In Design in Depth

Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide

Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide exterior 12.jpg

Casa Vicens: Barcelona’s new landmark. And it’s set to become the next must-visit attraction for architecture and interior lovers. Something you don’t want to miss.

A 130-year-old house designed by Antoni Gaudí is now open to the public after a major restoration. Everything you need to know is here.

Discover what makes Casa Vicens unique. Let’s explore the history, the architecture and the interior of Gaudí’s first residential project.

Modernisme vs Modernist vs Mid-century modern?

Before we continue, we have to talk about the design movement at that time. So we can picture the house in the right context. The naming of the styles can confuse and, as you’ll see, spelling makes a big difference. Below you’ll find a mini brief of Modernisme (with an “e”) and other unrelated movements that sound similar.

Modernisme or Catalan modernist is an art and literature movement that flourished between the late 1880s and early 1910s. It’s limited to Catalonia. Yet, similar trends appeared all over Europe at the same time. The most memorable being Art Nouveau in France and Belgium.

STYLE TIP: Colour in certain places has the great value of making the outlines and structural planes seem more energetic. — Antoni Gaudí

It was later replaced by Art Deco — think the Chrysler building with all the ornaments. And then came the radical Modernist or Modern architecture in the 1930s. With its clean lines and glass walls. You could say that mid-century modern is a branch of the Modernist movement. In reality, it’s much deeper. I’m just scratching the surface.

But let’s go back in time. Fifty years before mid-century modern was a thing, Casa Vicens was built. The place was the booming city of Barcelona. The movement was early Modernisme. And the architect, a genius that broke all the rules to create his own style

Antoni Gaudí: a creative genius with a unique style

The history of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926) is rather special. He was a talented multidisciplinary man covering architecture, interior and furniture design. Interestingly, he didn’t like to draw plans and elevations. Instead, he preferred to build models of his designs and study them from every angle.

Like a true artist, he went through various design phases throughout his life. He started with an interest in oriental and Arab cultures. Then he followed the popular Neo-Gothic style for a while. Finally, his design skills and craftsmanship culminated in a naturalist style the world had never seen before.

STYLE TIP: Originality consists of returning to the origin. Thus, originality means returning, through one’s resources, to the simplicity of the early solutions. — Antoni Gaudí

My aunt always used to say he died without knowing how great he was. It was not until the 1950s that an interest in his creations resurfaced. Nowadays, all his buildings in Barcelona are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. His stamp is all over the city: from lampposts with snakes to the famous hexagonal pavement tiles which are often the subject of theft!

Undoubtedly, his masterpiece is the Sagrada Familia. And the tourists agree — it’s the most visited building in Spain. We must wait until 2026 to see it completed. The interior is finished, though, and if you haven’t seen it, there’s a handy virtual tour on their website. Today, I will show you the project that started it all. The first house that Gaudí designed.

The history of Casa Vicens

The house was commissioned by Manuel Vicens i Montaner in 1877. Vicens owned his own factory in Barcelona and had fresh money to spend. Gaudí was 31 years old and hadn’t finished his architecture studies. After a few projects, this was his first residential job. Some say this house marked the beginning of Modernisme.

A little house on the outskirts of Barcelona

Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide exterior 8

Barcelona was a prosperous city thanks to the industrial revolution. It was the centre of business, culture and arts. Vicens inherited a plot of land in the nearby village of Gràcia. Now it’s a gentrified neighbourhood within Barcelona. But back in the 19th Century, it was the ideal place to have a little house in the country. Peace and quiet.

I know Gràcia well because it’s where my grandmother lives. It still feels like a little town with narrow streets and little squares. All the buildings have balconies and wooden shutters on every window. And if you get lost you can stumble upon one of the beautiful indoor markets. It’s a fantastic place to live — if you can afford the rent/mortgage.

Inspired by Spains’s rich cultural history

Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide exterior 2

There is not much information about what Vicens wanted. I have the impression the architect had carte blanche and a generous budget. But what Gaudí proposed was right up his street. The style chosen for Casa Vicens was anything but bland. Enter Neo-Mudéjar, a type of Spanish Moorish Revival architecture.

The old Mudéjar style developed in Spain in the middle ages. Aptly described by Wikipedia as “a symbiosis of techniques and ways of creating architecture resulting from Muslim and Christian cultures living side by side.” This style brings striking Islamic geometric patterns, red brick ornamentation, horseshoe arches and arabesque tiling.

Beyond styles and artistic movements, there’s something Gaudí wanted to achieve. Bring nature into the house. This is a subject that appeared on every single project he designed. In the early buildings like this, the connection with nature was achieved through ornamentation. Casa Vicens is full of symbols, colours and patterns that evoke the Mediterranean flora and fauna.

Casa Vicens’ Mediterranean architecture

Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide exterior 1

There’s nothing new about the choice of materials to build the house (stone, brick, tile and iron). Yet, how Gaudi used them was unusual. The walls are covered in stone on the lower levels. So far, a safe option. But then he went crazy with the red brick on the upper levels. The complex brickwork creates pattern, volume — and drama!

The colourful ceramic tiles pop against the red and brown walls. I learned that the tile work represents ivy (green and white tiles) and dandelions (yellow patterned tiles). It’s designed to look like lush vegetation growing on the walls. The final result is more tessellated than organic. But the concept is innovative and fresh.

Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide exterior 3

The quality of the Ironwork was not overlooked. The windows and balconies are adorned with elaborate patterns. But perhaps the most striking feature is the gate and grille with a pattern of three-dimensional palm leaves. He used the iron casting technique from a clay model made from a real fan palm leaf.

In Gaudí’s words: “When I went to take the measurements of the site, it was completely covered in little yellow flowers and I adopted them as a decorative theme for the ceramics. I also found a luxuriant fan palm, whose leaves, in cast iron, fill the grilles and entrance gate to the house.”

Architectural modifications of Casa Vicens over 130 years

Believe it or not, the original project was a semi-detached house. In 1925, architect Juan Sierra de Martínez designed an extension to double the size of the building. The new owners thought the country house was too small. Gaudí was too busy with the Sagrada Familia so he recommended Sierra de Martínez — one of his disciples.

Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide exterior 5

In the photo above you can see the split between the original house (left) and the extension (right). To be honest, the work was remarkably respectful of the original design and even received an architecture award. It’s the sort of thing that you don’t notice unless someone points it out. Seamless.

Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide exterior 4

Another key alteration was the position of the entrance. The original door was located facing the street (now the second arched window in the photo above). When the road had to be widened, the entrance was moved to the side, where another arched window stood. Sierra de Martínez managed this too, and the plans had Gaudí’s seal of approval.

In 2014 a bank bought Casa Vicens intending to turn it into a museum to showcase Gaudí’s first project. It took years of study to figure out what the house looked like. Not a simple task after all the alterations. The restoration was carried out in 2017 by Daw Office and Martiñez Lapeña Torres Arquitectes.

Bold and innovative interior

Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide doors

Now, let’s talk about interiors. Even though in the 20th Century Casa Vicens was subdivided into three flats, the house was considered small. After all, it was designed as a holiday home. You’d be surprised to see there are no corridors or hallways. All the rooms are connected to let the air circulate and to maximise natural light.

The exterior had the botanical treatment with chequered and patterned tiles. But how did Gaudí bring nature to the interior? This was done in two ways. Firstly, by using symbols repeated on multiple surfaces. Every room is unique and has a different wall and ceiling motifs. Secondly, by visually connecting the interior to the garden. The main facade overlooks the garden instead of the road.

Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide bedroom

Uniform flooring

Terrazzo is the flooring of choice throughout the house. Important spaces such as the dining room and main bedroom also have mosaic details. The interior of the extension has not survived and you may notice some abrupt flooring changes in some photographs.

Wall treatments

The walls are no less trendy. They have a quirky mixture of techniques. Stucco on the bottom and… sgraffito on the top? It’s a decorative technique where several tinted coats of plaster are applied and then “scratched” to reveal underlying layers. Sgraffito is commonly used on the exterior walls. But this is the first time I have seen something like that in an interior.

Ceiling decoration

Perhaps the most remarkable feature is the ceiling. Richly decorated with papier mâché plant motifs between the beams. If you look closely no two designs are the same. Every ceiling is different but follows the Mediterranean flora and fauna theme. This continuity is present throughout the house and shows the level of detail Gaudí achieved.

Casa Vicens: the house tour

Enough with the talking. Let’s have a closer look.

Dining room

Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide foyer 24 Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide window detail

The dining room was difficult to photograph. Being the most decorated room it’s also the place where all the visitors gather to admire every single surface. I like the smooth transition from the foyer to the dining room. And the little painted birds by the windows. You can also see the ceiling motif here is the vine tree — perfect choice.

Veranda

Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide veranda 2 Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide veranda 1

My favourite room is the veranda. It’s technically part of the dining room. But in such a small space the exterior and interior meet. You have the tile used on the exterior walls with painted ceilings simulating a blue sky with palm trees. And don’t get me started on those yellow shutters!

Smoking room

Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide smoking room

One of the most challenging rooms to restore (and the smallest). The vibrant blue oriental ceiling was painted gold by some confused soul. A small patch in the corner was left untouched to remind people interior decorating crimes happen. The walls combine ceramic tile and papier mâché.

Master bedroom

Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide master bedroom Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide master bedroom 3

Above the dining room, this decent sized bedroom was designed in a peculiar way. There is a “his” half and a “her” half. When I say half that is literal. The ceiling, wall and flooring colour change accordingly — even the sgraffito pattern. The space is open yet the room is divided.

Bathroom

Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide bathroom 1 Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide bathroom 3

Bold is an understatement. Forget the typical all-white bathroom. This room design is fresh, uplifting and over 130 years old. I don’t know about you but this bathroom has given me the courage to embrace colour. You got the three primary colours, chequered tiles, floral tiles… and those Gaudí shutters again!

Courtyard

Gaudí’s Casa Vicens: complete architecture and interior guide exterior 9

The garden had a decent size, and the house boasted good views of the mountains. After decades of speculation and alterations, the garden became a modest courtyard. Now it’s landscaped with palm trees, terracotta pots and durable concrete surfaces. Mountain views are no more. Instead, you can admire Señora María’s washing on the drying rack in the apartment blocks opposite.

Have you been to Barcelona?

Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Casa Vicens next time. It will become a top must-visit attraction soon. Use the image below to pin the blog post for later. And what is your favourite Gaudí building?

Gaudi Casa Vicens Complete Architecture And Interior Guide Boreal Abode Pinterest

midcentury modern shopping guide free download boreal abode vintage furniture
Share Tweet Pin It +1

You may also like

Previous PostBling-free simple Christmas decorations
Next PostRoyal System shelving by Poul Cadovius: pioneering furniture design

30 Comments

  1. Caroline
    5 months ago

    Beautiful photo’s Juan! Casa Vincens looks amazing, I would love to visit. Case Battló was definitely the highlight of our trip several years ago (and all the delicious tapas of course).

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      5 months ago

      Thank you for your comment, Caroline! Casa Vicens is a must in your next Barcelona trip. If you liked Casa Batllo, you’ll love Gaudi’s early work too.

      Reply
  2. Dave
    4 months ago

    This is an excellent read and the photographs are beautifully shot, so thank you! The veranda is exquisite. We visited Casa Batlló (and Park Güell, and la Sagrada Família…) so will have to go to Casa Vicens on our next visit. It is interesting to see Gaudí’s earlier work as it is (slightly) more restrained. I think the builders of Barcelona must have hated him!

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      4 months ago

      Thank you for your comment, Dave! You’re absolutely right. His earlier work was more restrained but this is where the obsession with nature began. In Casa Vicens nature is shown on the ornaments (tiles, walls, etc). But in the later projects nature became the form. And the rest is history!

      Reply
  3. JENNY KAKOUDAKIS
    4 months ago

    What an informative post! Absolutely bookmarking this for later as well. There’s always a post that really strikes gold for a blog and I think this is your gold moment Juan! Would love to visit this place. What a landmark and how beautifully restored.

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      4 months ago

      Ah, thank you so much for your kind comment, Jenny! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. A good excuse to visit Barcelona!

      Reply
  4. Nicola Capper
    4 months ago

    Great post Juan, I’m certainly overdue a return trip to Barcelona as soon as possible!

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      4 months ago

      Thank you for your comment, Nicola! It’s an absolute must ☺️

      Reply
  5. Ruthie
    4 months ago

    Gorgeously shot Juan, and a really interesting read, if u make it back to Barcelona it’s on the list 💙

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      4 months ago

      Thank you for your comment, Ruthie! I can’t recommend it enough. To be honest, there’s great architecture all over the neighborhood.

