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Photos by Ricardo Leal
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Steven Partington and Damon Bopp are relatively new to Barcelona, but after nearly two years, they have hit their stride. Steven has set himself up in a coworking space, putting his tech-savvy nature to good use, and Damon, a decorative painter still forging his career path in the city, has used their new apartment in the Barri Gótic to heal his ‘acclimatisation pains’.
Like the majority of Barcelona apartments, Steven and Damon’s came all white. “After months of viewing apartments that weren’t quite right, we saw this one and our mouths dropped,” Steven said. “But the things we loved about it—the terrace, the high ceilings, the original pocket doors—couldn’t mask the drabness of the white walls in every single room.” So the first thing they asked their real estate agent was “Can we paint?” She didn’t speak a word of English, and “our Spanish was even worse back then,” Steven joked, but they finally got a yes out of her. Now their apartment is full of colours and patterns, murals and stenciling, from the walls to the furniture. “This has been my therapy,” said Damon, motioning to the coats of paint around him.
The couple met in Los Angeles, but eventually moved to New Jersey. They had been living there for a number of years when they realised that they were stuck in a rut. “We had great jobs, wonderful friends and a beautiful house,” Steven said, but they were missing that unexpected twist in their life story. “We couldn’t imagine being in the same place, doing the same thing for 15, 20, 25 more years.” So they began devising a plan. Damon learned he could acquire dual citizenship because his mother was born in the UK, and Steven dealt with all the red tape. “In the end, it wasn’t so much about leaving the States, as it was about getting to Europe,” Steven explained.
They started their life abroad in England, but Steven pushed for them to put down roots in Barcelona. “For me, it was the feeling of the city. Seeing people truly enjoying their days, taking walks with their families and having long lunches, it all makes me want to slow down and learn to really be present in my own life,” Steven explained. “The city is also so visually stunning, being on the water and having such alluring architecture,” Damon added. “I suppose I got caught up in the romanticism of it all.”
Settling into their fantastic space amid the churros and chocolate shops of Carrer de Petritxol involved a number of steps. First, the couple decided to ship a large portion of their belongings across the Atlantic, after they found that it would cost them just as much to buy new furnishings in Barcelona as it would to ship all their old stuff over. When they left their home in New Jersey, they threw away five tonnes of belongings, filling a giant metal skip with items they no longer wanted. What they were left with fits their Barcelona apartment perfectly. “I love the size of this place,” Damon said. “For once we aren’t left with any empty rooms.”
The apartment is decorated with classic pieces, quirky collections and hints of contemporary design. Damon explained, “When you live on the East Coast, everything is mahogany. When we moved here, Steven begged, ‘Can we have some more contemporary stuff?’ So we still have our grandma pieces that we paid for a decade ago, but we’re slowly incorporating trendy tidbits, too.” Steven excitedly pointed out their new, stylish light fixture in the living room. The ceiling light consists of straight, thin, silver tubes with globe light bulbs on each end and exposed wiring to give it more of an industrial look, which they bought from their lighting designer and friend Imanol Ossa Altzibar.
Also in the living room, colourful throw pillows brighten up an off-white couch; a decorative, woven rug, which they brought back from Marrakesh lies underfoot, and vintage Vanity Fair and Vogue covers line the walls. In the adjoining dining room, the walls are covered in framed dog portraits, but this is not the most unconventional collection the couple have maintained over the years. Throughout the entire apartment, birdcages of all shapes, sizes and functions are perched in corners, on tables and above wardrobes. A rectangular, blue cage to the right of the front door is one of the first things you notice when you enter the apartment. The little brown and yellow birds nestled together on a branch inside are adorable, making it possibly Damon’s favourite of the assemblage. A chipping, seafoam green birdcage with a white, Chinese paper lantern inside sits adjacent to a gold wire cage with a vintage clock propped up on the artificial grass rather than a bird. These, and many more, draw the attention of Steven and Damon’s guests—but not as much as Damon’s masterpieces.
“I try to create things that are visually suitable for a specific space,” Damon described. On the walls of one room, he recreated the typical modernista tiles found in Barcelona. In another, he designed a square stencil made up of four, congruent triangles and used it to cover the walls as if they were wallpapered. He has revamped secondhand dining room chairs and display cabinets. All with a paintbrush, elegant colour palette and his superb artistic ability. “What I love is that Damon always adds a custom detail to every piece,” said Steven proudly. For example, a chest of drawers next to their bed has Steven’s surname painted on it in meticulous calligraphy.
Also in their bedroom is perhaps the most impressive decorative painting Damon has done in the apartment. If you have ever been to see the old Roman frescoes at the mNAC (crumbling and faded, but still beautiful), you can imagine what the walls of the bedroom look like. The elongated windows of the bedroom lead out onto a large terrace, soaked in sun during the long summer days, where Steven and Damon have lined the perimeter with potted green plants and set up four bamboo-framed, white linen lounge chairs.
They finally had their first party a few months back, which was a great success. With a terrace like theirs, how could people not enjoy themselves? “Out of the three houses we’ve had, this is my favourite,” Damon confided. It’s not hard to see why.
To see more of Damon’s work, visit his website: www.boppart.com.
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