Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide

When an Urban architect moves into a historic building, the result is a home with eye-catching details at every turn.

Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide
All Photos: Mari Luz Vidal

I like the contrast between different styles—the ability to mix elements from different époques,” says Barcelona-based architect Georg Kayser, cofounder of the design firm Circular Studio. His varied background is proof of this: he’s worked on projects for companies ranging from W Hotels to flashy fashion line Desigual. 

The time warp continues in Kayser’s Grácia neighborhood apartment, located in a 1920s building with plenty of era-appropriate details still intact. Danish modern furniture mingles with antique vases and vessels; rustic French pieces are juxtaposed against the contemporary art. But everywhere—in the mosaic-tile floors and the traditional wall moldings—the memory of the old remains. Scroll down for his 10 tips to get the look of this eclectic home.

Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide

1. Exercise Restraint. To tone down the bright sunlight that floods the living room during the day, Kayser opted for masculine color palette that includes muted gray walls and dark furnishings. A glass cocktail table and vacant frames keep the room feeling airy rather than overly moody. 

Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide

^“I like the frame for its color and rich shape—it fits the space,” says Kayser. “I didn’t want to load more onto it by adding a picture inside.” 

A voluminous hand-loomed rug by Barcelona producer Nami Marquina adds warmth without competing with the intricately tiled original flooring.

Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide

^ Be bold with your artwork. “I like the poster there—it’s like having an incognito guest watching us when we have dinner parties,” says Kayser.

Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide

2. Tell a Story with Vignettes. In the dining room, as in the rest of the apartment, Kayser creates relationships among seemingly disparate items from various eras. Here, a worn French workbench purchased at a local flea market counters a sleek chrome table lamp and elegant glass decanters. 

3. Consider Shade As Much As Light. Shadows can dramatically alter the look and feel of a room—it’s why Kayser illuminates branches and dried plants from below. He chose this Asian pendant lamp not only for the glowing circle it leaves on the table, but also for the pattern it projects onto the ceiling. 

Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide


4. Incorporate Pieces From All Price Points.
A standard IKEA oven and cabinets [left] are backed by walls of a white subway tile and flanked by a whimsical statement table with midcentury chairs. Terrazzo-style tiles make for a low-maintenance flooring option.

< Group similar forms for a coordinated look that isn’t overly matchy. A good example: this footed compote, a slim counterpart to the table’s bulbous pedestal. 

Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide


5. Establish Continuity.
Introduce details that call out subtle elements in surprising ways. In his foyer, Kayser painted an avant-garde light fixture he found on the street bright red to correspond to a woman’s dress in a photograph hanging nearby (not pictured). 

> “My husband, Anton, is Russian, and it’s the Russian custom for everyone in the house to sit down before leaving for a trip,” Kayser says. “This ottoman is where we sit.” 

Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide

^ Pile books in neat stacks on the floor instead of on shelves for a European-intellectual look. 

6. Make Room For Whimsy. A masculine palette doesn’t have to be so straitlaced. “I like to include ironic items throughout my home,” Kayser says of his cloud-shaped floor lamp, lipstick-tube sculpture, and a work by photographer Jordi Bernado (a neighbor) in his living room. “They lighten some of the seriousness.” 

Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide

7. Transform the Loo. “I don’t like it when bathrooms look too much like bathrooms,” say Kayser. He removed the telltale tiling beneath the Greek-key trim, layering in books, vases, and various soaps and fragrances to build a comfortable rather than sterile atmosphere. 

< Choose a runner instead of a typical bathmat to elevate an otherwise utilitarian space. 

Don’t lock away spare products and vessels—when stored in plain sight, they become unexpected art pieces. 

Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide

8. Rethink Your Headboard. Consider alternate uses for classic design pieces. Here, an oversize mirror with traditional detailing makes for a surprising bed accent. “I’m thinking of painting it yellow so it stands out even more,” says Kayser. 

Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide

Use a specific color in key places to create cohesiveness. A cobalt desk lamp next t the bed recalls the deep-blue ottoman in the entry. 

9. Display Your Passions. Kayser surrounds himself with intimate groupings of paintings, photos, and pieces sourced from his travels. “The mood I wanted to achieve is comfortable, inviting, and not at all over the top,” he says. 

Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide
Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide

10. Add a Little Modernity. Many of this seating area’s existing features—gold painted ceiling moldings, baroque gray wallpaper—already worked well in the space. To provide graphic punch, Kayser incorporated black-and-white artwork and vibrant hits of red. 

Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide

^ The floor’s mosaic border delineates the seating area, eliminating the need for a large rug. A smaller accent rug further connects the cocktail table to the pieces around it. 

> Highlight architectural details, such as these dramatic arched doorways, to establish a sense of flow between rooms. 

Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide


Scroll down for even more photos that never made it to the pages of Lonny...

Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide
Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide
Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide
Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide
Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide
Ten Tips: A Barcelona Apartment Where Midcentury and Antique Collide

I'm the former Deputy Editor at Lonny.
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