At Home With: Nani Marquina

With its large open spaces and light-loving windows, this rug designer’s flat proves the perfect property to showcase her enviable carpet collection

Photography by Albert Font

When Nani and her partner Albert moved into their Barcelona home over 30 years ago, the upper neighbourhood wasn’t really considered a part of the city, but as the sprawling metropolis expanded, so the area was swallowed up. The flat was built in the 1940s by renowned architect Eugenio Bona and, as it was originally built out in the ’burbs, it boasts an unusually large floor plan for a Barcelona apartment. “We love both the house and the neighbourhood, as it is the neighbourhood where I was born,” Nani reveals. “When we looked for somewhere to live, we ended up here as it was like going back to our origins. When I leave the house, I remember the route I used to take to school along Avenida Tibidabo, the park where I used to walk my dog… many wonderful memories. It’s an area with a lot of green spaces, which is something we really appreciate in the city.”

Nani Marquina

With such rich pickings on her doorstep, I wonder how living in Barcelona has inspired Nani’s career as designer. “It has had a definitive impact in my decision to study design and be able to dedicate myself to it as a profession and as a way of life,” she says. “Barcelona is the city of design par excellence in Spain, where the design movement was born. My father Rafael Marquina was one of its founders, who together with several architects decided to promote this profession in the 1960s. At that time, Barcelona was coming out of a period of civil war, and design was a way of escape and a breath of fresh air. Industrial life grew very quickly in the city and a link between craftsmanship and industrial processes was created. Barcelona has always been a culturally rich city, where architecture and modernism have always been very important.”   Typical of its style and period, the apartment features glass doors, high ceilings, decorative mouldings, and imposing colonial wooden frames to all of the internal openings. But what strikes you the most when you enter is its abundance of natural light, something Nani feels very strongly about. “For me, the most important thing in this house is how the light enters the building,” she says. “It comes in through the back of the house. We’re lucky this is now a restful and quiet area. The large factory that was there previously no longer exists, which means there’s a lot of unbuilt space to allow light to flood our apartment – wonderful”. This, of course, is aided by the huge floor-to-ceiling windows, the large open spaces, and Nani’s considered approach to décor: pale wood floors are met with clean white walls and sheer white curtains, allowing the daylight to bounce around the flat freely. “For me, light is the most important element in a home,” she says. “Light defines the colours, the tones, it tells me what time of day I am living, the sunset, the sunrise… even what time of the year it is. It connects me with the outdoors, with nature and it is an indispensable element in our lives.”

Nani Marquina

While there’s a degree of minimalism at work, the apartment is not without colour, pattern, and interesting details. In fact, Nani’s home boasts a wealth of fascinating books and curiosities – but of course, the key to a clutter-free look is proper storage. Corridors are lined with vast modular shelving units, each compartment displaying a carefully curated object or objects, gallery-like. That old adage, ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ certainly rings true here. “My interior design style responds to a basic need, which is comfort. Comfort means large spaces, light, things in order,” Nani explains. “I like simple, minimal things, but also have some classic design objects; those pieces that have been with you all your life and that you end up loving, such as the butterfl y chair, lamps by Miguel Milá TMC… as well as things that don’t have a signature behind them. Something very important is also having the space to display items that I collect from my travels and other important moments in my life.”

Naturally, Nani’s carpet game is strong, and where better to show off a collection of beautiful rugs than in a light, bright apartment like this. The pale wooden fl oors act as the perfect backdrop to funky geometric runners, chic artisanal weaves, and the expansive Flora Promenade, a plush, contemporary fl oral rug that brings colour and energy to the living room. Nani tells me: “The rug is an ancient element in our homes, it’s been used for many different purposes over the ages: from prayer areas, to living spaces in the desert, protection from the cold, in palaces to lend sumptuousness to certain rooms… Rugs and carpets help us to turn spaces into what we want them to be. Nowadays rugs offer style, they mark a style. They have become a piece of domestic art. By using rugs in our homes and designs we can express emotions, feel the touch, the texture, the colour… It is an element that allows us to give a lot of character to a space.”

Nani Marquina

From the chic, mid-century furnishings in the living room and bedroom, to the serene spa-like bathroom, and the sleek contemporary kitchen complete with open shelving and trailing house plants, the apartment boasts a wonderful sense of calm. That Nani cannot pick a favourite piece, or space, is testament to the fact that the couple have created a “harmonious whole”, as she puts it. “The furniture in our house is simple; there are pieces that I like, others that I don’t like so much… but the important thing is that they respond to an ensemble that brings me comfort and convenience. Home provides a space where I store all my memories. I like to be surrounded by pieces that tell stories. Always in a very minimal style, very Nani and very Albert.”