Before & After: A 450-Square-Foot Barcelona Apartment’s Renovation Reveals an Open and Airy Home
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Name: Lalo and Ana
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Size: 450 square feet
Years lived in: 1.5 years, renting
When Ana and Lalo first looked at the apartment they currently live in, Lalo was completely against renting it. He said it felt too small and cramped and it needed a lot of work. His wife, Ana, insisted it was too good to pass up, especially because it was located on the same street where they both work, meaning zero commute! But what really helped Lalo change his mind was when he found himself looking out the back window of the space, which at that time faced the rooftop of an adjacent building, and thinking, “if we turn this window into a door, and build a small bridge from this apartment to the other rooftop, we can create an outdoor terrace for ourselves.” It just so happened that the landlord owned both of the buildings, so when Lalo pitched the idea to him, he agreed to let them do the work. That was enough to seal the deal for them.
Being the visionaries that they are, in addition to building a bridge, they were also given permission to renovate the interior of the space (provided the landlord waive three months of rent). In the end, what started out as a really small two-bedroom apartment, became an open concept living room, dining, and kitchen area, with one larger bedroom, an updated shower room and water closet, AND a new outdoor terrace, thanks to their ingenuity.
Creating a home they both feel proud of was a labor of love, commitment, and practicality. They both admit that they are incredibly grateful that the space became available when it did because there is no way they would be able to run both of their businesses if they didn’t live so close. While the apartment is small, they’ve managed to make it feel open, airy, and relaxing with minimal furnishings mixed with lots of natural light, plants, and tropical touches. They pride themselves on filling their space with flea market finds, memorable pieces gifted from friends, street finds that they’ve restored themselves, and incorporated a few larger, modern furniture pieces to complement the space.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: I wouldn’t label our home any particular style. When we decorate, we don’t tend to stick with any predetermined look; we do it with ease, in an intuitive way. It evolves with the objects and furniture that we find and work into our home. It’s a personal feeling, and when adding anything, we make sure to consider the size and spatial relation to the space.
Inspiration: I am inspired by nature. I love plants and organic materials. I try to use and respect them. I like light environments, with very simple furniture and decor. It shouldn’t look too busy so that certain elements can pop, such as a painting or a light fixture. The bedroom should also be kept light and airy for easier rest.
Favorite Element: Ana – The lounge area on the terrace, surrounded by green. It’s the area I like the most.
Lalo – Despite the fact that the apartment is located in the middle of a busy neighborhood, there is a nice feeling of privacy and isolation because it is on a higher floor and because of how it is situated.
Biggest Challenge: The general state of the building. It’s old, which means we lack things like strong water pressure that modern day equipment easily provides.
What Friends Say: Most of our friends have seen what this place looked like when we first moved in so they are very surprised by how we’ve transformed it. They say they can see the love and dedication that we put into it.
Biggest Embarrassment: When we knocked down the walls that divided the space into several rooms, and removed the laminate flooring that the previous tenant had, we discovered the original hydraulic tile, which we loved. The only issue is that we haven’t been able to get rid of some of the marks where the original walls once stood.
Proudest DIY: Opening up the window/wall that faced the adjacent rooftop and turning it into a sliding door, then building and connecting a concrete and iron bridge to the other rooftop thereby creating an outdoor terrace.
Biggest Indulgence: In general, we often re-purpose materials and furniture that we have, or we get them at very low cost. But in this case, re-doing the kitchen area by adding new cabinets was the biggest indulgence. We did build it ourselves and to our liking, which ended up being cost effective.
Best Advice: Don’t saturate your spaces with many things. Try to minimize what you want to keep and are going to use. Incorporate the big or important basic elements, and from there, look for colors and related objects that will complement yet won’t feel heavy. Less is more, especially when it comes to small spaces. This will also aid in easy maintenance and cleaning. And another tip—the devil is in the little details.
Dream Sources: Second-hand markets, and antique markets. We love restoring and re-purposing our found pieces, including our street finds.
- Night tables — Found at a flea market in Toulouse, France
- Wooden table in the corner — Gifted from a friend
- Head board — DIYed. We bought the bamboo and added the two hanging cushions, which were gifted from a friend
- Lounge chairs — Street Find
- Small glass table — Street Find
- Artificial grass – Street Find
- Barbecue — Street Find
- Wooden crates — Street Finds
Thanks, Lalo and Ana!