      Reply
  6. Fawn Interiors Studio
    4 months ago

    Oh, we loved Barcelona and the Gaudi buildings but we only saw the really touristy ones. What a great post highlighting how many more special Gaudi buildings there are.

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      4 months ago

      Thank you for your comment, Tamsin! The touristy ones are breathtaking. But it’s true that it’s interesting to see the hidden gems.

      Reply
  7. Abi | These Four Walls blog
    4 months ago

    Such a fascinating post Juan, and beautiful photos! I spent a year living in Barcelona and did my university dissertation on Catalan architecture and identity, so this is right up my street!

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      4 months ago

      Thank you for your comment, Abi! Wow, that’s a fantastic dissertation topic. You’re gonna love Casa Vicens when you visit!

      Reply
  8. Stacey Sheppard
    4 months ago

    Embarrassingly I’ve never been to Barcelona. It is top of my travel list though so hopefully it won’t be long before I get to visit. This place will definitely be on the itinerary. It’s so beautiful. This is such an informative and inspiring post. The photos are beautiful. Thank you for taking the time to write such a great post.

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      4 months ago

      Thank you for your comment, Stacey! If you like this post you’ll love Barcelona. There’s great architecture and design on every corner.

      Reply
  9. Evija
    4 months ago

    What a beautifully written post with so much detail and information! Your photos are absolutely gorgeous too Juan! I have never been to Barcelona, but when I do go, I will definitely visit this beauty.. the veranda is simply magical!!!

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      4 months ago

      Thank you for your comment, Evija! The veranda must have been such a great place to relax. The whole house us flooded with light.

      Reply
  10. Fiona
    4 months ago

    I really enjoyed reading this. Such a fascinating building with so much history. Great photos too!

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      4 months ago

      Thank you for your comment, Fiona! I’m glad you like the historical background. Learning about the past helps you appreciate design even more.

      Reply
  11. Becky at PinksCharming
    4 months ago

    What an absolutely stunning building! I haven’t been to Barcelona but it is on the list, especially having seen this! Thanks for the detail, Becky

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      4 months ago

      Thank you for your comment, Becky! I think you’re gonna love Barcelona. Great design everywhere!

      Reply
  12. Anna Urban
    4 months ago

    What a fantastic read and beautiful photography too!

    Gaudí is more than architect he is an artist with truly unique and distinctive style. I adore his creations.

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      4 months ago

      Thank you for your comment, Anna! So glad you liked the blog post. You’re right, not many architects end up having a unique style.

      Reply
  13. Keira
    4 months ago

    I would love to go to Barcelona! Some gorgeous pictures here and the architecture is just stunning. A great informative guide!

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      4 months ago

      Thank you for your comment, Keira! I’m glad you found the blog post informative. You’ll love Barcelona!

      Reply
  14. Meera
    4 months ago

    This is an EPIC post, Juan, loved it! And the photos are all so gorgeous. I regret not visiting Barcelona before having kids, but hopefully we’ll be able to go in a few years. (By the way, I read this post last week but before I could comment, I got called away then forgot to leave my note, oops.)

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      4 months ago

      Thank you for your comment, Meera! I’m the same with blogs, leaving comments weeks later. Barcelona can be a great family holiday, it’s not too far from the big theme parks.

      Reply
  15. Kimberly ~ Swoon Worthy
    2 months ago

    What an incredibly informative post! Really enjoyed reading this. We visited Barcelona a few years ago and always wanted to go back (still haven’t managed it!) but Gaudi’s influence was a big reason why I fell in love with it. Thanks so much for the history and a peek into this amazing building! x

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      2 months ago

      Thank you for your comment, Kimberly! So glad you enjoyed the post. You’ll love it when you visit next time 🙂

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Thanks for visiting...

Grab your FREE Midcentury Guide before you go

No sign up required! 6MB PDF
close-link

Are you a Design Lover? Don't miss the Style-packed Newsletter

Get subscriber-only articles in your inbox every month!
Your details are safe with my privacy policy. Out-out anytime.
I’M IN 👍
X
Boreal Abode's Privacy Policy has been updated on May 10thRead the new Privacy Policy