Whenever I need a jolt of inspiration, I often find myself returning to images of Elsa Peretti's breathtaking Casa Grande in the 11th-century village of San Martín Vell, Spain. Known for her embrace of minimal, organic forms, the legendary Tiffany designer acquired the dilapidated estate in 1968, when the surrounding town, just north of Barcelona, was no more than a cluster of ruins. This was at the height of New York’s disco-fueled Studio 54 era, when Peretti, then working as an in-demand model, was becoming increasingly desperate for a quiet retreat.
Photo: Alvaro Bujons
Photo: Solvi dos Santos
It was thus that Casa Grande became her salvation. With a few thousand dollars scraped together from her modeling career, Peretti purchased the main house based largely on a photograph her friend had shown her. Working with local albiñes--specialty bricklayers--along with other craftsmen and artisans, she began slowly to give the town a distinctly Peretti touch. Indeed, what began as a village in disarray soon became the total extension of her vision. From the local chapel to the village water tower, Peretti oversaw all renovations with her signature flair for the bold yet minimal, yet with scrupulous attention paid towards preservation.
Peretti's appreciation for the forms of nature and deep commitment to questions of scale and proportion are wonderfully manifest throughout Casa Grande. The cavernous ceilings and myriad windows keep the thick, sand-colored stone walls from feeling heavy, while the earthy, sculptural furniture elements draw on their surroundings. The emphasis on raw elements--stone, wood, concrete, and iron--reflects Peretti's interest in simplicity and purity of material.
Photo: Alvaro Bujons
While for the most part, the home is limited to an earthy color palette, Peretti couldn't help incorporating elements of her favorite color, blue. Cool and refreshing, the shade of pale indigo-lilac she used to paint the stuccoed walls and ceilings seems to glow. Peretti carried the color into the knave of the local chapel, and also painted some of the exterior walls of Casa Grande the same shade. This sense of rhythm and counterpoint I feel is key to Peretti's magic.
As to the overall decorative schema of Casa Grande, it feels to me a perfect blend of brutalist and biomorphic elements. Filled with her most cherished mementoes--keepsakes picked up on her travels, or given to her by friends--her spare, yet eclectic curation resonates. Each item is rich with personal history, and in-keeping the personal, informal spirit of the house. An utter labor of love, Casa Grande and the now thriving village of San Martín Vell feel rooted in an ancient past, yet fresh with Peretti's singular creative vision.
Photo: Benedetta Pignatelli for Interiors Magazine; Alvaro Bujons; Vogue, March, 1986