Laura González arrived to Barcelona 11 years ago from Monterrey Mexico. After studying Fine Arts and developing her practice as a painter, she has since committed her future to floristry. Her partner, Gregorio Fernández – better known as Gori – is originally from Mallorca and is trained as a motorcycle and antique car restorer. After moving to Barcelona he gravitated towards a long held interest: tailoring and fashion. Today Gori runs his own fashion line, Gori de Palma.
Gori and Laura’s partnership is intertwined in personal and professional spheres. Like many young creatives in Barcelona they decided to migrate to the Poblenou neighborhood, settling in a converted industrial space that functions as a home and work space. Despite the challenges of combining two activities under the one roof, the pair have succeeded in creating a functional and harmonious space where projects are accomplished and found objects are left scattered around the interior – one of Gori’s many hobbies is collecting objects. Whether it be some salvaged antique furniture, bicycles, floral arrangements or vintage motorcycles, the contents of their interior often depends on whatever the street or flea markets offer. The couple chats about their passions, city life, and the hope of one day making a rural change to lose distractions and have the expansive garden, perhaps even the pool, they have always dreamed of.
This story is featured in our second book, Freunde von Freunden: Friends, order within Germany here, or find the book internationally at selected retailers.
What are you both doing at the moment?
Laura: I arrived in Barcelona just over 11 years ago and I began studying fine arts during this time, but more recently I have moved beyond this. I am currently consumed with working with flowers.
Gori: I work as a fashion designer. I have a fashion brand and am currently committed to producing my own fashion lines as well as working with advertising.
Why did you decided to move to Barcelona?
Laura: I actually moved to Barcelona because my mother lived here, and additionally I wasn’t very happy living in Mexico.
How were you introduced to the world of fashion?
Gori: I was living in Mallorca and working in a boat restoration workshop. I became bored with it as I wasn’t creating anything special, so I came to Barcelona in search of something else. I’ve always had an interest in clothing, particularly tailored suits. I signed up for design school because I wanted to learn, and step by step I started to get the hang of it without really being aware of it. When I finished school I was asked to prepare a runway show and thus my journey into the fashion world began without much planning.
Laura, how did you begin working with flowers?
Laura: It was quite accidental as I had been out of work for about a year at the time and a florist friend of mine needed help so she gave me the opportunity to learn about it. I really enjoyed working with flowers so I started some studies in floristry and finally ended up in the world of floral arrangements.
My work with flowers came by chance even though my father is a biologist and as a child I spent a good deal of time with him in the field. My mother’s partner was also a botanist. Flowers have always compelled me in aesthetic terms but it really has been by chance that I started working as a florist. I think it is a beautiful way of earning a living. Flowers are also quite grateful, it’s difficult to make an ugly flower arrangement; you put a flower in a glass or in a coffee cup and that’s it. At that point if you are interested in taking it further you have to manage some technical aspects like cutting flowers for longevity, like a bouquet. This was the reason I started studying in the school for Floral Art in Catalunya. However, it is also easy to be self-taught since it’s so creative.
I like most flowers but I have a particular weakness for peonies and aldo wild flowers which are conducive to a more natural type of floral art. Also, who doesn’t like to receive flowers?
How long have you lived here? Why did you decide to move to Poblenou?
Laura: How long? About three and a half years. As for the why, we were looking for a large and luminous space. We needed a place where Gori could have a studio with good working conditions so that he could work from home. The prices are more reasonable in Poblenou and it offered the possibility of having an industrial warehouse near the beach, which was very appealing.
Gori: We were looking for a space like this in Poblenou for some time. It’s a former industrial district and this affects the architecture and the spaces. For instance, the ceiling in the offices can be quite tight. Finally we found this one and it was more untouched, more original, with floors as pretty as the ceilings, and with an abundance of light. When we saw it we thought, “This is our new home.”
How long did it take you to transform this industrial space into the home you currently live in?
Laura: Long enough! We were living here for a long time with the bare essentials, a fork, a knife and a spoon (laughs). We didn’t have anything. This house is like patchwork, we have been finding things for the house on the streets.
Gori: It’s been a process, with time and without any planning. First we bought a table, then a chair and little by little the house began to get the feel it has now.
You have tons of antique furniture, do you usually buy things from Encants, the local flea market?
Laura: Most of the furniture is Gregorio’s from his old flat. In truth, I didn’t have anything. But it’s true, most everything came from Encants.
Gori: Eighty percent Encants, twenty percent Ikea.
You have lived here for such a long time, bearing in mind the evident changes in a city like Barcelona in the past years, do you have a different image of the city compared to when you just arrived?
Gori: When I first arrived I didn’t have much of an idea about Barcelona. I first came to the city with my grandparents who are from here. I had come as a child and didn’t have an image of Barcelona like that of a capital or a city. With time I have gotten closer to Barcelona, realizing it’s not just any city. It is a little of everything. It lets you have certain hobbies that you can’t have in other places. Whatever your interests are it’s a city where you can pursue them.
Laura: To start with, I thought Barcelona was hot all of the time, that it was always summer. I actually came during the winter and I nearly froze. I didn’t know anyone here, so it was tough for the first few months. Now I am very rooted here. I have my friends and I can’t imagine living far from the sea like I did in Monterrey which is landlocked.
Would you change neighborhoods?
Laura: I am very happy here but if I had to move I would chose anywhere below Diagonal, downtown.
Gori: I would change neighborhood. I’d like to live in a town 10-15 kilometres from Barcelona. In the future I imagine living in a house with land, a garage, a garden, a barbecue and pool.
