At 480 Square Feet, This Pastel Apartment in Barcelona is Tiny Yet Unbelievably Chic
Furniture designer Max Enrich’s Barcelona home — which he shares with girlfriend, the creative designer Diana Martin, and their dog, Bilma — is a veritable cabinet of curiosities, all exploded out into the living space. A Thonet bistro chair is suspended from the wall like a painting; a desk is filled with scissors of all varieties and ages; a stone bust adorns a bathroom counter; travertine samples are laid out as decoration; miniature chairs are arranged in a built-in display — the list could go on. It’s an accumulation without seeming association, but one that possesses surprising consonance thanks to the unifying force of Max and Diana’s impeccable taste, and the way they’ve curated their ever-evolving 480-square-foot museum. (Enrich jokes that the apartment stands in as his showroom, since he doesn’t yet have one of his own.)
Apart from the stuff, the apartment itself is also a brilliant study in form, light, and color —custom built-in furniture in muted yellow and gray divides the two rooms of the apartment and a cement floor is tinted sky blue, giving the illusion of floating. Light fills the apartment from a glass-wrapped area with an unique angular window that leads into an expansive — perhaps even moreso than the compact apartment — terrace and garden. Since there are just two rooms, the couple has had to find clever ways to divide the space, including a custom sofa with a counter that sets the living area apart from the kitchen and — most unusually — a bathroom that shares the bedroom space, separated only by a shift from concrete and drywall to tile. With all this going on, it’s perhaps not surprising that Diana says that sharing the home is like “opening her heart to the rest of the world.”
PHOTOS BY IRIS HUMM
So first things first: What’s it like having your bathroom and bedroom basically blended into one? It looks nice! But it’s a bit unorthodox.
It does look nice, but I would prefer to have some more space. When Diana wakes up or needs to take a shower or look in the mirror and I’m still in bed, I always ask her to turn off the light because the light is like one meter away from my head. But that’s the thing that you have to deal with when you live in such a small place.
A new meaning to intimate, I guess. So much of the apartment appears to be built-in, like the shelving running along the wall in the living room. Is it all custom?
Yes, we had a contractor build it, mainly from plasterboard. When we came in, there was no built-in furniture. Diana always wanted to have things organized and she always said we need more of these built-in shelves and drawers and all that. So now we have this whole yellow thing built out and it solves pretty much all of the needs in our home.
And the color changes to define the space.
Yeah. And there’s no white, although it looks like it. It’s all gray. When it’s evening here, there are very few lights and we’ll have just a couple of lamps turned on. Every time a friend comes by, they say, “Do you mind if I turn on the light?” We like it here because there’s so much daylight, especially because of this glass area that leads to the terrace. And if we come when there’s daylight, like at 8PM, we don’t notice it’s getting darker and suddenly we find ourselves at 10PM with no lights at all. Luckily we have a lamp on every outlet. We keep turning them on and off, moving through the space. Because the ceiling lights — it’s not quite like being in an office, but we use them only for cooking.
Beyond the glass, you have a big outdoor area as well.
There are outdoor stairs and then you walk literally onto the rooftop. It’s like a small house by itself. It’s very nice to have it here in Barcelona with the weather that we have, but I think that maybe there is no need to have such a big terrace.
Well, once you have this space, you need to fill it and to fill it means plants and furniture and to keep it organized. Sometimes the plants get dry and then you have to water them a lot and you need to take care of more than what it looks like.
Speaking of filling up space, there’s stuff everywhere in your apartment, but as far as I can tell, there’s not ever more than one of the same thing or even more than one thing from a particular aesthetic or historical moment. I hate to use the word like eclectic, but it seems a little eclectic. How do you choose what you put out, and what are your thoughts regarding the collecting of these pieces?
In terms of “collecting,” I say I only collect scissors. The other things are things that come through our day-to-day life. Diana is a creative director, so let’s say she goes to a shoot and she finds a very nice ashtray, she’s going to bring it home. But there’s no room for any other ashtray right now. In my case, I go to a manufacturer or to the stone guy, and I find a small piece. And I bring it home and I say, “Can we keep this? Is it also nice to use in the house? So can we keep it?” And she says, “Yeah, just find a place.” We keep throwing or giving away stuff every week. We even pick up pieces in the trash or when the street is is under construction. It might not look beautiful on its own, but it can in a new environment, like this exhibition we have at home.
There seems to me to be a sense of whimsy to how you’re re-contextualizing these things. For example in the bathroom, you have this classical bust on top of the counter taking up a ton of space — which makes no sense really — but makes even less sense when paired with your kitschy pig sculpture. But it’s the sense of humor or irreverence of this pairing that makes it work.
It works because there’s nothing in common between them. You can take the most famous lamp with a Japanese soy sauce pot and a marble ball. They don’t have anything in common but separately we find beauty in these and we want to keep them.
But do you think you do approach it with a sense of humor? I see this in your own work as well — there are grids and more standard forms, but there are also croissant lamps and cheeseburger chairs, or tables trapped in rocks.
I think of the work as a wink. It’s funny, but it’s real. Or not quite funny, but it has a bit of humor in it. For example, this chair that we have hanging up. It is useful because you can unhang it and use it. We have no space. We like chairs. We want to have more chairs and the real and also humorous way is to keep it hanging up there. Or the Roman bust in the bathroom. We know it’s reducing our already small surface area by one to two thirds, but we like to have it there and we make fun of it. But it’s this wink. Like my furniture.
It’s all sort of an inside joke.
It’s a joke, but we keep it real. We consider it real. It’s not just kidding.
Besides the pink chair, do you have any of your own furniture in the apartment?
Almost anything that I develop I first bring here. I have three side tables, two or three stools… the grid chair in the garden, the table in the garden, the lamp in the garden. Not everything makes it here because I sometimes like to develop larger pieces and half of the products that I develop are for clients, so they are one-off and I don’t have them at home. But the pieces that I develop, like as a test or for self-production or something, I try to have them at home because I think it’s the best showroom. Well, I don’t have any other showroom. I have my studio, but no one goes there. And always, when I develop a product, I bring it home and Diana wants to keep it because she likes what I do and she likes seeing new stuff. Maybe myself and Diana are my first clients. When I design, I think “Where would I use it, how would I use it, or who could it match with?”
Do you ever get rid of stuff? Do you get sick of things and replace them or does it just all accumulate?
We have delicate things and when something breaks, we accept that it broken and we throw it away. I have these samples of travertine and when they fall and break apart, it makes no sense to try to reconfigure it. We just throw it away and say what a pity but more room for the next thing. Even with the things that I design, I have my favorite pieces here at home, but if someone comes in and wants to take them, I know it’s my work, so I try not to fall in love with these pieces. I do with the chairs that I collect. Maybe those are the pieces that I appreciate the most.
Do you have any new furniture or is it all vintage or found?
Not new, but collectible — so with an intention. It’s not that I found it in a flea market and I find it nice and I buy it. I prefer to have to have these, in a standard way, designer chairs — these Mendini or Thonet or Eames chairs. I like them and appreciate so much I want to have them at home. I try to have a to have a variety of them but now there’s no room for any more. There’s more chairs than anything, but I don’t use them and Diana doesn’t either. They are like sculptures for me but in the form of a chair.
Can you tell me more about the scissors? You said it’s the only thing that like you really collect.
Maybe just because of the beauty of the pieces themselves — I’ve always had an attraction to them. It was a meditative thing, to start collecting scissors. I like to understand the difference of the use because everybody has used scissors. A dentist and a surgeon and a electrical guy or a carpenter — almost every profession has their own way of using the same tool. The tool has adapted to those specific uses and all of them are beautiful and they are made for only one purpose. It’s the perfect tool. It’s closest to the hand, even closer than a pencil because a pencil is just straight and we don’t have anything straight in our body. Scissors understand the way the hand works.