Last Updated Oct 28, 2016 · Written by Kat Tate
Barcelona. A city bathed in sunlight. A melting pot of Spaniards, expats, travellers, backpackers seeking fun in the sun, and nightlife that never ends. A European city unlike no other. Where a rich history and traditional architecture meets poignant graffiti art and a style mash-up of many influences.
If you’ve visited Barcelona, you’ll know that it offers a surprise a minute. A sensory sensation. Just walk down the Arc de Triomf, the access gate built for the 1888 World Fair, and you’ll experience the local life in all its glory. Rollerbladers filming their new tricks, dancers, musicians, lovers, ice cream lickers, dogs darting past toddlers, tourists snapping selfies, market stalls, students sharing lunch and laughs, skateboarders, elderly couples hand-in-hand. Or stroll through the Gothic Quarter and get lost in the twisting, winding, narrow alleyways in what was once a Roman village. Climb to the top of Montjuic and look down on this eclectic, exciting, pulsating hub.
This is the city of life. A place to linger. A place you’ll never want to leave.
Let’s start with the obvious: Gaudi. The Spanish Catalan architect is really the founding father of Catalan Modernism – and influencer of Art Nouveau. And his imprint is all over Barcelona. From the seemingly never-to-be-completed La Sagrada Familia cathedral, to the colourful ceramic Casa Vicens, to the fairytale-esque La Pedrera residential building, and up to Parc Guell – now a UNESCO World Heritage listed park with unusual Gaudi installations, architecture, and gardens.
There’s no doubt Gaudi’s distinctive designs, which favoured natural elements and organic shapes, made a mark on Barcelona architecture.
But Barcelona’s style has come a long way since Gaudi’s days. While his designs are still quintessential and continue to divide opinion, Barcelona has become Spain’s style mecca. And its diversity plays a big part.
In just a half-hour stroll, you could be watching windsurfers bouncing off waves, wander by a slick contemporary commercial office block, see a 13th century Gothic church, fuel up at a cutting-edge tapas bar, enter an abstract art gallery, or see the remnants of a Roman village. All combine to set the scene for a fresh style sprinkled across the city.
Barcelona is, undoubtedly, an architect’s city. From the Gothic Quarter with its 600 year-old residences, to the edgy El Raval barrio, the touristy Rambla, and even the 18th century Boqueria market, there’s something distinctive just around every corner.
So, if there isn’t a set style – but rather a mix of styles – how does one embrace the Barcelona ‘look’?
The easiest way, of course, is to take a trip to the seaside city and pick up vibrant textiles, furniture, furnishings, prints, photographs – then you will quite literally have Barcelona style at home.
But you don’t have to jump on a plane to get a little hint of Barcelona design in your abode. Just look for colourful accents – a lime green recliner, for instance. Or floor-to-ceiling bookshelves crammed with vibrant spines. A glass-top table reflecting a gemotric pattern floor rug.
Then there are the tiles. As distinctive as the city’s other design attributes, there are many tile designs that are quintessentially Barcelona.
Here are a few tiles (or ‘panots’ as they’re known in Catalan) unique to Barcelona:
A simple tile of a flower with four rounded petals is seen all throughout the sunny city, since being introduced in 1926.
This Gaudi tile (no surprise) is intricate, delicate, a tiny tiled feast of curls and swirls, dots, and rays – on a denim blue background.
A much rarer tile, The Rose is angular and almost Aztec in its design. City designers stopped using it in the early 1900s, which is why it’s so hard to find.
There are many other simple, striking tiles spotted and dotted around the city streets. More modern types are quite geometric, like ‘The Diagonal’ with an almost leaf or bird-like pattern.
So, without ripping up tiles from the city streets, how can you create a similar look in your home?
Here are a few tile schemes that hint at the panots above, while still being contemporary and unique:
Of course, the best way to incorporate Barcelona tiles in your home is to speak with a professional tiler. They’ll be able to source and install tiles that transport you to that ever-vibrant, eclectic, beachfront city.