Laura: I could do without the pool but I do want a garden. In Mexico everyone’s house has a garden. It’s easier because it’s a different style of life. I would like to change to a more rural life, although I wouldn’t settle in a small town, but, I could at least try it out at some point.
The fact that you are a florist probably influences the fact that you want a garden.
Laura: Yes, maybe. Before it wasn’t important but once I began working in this field I noticed that flowers give everything another air even though it might not seem like it. I think that homes should be filled with plants, vegetation, leaves, stems and twigs.
Gori, in your case, besides fashion, when did you begin pursuing your passion for motorcycles?
Gori: In Mallorca I had a workshop where I restored motorcycles and antique cars. In fact, when I came to Barcelona, I closed the workshop and forgot about it for a long time. Also, you need a lot of space to carry out this type of work which is difficult in Barcelona. A few years ago I came back to it, specifically to motorcycles because they take up less space.
Laura: I would like to paint again. If we move to a town, I’d like to dedicate myself to it because I’ve put that on hold. I wouldn’t abandon the flowers though: I’d like to do both. Also living in the countryside offers less distractions than the city.
What do you think about the fashion industry in Barcelona?
Gori: In truth I don’t really follow the fashion world in Barcelona with much interest. I prefer to look and find designers outside, in Europe or in America, or discover young 19 year olds who are just starting with amazing talent. In Barcelona I still haven’t found anybody that interests me too much. I couldn’t give an honest opinion of fashion in Barcelona because I hardly know it.
What is it like to work and live in the same space?
Laura: It can be complicated. You lose intimacy. In our case, our home is Gregorio’s studio and for me there are times where it has been a little bit difficult and certainly a hot topic for debate. In the beginning, one can get excited in combining domestic and professional spaces, but it can become a problem. I think that when you live with your partner, its complicated to mix your home with your work. Also, I don’t gather as many things as he does. On the contrary: the less the better. Gregorio is a “junkman.” I get overwhelmed although I can see the charm in the things he he brings in. I don’t need much, just plants.
In your case, Gori, why do you accumulate so many things?
Gori: It’s not accumulation, they are old things, you see them and you have to have them. Then you don’t want to throw them away so you put them in boxes. I throw more things away than I care to. Nowadays, since I have the garage, we have half of the things we once did.
How did you organize the house?
Laura: There was once a wall separating the space which limited the general lighting. It would have been nice to have a separate room but we wanted to have an open space that allowed light to come through so we tore it down.
Gori: That room was originally meant for storage. We left one room to divide the bedroom.
Laura: The truth is that we shouldn’t be living here – the space is not zoned for residential living – which has caused issues with the owners. But we are good, responsible tenants. We never throw parties.
Gori: We didn’t really say we were going to live here. From the first moment, when we saw the space we knew the building was full of studios, offices and workshops. Since I had my clothing line, it fit in as a studio. We originally rented it as a design studio. With time they realized we were living here. You build a kitchen, you keep making changes.
So you have domesticated the space.
Laura: Originally the space had a shower. We built the kitchen which is still a “camping” kitchen. We’ve said, little by little, we were going to be buying things for the kitchen, but we never did. There comes a time when you want to live with some comforts because we are not 20 anymore. The truth is I do miss a bathroom “like god intended” . The problem is that our contract will expire soon and we will have to find a new place, but we want to stay in Poblenou. Because of our problems with owners its unlikely they will renew the contract.
Gori: We’re already looking at other spaces in the area but its really expensive to fix up a new flat. Maybe its not convenient to spend all the money in a house that isn’t yours either.
Laura: Also, there are owners that will allow you to live in these types of spaces. Actually, the idea now is that if we move we will tell them that we will live and work in the space. I don’t want to have any more problems because it’s rather uncomfortable.
Gori: Infact, most people that we know live in this sort of space and rarely have problems with the landlords because they assume that for the past decade Poblenou is an underground neighborhood. In reality, it’s nothing new.
Poblenou is an industrial district which does not have many stores or bars like other zones in the city, how do you go about everyday life?
Laura: In our case we have it easy because we live right on the limit. We have a mall or La Rambla de Poble Nou nearby; a 15 minute walk. I like to go in the morning and shop and walk around. At night it’s quite still.
Gori: Maybe it’s inconvenient because of that, but on the other hand you have so much tranquility. Everything empties out by 6pm and during the day it isn’t too bustling.
Laura: I make my day in la Rambla de Poblenou which is very lively with bars and shops. It’s true that there are more offices than bars even though there is one across the street we have breakfast in. We also go to “Chiringuitos” on the beach, because although some are very expensive, some are also very good.
Gori: I think that you grow accustomed to what you have nearby. You end up going to the local bar or to the neighborhood cinema. The same thing you do downtown you can do here during the week. For instance, you have the Nau, where you can have a drink in the evening, but it’s true, we do go downtown on the weekend.
Would you say the area has changed with growing development?
Laura: It looks like the history of the neighborhood is vanishing. It used to be a working, industrial neighborhood and I feel it’s losing that charm. They could reuse this past; the spaces fit the current needs, for people that are looking to work in the same space where they reside. I think they should respect the proper history of the space instead of erasing it and reconstructing it into something else. It takes away all of the historic depth that these spaces and the neighborhood as a whole have; which is its charm. Here in Barcelona they think differently: wipe the slate clean. Here modernity and newness are valued more than restoring the past. Eventually, they are going to make this area into a more designer lifestyle feel which will be nothing more than cold and horrible.
Laura and Gori many thanks for the interview and telling us about your neighborhood in Poblenou. Learn more about Laura here and for Gori and his fashion company visit here.
Photos by Rubén Ortiz & Natalia Guarín
Text by Sonia Fernández Pan