Spanish aesthetics on the beach and a new historical interpretation of design
A case study for art and architecture courses
A simple concept: a bedroom with a balcony overlooking the sea. It should be a common occurrence, any hotel room in Italy, Spain or Greece – but it is not. No matter the price range or the kind of accommodation. It is easy to find views, landscapes, heights, but the most basic concept, a room by the sea, is seemingly impossible to find. This becomes apparent once you enter Number One at Little Beach House Barcelona.
The terracotta floor tiles are retro inspired – at first glance, you would have thought they were made of glossy ceramic. The cement grout lines are thick, and your feet can perceive the roughness of the composite material – there is a dual sensation, both that of a soft touch on the painted terracotta, and the reminiscence of dust, which evokes a feeling of sand and sea, of the evening air. Through the glass door, the terrace hangs less than a meter above the ground, and only five from the salt water.
The strength of every Soho House is their interior design. The secret of Nick Jones’ properties lies in a style that reaches the level of status symbol for its clientele – be it hotel guest or club member – it cannot be accessed otherwise. There is a retro vibe: the project successfully recreates the early German aesthetic of the thirties and forties, of Bauhaus and the Weimar Republic in the years prior to the war and the crimes. Flavor mixes with the English culture in the Netherlands – in this particular case, the Amsterdam house is both example and concrete proof, where speculation becomes almost a case study for art and architecture courses.
The Soho House concept appears urban, but it shows reprieve in its resorts or natural locations. On the beach, as is the case with the Little Beach House.
The seasons on the streets of Louisiana
Back to the bedroom: from the spaced tiles of the floor – Bert & May, founded in 2013, is the Spanish company responsible for the vintage-inspired tiles and ceramics found in almost all the Soho Houses. The attention is then drawn to the rough large-mesh curtains woven with wool and soft linen yarns. A thick rug awaits on both sides of the bed, its softness ready to welcome the feet of those getting up. The desk and wall lights look like drawings rather than fixtures – the light switches, which cater to every modern energy setting, are also reminiscent of the bedrooms of our childhood.
On the bedside table, a Marshall radio. There’s Burleigh porcelain cups made exclusively for Soho, white on dark blue, with a Calico micro flower motif that makes for a pattern that’s part-Sicilian kitchen part-Persian door, like the good china set in an English cottage. There’s wicker chairs, rope baskets – a leather band acts as a newspaper holder.
The bathroom tiles are brick colored – between mud and copper, and they mimic the typical rectangular shape of the building material – but they are made from shiny, smooth ceramic, not terracotta. Water rains down from a large waterfall shower. The collection of Cowshell products – present at most other houses – extends bathing times with its intoxicating herbal scents, one for each bottle – tuberose, jasmine, musk – shampoo and body scrub, soaps and balms, facial cleanser, hand creams. Rose oil for the skin before bed. The toothpaste and mouthwash are from Marvis – and there’s an adjustable mirror that can be brought closer to one’s face. Every detail is a confirmation.
Both the room and the bathroom are small, leaving out some of the comforts that one would nowadays take for granted in a hotel of this rate: there’s limited shelf space, a dimly-lit sink, the evening service that only lasts till the late afternoon and not after dinner, a reduced selection of magazines and books… But what matters here is the spirit, the feeling it evokes of being at home, which easily trumps pure luxury (for those who know about these things).
Coming out of the room, the green on the door and on the details of the plinth and ceiling frame is a gradient between forest and river water – a splash of color reminiscent of the seasons on the streets of Louisiana. It can be seen in the doors, in the iron railings on every balcony, in the details of the building’s facade, inserted in the local context of Catalonia. The corridor stretches like a Wim Wenders scene: a grit of blue and green marble that could have a rubbery consistency, the light wood paneling – everything covered in a rough and translucent, almost dreamlike grain.
The narrow corridor opens into the lobby, with a double-sided glass fireplace and windows that open onto the beach. The colored cushions have a Spanish nuance and are artistically arranged to match the ornaments on the wall – small, mismatched paintings, almost something a child might have drawn one afternoon under a parasol. Old postcards of Garraf, the coastal area – painted ping-pong rackets. Sand-colored director’s chairs with woven sponge pieces. A spiral staircase goes up to the second floor: the open-air rooftop crunches with the sound of gravel. Along the balcony, illuminated spheres light up the night sky.
At the table, outdoors, on the terrace or right by the water’s edge – you must try the small, salt-roasted sweet green peppers; the paella, to be eaten directly from the pan, with its crisped up rice along the edges, arranged in a thin layer; the morning eggs benedict over a bed of salmon and avocado, covered with seeds, cereals, paprika and sweet chilli flakes. There is no better destination for those arriving at Little Beach House Barcelona in the early or late summer – whether it be March or late October, the sea is cold but warmed by the sun, and one can almost always go for a swim.
Carrer Mirador del Port 1, Garraf