Stunning Tile Stars in This Renovated 19th-Century Pad in Barcelona

Stunning Tile Stars in This Renovated 19th-Century Pad in Barcelona

By Lucy Wang
A turn-of-the-century apartment receives a stylish revamp that highlights gorgeous floor tiles and exposed brick throughout.

After approximately a year’s worth of work by Barcelona–based architecture firm TWO-BO, a dated apartment in the city’s iconic Eixample district has been tastefully transformed into a contemporary abode for an American family of four.

The living and dining areas were expanded and given greater access to natural light.

Built in 1897, the residence had surprisingly—and fortunately—preserved many of its impressive original features, from the intact cornices and frames to the stunning Nolla Mosaic tile flooring throughout.

"Stepping on 120 years of history is always risky," the architects say of the renovation, dubbed Apartment AM. "Age and tradition can cover everything under its weight and make change and improvement impossible. However, the common alternative of erasing all that memory and starting from scratch seemed disrespectful."

Once hidden away in closed quarters, the kitchen has been moved to a more open and central location in the home, blending historic elements with modern additions.

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The kitchen was constructed from a mix of lacquered wood and natural oak.

With this in mind, the architects cleverly combined elements from the original construction with modern additions and surface materials to meet the client’s needs.

All new flooring is natural oak.

Key to the transformation was rearranging the 1,722-square-foot floor plan. As was common of Barcelona residences in the late 19th century, the residence originally comprised multiple small rooms connected with a central hallway—a layout completely at odds with the client’s desire for a bright and open home.

Consequently, the architects tore down partition walls—and in the process uncovered original brick walls, ceiling moldings, "construction scars," and other elements that the team deliberately left exposed.

The communal areas are located on one end of the apartment while a spacious master bedroom occupies the other end.

Lined with glazed folding doors that open up to a balcony, this light-filled corridor next to the living areas provides indoor/outdoor living.

The tile flooring, installed over a century ago, is undeniably one of the most beautiful preserved features of the home. The geometric stoneware style is known as Nolla Mosaic, named after the Valencia merchant, Nolla, who introduced the technique to the area back in the 19th century.

A glimpse down the hallway, where the architects say the original construction is best appreciated. Here, the hallway shows off brick walls, Catalan-style arches, iron beams, and original window frames.

The two children's bedrooms branch off from the main hallway and are connected by a sliding partition. The hallway lighting is INFINITO by Davide Groppi.

"We strived for a balance between two building approaches: the old way of cement-and-water, hand-placed construction work, and the new way of dry construction based on oak frames and layers of painted wood," the architects explain.

"The old-fashioned endures without becoming a weight. The new is laid without wiping off what once was." 

"We proposed a few interventions of wood placed on the floor without breaking the flow of the mosaic and never rising all the way up," the architects note. "This way, all the quirks, turns and bulk of Catalan-style ceilings would remain visible to cover the length of the new distribution."

The new oak-framed partitions conceal a guest bedroom next to the living area.

The bathroom furniture and cabinetry are built of oak, while the countertops are made from solid white resin.

An iron-and-glass bulkhead defines the main shower area.

Apartment AM new floor plan

Apartment AM original floor plan


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