Spanish architect and artistic genius Antoni Gaudi took the presence and conditions of light and the effect it had on interiors very seriously. Gaudi said: “Light achieves maximum harmony at an inclination of 45 degrees ... neither horizontal nor vertical. This is considered medium light, and it offers the most perfect vision of objects and their most exquisite nuances. It is Mediterranean light.” Anyone who has visited this part of the world would have to agree. There is something special about how light resonates in Spain, Italy, Greece and all countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
It was always Gaudi's goal to construct buildings that opened up their interiors to this precious light. This was accomplished with skylights, windows that varied in size, shutters and blinds, and color. One of the most famous buildings designed by Gaudi for a wealthy Spanish aristocrat is Casa Batllo in Barcelona. From the outside the facade looks like it has been made from skulls and bones. The “skulls” are in fact balconies, and the “bones” are supporting pillars. Gaudi varied window size depending on where the window was in relation to the top of the building. In this way, he could ensure uniform lighting conditions in each room of the house. As you climb the interior stairs in Casa Batllo, there is a range of blues, from very dark to light, dramatically mastering the distribution of natural light as you ascend toward the attics and roof terraces.
Barcelona is an exceptional city with more Modernist (Art Nouveau) buildings than any other city in the world. New builds and renovations combine the Catalan influence of innovation and nonconformism, and include the best of traditional materials in new and exciting ways. Prestigious Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola was commissioned to create the interior decor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Barcelona. Trained as an architect, Urquiola has the passion and imagination of the region, which is evident in the award-winning avant-garde furniture she designs. For this hotel, Urquiola created an interior that reflects the open, cosmopolitan character of the great Mediterranean city where it stands, and takes full advantage of the light.
The Blanc restaurant and lounge is the heart of the hotel. That famous Mediterranean light is filtered into this breathtaking space from the atrium and through large skylights. All is white, with touches of black seen in upholstery trim and table legs, and splashes of green from lush plants. An enormous rectangular, metallic grid is suspended over the restaurant tables. Painted white, the patterned grid is reminiscent of an intricate Chinese paper cutout design, symmetrical and delicate. To enhance the ethereal illusion, a hanging garden has been created.
Visiting this exciting city and its amazing architecture reminds me once again how important it is to fill our homes, wherever they are, with natural and artificial light. During the day, allow as much natural light in as possible, using shades to filter harsh rays. Open up dark hallways and staircases with a skylight if possible, or install lights to make these passageways shine.
And if you have a room with a very tall ceiling, think about creating a grand ceiling decoration. You can accomplish much with a painted design, or install wood planks, a wrought-iron grid or ceiling moldings.
Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Travis on Twitter at www.twitter.com/debbie_travis and visit her website, www.debbietravis.com.