Green Living in Barcelona

Green Living in Barcelona

By Kelly Vencill Sanchez
For some, living “green” is all about making a statement. But for Petz Scholtus, it boils down to common sense.

The eco-designer was raised on a farm in Luxembourg, and she’s brought a feeling for the natural world to her residence in Barcelona, Spain. "Growing up on a farm influenced my ideas," she explains. "There it was all about life cycles, materials that flow, eating, composting, growing..."

Scholtus, who also runs her own sustainable-products studio, Pöko Design, moved to Barcelona in 2004. Three years later, she and her partner, Sergio Carratala, a structural engineer, found a nearly-625-square-foot apartment in an 18th-century building at the heart of the Barri Gòtic.

Their plan was simple: Use eco-friendly and recycled materials, reduce water and energy consumption and create as little waste as possible. While sacrificing neither aesthetics nor comfort, Scholtus has accomplished that and more. There are cabinets made from wooden wine boxes, cork floors installed without glue, PVC-free pipes, secondhand furniture and even a worm-composting enterprise on one of the tiny balconies. No detail was too insignificant—witness the Staple-Free Stapler in the office.

The couple documented the renovation on their blog, and though Scholtus pronounces it complete, she’d like to find room for a dishwasher ("If used correctly, it saves more water than washing by hand"), and she’s waiting for LED and OLED lighting technology to become more accessible. And then there’s the matter of space for overnight visitors: She and Carratala envision a fully recyclable, folding wall to create an impromptu guest area in the living room.

Scholtus dreams of eco-design that is readily available—and economical. "When done right, designing sustainably is not more expensive or uglier," she says. "You just have to be that extra bit more creative."

In renovating the Barcelona apartment she shares with Sergio Carratala, Petz Scholtus was guided by what she calls the "5 Rs" of eco-design: reuse, reduce, recycle, restore, respect.

Photo by: Neckel Scholtus.


Wishing to avoid using harsh chemicals, the couple had the 18th-century beams and French doors in the living room and elsewhere sandblasted to rid them of woodlice. The rug, by Nani Marquina, is renewable and biodegradable as well as ethically produced.

The compact Leopoldo Urban Vegetable Garden is used to grow everything from herbs to strawberries on the balcony. At left, the Can-O-Worms utilizes vermiculture to turn organic waste into fertilizer. "Although I became much more of an urban person, I did grow up very close to nature, which taught me important lessons," says Scholtus.

An old tire finds new life as a planter, while the Enzo Stool by Ryan Frank serves as a telephone stand. The lamp at right was crafted using a discarded plastic container. "We like objects made from few and easily identifiable materials, to ensure that they can either be industrially recycled or returned to the earth at the end of their lives," says Scholtus.

Chairs bought from a friend surround a table made from a found piece of glass and salvaged trestles. Over the table is a lamp by Poul Henningsen obtained in Copenhagen. "I believe it’s better to own a few good things for a long time and treasure them, rather than buy new, cheaper stuff every few months," she says.

The kitchen cupboards were crafted from recycled wooden wine boxes, and the countertop is untreated wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) from Ikea. The green-and-white tiles are from a local company, TAU Cerámica.

"I’m not usually a big fan of ‘visible’ recycling," notes Scholtus, "but I love the way the recycled wine boxes look and feel in contrast to the bright and shiny grass-green-and-white tiles."

"I like to cook and have dinner parties, and the way it’s laid out and open to the living room, the kitchen is just ideal for that," she adds.

Scholtus created what she calls the "Never-Empty Shelf" of boards made from recycled sawdust from FSC-certified wood. The natural Portuguese cork floor tiles from Wicander were installed without glue.

In the office, Steelcase’s "Think" chair is what Scholtus calls "a masterpiece of cradle-to-cradle design—fully recyclable and very comfortable." The desktop is a large piece of salvaged plastic.

The designer at work.

A toxin-free environment was especially important in the bedroom, so the couple incorporated organic cotton, latex pillows and paints made without volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

StuffBumps, the eco-friendly pop-up storage system that Scholtus designed with Graham Hill of the sustainability resource TreeHugger, hang on one side of a wardrobe constructed of oriented strand board (OSB), chosen because it contains minimal amounts of resin compared to other engineered woods.

In the bathroom, recycled plastic tiles surround the tub. Designed by Ramón Benedito for Roca, the Kalahari sink was fashioned from a single piece of ceramic. "There’s less waste than the standard sink," says Scholtus, who also installed low-flow aerators in the faucets and a Stop Flush water-conserving toilet.

Don't miss a word of Dwell! Download our FREE app from iTunes, friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter!


Get the Dwell Newsletter

Be the first to see our latest home tours, design news, and more.