For us, the secret to discovering Barcelona’s artistic & architectural beauty isn’t about looking up – it’s about looking down. The ornate floor tiles are everywhere: sidewalks, inside simple cafes and of course the magnificently decorated Gaudi buildings.
We’ve been so inspired by these designs, so we decided to take a trek out to Can Tinturé, the first tile museum in Spain, which was in the small village of Esplugues. The museum itself was small and only included pieces from the 14th – 19th century, but certainly piqued our interest.
With a little more digging & with camera in hand, we learned the more modern tiles emerged in the 1850s. These were made from a cement compound that didn’t need oven baking, which was a lot less expensive and allowed for mass production. When installed, the tiles gave the illusion of being carpet and oftentimes did not match the residents’ furniture.
In the heyday of Modernism, Barcelona tiles were in great demand: geometric classical patterns, Celtic-style chains, stylish curves and flora & fauna explosions. Prevalent colors were brown, burgundy, green, black and, particularly pink. Nowadays, it seems new tiles are popping up in fashion boutiques, organic supermarkets and hipster establishments all around town.
All month we’ve been collecting photos across Barcelona and have become incredibly inspired. No doubt all this scouting will serve as reference for our own designs.
Old Berlin buildings were constructed to account for the city’s extraordinarily deep blocks. As we walk through Prenzlauer Berg, Mitte or Kreuzberg, we peek through the main building carriage doors into these beautiful courtyards and Hinterhäuse hiding behind.
When these buildings were erected, the front houses were built as spacious apartments for officers, civil servants and ‘higher’ society. These Vorderhäuser open up to beautiful courtyards and then another set of buildings which were workers’ dwellings, garages and shops in the wings and rear houses. And in certain cases, there is yet another courtyard and a third or even fourth set of rear buildings, all completely hidden from the street.
We love walking the cobblestone streets of Berlin, spying through doors to see how deep some of these Höfe go into the block. We’ve spied the most beautiful ivy climbing the sides of Hinterhäuser, visited secluded courtyards filled with wildflowers and stumbled upon quaint restaurants nestled between the third and fourth set of rear buildings. All are little treasures we’ve loved discovering.
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia: Driving around Ubud, there are times when we can’t see past many of the thick walls built up along the streets. We learned these are karangs, traditional family compounds composed of many homes and filled with extended family.
Within the compound is the family temple, which is actually a collection of five+ small shrines placed on high pedestals. These are dedicated to ancestor worship, specific Hindu gods or ancient spirits. Further within the compound there are a number of small houses or open sided pavilions, organized around a main house which is occupied by the current head of the family and his immediate family, while the smaller dwellings house visiting relatives and children.
Within these compounds, much effort and expense goes towards the decoration of doors and gateways. Doors are carved from rain tree woods and painted, but may also be gilded with gold leaf in the case of high caste families. Gateways are often highly ornamented, often with the Bhoma head, killer and eater of demons.