the main house – kind of a man cave built around a barbecue outside.

Q: What types of projects do you do here in San Diego?A: I work as a member of a team that includes other designers and architects. I’ve designed bathrooms, kitchens, outdoor spaces and whole home remodels. We work in every style from historical to transitional to contemporary and modern. I am able to explore many aspects of my creativity.

Q: Please tell us about the award for your tiny bathroom.A: That was such an honor and a nice surprise. It was especially gratifying to win an award for a bathroom that was smaller than many other bathrooms Jackson Design and Remodeling has done. I think it proves that the size of a project does not matter nearly as much as the details that go into the design.

Q: Why do you like designing for small spaces?A: A truly good design is not reliant on space or budget. Smaller spaces are more rewarding because they are more challenging, and I get to research and come up with creative solutions. Smaller spaces typically have more restrictions than larger ones and every resource has to be chosen carefully.

Q: What does your own bathroom look like?A: Right now it’s very simple since I am in the process of moving. I am planning on creating a peaceful spa feel for myself in my next home.

Q: What’s your favorite space in San Diego?A: Everyone who knows me knows how much I love Birch Aquarium at Scripps. I appreciate the good work they do there to educate people about ocean conservation and I respond to the energy and visuals of the space. I can spend hours there.

Q: Why did you decide to move to the United States?A: After I graduated from school I was full of ambition and dreams, but there was very little economic opportunity in Buenos Aires. I had an aunt in California who offered to let me come to America for a long visit to see how I liked it. Once I arrived, I was able to find a good first job. Then I participated in the green card lottery and won a space. I am grateful I was able to stay since I would not have had the same chance to practice doing the work I love in Argentina. Here in the U.S. I have been able to use my talents and grow as an artist and professional.

How did you feel about Argentina making it to the World Cup finals?A: It was a great achievement! The World Cup means so much in Argentina, it unites the people around one common and positive cause. I sent my two girls (ages 3 and 4) to school that week dressed up in Team Argentina shirts and painted their faces with makeup in the Argentine flag colors. Even though we did not win, the team left their souls on the field, and as an Argentinean I’m very proud of them!

What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?A: Even though I am known for experimenting with bold color in my design projects, my own home is often more neutral. Also, I probably don’t strike people as a bookworm but I love to read and I carry my Kindle everywhere. It’s my way of escaping and finding some peace.

Q: What’s the best advice you ever received?A: My grandmother used to say: “No hay mal que por bien no venga” which roughly translates to, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” I have found this very comforting during challenging times.

Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.A: I would say my favorite San Diego weekend is preparing a creative breakfast, like rainbow cake, with my girls, Marina and Catalina. And enjoying family time at places such as the Birch Aquarium or San Diego Zoo.

Sol Quintana Wagoner is a senior designer with Jackson Design and Remodeling. She can be reached at (619) 442-6125, [email protected]