Barcelona, October 2013
Judging from the outside of the apartment of Gabriel Escámez, one cannot foresee what is hidden behind closed doors. The 26-year old interior designer has an insatiable thirst for beauty and is a relentless treasure hunter. His home is a true Ali Baba’s cave with all its treasure on display for the owner’s enjoyment.
Escámez was trained in Fine Arts and it was early during his education that he discovered his true passion: interior design; to create spaces as works of art but inhabited with people to give them a direct purpose.
How and when did you start working as an interior designer?
Six years ago while I was studying interior architecture, I started to work in the set design and scenography industry. It was mostly focused on the fashion industry but slowly but surely I moved into interior design and I continue to do all types of advertising projects.
Are you into functional design?
(Laughs) Absolutely not! I think you realize that when you see my apartment. For me design is a mental comfort. I like living in a scenery that gives me peace, something that a more functional space might not give me — I quite like to dress up reality.
How do you define your style?
It is a mixture of classicism and an eclectic style. It's sometimes ironic and irreverent with pieces out of context. It is a constant dialogue that I have with the pendulum of history — a dialogue with different styles that have occurred over time to which I am responding. It's about answering to things that have happened in the past, giving it a purpose and a different structure. For example, I have decontextualized the mask of the face of David by Michelangelo by placing it next to a postmodern column-shaped mirror. Another great influence of mine is Art Deco and the style of the 70s with its marble, mirrors and brass.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
Since I was little, I have been fascinated with the classics and sometimes the Hollywood Regency Style in the 50s that was a style of set design. I feel very comfortable working with those styles. I also come back a lot to Memphis in the 80s, and mix classicism with imperial style but giving them a new interpretation.
Who are the artists that inspire you?
French filmmaker Jean Cocteau is someone that fascinates me. Besides making wonderful films he also drew and had an insane house decorated in the Regency style with a bohemian twist, which I love. I am also very inspired by the work of Madeleine Castaing.
She is one of the most influential decorators of the 20th century who worked with Cocteau amongst others, and decorated their houses.
When you start a project, on what do you focus on?
It is funny how the ideas come to my mind. Most of the time the first idea — and I am not sure if this is good or bad — is the one that works. I am very impulsive and I’m usually guided by my first intuition and so far, it has always worked out. (Laughs).
What do you like the most about your job?
I love being able to explore new ways of communication within the creative framework of each project that I am developing. Additionally, it's great to find new and wonderful locations and work every day with a different professional team. I highly value the flexibility of my job — one day I am in the photo studio, the next day on a paradise beach, a palace or a destroyed hangar working on another project.
Do you consider yourself a treasure hunter?
Yes, absolutely! In fact, there are things I do not enjoy at all, for example buying clothes. I need very little and almost always, dress the same. Nevertheless, it is different when it comes to finding little treasures such as porcelain figures, furniture etc... and with wine and food I enjoy it immensely.
What is your favourite piece in this house?
Not to state the obvious, but I love the mask of David, and also a painting that was given to me by my friend Dámaso for my last birthday, they hold a special place in my heart. If I were to move to New York, I would definitely take these two pieces with me.
Tell us a bit more about the mask of David.
This mask is from the 50s, from Los Angeles. A friend of mine called René brought it to Barcelona. He has a shop called Le Swing that for a while sold exquisite furniture and when I saw this mask, I knew immediately that it had to be mine.
If you weren’t an interior designer, what other profession would
Actually, I have had two ideas running through my mind for some time now. On the one hand, I would love to be an antique collector; it would be one of my biggest dreams come true. Unfortunately, here is very little global classic culture (and of furniture) and also economically it is not viable. For now, it is an idea that stays with me until the right time comes. On the other hand, I would love to be an innkeeper and have a house in the country. Receive guests and grow organic food, make marmalades, have a couple of vineyards and have loads of statutes in the garden, loads of plants and rosemary.
I have my eye set on a run-down farmhouse in Cubelles, close to the beach. It is my dream, yes, a Catalán farm. I can imagine myself living there one day.
What is your latest artistic discovery?
An exhibition at the Caixa Forum called "Japonisme". In the 1800s there was a great oriental influence in Europe. They started to make their own interpretations, for example, adding crazy eastern elements to classic French furniture — a kind of exoticism that had nothing to do with the authentic Japanese style. Also, I was working this summer in Deià, in Mallorca, and sincerely, there are no words to describe it.
Where do we find you when you are not working?
In Barcelona, I am usually in the restaurant El Bosco. The owners are friends of mine and actually, I did the interior design for them, they always make a bit of space for me (laughs). Outside of Barcelona, one of the places that give me peace is the farmhouse in Cubelles.
It has a dry native flora, some palm trees called Margalló, that are palm trees from Garraf, and also Ginesta, a bush with a very yellow, fragrant flower.
So you are more of a countryman?
I live in the city because I work in the city and I like it. But whenever I am on vacation in the countryside, I always think that perhaps I am wasting my time living in the city, and also risking my health. I would be happy living in the country, making everyday products and selling them there, everything from marmalades to perfumes or ceramics… (Sighs)
I see you like plants...
My parents have taught me from an early age about plants. We always lived in a house with a garden and they involved me in taking care of their olive trees, magnolias and dracenas. I have learned a lot from my father who is a great man.
What's your best kept Mediterranean secret?
There is an easy hiking route from Vilanova i La Geltrú to the cliffs by Sitges. You are above the sea and there are plants you can only find in Garraf and it is just wonderful. I have never been keen on lush forests. I prefer Mediterranean pines, a little dryness, the rocks, the sea... above all, the Mediterranean is what I love the most on the face of the earth. I think about the tangential line between the sea and the mountain, walking on a cliff and watching the sea – it fulfills me completely.
What was your last great meal and where did you eat it?
Scallops with mushrooms and zucchini flower stuffed with a brandada in El Bosco. But what I enjoy the most is the calçotada with aioli and spring onions made by my father.
Sea or mountain?
Sea and sun.
Plane or boat?
Boat. The truth is that I feel quite uncomfortable on planes, but I find the nautical world fascinating.
Vermouth or beer?
Vermouth. Whenever I drink it I am relaxed and I love the taste of it.
Fellini or Godard?
Fellini. Much more passionate!
Brigitte Bardot or Sophia Loren?
Brigitte Bardot. I love the funny dumb blondes.
Less is more or more is more?
Less is more, although you might be surprised to hear it from me.
For work, I am one of those who believes that the simpler is better, in order to focus on the product. Long live Mies Van Der Rohe! (Laughs)
Speedo or swimming trunks?
Swimsuit. And even better: a swimsuit from the 40s.
Early bird or night owl?
Sincerely, that depends on the day. I can go from an angel to the devil in 0.2 seconds.
Photos: Wai Lin Tse