Artist at Work
Professional color forecaster Pepa Poch creates pigment-rich canvases in a whitewashed country cottage on Spain's Costa Brava
Picture the home of a professional color forecaster and you likely envision a space saturated in bold hues, dripping with swatches, and dizzy with prospective palettes. But the reality, as embodied by the hillside retreat of Pepa Poch, Catalan artist and member of the exclusive International Colour Authority, is quite different: a refuge for the creation of color, an almost all-white environment whose raw surfaces and watery hues feel as though they could have grown out of the Mediterranean landscape.
Poch first spotted what would become her home and studio on a trip along Spain’s Costa Brava—or as she puts it, “I came by sea, sailing.” The idiosyncratic talent speaks of her place (and most things, actually) in an intrinsically poetic way. The house doesn’t just have a floor plan; it has “a circle of creative energy.” Her surroundings aren’t simply welcoming; they’re “where [her] soul feels good and creative.” Rather than focus on style or era, she describes her dwelling in terms of its elements: wood, stone, ceramic, brass. It’s a perspective that comes naturally, considering that the artist designed almost every understated surface, fitting, and fixture.
In the studio, whitewashed walls and rustic floors of reclaimed barn wood and concrete allow her paintings to take center stage beneath expansive skylights. The series of blue-green canvases served as inspiration for Poch’s spring/summer 2015 palettes. Although the hues may put one in mind of the nearby Mediterranean, they’re more closely connected to another sea, the South Pacific—an aesthetic influence arising from Poch’s recent trip to the Philippines for an exhibition of her work in Manila. “I traveled throughout the islands, and the emotional effect on me was enormous,” she explains. And it’s not uncommon for artifacts from her journeys to inform her work. A necklace from India or a pair of sandals from Guinea may inspire a painting—and, subsequently, everything from the International Colour Authority’s biannual forecasts to Pantone palettes, paint colors, and consumer products sold throughout the world.
Despite her extensive roamings, Poch has good reason to call her native Catalonia home. The region has a history of luring artists, particularly those with an eccentric streak. Salvador Dalí spent childhood summers in the nearby town of Cadaqués. Joan Miró, Marcel Duchamp, and Pablo Picasso were frequent visitors or residents of the area. In the 1950s, the Spanish government marketed the region—the so-called “wild coast”—as an affordable alternative to the French Riviera. Much of the land saw rapid development and an influx of tourists, but a few enclaves slipped by unnoticed. The view from Poch’s minimally furnished living room leaves no doubt that this is one of those lost-to-time territories.
The home’s spare decoration is a reflection, Poch explains, of her artist parents’ emphasis on careful collecting and curating. It’s also the consequence of living in one’s atelier and working in one’s home. In the studio, a three-tier painter’s cart handmade by a blacksmith in Marrakech accompanies a vintage chest of drawers and a Saarinen tulip stool from Knoll. The adjacent kitchen features a mix of primitive and modern pieces: a stainless steel oven tucked into an island of waxed concrete, a brass faucet above a carved stone sink. Similarly, built-in shelves house decorative pieces that span the aesthetic spectrum—hand-painted Limoges porcelain and raw ceramics, most of these objects created by Poch.
A central curving staircase leads to the lower level’s living area, where a pair of wood columns purchased at a flea market frames a Rampel armchair and an Enric Miralbell floor lamp, both from Barcelona Design Gallery, and a jute rug from Nanimarquina. (Throughout the home, lone chairs offering spectacular views invite moments of reflection.) The terrace that beckons just beyond is an ideal spot for Poch to host an alfresco vegetarian dinner with friends, often a roster of international artists and collectors. “It’s a pleasure for me to entertain,” she says. “I love to create different spaces—illusions with flowers and furniture from various countries.”
The private areas are quiet showcases for Poch’s discerning eye for color. A concrete bathtub is enveloped in a custom chocolate shade, while a ceramic washbasin is hand painted in abstract gold swirls evoking the work of her countryman Dalí. A four-poster bed is dressed in Missoni linens whose hues hint at her forthcoming autumn/winter 2016 palettes: Wisteria Dreams and Before Grey Rose.
“Pink and violet tones that reflect in the water, and the antique tones of the altars of [the Philippine island of] Bohol,” is how Poch describes these upcoming color trends. So don’t be surprised if you spot the same pale hue—encountered in a cathedral in the South Pacific and developed on an artist’s palette in Spain—in your local paint aisle before too long.