Have you been to Barcelona?
Eixample – which literally means extension, was built in the 1860s as a new addition to the old city. It’s still the most vibrant part of Barcelona, with its culture deeply rooted in history, arts and architecture. It boasts an urban planning that was way ahead of its time back in the day, and also celebrates modernist structures like Casa Milà and Casa Batlló designed by Gaudí in the early 1900s. Taking a walk along the Passeig de Gràcia to soak in the beauty of this exuberant neighborhood is a must-do while visiting the city.
Eixample is famous for its high-street fashion and the beautiful rooftop cafes, besides being home to Barcelona’s art nouveau masterpieces. Amidst all the hustle and bustle it is also considered a classy residential area, drawing people in from various parts of the city. Like many others, the owners of this gorgeous home wanted to enjoy the dynamic Eixample neighborhood. With kids grown up and living away, the couple left their more residential district to move into this century old apartment building.
The apartment is a part of a chamfered corner of the building. Due to its odd shape, the apartment had disconnected rooms and a cell-like structure. Even though the apartment has four meter high ceiling, the light penetration was poor and the house in general was in a state of despair. However, the owners and the designers wanted to preserve some of the original aesthetics that remind of its charming history.
The owners wanted to experience a more open plan living arrangement, but their main request to the designers was to have enough places around the house to hang their framed art collection and to have enough storage space for everything they owned. The designers explain that the final apartment is more like an art gallery for the framed exhibits, while also providing optimal living experience to the owners.
In this part of the apartment you can see the lights flooding in from the floor length windows that open out towards a small terrace area. The old and bulky looking dining table paired with light colorful chairs is already setting the tone for old-meets-new look of this home.
The designers wanted to create a perfect balance between the existing best features of the apartment and the new required additions. There was a need to get rid of anything that blocks vision, so light could freely penetrate into deep corners, creating a sense of larger space. The existing hydraulic tiles, gypsum moulding on the ceiling and stained glass windows, which are a signature of the Eixample architecture were retained. I love the throwback feel of this home.
The mosaic tiles, now framed into oak parquets look like carpets spread around the house. Each room has tiles in different patterns, which is one of the most stunning features of this apartment. The original gypsum moulding with gorgeous patterns are a reflection of the glorious past of this home.
The metal trimmings of the kitchen worktop and the pendant lights are a clear contrast to the striking mosaics and wood furnishing. It creates a delightful visual, with old and new coming together in a very graceful way.
To complement the existing features, new furnishings are kept minimal; so the focus is on the artistic value of the house. The kitchen that seems so bare has all the required equipment hidden in the cabinets. It leads into the second bedroom which has versatile furnishings. It is used as a study room or home office, but can also be converted into a guest bedroom by pulling out the bed from the wooden cabinet. This room also has a small bathroom and another exit that opens into the main corridor. This maze-like structure creates a nice flow, connecting all parts of the apartment, which as earlier mentioned, were disconnected.
This main corridor in the apartment is defined by the central piece of furniture that spirals around the house, connecting spaces, providing storage and creating partitions between the public and private areas. This oak cabinetry, that matches the oak parquet, is the central element of the house. It joins as well as separates the different parts of the apartment.
I love how every corner is curated with different elements like this bench that seems to float in the corridor. It is carefully placed close to two bookshelves to create a nice reading nook. Various paintings are spread along this corridor, creating an art gallery-like look and feel in this area.
A metal casing holds the oak cabinetry, and also creates a visual divide between different parts of the apartment. Thus there is no need for walls and doors to define enclosures. A simple metal threshold provides visual cues to where a part ends and next begins.
The closet for the master bedroom is also hidden inside this cabinetry, and a door with a full length mirror creates a nice dressing area in this corner. There are bookshelves in every corner, and the house also has a separate library.
Work in progress shows the stark difference between the old and new. The apartment is now filled with light and all the spaces connect so beautifully.
Here you can notice the height of the cabinet and the metal casing is much lower than the total height of the ceiling. This allows the owners to enjoy the average required height of a house, while leaving the areas above for air and light to freely pass through, making the apartment bright and well ventilated.
The bedroom is bright, but with minimal aesthetics to create a cozy atmosphere. The stained glass floor length windows look gorgeous here. Attached bathroom is minimal as well, with the same oak finish like the rest of the house.
The different parts of this home have been carefully carved to create a nice interconnected loop around a continuous central frame. It is a beautiful home that enjoys freedom in its usability. Translating spaces into function has been left for the owners to interpret and adapt. I am sure the new owners must be enjoying their new home and the new neighborhood.
Cerdes would be pleased to see that the Eixample he created is still thriving, and its houses are now evolving into their modern versions, but etched strongly in the past. This stunning home is a great example of how a perfect mix of old and new can create a beautiful modern home with delicate hints of its historic heritage.
Project: AB House
Designer: Built Architecture
Photography: Eugeni Pons