Some people wait until they are retired to move somewhere warm and take up hobbies they never had the energy for when they were working full-time. Not Sabeth Ploumen from Maastricht, Holland. In 2012, she bought a sizeable apartment in Barcelona, along with her husband. All she required of her new city was an easy flight home and a beach. All she wanted from her new apartment was light and a balcony. Her Barcelona home offers all that and more.
Sabeth currently works two weeks per month as a dental hygienist in Holland and spends the other two in Barcelona. “Everybody always asks me what I do here,” Sabeth said. “The simple answer is, I live. I do everything I can’t do while I’m working.” Things like sports, going to museums and socialising with the many friends she has made through the BWN (Barcelona Women’s Network). In this city, there’s always another neighbourhood to explore or an event to attend, and Sabeth is fortunate enough to live right between the Eixample and Born, so she’s never too far from anything.
Sabeth also loves to cook, so she completely renovated the kitchen. “I wanted something much bigger than was originally possible,” she explained. “I actually had the kitchen built in Holland, then reassembled here.” Since she now has her dream Dutch kitchen, the more people over for lunch, the better.
“You can be here with 30 people and no one feels cramped or uncomfortable, but you can also happily be here alone.” That’s one of the greatest aspects of her apartment. Once the year-long renovations to the apartment were finished and Sabeth was settled in, she immediately felt at home. “I actually love being here by myself,” she confessed. She joked that her kids (22-year-old fraternal twins and a 19-year-old daughter who come to visit whenever their schedules allow) say she lives a double life. And, in a sense, she does.
Besides the kitchen, there are plenty of other features to admire in Sabeth’s apartment. The most notable being the colour scheme that changes with each room. Sabeth explained that in Holland all the walls of her home are white, which she finds rather boring. “Here, I wanted my love of colour to be apparent.” And so she looked to her husband, “the creative one”, for some help. Although he’s never taken an art class, he painted the majority of the art hanging throughout the apartment. “The amazing thing about him is that he isn’t scared to just start painting. He doesn’t overthink it, he just gets to work,” said Sabeth.
All of the paintings and a lot of the decorative pieces in the flat have a surrealist feel. A bronze statue, for example, with a fairly self-explanatory title, ‘Cuphead’. The window of the entrance hall has squares of hot pink, lime green, dark purple and bright orange stained glass. There’s a red porcelain bulldog guarding the door and a painting of the Queen of England watching over the happenings of the living room. It’s these little eccentricities that give Sabeth’s space its unique character.
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Bursts of colour characterise Sabeth’s unique style, whilst quirky details give the home an eccentric spirit.
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The living room is also bursting with colour. Over-sized furniture sits atop a huge, eye-catching rug, which some people tried to convince her wouldn’t work in the space. “With the walls being charcoal and the couches light grey, I knew that the room would suit something so vibrant.” She has even spread pillows, blankets and lampshades around to draw out the orange hues of the rug. A few of her husband’s multi-coloured creations and an orange-gold globe chandelier complete the space.
Just off the living room is the apartment’s home theatre, equipped with gold trim and old cinema two-seaters that Sabeth bought and had recovered in deep purple velvet. She didn’t have much else to say about this room except that “some movies are just better on the big screen”.
A home cinema adds a touch of luxury to the city-centre apartment.
The bedrooms have their own highlights. In the corner of the master bedroom, a Helmut Newton photography book lies open, exhibiting black and white portraits. For her youngest daughter, the ‘princess room’ has a mannequin bust dressed in a floppy fedora hat and a sash of roses to match the pink ones on her white duvet, as well as a chandelier with colourful birds perched among its arms, which Sabeth attached by wire. Even with these quirky features, Sabeth said decidedly, “It’s still a little plain.”
The tailor-made, all-Dutch kitchen.
Each window offers a different view of the neighbourhood, but the balcony is where you can gaze at the surrounding buildings in style. There’s a lemon tree, soft white couches that match the linen curtains and blue and orange hydraulic floor tiles for the necessary splash of colour.
All in all, there’s a real joyfulness to this flat that comes from Sabeth’s fearless design approach, and is amplified by her radiant smile. She has preserved its bones—the original arched doorways and ribbed, Catalan ceilings—but also made it her own. If you’re lucky enough to be invited into her kaleidoscopic world, you’ll never want to leave.
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