After travelling to Barcelona on holiday for five consecutive years, Londoner Charles Lancaster took the plunge and bought his own place in the city. He took a few pointers from friends before choosing a space with a view over the rooftops of Gràcia, up to Tibidabo. “Gràcia is nice because it feels like its own small village,” Charles said. “It’s a place that quickly felt like home, and there aren’t that many tourists.”
Charles bought his apartment thinking it was move-in ready. “I didn’t want a project,” he explained. The previous owners, however, were selling because they could no longer afford the space. “I think they resented me a bit,” he said as he described how they stripped the apartment of everything before they left, taking every single stitch of furniture, as well as lights, outlet covers, skirting boards, etc. “What they couldn’t take, they broke,” Charles said.
Although this was quite a shock, Charles put the plans in motion for a complete renovation, and the apartment was up and running by February 2011—less than six months after his purchase was finalised. Now Charles comes to Barcelona every other month, spending three weeks to a month at a time in the apartment. His wife, Pat, makes the trip with him around Christmastime. “She comes for the shopping,” he said, “and my two daughters come separately once or twice a year.”
With so much alone time, you would think Charles might get bored. But he was quick to respond, “It’s easy to spend a lot of time doing nothing here,” and after a long career as an architect, he deserves to relax. He occasionally goes to the nearby gym or watches movies at the cinema, and he also loves exploring the art galleries of Carrer d’Enric Granados to seek inspiration for his own works of art. “I’m not a very creative person,” he asserted, “but I am a wiz at copying images I like.” For example, on the wall separating the two bedrooms of the flat, Charles copied Robert Indiana’s iconic Pop Art image LOVE. “That’s probably my favourite thing in here,” he revealed.
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Charles displays his artwork throughout the apartment—both his own creations and reproductions.
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Moving into the living room, the main focal point is a Mondrian replica on a white wall. Charles has perfectly recreated the Dutch painter’s grid of vertical and horizontal black lines filled with the primary colours. On opposing walls in the same room, Charles has hung two original pieces, which he created using normal household paint. “For these two, I painted what was relevant to me at the time,” he said. “It’s not hard for me to start a painting, but rather to know when to stop.” Charles entitled these two abstract paintings Be Careful What You Wish For and Afraid of the Dark. They match the black, white and red colour scheme of the living room and, together with the rest of the details throughout the apartment, complete the Fifties Abstract Expressionist style Charles envisioned for the decor.
Abstract Expressionism influences set the tone for this Gràcia home.
Right before he began to decorate the apartment, Charles went to the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York City. “I think that’s where my inspiration for the design came from.” He took note of works by leading figures of the movement, such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, and in turn fashioned a space that allows for spontaneous creative acts to take place. For instance, when he felt he needed a peaceful image to wake up to, he went to work painting a blurred landscape of yellows, tans and soft blacks. “Our family home in London is more gothic gloom,” he continued, “so I wanted this place to be on the other end of the spectrum.” With a Mr. Brainwash poster of the Queen of England hanging in the guest bedroom—in which Her Majesty is decked out in aviator sunglasses, a chunky silver chain around her neck and a fur shrug—there’s no doubt that he has achieved exactly what he was aiming for.
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