This house revolves around the idea of the desert,’ explains María Teresa García Santiago, an interior designer at Patricia Bustos Studio. She is describing the concept behind her home in the heart of Madrid’s Chamberi ‘neighbourhood, the inspiration for which she rediscovered during an extended trip to her childhood homes of Fuerteventura and Almería.
Revisiting these landscapes made the designer realise their importance in the formation of her aesthetic language. ‘Brutalist and minimalist architecture, Fernando Higueras, the utopian city in the desert of Arcosanti, César Manrique, Ricardo Bofill…’ she lists, as influential artists, architects and places roll off her tongue in quick succession.
‘I like to visit remote spots,’ she adds, ‘rocky cliffs that hide secret caves, houses that are difficult to access, where I can reconnect with the purity of the elements.’ It’s this idea of seclusion that she is trying to recreate in the centre of the bustling Spanish capital with the design of her own desert-like domestic landscape.
Thinking conceptually from the outset, María Teresa separated her home into two categories. There’s the ‘outside’ (not in fact external, but containing the living, kitchen and dining areas) that she thinks of as the desert. These spaces get plenty of natural light and are flanked by arched doorways on one side and windows on the other.
Then there are the bathrooms and bedrooms that represent the ‘inside’ – tucked away, these have a more cosy feel. With large portal-like mirrors echoing the many architectural forms throughout this apartment, the place has a sinuous, almost surreal flow. ‘I have imagined a cave,’ she tells us, ‘from the organic colours to the curves of the walls.’
She deliberately stuck to a limited palette of natural materials. Everything has a continuity, with no hard edges, only softly rounded corners. A lot of the furniture was custom-made to perfectly hug the walls, like the bench seating in the dining area or the bed, slotted snugly into its raised platform.
María Teresa also designed her own lamps and vases, painting the pieces with the same cement finish as the walls or floor so that they appear to be growing out of the very structure of the building. They sit alongside vintage finds and design classics, such as Gianfranco Frattini’s ‘Sesann’ sofa for Cassina (now produced by Tacchini) – its history told through the rich patina of the leather.
The peacefulness in the living room makes this her favourite part of the redesign. At the right hour, the quality of light, she tells us, almost simulates the glow of the sun setting behind the dunes, and even the rug evokes the patterns and tones of shifting sands.
She enjoys the space’s emptiness and ‘strange’ proportions. While many would find the expanse of a desert landscape daunting, María Teresa sees nothing but beauty, freedom and tranquillity. It’s these qualities that she most treasures in her home. ‘I have the feeling of living in a closed universe,’ she says. ‘One that isolates me from the madness of the outside world.’ @mttgs