Our Market Editor Victoria de la Camara is our go-to person on our team when it comes to selecting the best design in the industry, finding new trends before they become trendy, and writing about some of the best spaces that have been transformed. This time, she’ll be sharing with us her own home’s renovation.
My husband and I purchased our apartment in February 2019. We had been renting in the center of Madrid, Spain for five years and decided it was high time to purchase a property rather than be beholden to the whims of landlords. By the end of 2018, anything that was within our budget was either too small (600 square-feet at the most), in a neighborhood that didn’t suit us, or both. And frankly, after living in cities my whole life (including New York, Moscow, and Paris), I was ready to trade my MetroCard in for some wellingtons. We found San Lorenzo de El Escorial, a town that is a 40-minute drive away from the city center of Madrid, that was perfect – filled with urban-transplants like us, elegant, and charming.
After searching for a month we found our home – an apartment within a mansion that was built in the early ’20s. Divided into just four apartments, it would give us a sense of privacy without having to deal with the gardening all on our own. The only issue was that it hadn’t been touched since the ’70s. It had great bones but it was falling apart, literally. The “closets” – I put them in quotation marks, because they were just plywood shelves covered by a curtain – were rotten at the back. The wooden windows were peeling and rotten, something not ideal for the cold mountain winters of El Escorial. We knew that we’d have to replace everything and take on a renovation.
I had been in charge of renovations before; just four years prior my parents updated their home. It went extremely smoothly and still to this day everything looks brand new. We thought that for our renovation we’d use the same contractor. This time though, it was anything but smooth sailing. His work was shoddy, he asked for cash advances, and ended up dropping the project mid-way. (There’s so much more to that part of the story, but that’s for another time where I’ll share my renovation lessons learned. Here, we will focus on the design.) My husband and I ended up managing the whole project ourselves with subcontractors, which was arduous but in the end, saved us money and ensured that the end-result was well done.
What we put into our apartment is nothing but the best materials. We knew that it is a unique space that we would probably hold on to for a long time, even if we outgrew it. Since it was built in the 1920s, I wanted to pay as much homage to that era of design as possible while at the same time infusing my more modern sensibilities. You might see elements that are reminiscent of Santa Clara 1728 by Manuel Aires Mateus. Along with that hotel, I took inspiration from Lisbon’s interior architecture – transom windows, simple moldings, wide plank flooring… Head to our slideshow to see a more detail explanation of all of the design decisions that we made in our home.