Traditional Spanish houses are all about candlelight, rich rugs and throws and traditional chandeliers – and the perfect blend of old meets new
This summer, inspired by a feature in the July 2015 issue of World of Interiors about Nicolò Castellini Baldissera’s townhouse in Tangier – a house full of rich fabrics, vibrant colours and birds – I visited the Alcázar in Seville, an incredible building which pairs modern interiors and traditional architecture. I won’t turn this into a history lesson but the Alcázar is an Islamic palace in the middle of Seville and a prime example of Moorish architecture. Thirteenth-century Spain saw the arrival of the Castilians and King Peter I, who set about making changes to the inner Palacio Gótico, which soon became a symbol of the transition into Christianity. The surrounding buildings, however, remained unchanged for more than a century after. Spanish houses have followed suit and so the country has developed an interiors trend of its own.
For this month’s column, I’ve researched the best ways to bring a touch of the hacienda into your home without the need to emigrate (although, admittedly, a change in climate sometimes wouldn’t go amiss). As always, the floor is a good place to start, especially if you want a statement item but feel that painting the walls a burnt orange feels too much. Robert Stephenson has a large collection of traditional carpets, rugs, runners and flat weaves and nearly all of them are heavily patterned with bright colours and fun shapes. I particularly like a red background, as this looks striking over dark wood and warms up floorboards. With their size and one-of-a-kind quality, these rugs don’t come cheap but they are definitely not the sort of rugs that you’ll only keep for a couple of years. If you’re redoing a room then pair with neutral walls, natural wood and soft lighting. If you’re updating what you’ve already got, then a reddish orange might not work. Pick something that complements its surroundings; a rug is meant to blend in the most. The appeal of these rugs is that they’re well made and sturdy but they look like they have a history behind them, and they are therefore ideal for using where old meets new.
If you’d rather not start with the floor, the ceiling is the next best thing and also a great place to do something exotic with lighting. Traditional Spanish houses are all about candlelight, decorated lanterns and traditional chandeliers but it’s now easier than ever to adopt the style yourself. Traditional hanging chandeliers are obviously now electrically wired and so gone is the need to light 100 candles just to be able to see what you’re doing. They keep the natural rust finish of the wrought iron frame but can be turned on and off with a switch…thankfully. The Spanish hanging light is almost Gothic in its style; distressed metal frames with chain fixings, elaborate spokes and decorative candelabra. These look great with wooden beams, but of course not every house is lucky enough to have them. White or whitewashed walls would be a wonderful alternative but as a statement piece (which these definitely are) they would also work well with a colourful painted ceiling and bright colour is a great way of putting something contemporary next to this antique chandelier.
The Spanish hanging light is almost Gothic in its style, and looks great with wooden beams
There are of course smaller ways of bringing the hacienda influence into your home, as even the smallest decorative item can be typical of a certain style. Bed or sofa throws are a good starting option as they are so easily moved and changed. Throws are pretty traditional in themselves and the Spanish are lovers of a multitude of colours and a variation of textures. Think of embroidery, pattern and tassels; throws work best over plain white bed linen but you can pick out any colour scheme according to what furnishings are already in place. Throws also need not be wildly expensive so you can collect a few and if you move them around the house, they lend something new to each room.
If there’s a need for smaller still, then tableware, artwork and decorative accessories can be just as fruitful as the furniture section. Many Spanish haciendas have enormous fireplaces and so candles and candlesticks are perfectly in keeping with this theme. If they were used to light corridors and stairways then they are now purely decorative, a couple of simple candlesticks can really dress up even the simplest of dining tables, mantelpieces or dressers. As classic as a white candle is, a coloured one can really create an atmosphere – again, giving the most traditional form of lighting a little modern twist. For those of us who can’t decide between the old and the new, little modern twists are certainly the way forward
For information about any of the above, please contact Letty White-Spunner on email@example.com; 020 7730 8564.