A bitty Spanish apartment with BIG color and 19th century brick ceilings

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1. Lounge 1

The offbeat occupant: Clarisse, Film Editor

Other occupants: My partner, our friend, and a rescued Manx cat

Approximate square footage: Under 650 sq. feet (under 60 square meters)

How many bedrooms? 2

Lives in: Barcelona, Spain

When did you move into this home? January 2008

4. Bathroom 1

Let’s start with the neighborhood. What’s it like where you live? Our neighborhood is one of the most traditionally Catalan areas in the center of Barcelona. But at the same time, our street is the border with the most ethnically diverse neighborhood. On the left side of our street, we have Catalan folk art shops and tapas bars. On the right, we have Pakistani restaurants and Moroccan lamp shops! Also there is an amazing modernist fruit/vegetable market grounds — which on Sunday only sells old books/maps. The Contemporary Art Museum is 5 minutes away. Basically, we have everything we could ever think of within a couple of blocks of our building.

3. Main Bedroom 5

What makes your home offbeat? To start off, our building is from around the 1850s! We live on the 6th floor and the only way to get up is through a tiny narrow staircase — we motivate ourselves by saying we are not wasting energy with an elevator and it’s good exercise. The previous owners uncovered the beautiful original curved brick ceiling. I still can’t understand why people would plaster over it — flat ceilings are so boring! We touched it up with black paint on the beams to make it really pop. Our furniture is a motley crew of design and thrift finds (and Ikea, shh)! The only artwork we have around are illustrations made by our graphic designer/illustrator friends, so they are really meaningful to us. The decor for the bedroom was inspired by a colored glass chandelier that my mom found in a thrift store for us — and that set the tone for making the bedroom FULL of color. We acquired my partner’s “baby” — the Eames clothes hanger — and later we got the wardrobe. It’s made out of eco-wood and has movable colored panels.

3. Main Bedroom 2

What’s the most challenging about this space? How do you deal with the challenge? The apartment is under 200 square feet, so it’s SMALL and we have to use the space to its fullest. The second bedroom was especially tiny and we had to figure out how to add enough storage space so that it was livable; one of the walls is rounded and that makes it even harder to furnish.

5. Guest Bedroom 2

Every little bit of space was carefully measured to be able to make the most of it. We basically had to sit down and think a LOT about what we had and where it could go and how to maximize each space. We didn’t have the luxury to be able to shove stuff somewhere, so we had do to a bit of “musical chairs” with our stuff until it all fit in an organized manner.

1. Lounge 5

What’s your favorite feature of your home? It would have to be what we first got — our spiral bookshelf!! When we saw the bookshelf we immediately fell in love, and had to have it even before we had any more practical furniture (like a bed! oops). My partner is a major bookworm but a traditional shelf seemed a bit too normal for us. It was a pain to install — it comes in a straight strip and bending it while drilling it into the wall is tough! It was so so worth it because it has purpose and it looks good. The shelf also kind of creates two areas within our small living room – the tv/sofa area and the dining area.

2. Kitchen 1

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from this home? Don’t have too much stuff! Seriously! When you have too much stuff then you need to acquire furniture to store all of your stuff and then you need a lot of space in which to put all that furniture! When we moved in together in this apartment we eventually managed to donate/recycle/gift about a third of our belongings because we just did not have the space for it all.

5. Guest Bedroom 4

For the first six months, the second bedroom was our “storage room” because we had too many clothes, linens and other household items. We wanted my friend to move in so we eventually did a massive “spring cleaning” of our stuff and ended up donating six giant trash bags of clothes/shoes and four shopping carts of household items. The library was more than happy to take a big box of books/dvds. And that’s why our tiny flat looks so minimalist!

Donating made us feel good. I couldn’t bear to fill up landfills with stuff that some other people could need — it was all about doing some research about the different organizations that collected donations.

5. Guest Bedroom 3

What’s your grandest plan for the space? Right now our beautiful turquoise hallway is TOTALLY plain but has a horrible old switch box that we legally can’t fully cover. So we have yet to figure out some sort of cupboard situation to cover it, but leave it accessible. We also plan on putting up a funky mirror and maybe a key holder/small shelf. Everything has to be really shallow because the hallway is narrow and we don’t want people hitting their head/knocking things down by accident!

Any stuff or services you want to recommend? Kewlox for amazing closets!

Your local museum’s shop for artsy decorations!

Show me the decor porn!

Comments on A bitty Spanish apartment with BIG color and 19th century brick ceilings

  1. Oh wow, that bookcase… yeah, I definitely want it. Where did you find it?

    I live in Sweden and I have the same issue with the switchbox in my apartment! I spoke with my maintenance guy when I first moved in to figure out if there was (legally) a way to cover it, and he said if I had a cupboard built over it with a door that could easily open and still leave everything accessible, that would be reasonable. Have something made? Psssh. Building the damn thing myself! Haha. At any rate, I will post a few pictures when I finish in the Flickr Pool, so maybe it can give you a few ideas of how to work around your little “ugly spot”. I hate mine with a violent passion.

