Hayon: For Nienke and me, living and working in Valencia are almost the same thing. We are always in one or the other apartment. I am always sketching. I produce 2 percent of all my ideas. Many mornings I work from home and then scan my sketches in the studio and send them to my offices in Barcelona or Italy. Or, I sketch something and email it from the beach, the bar, or the airport. Our home, studio, and the city are totally related.
I can work on a square meter of desk space anywhere if I need to, but our studio in the center of Valencia is so nice and full of light, with very high ceilings. Although it is older than our other apartment in Valencia, most of its details are intact, and it still has original hydraulic Mediterranean cement floor tiles that were quite modern for their time. The biggest challenge is bringing things up to the fifth floor—the elevator is not big so we must have small things to match its size. Even our sofa had to have the right dimensions. Many of our furnishings were designed and made right here. For my office I designed a desk that has delicate legs that don’t block the light. Nienke uses some of my other prototypes in her office. Our Valencia studio is a work-in-progress adventure where furniture, sculptures, drawings, and more are changing constantly—as are which rooms we use and how we use them. The place is not finished and it will never be.
Only a short walk away is our other fourth-floor apartment in a late-19th-century building near the train station, the wonderful art nouveau central market, and the bull ring. It is small but it is really special because we have made it our home. Originally, I bought it as a place in which my parents could retire. It was in terrible shape and was broken into lots of tiny rooms with not much light. We basically redid the entire interior. We tore out walls, changed the electrical systems, and added new oak floors, new ceilings, and even new windows for more light. We added a new front door, a white bathroom, and an open kitchen. We specially designed furniture for it that was made to measure at a friend’s woodshop in Barcelona. We took the time to make the flat cozy and filled it with the things we love.
As time went on my parents were less and less convinced about wanting to move from Madrid, where I grew up, to Valencia. So Nienke and I decided to come for a couple of months to set up the place, relax, dive into the Mediterranean life, and escape London. Before we knew it, we fell in love with this city and we decided that we would come here to raise our baby, Tys Hayon-Klunder, who was born last year. I like it here. People are friendly and that’s the best part. After a decade in hectic Milan and other places, I think it is good to have a calm setting where I can develop my philosophy. Life in the sunny Mediterranean makes me happy.
A home needs to be warm, comfortable, and full of light and have an overall peaceful environment. A large bathroom with a tub is essential. We installed a combination sink and lamp I designed for Bisazza Bagno that was inspired by an old mid-century book about bathrooms. They did not just do square and clinical bathrooms back then. Bathroom furniture can also be about pleasure and enjoyment.
A practical kitchen that is not isolated from where you eat is also important because Nienke and I believe cooking and eating are part of the same ritual—one that we love to share with our friends and family. A home needs plants, flowers, candles, and some special pieces you have collected together. A home should never feel like a hotel lobby. It should be the place where you are the most relaxed.
There is a big difference between what I have at home and how I like to design and what inspires me. My design work is about questions and discovering new colorful forms and techniques. To start a piece, I always look for challenges in materials and in themes that I find curious or motivating. My house and the office need to be peaceful white spaces for me to concentrate. The funny thing is that in Valencia, even though I have a home and this large office, I often end up working in a bar where I like to listen to football commentary while I design new items. Strange, isn’t it?
Jaime Hayon designed the yellow shoes he’s wearing for Spanish brand Camper.
Zahid Sardar is an author specializing in architecture, interiors, and design. He currently writes the Material World column for the San Francisco Chronicle.