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Blanche Carreras has a Catalan father and an English mother. Born in England, Blanche only spent seven years there before her parents moved the family to Barcelona. However, after years of living here, her parent’s decision to move back to England and vacate their house in Vallvidrera coincided perfectly with Blanche’s graduation from Edinburgh Napier University. Her love of Catalunya and the need for a solid next step in life, along with her parents’ encouragement, convinced her to take over the house. She invited her boyfriend, Aniol, and four friends to live with her. The six of them maintain a happy household in the hills above the city, with everyone helping out to keep the house running smoothly.
“It was a bit risky having everyone move in together,” Blanche admitted. “We’ve been friends for so long and spent plenty of hours together, but it’s always different living together under the same roof.” Luckily, everything worked out and their friendships are still thriving. Blanche met two of her housemates, Juan and Berta, in primary school. Then the three of them met another housemate, Lluís, in secondary school. The final member of the crew is Irene, Juan’s girlfriend.
When Blanche’s family bought the house, it was abandoned, and they dedicated over a year to renovations. They demolished walls in the downstairs area to create a wide, open space, connecting the kitchen, dining room, living room and TV room. There are a plethora of instruments scattered about this area. A piano, a number of guitars of different styles and shapes, and a recorder. “We’re all pretty musical,” Blanche said. “Most of our friends who come over to hang out play an instrument of some sort.” Many of their nights end with a jam session. According to Blanche, her parents wanted the house to be a social space. “They love their parties,” she chuckled. That same vibe—that anyone can drop in for a good time—remains. “I would feel bad not having people over because the space is so nice,” said Aniol. “I want to share it with my friends.”
The decor throughout the house has pretty much stayed the same since Blanche’s parents left. Aniol sees no reason to make a lot of changes. “I think they have good taste,” he said. “I’m happy with the design of the house.” Blanche agrees, but as she looked around their room, previously her parents’ room, she acknowledged that it’s not really her style. “If it was just us, we wouldn’t have the same decorations.” For example, the bulky, chestnut wardrobe in the corner and the sparkling chandelier in the middle of the ceiling would be ditched. But when she moved back into the house without her parents or sister, they all made a deal that whenever a family member comes to Barcelona they get their old room for the length of their visit, so she has left the room as it was.
It’s really not what’s on the inside that makes the house special, anyway. It’s the multiple terraces and balconies, the rooftop and the surrounding greenery, the shady spots outside, ideal for napping in a hammock, and the sunny spots where you can soak up some rays. All four rooms in the upstairs have direct access to a balcony or terrace. From Blanche and Aniol’s balcony—where they frequently have their breakfast—you can see out over the city and all the way to the sea. The views from the roof are even more spectacular, to Tibidabo, just 2.8 kilometres away, and the Torre de Collserola beside it.
The outdoor space extends further to include a terrace off the living room, where they host an annual calçotada and barbecues throughout the summer. Blooming trees border the terrace, and there are two hammocks strung under lush branches. They want to make a large, communal hammock to make the space even more welcoming, and Aniol wants to build a wood-fired oven to make pizzas outside. “We have lots of projects in the works,” he said. There’s always more space to be filled with something someone in the house has created. Not to mention all the tasks that need to be done to keep the house clean and functioning. “I didn’t realise how hard the house is to keep up when I lived here with my parents,” Blanche said. Some things go unattended or get left for a month or two to collect dust, but for the most part, the housemates are managing.
Off the main terrace, there is a fenced-in area that houses two chickens and a vegetable garden. Aniol explained that the house lets them “try out some stuff and learn how to be more self-sufficient”. Lettuce, chard, spinach, peppers, onions and tomatoes all grow in the vegetable garden, and each chicken lays one egg a day. The first night a chicken laid an egg there was a little party going on. “Everyone got super excited, taking pictures and showing the egg off,” Blanche laughed. “All I could think was, ‘We are such city people.’” It’s true that it takes time, patience and a bit of a green thumb to pursue an eco-friendly lifestyle. It’s an admirable aim, though, and all the housemates work daily at it. Whether they’re thinking of new ways to conserve water for their vegetable garden, or doing things in the community like promoting cycling or campaigning to get a night bus that runs through the neighbourhood so people don’t waste fuel driving into the city centre. This house and these friends are quite a unique, spirited, fun-loving bunch.