Perfect Vision: Jaime BeriestainSuzanne Wales • March 19, 2018
On most Saturday mornings in Barcelona, Jaime Beriestain can be found standing by the slate gray marble bar of his eponymous concept store and café as diners crowd into velvet armchairs underneath cascading chandeliers to eat and listen to a crooning jazz singer. Surrounding them is a flower shop and gourmet store that sells jams and olive oils. Nearby, in the retail area, furniture is on display, as are design tomes and accessories. The interior designer considers the space, located in the city’s posh Eixample neighborhood, his defining project. “I think of it as a laboratory that allows me to test the results of my experiments,” he says. “The starting point of the project was to welcome my clients here as I do my guests at home.”
Beriestain’s world is certainly seductive. Along with a curated selection of museum-quality midcentury vintage furniture and light fixtures, the retail section includes signature lines of bath and body treatments, exquisite gourmet goodies, and country-chic tableware that Beriestain has made in local workshops around Barcelona. At the rear of the store is a chic florist (a rarity for Spain) bursting with fragrant arrangements of peony roses and other blooms. This leads to a cocktail bar that acts as a showroom for his new furniture lines, where the wall colors and artwork regularly change in accordance with new collections, ranging from fruity, Brazilian-inspired tropicalia one season to a cool, 1950s Balearic vibe the next. It’s an eclectic experience that is like traveling through the private realm of an aesthete. “I have a good visual memory that allows me to retain images, gestures, attitudes, meetings, and fragrances,” he says. “It helps me blend distant perceptions with modern materials and processes. Memories are a valuable resource for my work, and my influences can be anything from travel to movies.”
Beriestain relocated to Barcelona from his native Chile in 2000 to complete his postgraduate degree in interior design at Bau Design College. By 2001, he received the commission to remodel Barcelona’s Hilton Diagonal Hotel, and a year later, he founded his own studio, which now employs 25 designers and interior architects who have together signed off on some of Europe’s most alluring hotels, including the One hotels in Barcelona and Lisbon, Hotel Vincci the Mint in Madrid, a recent overhaul of Princess Sofia (now called the Sofia, Barcelona), and a handful of prestige private homes and apartments, including Rolling Stone guitarist Ronnie Wood’s luxurious Barcelona digs.
Beriestain’s talent for creating impact and atmosphere with modern art was evident from the onset: For the Hotel Vincci Bit, a funky urban hotel by Barcelona’s beach district, he contracted local graffiti artists to paint murals over every inch of the halls, lending it the appearance of an urban art gallery. And at the more recent Room Mate Gerard, the latest from the Spanish boutique brand, he scoured the galleries of Barcelona with the hotel’s owner for the perfect pieces. “Art is an indispensable element in my projects,” he says. “For example, I am working on a historic private hotel in Geneva and the client is the owner of one of the Blue Plate sculptures by Anish Kapoor. The design scheme has been conceived to accommodate this singular work, with an open plan and timeless space.”
Over the years, Beriestain’s hotel projects have moved into the über-luxe sector, and peaked with the new Almanac Barcelona (it’s the first for the hotel group, with another by Beriestain set to open in Vienna in 2019). Situated in a striking building with cube-shaped, enclosed balconies by award-winning architect Carlos Ferrater of OAB Office of Architecture in Barcelona, Beriestain created a magnificent, modernist interpretation of a grand hotel from the Art Deco era using noble materials, such as brass, oak, walnut, and marble from Ibiza, as well as traditional ones like black mirrors and textured walls, in a contemporary way. “As it’s a new group, we had to look for an identity for the hotel,” he says. “It does feel like a hotel apart.”
As luxury evolves, Beriestain has learned to adapt to demanding consumers, often a younger demographic who “want to stay in warm, welcoming environments with personality and intimacy,” he explains. “The new luxury consumers avoid the institutional and classical. They look for the latest thing and want to be surprised.” While Beriestain has found his niche in the world of lifestyle and 5-Star hotels, his personal tastes are disarmingly down to earth. In his country home, a masia in the rural Catalan region of Bages, he keeps busy tending to his vegetable garden, churning his own butter, and buying fresh local milk in the village. It’s a simple life that sustains him until his next project, one he hopes will provide a glamorous interlude: “I would love to work on the set designs for an opera,” he says, “such as a Wagner.”