When editor Natalia Swarz and her husband, artist Armando Mesías, moved from the seaside of Barcelona to Madrid’s coolest neighborhood Chueca, they knew one thing for sure: They were bringing the warm vibes with them. “We wanted our home to feel a bit like a Mediterranean escape in the middle of the city center,” says Natalia, who is the founder of travel site and shop Hotel Weekend and content editor for Spanish fashion brand Loewe. Hailing from Cali, Colombia, the couple notes that their Latin roots are always present in their lifestyle and design philosophy. Natalia explains, “[We have] a hammock hanging in the living room, which was custom made by Verdi in Colombia, some palm tree drawings hanging on the walls, and the soundtrack is always music from Cali, Cuba, or somewhere in Latin America.”
The warmth of these Latin elements is offset by the minimal, wabi-sabi landscape of the apartment. Since the Japanese aesthetic has been a recurring inspiration to them, they decided to partner with Iker Ochotorena of OOAA Arquitectura on the renovation. “His style is very minimalistic, but not in a boring way. The neutral colors of the walls and floors are contrasted with black details, which we love,” says Natalia. Iker’s signature style incorporates distinct architectural lines, a neutral palette, and natural textures like wood and stone. In the spirit of wabi-sabi, his interiors focus on authenticity and therefore promote a sense of tranquility through simple design.
The result is a space reminiscent of a modern spa. “We live on a very busy main street so we wanted it to be a peaceful retreat inside our home,” Natalia notes. That tone is set as soon as guests enter the space: The couple implemented a no-shoes policy in the house, so guests are always greeted with a pair of slippers. Different candle scents fill the air in each room, and the spa-like experience is further echoed in the bathrooms, where eucalyptus leaves are tied to the showerheads. “I also have an obsession with brushes, brooms, and natural sponges, which we buy from my favorite store in Madrid, González & González,” says Natalia. The bedroom is the one space in their home that is tech-free, which helps them fulfill their zen-like criteria.
Natalia reveals that her favorite nook in the apartment is the handmade hammock laced with copper fibers, offering a slightly more sophisticated approach to siesta hour. Around the space, you’ll find artwork such as a print of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg mixed with Armando’s own artwork and posters by local Colombian artists such as Macondo Herald. For the couple, it’s important to keep rotating the artwork around the home in order to keep things moving and flowing.
The openness of the space is also characteristic of Iker’s design aesthetic. “The open kitchen is our favorite, as Armando cooks and I love to host dinner parties,” says Natalia. The living room is anchored by a large rattan ceiling light that hangs above a rustic wood table. Though every design choice in the apartment is deliberate, the space ultimately feels like a lived-in home—so much so that you may forget to leave your slippers behind when you leave.
⚒ Do It Yourself
Keep one space tech-free For Natalia and Armando, it’s the bedroom. The couple bans computers and cellphones from the room to make their “mini zen space” stress-free.
Strategically implement scents The couple loves to have a signature home scent, but also places different ones around the house: Natalia’s bathroom smells like coconut, while their bed and linens are sprayed with a lavender scent.
Move things around to keep your mind moving too “I grew up changing houses every year as my mom loved to move and redecorate in a different way,” recalls Natalia. “When we were bored, we moved all the furniture and created a whole different mood.” Since her current apartment is small, they can’t move the furniture around, but they do move the artwork and decorations to keep ideas flowing and evolving.
Make your guests feel at home This is the Colombian way, something the wabi-sabi philosophy emphasizes as one of its fundamental characteristics in creating a home. Always be ready to offer guests teas and snacks. Natalia and Armando greet guests with their own slippers when they arrive so they truly feel at home. “The book Wabi-Sabi Welcome will guide you through more tips,” Natalia suggests.
🛍Shop it Out
Suerte banner by The Palmist, $415, hotel-weekend.com
Cannée Screen ceiling lamp, $546, ruevintage74.com
Vacuum Vase by Valeria Vasi, $196, valeriavasi.com
Mountaineer hammock by Artissanos, $142, artissanos.com
“El Marinero” by Armando Mesías, $2,130, armandomesias.com
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest