A Spanish Home with Global Style
Interior designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán creates a visually decadent dwelling in Barcelona with a worldly mashup of influences
The word eclectic may be overused these days, but there’s no better way to describe the work of Lázaro Rosa-Violán, a Spanish interior designer responsible for some of most fashionable hotels and restaurants in the world. Drawing inspiration from his globetrotting lifestyle and a vast knowledge of architectural history and art, Rosa-Violán creates contemporary spaces that offer glimpses of distant lands and times: for a seaside hotel in Girona, Spain, he reimagined the Mediterranean coast of the 1950s, and for an upcoming restaurant in London, he dreamed up a retro-futuristic Asian metropolis. The common thread in these markedly different interiors is compositional balance paired with cinematic flair, talents honed by Rosa-Violán while studying visual arts in Madrid. “I try to bring a bit of exoticism to every project,” says the designer, whose firm, Contemporain Studio, has taken on approximately 150 new commissions in the last two years.
His new house in the Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona has exoticism to spare. Filled with jaw-dropping mosaics, moldings, stained glass, and boiserie, the fin de siècle residence that Rosa-Violán shares with his partner, Devin Winter, could be the set of a period film. When they discovered the 4,000-square-foot property two years ago, it looked neglected but featured plenty of original details that were remarkable examples of the city’s golden era of design and architecture. “What we call Catalonian Modernism, which is really Art Nouveau, has a distinct personality,” explains Rosa-Violán. “The style is a bit kitschy, very uninhibited.”
An extravagant home epitomizing the tastes of Barcelona’s bourgeoisie of the early 20th century is exactly the kind of dwelling the couple had in mind. “Since we travel so much, we loved the idea of living somewhere that was unmistakably Catalonian,” says Rosa-Violán. The dining room, for example, is covered in intricately carved oak panels depicting monkeys, lizards, and baroque plants, not unlike the imagery you see walking down the labyrinthine Gothic Quarter in the city center. “It’s a very atmospheric home,” he adds. “At night, with all the lights on, it feels like you’re walking into a themed party.”
While the built-in elements are strictly from the Art Nouveau period—including cabinetry with stained-glass details and elaborate ceiling moldings in polychromatic wood—its furnishings demonstrate Rosa-Violán’s affinity for a wide-ranging variety of styles. In the master bedroom, a large chinoiserie wall panel from 1890 complements a 1970s wooden nightstand by Alvar Aalto. An enclosed gallery overlooking the back garden is outfitted with a white L-shaped custom sofa, leather-and-wood chairs created by Åke Fribytter for Sweden’s Nelo Möbel, and a Murano glass chandelier purchased from a Venetian antiques dealer. “Almost all the furnishings are Italian or Scandinavian,” Rosa-Violán says. There are also pieces designed by Studio Contemporain, such as a stainless steel armoire in the study and an oak-and-brass four-poster bed in the guest bedroom, which is frequently occupied by visitors. (Rosa-Violán and Winter, who’s from New York, have a wide network of international friends.)
“People are surprised that we have such a weird home, because I used to live in a more contemporary place,” says Rosa-Violán. “But we wanted our guests to see Barcelona when they step inside.”