Interiorssneak peeks

In Madrid, Respecting the Old and Embracing the New

by Shannon Grant

For the past two years, jewelry designer Olivia Terrell and her husband Andrew have lived in this apartment in the Malasaña neighborhood of Madrid, Spain. They have moved a lot during their five years of marriage, but they’ve lived in this space the longest. Olivia says it has always been a challenge to make each new place feel like home, but that was especially true when they moved into this apartment.

The space was new to them, but very old. Built in 1873, it was oddly shaped and had no straight lines or right angles to speak of. Hardly a blank canvas, it came partly furnished with a variety of white IKEA furniture. Olivia, who leans more toward neutral earth tones and antiques, decided to embrace a modern, albeit quirky, white-washed look. She and Andrew sourced a variety of found objects and furniture to infuse the space with their personal aesthetic. They love objects with history and revel in the occasional dumpster find, declaring, “People throw away some amazing things!” This eclectic approach to decorating works for them, especially since Olivia feels unattached to any particular style at this point in her life. This open-minded point-of-view informs her work as well. As her life changes, so does her jewelry design. While the general aesthetic remains, she has evolved from organic shapes and textures to something more architectural and geometric, which she attributes to her surroundings. These days, Olivia and Andrew truly feel at home. Whether they are watching sunsets on the balcony or hosting American Thanksgiving for their Spanish friends, they love incorporating familiar traditions into their new life in Madrid. —Shannon

Photography by César Perez 

DesignSponge Sneak Peek
Olivia bought the botanical prints above the sofa for one euro apiece at a book stand outside of Madrid's main park, Retiro. She found them right when she and Andrew moved into their apartment, and these prints were the first thing to go up on the wall. They're one of her favorite little finds.
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Olivia says, "I set up a space to paint when we first moved here so that I could stay "in-shape" artistically. It took me a few months to find a studio, so I found myself painting a lot. I don't do it as much now as I wish I did, but sometimes I crave it just to have softer, more immediate medium to work in."
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The couple was lucky enough to find an apartment with a fireplace. They were thrilled when they discovered it was a working fireplace, which is a rare find in the city.
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Andrew is a musician, and Olivia loves having his instruments out on display.
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Olivia and Andrew love the way the light pours in on that corner and the plants love it, too! Another found object: this corner piece was scored from a dumpster and it fits perfectly in the corner. The artwork is by Olivia. It was a weeklong experimental project she did for an exhibition in Madrid. Olivia says, "I was working with burning different materials and using the smoke to create patterns and images."
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This "strange object" (they are still unsure what it originally was) was found on the street. They brought it home, sanded it, and painted it. Olivia created brass hooks to fit the rungs and it now serves as a great coat rack.
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Olivia and Andrew wanted some shelving for the guest bedroom, but everything they liked was too expensive. Then, Olivia says, "We found these beautiful pieces of wood on the street outside of a house that was being gutted and redone and snagged two of them. We lugged them home, cleaned and sanded them, and cut one of them into pieces to mount on the wall. They have our favorite guidebooks on the shelves for guests, which highlight the best spots by barrio (neighborhood)." They also keep a guestbook so that they won't forget all the European travelers who've stayed with them. "I love reading back and remembering the fun times we've spent with friends and family."
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"The stick that is hanging in the guest bedroom is one that I found during a weekend trip to the mountains. I was brainstorming ways to make an exposed closet because the guest room is so tiny and there really wasn't room to put another piece of furniture on the floor. Also, I was set on not spending any money, so while we were hiking, the idea hit me and I found a piece of wood that hangers fit perfectly around. I used a lightweight rope to suspend it from the ceiling and I love the way it turned out!"
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They love how big and open the kitchen is (for a big city, anyway!), but they always joke about the color of the cabinets. "It looks like something out of a beach condo or something!"
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Olivia describes Andrew as a total beverage nerd, as seen by the many different coffee makers they have. He also is a huge beer fan, so she gave him this poster for Christmas one year of all the different varieties of beer.
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Olivia says she is always looking for new ways to display jewelry, "I think it looks as beautiful off the body as it does on. It's a shame to have everything tucked into a jewelry box, so I decided to hang some of my favorites where I could see them." While most of what you see is Olivia's work, there is also one done by a fellow UGA jewelry grad, Ashley Buchanan, and one by Laurel Hill.
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The duvet was one of the only things Olivia brought from the States. She had just received it as a gift and didn't want to part with it so soon.
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Olivia's favorite piece in the bedroom is the little marble-top vanity. It's one of the few vintage items that they have purchased in Madrid. "I definitely want to keep it forever. I love the size of it - perfect for this space!"
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The dining room: This is really an all-purpose room. They built a workspace for Olivia in this room so that she can do some of what she describes as her "less-messy work" from home, since she doesn't have the space in her studio.
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The space is around 900 square feet. Being an old building, the rooms are awkwardly shaped, but the ceilings are high, which, Olivia says, makes it feel nice and big.
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Little details make all the difference. The lights on the walls in the living room are made from old clay roof tiles. Olivia is not a fan of overhead lighting, and she loves how the roof tiles cast the light upwards towards the ceiling, providing plenty of light but not being too harsh.
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  • So beautiful! I love how they didn’t overwhelm the space; it’s still very open and bright! The amazing large windows and the floor to ceiling drapery definitely help as well! Super Gorgeous

  • I love the DYI inventive spirit in this home! This gal has unique, personal design elements through out the space. So cool.

  • I live in Malasaña too!! It’s amazing the amount of discarded treasures I walk by every morning on my way to work, not even in dumpsters but just casually left on the curb, and in good condition as well.

    Question for Olivia: did you put that flooring in yourself? I’ve rented 6 apartments in 9 years in Madrid and have never had nice flooring, I assume not-ugly floors are only for owners who put it in themselves?

    The tile-sconce is pure genius btw.

    • Hey Liz!
      The owner did all the reformas on the apartment and had the flooring put in. Our neighbors have wood floors that I believe are original to the building and it looks beautiful! I think I would prefer the original to the ones we have now. Maybe it depends on the building? So fun that we live in the same barrio! xo

  • Hi Olivia,

    I’m the designer who created the Turtle Dove Alpha print on your bookshelf. I was surprised to happen upon it while flipping through this post. There’s only about 5 of those prints in existence, so I was curious to know how you came to own one? I’m really honored that you have it displayed in your lovely home :)

    • Hey Kendra!
      Oh my goodness, I love that you made that print! It’s one of the few little art pieces I brought with me from the States. I bought it at Shop SCAD in Savannah right after we got married and wanted something with my new initial :). I’m assuming you studied at SCAD? I hope you’re still creating! All the best from Spain…

  • Hi Olivia,

    I did study at SCAD and am still creating! I’m now a textile and graphic designer. Thanks so much for including my print in your beautiful home, it’s an honor!