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I had the pleasure to tour a beautifully renovated, turn of the century apartment in the San Telmo area of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Owner Stephen Woods moved to Argentina from the UK almost ten years ago with a background in historical property renovation. He now lives in this gorgeous apartment with his girlfriend Eloisa and their daughter Katia. The renovations lasted approximately four months with meticulous planning ahead of time, including making silicone molds of the original rosette moulding detail and reproducing and installing them around the apartment. Stephen focused on maintaining the integrity of the apartment and honoring the era in which it was built, yet upgrading the space to be livable in this day and age.
The apartment is hidden at the back of a spacious, French-style Neoclassical building, built in 1904, in San Telmo, Buenos Aires' notorious antiques and art district. With the exception of the two back rooms, the apartment has impressively high ceilings, measuring a little over 13 feet in the hallway and 11.5 feet in the rooms. The sitting room and piano room make up the two common areas of the apartment. These spaces are decorated with the period of the apartment in mind, yet with a designer's eye as well. The doors and windows were all fitted with antique hardware and the antique-style radiators were installed to solve the problem of the lack of central heating. These two rooms are accessorized beautifully with antiques and artwork from varying periods of the 20th century that play off each other beautifully. Antique siphons are a cultural touch, as these are hugely popular across the flea markets in the city.
The layout of the apartment remains exactly as it was built, no walls were knocked out or added, however the functions of each room were changed to work best for their family. The original kitchen was located at the back of the apartment, along with the maid's quarters. They were quite small and not centrally located, so Stephen decided to transform them into his daughter’s bedroom and an in-home office. He took up the floorboards from the front bedroom and turned this space into the kitchen. Stephen wanted the kitchen to function in the modern world yet still tie-in with the period-style of the apartment. He found an antique carpenters table at a flea market and sized the stainless countertops to fit its dimensions. Well designed wall light fixtures and ceiling lights are also what defines the period design; the chandelier and sconces were also found at a local flea market.
The hallway features a large, stained glass window or "ventanal" as it is called in Argentina. The frame is original to the apartment, but Stephen found antique glass to set in the frame. Light blue is a very common color to be featured in stained glass windows in Argentina as a patriotic touch and the corner pieces of the ventanal are typically a different color to the boarder of the window. The window openings are characteristic of the original frame, with a hook and chain mechanism to hold the windows at an angle. A classic chandelier defines the hallway with high ceilings. The chandelier that hangs in the hallway is an antique, again found in a flea market in Buenos Aires, that Stephen had deconstructed from one chandelier with eight arms to two matching chandeliers of four arms. An extra large chandelier would have also looked fantastic with the tall ceilings. The mosaic flooring is characteristic of the period, but was laid during the renovation.
The closet off the bathroom was originally the maid’s "prep" area and was open. Stephen found 100-year old pine wood and had custom doors made to close off the space and create a storage closet and laundry room. Facing the closet is the original wall-mounted lighting outlet, but to accentuate the height of the space, Stephen added a hook to the ceiling and hung an antique chandelier. The bathroom is outfitted with antique fixtures found at a demolition warehouse in Argentina. The matte dark grey color of the wainscoting and fixtures was a unifying design decision. The radiators were made in that color and finish, so Stephen decided to use that color for select hard surfaces throughout the apartment.
The back part of the apartment consists of their daughter’s bedroom and Stephen's office. The marble staircase had to be removed and re-polished, possibly the most arduous process of the entire renovation, and the original pine stairs had to be stripped of their awkward shade of green paint. The plaster ceiling from both rooms was removed to show the original brick and oxidized beams, a very common ceiling treatment and look in Buenos Aires.
Stephen’s advice to anyone looking to restore a historic property is to not get caught up with making everything 100% historically accurate, but to have a coherence and unity throughout the property that speaks the language of the period. The attention to detail has lent itself to a beautifully restored, historic apartment. With another upcoming restoration project in the city, I can not wait to see what Stephen will create.
All Images: Allison Rosenberg
WOW! I love this article Al... and the house! It's absoultely gorgeous!
I love it! Amazing kitchen and windows. I agree that making it coherent throughout is more important than focusing only on historical accuracy. Well done!
Maravilloso todo, ya mi marido, Abel me habia comentado de los hermosos diseños y la decoracion. Me encanta