This Renovated Barcelona Home Has Stunning Tile Floors, Gorgeous Light, and Lots of Design Inspiration
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Name: Gemma, Jordi and their dog, Diego
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Size: 1350 Sq. Ft.
Years lived in: 2.5 years (own)
Finding a place where you feel comfortable and at home can sometimes take a couple of tries. This was the case with homeowners Gemma and Jordi. Gemma is originally from England and Jordi is half Swedish, half Spanish. They met in London, moved to Sydney to fulfill one of Gemma’s dreams to live there, and stayed for about 18 months. While they admit it was a nice experience, they both started to feel far away from home and so they decided to move back to London. They soon discovered that they weren’t quite happy there either! While they started to consider their options, Jordi was offered a job in Barcelona. Thrilled at the opportunity, they packed their bags and set out on the hunt for what would become their official home sweet home.
“When we set out to buy, one thing we said was“no projects!” We wanted a place that was move-in ready. We had looked at about eight places, but when we looked at this place, and this may sound crazy, but there was something about the vibe that just grabbed us. It had a lot of natural light and it just felt very relaxed,” describes Gemma. The only caveat was that it needed a complete renovation, but for Gemma there was just something about the atmosphere and so for her, it was a no-brainer. “My husband, on the other hand, was freaking out about the idea of a project, but after a few beers he came around and was on board.”
What initially started out as a compartmentalized apartment with five small bedrooms became an opportunity to create a much more open-concept kitchen/dining room/living room and office space with two bedrooms (one with an en suite), an additional bathroom, and a lovely balcony from which to soak in the sun. With the help of local architect Eixample Singular, during the reconstruction, they unearthed tons of classic Catalan features that were buried behind plaster walls and laminate flooring, such as the bright modernist tiles, high vaulted ceilings, and the exposed brick.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Ibizan beach house in the city. I love brightly patterned tiles, white walls, lashings of plant life, earthy ceramics, gold accents, gorgeous hunks of old wood. And I’m also a sucker for city convenience — cue: Barcelona.
Inspiration: Walking around the streets of Eixample is like a daily, real-life Instagram inspiration feed. Many apartment buildings have huge doorways that open up into fantastic entrance hallways: If the front door is open, I always accidentally-deliberately let Diego wander inside so I can catch a glimpse of their tiles, the light, and how they’ve styled their plants. I’m a shamelessly nosy neighbor.
Favorite Element: If my dog Diego is listening, it’s him, of course. Beyond that, it’s the natural light, the tiles, the open-plan space and the vibe — there’s a really peaceful energy here that hooked us in on the first viewing. When you open the balcony doors, all you hear are little birds singing and the neighbor’s hens — amazing, considering we’re slap-bang in the city center.
Biggest Challenge: The lack of privacy. We are lucky to have really large windows—the French doors onto the balcony are almost 10-feet tall—but in our excitement thinking “light, light, light, light!” we didn’t even consider how exposed we’d feel at night with no curtains or blinds and the whole block being able to peer in. It makes it chilly in winter, and calls for very speedy naked dashes to the loo at 4 a.m.!
What Friends Say: “I really love your… light switches.” I initially expected the punchline to be that they loved the tiles or the style or, you know, even that I was having a great hair day. But after the fourth or fifth time of hearing the same thing, I was like, okay, I do good power sockets, I’ll take that! They’re by Fontini Barcelona.
Biggest Embarrassment: All of our sink and shower faucets are gold, but we could only find plugs/plug-holes in silver for the showers and kitchen sink. It’s a minor aesthetic blip, and we even considered painting the plug-holes gold—but the thought of that paint flaking off like a bad sunburn was enough to make us live with it.
Proudest DIY: Jordi recently built himself a PC and then converted a wardrobe in the second bedroom into a secret gaming nook—complete with a monitor desk, a pull-out shelf for a keyboard, plus space for all manner of other geeky gadgets. He’s Swedish, and I’m convinced that all Swedes must have IKEA-style construction skills in their DNA.
Biggest Indulgence: The chandelier above the dining table. A thrillingly/terrifyingly expensive impulse buy, but I love the drama of it against the exposed brick.
Best Advice: Think about scale when buying pieces. Back in London, our default was finding furniture small enough to squeeze into cramped rooms and nooks. Here, it’s the opposite—we have blank space to fill up. But old habits die hard, and for about a year I kept buying pocket-sized cacti and tiny lamps that looked super-cool in the shop, but which basically disappeared in situ.
Dream Sources: For inspiration: Spanish AD, the Assouline book, “Ibiza Bohemia,” or anything about plants, such as “Urban Jungle” by Igor Josifovic and Judith De Graaf, plus dreamy Mediterranean destinations like the Costa Brava, the Balearics and Italian masserias. For shopping: Soho Home, garden centers and ceramicists. I seem to be attracted to anything breakable, beautiful, and really, really annoying to carry.
DIEGO’S ROOM/GUEST ROOM
Thanks, Gemma and Jordi!