Madrid-based interiors and design practice LA Studio has developed an idiosyncratic style that blends antiques with iconic mid-century pieces, their own designs, and a bold splash of colour.
Madrid has long been a treasure trove for antiques lovers – from the elegant dealerships that line the streets in Barrio de Salamanca, to the sprawling flea market of El Rastro. Spanish gallerist Carlos López grew up immersed in this world, with family connections to antiques going back generations and parents with an antiques store in the heart of Madrid. When López embarked on his own design journey, however, he decided to embrace not only antiques, but vintage and contemporary design.
He founded interior design practice LA Studio with his partner in 2001, and quickly developed a signature style that blends contemporary interior design – both classics and pieces of his team’s own design – with antiques. While it might seem like somewhat of a radical departure from his background in curating antiques, for López it was simply a logical evolution, driven by generational change and emerging trends.
“We started this project more than 20 years ago and I quickly perceived a change in taste, which in Spain was seen a little later,” explains López. “Thanks to my continuous travels in Europe, I became aware that fashions were changing and that this trend should be brought closer to my country.”
The name of the studio was chosen to evoke the Hollywood style of the 1940s and 50s that initially inspired López – particularly the dazzling, cinematic interiors of interior designer Tony Duquette. In the years since launching, LA Studio’s references have multiplied, distancing the work from a specific region or period. “The changes have been marked by taste and trends,” he says. “First it was brass and mid-century, which was gradually replaced by a more relaxed and carefree vision of the 70s, to end up in the present day where heterodoxy and mixture mark our style.”
Iconic 20th-century pieces – particularly those from France and Italy by the likes of Gio Ponti, Gae Aulenti, Angelo Mangiarotti, Yves Klein, Ettore Sottsass, Alessandro Mendini and Carlo Scarpa – quickly became a hallmark of the studio’s style, creating a rich dialogue between past and present. And soon, the studio began to design their own pieces, drawing inspiration from fashion and opera to video games. “It’s not so much about something specific, but a way of looking at the world,” reveals López.
We believe that the difference between interior design and high decoration is marked by the good use of art.Carlos López, founder of LA Studio
Each in-house-designed piece is a celebration of the studio’s idiosyncratic style, and is handcrafted by Italian artisans. Take, for example, a bar cabinet crafted from white lacquered timber with a bold, marine-inspired abstract pattern in electric blue and bronze handles by Italian designer Flavio Poli that date back to the 1940s; or a pair of glamorous timber bedside tables covered in white and gold glass with brass detailing.
Today, LA Studio is made up of a diverse team of designers, art specialists, and graphic and digital designers, all working in a former bakery in the centre of Madrid. With exposed brick walls and soaring ceilings, it’s the perfect setting to showcase the studio’s eclectic style. Here, the team’s various talents complement each other to generate a holistic, multifaceted vision for clients and create richly creative spaces with a unique narrative.
“Multiple periods and styles converge, but each piece is characterised by being special,” says López. “Contemporary art is also a fundamental tool in our work as we believe that the difference between interior design and high decoration is marked by the good use of art.”
In the past two decades, the studio has amassed around 10,000 vintage pieces, including some particularly rare items such as a FontanaArte table designed by Max Ingrand, the enormous ceramic Totem sculptures by Alessandro Mendini for Studio Superego, and chairs by Afra and Tobia Scarpa for Maxalto. “In addition to their design value itself, these pieces become special because of how rare they are to find,” says López. “When you come across them you feel a great sense of satisfaction, even though they quickly continue their story in other hands and other houses.”
Another signature of LA Studio’s work is a vibrant use of colour, through furniture and art. Instead of the monochrome spaces that so often dominate the world of interiors – which López describes as “impersonal” – LA Studio fills their interiors with unabashed colour and life.
This combination of colour, craftsmanship, and a riotous coming together of different eras makes for impressively characterful spaces that surpass trends. While most of the studio’s projects and clients are in Madrid, due to proximity, the team works globally, and current projects span from Venice, to Miami and Peru. The spaces they transform are often just as evocative as the pieces they furnish them with – think a 19th-century horse stable transformed into a contemporary home; or La Toscana, a country house on the outskirts of Florence built on the site of a 14th-century convent.
La Toscana is particularly evocative of the studio’s approach, with walls plastered in a veritable rainbow of elegantly muted colours, punctuated by sculptural timber furniture and bold artwork. One wall is even artistically adorned with stacks of vintage saddles.
We want to give spaces a personality that speaks of the person who lives there.Carlos López
Given this cinematic approach to interior design, it’s unsurprising that the studio also rents pieces out for use on film sets and undertakes art direction and styling for diverse clients, from Grazia magazine to the Arte Contemporaneo art fair.
“Our work is based on generating spaces with character, and we consciously differentiate ourselves from this trend where the monochrome and the neutral style is everywhere,” says López. “We want to give spaces a personality that speaks of the person who lives there. Our pieces are not for everyone and this is not something we dislike – rather, it comforts us.”
Read more: Design | Furniture | Interiors | Dealers | Interior Designers | Mid-Century | The Bruno Effect