House of Representatives tour: Madrid’s dazzling apartment chaotic apartment
“I am facinated by white,” Spanish designer Luis Bustamante confesses as he sits awash in the dazzling hue in the living room of his Madrid apartment. “But setting out to create an interior all in white is sort of like an artist staring at a blank canvas—it takes a bit of nerve and some skill to create something beautiful.”
The artist analogy is especially apropos for Bustamante, who trained and exhibited as a painter and sculptor before finding his ideal medium in interior design. After stints working in both Barcelona and Mexico City, he returned to his native Madrid in 2000. Ten years later he bought his current home—an airy 3,500-square-foot apartment in a grand belle epoque edifice on a leafy street near the Prado Museum and Retiro Park.
In the living room of interior designer Luis Bustamante’s Madrid apartment in a 1910 building, vintage armchairs covered in an Ian Mankin cotton flank an antique marble gueridon, the prints are by Richard Serra, and the custom daybed is upholstered in a Loro Piana linen. Bustamante designed the lacquered ceiling and cocktail table, and the rug is Moroccan.
“The place hadn’t been touched in more than 40 years, and vir tually everything had to be ripped out and replaced,” he recalls, adding that the renovation lasted seven months. Fortunately he was able to restore the original windows, which he credits with helping to maintain the sense of history and permanence he wanted in his century-old home.
Bustamante in the living area, beside a 1950s table by Emilio Thierry.
“There is more of my soul in these rooms than in any project I’ve done so far,” the designer says, referencing both the abundance of white—on the walls, moldings, furniture, carpets, artwork, and all manner of objets—and the easy mix of classical and modern elements. “I like clean and contemporary, but I also need patina and age. It’s not un-modern to be drawn to old things.”
Creating visual harmony with a symphony of whites is a Busta mante trademark. “Let’s face it, white is boring,” he admits. “But when you see masses of white houses on the hillsides of Santorini in Greece, or the pueblos blancos [white villages] of Andalusia, the color comes alive with blue-gray shadows and reflections of golden sunlight. The overall effect is spectacular.”
A custom-made table and polished-nickel ladders in the library.
To get more bang from the monochromatic palette, he varied paint finishes, enhancing what he describes as “the interplay between matte and glossy surfaces that helps define a space by revealing its structure and architectural interest.” He can just as easily make architecture disappear, as he did in a hallway where shimmering lacquered walls seem to dissolve in a haze of reflections and light.
A collection of objects includes a wood staircase model and Roman bronze sculptures; in the entry beyond, the painting is by Joan Hernández Pijuan, and the sculpture is by Julio López Hernández.
While many an interior designer renovating in contemporary Madrid would be knocking down walls to leave open, loftlike spaces, Bustamante wanted a proper entrance, so he enclosed part of the living room to create the library that greets visitors upon arrival. While its contents are decidedly old—leather-bound books and 19th-century Grand Tour souvenirs of French and Italian monuments—the crisp, bright room provides a modern frame in which to contemplate it all.
In the dining/bar area, the table and countertops are marble, the pendants are by Años Luz Iluminación, and the 1900 marble statue is French; the curtains and wallcovering are of linens by Loro Piana.
Similar juxtapositions of vintage and vanguard occur throughout the home, where 1st-century Roman busts stand before bold abstract artworks by such 20th-century Spanish masters as Miró, Chillida, and Millares. “From Praxiteles to Pollock—it’s all a continuum to me,” Bustamante says, adding that he feels equally inspired at New York’s Museum of Modern Art as at the Louvre.
In his bedroom, Bustamante accentuates nautical connotations with large vintage photographs of racing yachts adorning the walls. Carrying the sailing motif into his dressing room, he used glass-fronted cabinets backed with white and black canvas to imitate molding. A series of paintings by contemporary artist Emilio Gañán reads like a modern riff on old-timey displays of sailors’ knots.
A 2nd-century Roman bust in the dining area.
Throughout the house, light bounces off vast expanses of mirrored glass and the many silver- and nickel-plated boxes parked on tables and shelves or piled on the floor beneath consoles. “Boxes are so simple and offer such utility,” he says, “but I can never find them in the right size or color, so I have them all custom made.”
A pair of drawings by Emilio Gañán in a corridor with lacquered wall panels.
Bustamante also goes the custom route with his nickel-plated lamps and the columned library tables, bookcases, nightstands, and even the white-lacquered coffered ceilings, all of which he has manufactured in Spain and shipped to projects around the world. Currently he is working his white magic on a 17th-century chalet in St. Moritz, a sprawling hacienda in Mexico, a luxury apartment tower on the Thames in London, and a beach house in the Hamptons.
Bustamante designed the master bedroom’s four-poster and armchairs, which are covered in a Loro Piana linen; the vintage side table is by John Dickinson, the sculpture is by Nicola Hicks, and the sisal carpet is from Kape Deco.
But here in Madrid, perhaps the most convincing blend of old and new is the dining area, which eschews all hint of old-world formality in favor of 21st-century functionality—much like the lounge of a stylish boutique hotel with refreshments, snacks, and cocktails always at the ready. (There is a smaller adjacent kitchen where the actual cooking takes place.) Ancient Egyptian sculptures appear to guard the refrigerators and china cabinets, while Renaissance bronzes and marble sculptures nestle amid the vermouth and whiskey bottles on the bar.
“As a designer, my work is about precision and perfection for my clients, but at home I want balance and relaxation,” Bustamante says. “When family and friends come to visit, we all hang out here at the table and catch up or watch TV. It’s terrific to live surrounded by luxury and beauty, but it’s best not to take any of it too seriously.”
The cabinetry, ebonized-wood countertop, and fabric-covered wardrobe doors in the dressing room are all custom made