American Melissa Grossman has a unique approach to interior design. She doesn’t buy things simply because she needs them. She has the patience to wait until she finds the perfect piece of art, end table or chandelier before she buys anything for the Eixample apartment that she owns with her husband. “When we do purchase items for the apartment, it’s usually because we’ve met the artist or designer—gotten to know them, their background and their work, and therefore have a greater connection with the things living in our home,” she said. “I’m a sucker for handmade pieces because I believe they carry more significance.”
Melissa’s selectiveness doesn’t mean her large, high-ceilinged apartment remains empty, however. Her Irish husband, Tim, had acquired a lot of unique furnishings and ceramics “pre-Melissa”, which they shipped over from Atlanta, Georgia, when they settled in Barcelona over three years ago. Two standout pieces are the twin throne chairs that Tim got at an auction after a heated bidding war. After the original fabric was clawed to shreds by some feisty house cats, Melissa reupholstered them in an almost flame-like pattern of vibrant shades of purple, orange and green.
Other striking pieces in the living room include an old-fashioned, curved sofa, juxtaposed with a plush, black, straight-line couch. A corrugated cardboard light fixture by Félix Lozal hangs in the middle of the spacious room, a stained glass church window spotted at an Atlanta art festival presides above the doorway leading into the dining room, and a bubbling aquarium fills the rear wall, allowing a glimpse into the master suite past the coral reefs and fish. “The aquarium actually came with the apartment,” Melissa explained. She confessed that Tim was the advocate for keeping it, while she suggested putting a more manageable terrarium in its place. “With the aquarium, though, I don’t have to keep as many plants around the house, which I like. It’s my own special ‘naturescape’, and I must admit, it is rather calming.”
Melissa and Tim knew they wanted a move-in ready apartment that they could simply put their colourful stamp on, and they were thrilled to learn that this place came with more than just an aquarium. The previous owners had upgraded the kitchen and bathrooms, one of which is spectacularly covered in tiles of mermaid green watercolour glaze. But what Melissa truly loved were the well-kept, original features of the apartment that give a glimpse into its past. “I am still amazed by how beautiful the cornicing is throughout the apartment, and the textured glass window in the entranceway reminds me so much of traditional Catalan homes.”
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The long, narrow hallway stretching from that window back to the living room is filled with paintings from a variety of art movements. “As you can see, we have a thing for portraits,” said Melissa, “But we don’t ever want to be limited to just one style. That applies to all the decor in our home, not just the art.” Against the white backdrop of the hall, Realism mixes with Neo-Expressionism. A Cubist-style painting by Tim, based on Picasso’s Mother and Child, First Steps (1943), and a bright swirl of coloured pottery hang opposite one another. There is no denying the sophisticated artistic eye of Melissa and Tim and the exceptional vision that has made this apartment their home.
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“When we first moved to Barcelona, shopping for home furnishings introduced me to the city,” Melissa reminisced. “Gallery hopping, venturing to different neighbourhoods in search of new shops and attending weekend markets gave me a great sense of how much this Mediterranean gem has to offer.” And she’s still not done looking. “To this day, I always have a project in mind, or am on the hunt for something. It gets me out and about, exploring, and keeps me thinking creatively.”
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