The Beach House Apartment

The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”, can be very misleading. A picture can only reveal what’s captured within its frame. After all, a picture is a well-chosen snapshot, and unless the subject matter takes into consideration the wider, broader context in which it was captured, the viewer is limited to the author’s vision and perspective.

I ponder upon this, often enough. That is, I often try to ‘break’ the imposed frame, look beyond its borders, and place the image within a familiar context. And this is precisely the ritual I perform, on receiving and scrolling through a series of images of sumptuously pristine interiors, dominated by clean white lines and plentiful warm textures.

It’s only after chatting to interior designer, and director at Studio Nomad Interiors, Eliza Costabel, that I discover the space I have been ogling, and which I initially thought might be a beach-house, is actually a small apartment in Gozo. There’s hardly any giveaway within the images that reveal the country in which this flawless space is situated, let alone the locality. To the trained eye, the sheep wool carpets and the typical bamboo curtain-cum-blinds, better known as hasiras, would be the only tell-tale signs to give some indication or clue to where this apartment could be situated or at least present possible insight into the owner’s history and travels.

This seemingly effortless, and highly curated space, took a year to complete after lying bare for the best part of a decade. The apartment was purchased in shell form, and whilst her client had already started doing some of the interior construction work, she soon realised that she needed to seek a professional for the job.

Trying to trace Eliza’s steps to understand her concept and point(s) of departure, I ask her what the given brief was; only to be surprised when she tells me, matter-of-factly, that when it came to this project, she didn’t have one. Rather, her client had seen Eliza’s residence featured on HOMEWORKS and had felt a kinship with the style and aesthetic imparted throughout her space. Eliza’s home became her calling card and set the tone/mood for the apartment.

Eliza has an admirable work ethic; she insists that there must be some form of connection forged with her clients and chosen projects. In this particular case, they shared a penchant for artisanal and ethnic items, as well as their aesthetic sensibility. In Eliza’s words, her client was “every designer’s dream”, who played an active part in the process, and with whom Eliza also shared shopping trips to select some of the more poignant pieces to be displayed in the space being designed.

Eliza also explains how she was very hands-on throughout the project, and how she enjoys being an integral part of the construction process. She generally works with one main contractor, as well as several specialists. Having lived and worked in Kenya for several years, she learned to minimise the number of people she worked with – a practice that has persisted ever since. On this project, Eliza worked with an Italian contractor, who took up an apartment next door for almost a year, to dedicate himself to this progressing work. During this time, he learned to master micro cement as well as carpentry – despite being a builder by profession – both skills were put to ample use in the apartment.

Overall, Eliza made few yet very significant changes to the original apartment’s design: The two bedrooms were conjoined into one large room with an en suite, and windows were enlarged to allow for more light and air to circulate the space. The largest wall in the apartment became an area of focus in the living area and was clad with travertine bricks, creating contrast and in juxtaposition to the neutral tones. A fireplace punctuates the wall, whilst a shelf and a bench built out of concrete and gypsum, run the course of the wall, under which a series of customised handmade baskets provide additional storage whilst simultaneously complementing the natural textures prevalent throughout the space.

Eliza’s design is complemented and accentuated by a few carefully chosen and in-keeping pieces, which her client possessed – mementoes and souvenirs from past travels – which give the space a personal, intimate touch.

The result? A place to retreat from the madness of everyday life; the perfect space for a weekend getaway.