Interiors: Would you like a delicious looking home?
A Barcelona-based architecture firm that riffs on the city’s art nouveau past is also inspired by one of the partners time spent studying and working in Ireland.
Barcelona-based independent architecture practice Colombo Serboli comprises Matteo Colombo, an Italian from Milan who, while studying at the Politecnico came to Dublin as a Erasmus student, to study industrial design at the National College of Art and Design.
After graduation he returned to Ireland to work on his final project, a proposal for a workshop and home for guitar-maker Chris Larkin and his wife, Syra, a painter, in Castlegregory, Tralee, Co Kerry, a joint effort with a girl called Katia Casella.
Colombo then worked in several Irish architecture practices, most notably Murray Ó Laoire (Mola) recalling Dublin at the time being completely different to Milan. “While Milan had a long tradition of design, Dublin in the 1990s was booming. It was a very stimulating place to be.”
Having cut his teeth on big commercial projects, he moved to Barcelona where he met fellow Italian Andrea Serboli, from Sicily, and they set up in business favouring residential projects that made the most of the city’s rich architectural heritage.
Barcelona is a city associated with a home-grown version of art nouveau, a style that has influenced the Catalan capital more than any other architectural style.
Modernista – the Catalan fin de siècle movement celebrated the beginning of the Renaixança, a revival of Catalan traditions and the national culture, especially in the then new Eixample district of the city.
The firm is also known as CaSa. Together with Serboli’s sister, Margherita, another architect, they set about giving this art nouveau home a very modern makeover.
The apartment was a warren of small rooms the builders opened up to give a sense of space. During demolition they uncovered a traditional Catalan vaulted brick ceiling under a false roof and decided to make a feature of its gently undulating curves.
They laid concrete encaustic-style tiles inspired by the apartment’s art nouveau origins. The geometric pattern is typical of this period, but the colour blocking and design is a contemporary riff by the pair. The tiles were laid to look like a rug and pave a path in from the front door bleeding under the half-wall partition that divides the kitchen from the lounge. It is a simple but neat optical illusion that sets the rooms apart.
Once the living area was tiled, the rest of the apartment was floored in a white satin- finish continuous concrete flush with the tiles, so it feels smooth underfoot. The white helps link the whole space together.
In the kitchen they customised a simple Ikea Ringhult high-gloss design, adding pine panelling to the island and the door that divides the living area from the bedrooms. The use of pale wood helps break up the blocks’ bright white. A trio of Hay bar stools offer a casual place to perch and Silstone countertops give a sense of polish.
The designers had some restrictions, notably the absinthe green of the window shutters, part of the external style of the building. Instead of ignoring the off but of- its-time shade of green, they embraced it, teaming it with swathes of sunburn pink. By blocking the colours they’ve added an intentional holiday feel to what is essentially a vacation apartment for their client.
An old bevelled mirror found in the apartment continues to be useful, and vintage finds, including an old radio record-player, adds what Colombo calls a “lived-in” look.
In the dining area a Bell pendant by Normann Copenhagen adds a dark cloud over a white table and kitchen chairs.
The same pink lends a womb-like feel to the internal corridor that leads to the bedrooms, and that can be shut off from the living room by a pine-panelled sliding door.
In contrast the bedrooms are clean white boxes devoid of clutter.
The pair are interested in more rejuvenation projects and like making homes from former office blocks and shops, more recently turning a bakery into another delicious- looking home. The pair will happily hunt for potential holiday homes in Barcelona for interested parties. Colomboserboli.com; margheritaserboli.com