    Awesome apartment!

    • It’s called “Bookworm” by Kartell and we got it at a local design shop in Barcelona but it’s easy to find it online. It comes in different colors and it’s REALLY sturdy. But be warned, you need like 3 people to install it because it’s really strong!

      Oh wow, I wouldn’t imagine Sweden being so modern would also have the old switchbox law as well. If you manage to make something nice to cover it up PLEASE comment back here and put the flickr link – I would be so happy to see it! I also hate mine so much it depresses me cuz it’s the first thing you see when you walk in my apartment. If it was hidden away in a kitchen or bathroom I could just ignore it, but it’s right there in my face greeting me as I walk in…

      And thanks for the compliment!!

      • I have an idea for the switch box. I don’t know if this would be legal, but if it is, you could get a bathroom wall cabinet and just cut out the back and shelves. If it’s a mirrored cabinet, there are glass etching kits you can make cool designs on it with (free hand or with stencils). If it’s not mirrored, you could paint/paper the door, or attach a piece of art to it. Or something.

  2. We live close to Barcelona, too!

    Our switch box is covered by a tiny curtain of some sort. OK, so ours is really old and looks quite horrible (it was in this flat before we moved in and since we won’t stay long we don’t bother to change it), but the idea is nice, if you do it with style.
    The box is still perfectly accessible, you just have to move the curtain aside. 🙂

    I really like that spiral bookcase, too, and your colorful wardrobe!

    • Viva Catalunya 🙂

      A curtain seems like a really good temporary idea! Specially since I’ve got some pretty yellow ikea fabric laying around somewhere… I might try doing that while I figure out something more permanent. Maybe we need to start an European switch box solution support group 😉

    • Haha 🙂 I got it at a shop here in Barcelona called La Oca and it’s called “Bookworm” by the Italian brand Kartell.

      Btw, I was just searching for it in online US shops and it’s WAY more expensive than what I paid for it here… they’ve added some pretty severe import taxes or something I guess.

  3. What a wonderful space! I love the color everywhere–especially the rack on the wall, with all of the different colored balls. Any chance you remember where that’s from? Thanks!

    • Thanks for the compliments!! It’s called “Hang-It-All” by Charles and Ray Eames. I got it at a Vitra shop (the manufacturer) in Barcelona – but it’s super easy to find it online. It’s from their children’s collection lol

      It’s an amazing hanger cuz the big balls don’t stretch/tug on the clothes, even knits!

  4. It depends on how big the box is, but maybe build a shell (literally just nail four pieces of wood into a box shape), then either drill holes in the top and bottom to allow a wooden dowel to go all the way across horizontally or put in two small tension rods, then make some tiny little Ikea curtains for them (with pockets at the top and bottom). Otherwise, we cover lots of stuff with simple wood boxes and simple doors with funky paint/hand pulls on the outside.

    • What a great idea! The square box with the curtain is a much simpler/easier idea than trying to build a mini-cupboard with a door and hinges. And I guess it won’t feel so “heavy” cuz the front of it will be the curtain!

  5. My partner and I are in the midst of relocating, and have been busy complaining about our current apartment’s small size -and it’s nearly four times the size of yours… I feel a bit guilty now! I’m totally amazed at how spacious such a small place can look (and like everyone else, I ADORE the bookshelf).

    • It’s all about having furniture that’s proportionate to the space! Having short and stout furniture makes our tiny place seem bigger (and not hanging stuff on the walls either!). But for Spain, tiny apartments are the norm so I just got used to it 🙂

  6. Here’s an idea for the ugly switchbox – find or make a really ornate picture frame to put around it, and if the box is metal, put decorative magnets on it to make it look like art. The sky’s the limit! And I’d love to see the photos!

    • Your idea is super crafty but the switchbox is next to my door and a frame won’t fit. Plus the switchbox is a horrible cream colored plastic… But it gets me thinking, I could decoupage it!!!

  7. The begininng of this post says the apartment is under 650 square feet, but later on that figure becomes 200. I mean, 200 IS under 650, but I’m confused!

    Apart from that – love love love love. Barcelona is my favorite city in the entire world. I’ve started badgering my future husband to apply for temporary job postings abroad, so we can live in Europe for a year or two – if he somehow got posted to Barcelona, that would be a dream come true. We’re going there on our honeymoon in June/July 🙂

    • It’s because the “approximate square footage” is a drop-down choice and the smallest they have is “under 650ft”! So I put the metric in a separate box (60 meters) and then mentioned in a text section how much it is in feet (200)… I wanted to be clear that my flat was well-under 650ft, sorry to cause confusion!

      Barcelona is great, specially in the summer! Though the chronic pick-pocketing is getting really severe and the thieves are starting to get a bit violent. That’s the harsh reality of unemployment rates over 20% and for people under thirty it’s around 40%.

  8. I stayed with friends in madrid, they had a box like thing hanging over their switchbox- I only remember becuase everytime I went in my room I knocked it off…

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