Photos by Aisling Quigley.
Who doesn’t dread a long commute to work? Luckily for Nunu and Dany, the furthest they have to commute is 20 steps from the foot of their bed down the narrow corridor of their Sant Antoni apartment. The couple utilises their elongated floor plan, characteristic of Eixample apartments, in a way unique to their professions and lifestyle.
Nunu, 46 and Dany, 42, both work for themselves. Half-Swedish and half-English, Nunu has been a massage therapist for 18 years and founded The Vital Touch Massage Clinic Barcelona, while Dany, once a semi-pro footballer in his native Argentina, works as a personal trainer. Half of their apartment is designated workspace, while the other half is lived in. “This was an original intention for these flats. A design carried out by some local professionals decades ago,” explained Dany. “Doctors and lawyers would see patients and clients in the front and live with their families in the back.”
Photos by Aisling Quigley.
Doors to the right of the entrance hall keep the two sections perfectly divided. The only time these two mix work and play is once a week when they workout together, either doing circuit training exercises or running the hills of Montjuïc, or if Dany has sore muscles and needs a massage from Nunu. “Unfortunately, I don’t massage him enough, and he doesn’t train me enough,” said Nunu. “When we’re not with clients, we tend to want to hang out and cook or go to the cinema.”
Originally, they didn’t live in this flat together. Nunu is the one who stumbled upon it. Nine years ago, when she left behind a stressful lifestyle in London and came to Barcelona on a whim, she stayed with the only people she knew in the city while looking for a place of her own. As fate would have it, the generous couple lived in the same building where Nunu and Dany now live. Crashing there initially, Nunu met a Scottish couple in the building. After a year living in another flat with a Brazilian clown, Nunu was contacted by the Scots and asked if she wanted to take over the contract for their apartment, located just below her first friends in the city. She jumped at the opportunity to call such a beautiful Catalan flat home.
Nunu and Dany met a short time later. Nunu was out with her roommate at their local watering hole. “I wanted to give Ruth my full attention,” explained Nunu, “but I also really wanted to know what was going on in the Champions League game.” When she posed the question to the bar, Dany had her answer. “Not the most romantic start,” Dany admitted, “but it worked.” Following that night, they dated for a year, and then Dany moved into the flat with Nunu.
After some time living as a couple but still sharing the flat with a roommate, they decided they “were grown up enough” and should live alone. But what to do with all the extra space? That’s when the idea to combine labour and leisure came about. “We’ve left the structure throughout alone because we don’t own the flat, but the overall concept and character is all us,” Nunu said proudly.
Photos by Aisling Quigley.
The moneymaking part of the flat is comprised of three rooms. One is Nunu’s “cosy cave”, where she sees her massage clients. The space is small without feeling cramped, and intimate enough that Nunu can easily help her clients relax, de-stress and re-energise. Nunu prides herself on her therapeutic full-body massages. She also offers Japanese face-lifting massage, a sequence of massage techniques that act as a natural facelift, helping you look and feel younger. No surgery needed.
The other two rooms are very open and bright, filled with all the equipment necessary to help you feel the burn. Dany trains clients in cardio boxing, hence the boxing gloves and freestanding punching bag. He also does functional training for deep toning and core work. And to maintain a strong connection with his favourite sport, he trains youth football teams, improving young players’ technical skills and work ethic, while having fun and sharing his knowledge of the game.
It’s typical of gyms and spas to lack character and come across as too sterile. However, the special setup at Nunu and Dany’s allows the warmth and comforts of their home to rub off on the other side. “When clients arrive for their first appointment, their reaction to the space is usually ‘Wow!’” Nunu said. They are obviously impressed with the look of the flat—the gorgeous, well-kept modernista floor tiles that change from room to room and the extravagant moulding that borders the ceilings—but “they are also amazed by how much it feels like home.”
In the back of the apartment, 90 percent of all the furniture has been found on the street, bought at a flea market or given to them by friends. They found their dining room table—thick but a little wobbly, and made of dark wood—at the Encants Vells flea market in Glòries. They received two chairs and an antique side table from their 95-year-old neighbour, whom they were very close to, after she died. Not to mention all the artwork on the walls made by their network of extremely talented friends and family. A tapestry hanging in the hallway, handmade by Nunu’s grandmother, and a close-up portrait of Nunu as a child, bundled up against the cold, which was taken by a famous Swedish photographer, are just some examples.
In general, the flat is not very cluttered, but they do allow themselves one area of the living room for framed family photos and their vintage-style wedding photos, along with memorabilia and trinkets collected from their travels, all jammed together on two shelves.
“We truly love this flat,” Nunu beamed, and it shows from one end of the flat to the other.
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