Behind a tall door decorated with garlands of flowers on a cobblestone street in San Telmo, Buenos Aires, is the home of Mercedes Frassia. She is an architect and an urban planner, currently running a business in hospitality.
Mercedes’s home is in the kind of building that earlier was called a conventillo*. Behind the tall porch is a narrow passageway that leads out into a yard. Feminine tango shoes sit on top of an old shelf on one wall. This sets the tone for this unusual home. The large house consists of two separate buildings on each side of a garden, which is narrow and deep, sandwiched between two tall house gables completely covered with ivy. In the middle of the garden there is a swimming pool and deckchairs with yellow and white striped cushions. A massive wisteria forms an arch, dividing the yard and adding to the lushness of it. The whole place oozes old world charm. Despite the house being divided into five apartments, they all have the same flamboyant interior design, almost as if they were staged, like a play in a theatre.
“People always said that I was a more of a scenographer than an architect,” she confirms.
I enter an apartment in the building at the back through a tall glass door, and come into a large room with an impressive ceiling height of nearly six metres. The whole façade towards the garden is made up of glass windows, which makes it very light. The first thing I notice is a big Goodyear sign high up on one wall. A nod towards the building’s brief industrial period perhaps? This detail is a nice contrast to a large chandelier hanging from the ceiling. A massive open fireplace is also prominent.
The apartment has a consistent colour theme with green and red as the two main colours. The green colour is mainly on the windows and doors and on the metal staircase, that leads to the first storey where one of the two bedrooms is found. The red colour is in the decorative elements such as cushion covers, throws and the painted garlands and flowers that adorn the metal kitchen units, furniture, windows and walls.
She has lived here for thirteen years. When she bought it, the place was run down and dilapidated and everybody, so she says, thought that she was crazy. They believed there was too much work to be done to it. And the barrio San Telmo was very out of fashion at that time. It was a place where the very poor lived. Who would want to live there? But she saw something her architect friends didn’t. She saw possibilities.
“That the property had a garden was wonderful. I saw that I could put in a swimming pool,” she says. “People in Buenos Aires like to get out of the city and go to the countryside whenever they can, but I’m very urban. To be able to have a large garden in the middle of the city was incredible. And I loved the history of the place. I bought it at once.”
This is an excerpt from the book Home Life Around the World and is one of the unique and personal homes I visited.
Release date 15th May.
Home Life Around the World is available for pre-order in iBooks store, Kobo and Google Play. ISBN 978-91-984455-1-0
The book is also available for pre-order in the Kindle format. ASIN: B079VDPBVF
Print edition ISBN 978-91-984455-0-3
Copyright and photo: Anita Martinez Beijer