The Barcelonan district of Gràcia is perhaps not as well known as the proto-modernist urban design masterpiece of Eixample, just to the south, and the old city. Even though it's home to landmarks such as Antonin Gaudí's Park Guëll, Gràcias is far less of a tourist destination; it remains a haven for a cosmopolitan, bohemian mix of locals and travelers straying from the beaten paths of the fabled Spanish metropolis. The district's dense streets and of predominantly low-rise urban architecture are also home to some under-utilized jewels when it comes to former industrial spaces, ripe for sensitive redevelopment.
Let's take a tour of one of the more awe-inspiring examples to be found in Barcelona's hippest urban enclave.
Before and after: a ruined barn becomes a designer's dream home
This stunning refurbishment has taken a former cowshed – a relic of Gràcia's formerly rural past — transforming it into a stunning, spacious villa, utterly unseen from the street but completely unrecognizable on the inside. The renovation required stripping the structure down to bare bones and starting from scratch. The results are incredible.
This photo shows the sorry state that the building was in before it fell into the hands of the talented interior architects and a team of expert, patient home renovation specialists. Although a preparatory battle had to be waged against encroaching structural damp, the property was purchased for a good price considering that it came complete with a feeding trough for its former bovine inhabitants.
The breathtaking central space of this dream habitat in the heart of Gràcia shows, for one, how radical the refurbishment is and, second, how select elements from the original structure have been preserved, adding accents to the bright, modern, lofty interior. Several solid piles supporting the rough, raw timber roof beams and horizontal stays remain in place, stripped back to brick and left exposed.
At one end of the dwelling, under a conventional height ceiling whose lightweight molded aluminium above the polished concrete floor makes sense given the ex-industrial site, you'll find a combination open kitchen and dining space. The cozier profile of this space is something of a reprieve from the vertiginous central living space, making sitting down to breakfast less an agoraphobic affair. Nevertheless, from here you can still get a glimpse of the split-level intricacies of the house.
The other end of the home houses a stairwell, whose slimline stairs , twisting two stories up, seem at first glance barely able to hold a human's weight. Not true. Fashioned from single pieces darkly colored sheet metal, the stairs are incredibly strong despite seeming to float, and their form acts as a counterpoint to the massive volumes and solid walls and foundations of the structure overall.
This book lined mezzanine is chiefly a corridor, traversing the length of the house, with one side open to the vast living space. From here you can get a good look at the brick foundation piles and beams whose longevity was a boon for the restoration – they didn't have to be replaced – and whose patina was a boon for the interior design – they look amazing against the contemporary wooden flooring of the gangway and the slim, white-painted steel guard rails seen here at various heights. The uneven vertical profile of the pile to the left makes for a good ad hoc display shelf for the odd artwork, too.
Tucked in at one end of the mezzanine gangway, above and just off-center in relation to the ground-level kitchen and dining room, is a cozy bedroom. Another great example of how the architects have modulated the ceiling height to provide a suitable sense of volume given the space contained therein, the bedroom features a similar molded metal cladding. Natural light floods through the glass walled bathroom, an oasis complete with a deep, old-fashioned style bath under a skylight, and there's direct line of sight along the mezzanine to the stairwell at the opposite end. Above a shelf at the head of the bed, the brickwork has again been left exposed to provide a warm contrast to the clean white lines of the overall design.
Up another flight of stairs sits a series of smaller rooms under the roof and above the central living space, complete with the original barely-carpentered beams. This room functions as a study or day room, with a work desk against one wall and a weighty table in blonde pine with a couple of matching chairs for collaboration and conversation.
Just when you thought this house couldn't reach any higher, another flight of stairs leads up to the roof itself, converted into a sun kissed terrace with simple wooden decking… and a ping pong table. It's more of a feather in the cap than a jewel in the crown – an entirely unpretentious tip-of-the-iceberg that betrays little of the highly desirable and ultimately tasteful architectural redesign work below.
Surrounded by tall whitewashed walls, this compact courtyard is accessed from broad sliding doors leading directly from the central living space we saw earlier on in this article. A mezzanine of a different dimension provides a little variation to the elevation of the simple rectangular space, and a few subtle pot-plantings and a small pool in the foreground provides a little reprieve from the Barcelonan weather. Again, you'd never know this slice of paradise existed in the middle of the city – but we bet you wish you could know something similar yourself!
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