Similar to many places in Poblenou, Jennie and Linus’s building looks uninviting from the street, but has untold potential inside. The Swedish couple moved to Barcelona a year ago in pursuit of sun and a simple life. After multiple online searches failed to produce the right apartment, they stumbled upon this place. Although it wasn’t listed as a liveable space, they were up for the renovation challenge.
“When we first moved in, there was nothing here. Not even running water,” said Linus. The walls and floor were black, and the kitchen was non-existent. Most people would have run for the hills. However, both Jennie and Linus, 30 and 29 respectively, were over the moon. They knew they had the vision and patience to transform this former metal workshop into an ideal home.
“Essentially, this was the realisation of a childhood dream,” explained Linus. “Both of us have always wanted to live somewhere with plenty of room, where we could do big things like build a skateboard ramp or have a massive New Year’s Eve party.” Jennie agreed that her favourite thing about their apartment is the fact that they can just run around. “We have problems sitting still,” she said with a laugh.
The vastness of the apartment makes it quite versatile. The couple haven’t built their skateboard ramp yet, but they have had students from a nearby audiovisual school shoot music videos here. Also, Jennie gives lessons for her after-school programme, Kids Hack Club, here. “We’ve had to be really creative to make this place function as an apartment,” she said. “I think the kids I teach pick up on the creative energy flowing through the space and it helps them to develop their own original thinking and problem-solving skills.”
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Jennie and Linus certainly had to think outside the box when it came to the layout and design. Their first obstacle was how to divide the wide, open space into ‘rooms’ without putting up walls. To start with, they hung floor-to-ceiling white curtains to conceal two beds on opposite sides of the room. These separated nooks became their bedroom and a guest bedroom. Next they had to tackle the kitchen. “The problem was that every concept we came up with—no matter how oversized—still looked small and insignificant in the space,” said Linus. So in the end, they used industrial sheet metal to create a substantial kitchen. They then stacked galvanised shelving units on top of each other to form their cupboard, and converted giant yellow scaffolding into their workstation. “You can probably tell that we up-cycle as much as possible,” Jennie revealed.
It’s their impressive ability to upcycle, plus Linus’s passion for making furniture and building things, that have set the tone for this Poblenou apartment. For instance, Linus made their massive dining room table by soaking wood-fibre boards in oil. They found mismatched chairs at numerous places around the city to complete the set, and now it’s the primary furnishing that ushers people through the front door and invites them to sit down and get comfortable.
They’ve decided that their next project will be something to cover the wall of windows. The natural light that the windows provide is wonderful for their mood—and their electricity bill. However, direct sunlight streaming in for multiple hours a day makes the place unbearably hot during the summer months. They’re experimenting with shades to cover sections of the windows, but no permanent solution has been found yet. Linus joked that they might resort to wearing wetsuits filled with ice to keep cool this July.
Underneath some of the windows are more galvanised shelves dotted with knick-knacks. “Everything has a story,” said Jennie. A lot of the items are from their travels, like polished volcanic stones from Costa Rica and a white sand collection, while other things remind them of home or inside jokes, such as Linus’s grandfather’s old-school cameras and a bird statue given to Jennie to poke fun at her fear of the animal.
These objects comprise the only decorative items in this spacious, yet sparse, apartment. Jennie and Linus prefer to keep things minimal and leave room for their imaginations (and their feet) to run wild.
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