To understand Argentine design, one first needs to understand Argentina as a country and as a culture.
Photo by Bagus Tri Laksono
With a large mix of ethnic groups, Argentina has a contemporary culture that has been influenced by Italian, Spanish and other European immigrants, as well as the indigenous peoples of the Americas and Africa, all of who have contributed to the development of style and design in the country. While some see Argentine design as conscious imitation of European styles of the past, contemporary design in the nation is eclectic and embraces the “melting pot” background of Argentina.
This spirit is well captured in the residence of Argentina’s ambassador to Indonesia, HE Ricardo Luis Bocalandro, and his beautiful wife, Maria Elena Urriste. Nestled in the serenity of Kebayoran Baru, the house has been leased by the embassy for more than 10 years. Divided into two floors, the residence has an interesting layout, where all the rooms on the first floor are intertwined without an obvious separator. Two large living rooms comprise the main area, and are connected to the dining room and a library that has been painted red. A manicured garden, large swimming pool and a Balinese style bale banging, or garden pavilion, in the background, create a perfect equilibrium with the home’s composure.
Sitting on 1,500 square metres, this house has five bedrooms, a pantry, two kitchens, a cellar, a studio, as well as bedrooms and a kitchen for the staff. When the couple arrived three years ago, they decided to redo the decor as well as opting for some renovations. Urriste said that though the involvement of the ambassador can be extensive, the final shape of the projectdepends on the flexibility of the owner and, of course, their budget. “In our case, we are grateful that the owner of the house was very open to allowing us to renew it according to our needs and taste. With regards to possible changes, we improved the front of the house to make it more consistent with the interior. It is a little modest and does not fully reflect the sober elegance that the house has inside, but we also realize that it could be nice to be surprised after you passed the front door.”
Urriste is correct. Argentine charm and character immediately welcome you once you enter the residence. Elements of colors, furniture of different periods, a touch of chinoiserie, the choice of artwork and even Indonesian ethnic pieces used as accent embrace an Argentine design spirit.
“Our design approach is eclectic,” Urriste said. “You cannot recognize one specific style, but broad and diversified sources. We have very nice antique furniture that was acquired by the government when they first established the embassy almost 60 years ago, as well as a collection of handmade rugs from the Middle East. This is in some way ‘cut’ with a few modern objects and art. In a certain manner, the interior design of the residence reflects the history and spirit of Argentina–a country that was formed by immigrants who were in the majority European–which has influenced our taste for an elegant, sober and formal European style, whilst we add some touches of modernity and Argentine native tradition.”
This spirit is cohesively represented in almost every part of the house, even inside the bathroom. A highlight includes the master bedroom, where soft lime green plays the main role, juxtaposed against a nude pastel from Persian rugs and a whitewashed Javanese bench that sits beautifully by the window. It has his-and-her tables by the bed with Japanese wall-art panels and oriental bric-a-brac.
Another feature that gives fame to this house is a red library that is vibrant and sensual. We later found out from Urriste that it was the only wall color that the couple maintained from the former style. “When we arrived, each room was painted in different strong and bold colors, from yellow to green. I switched them all into white, except for the library. I imagined that room in red and added the red curtains, red carpets and kilims, as well as some other design elements in red. I wanted to create a special warm, peaceful and intimate ambiance to be enjoyed in the solitude of reading books and music. This right away became my husband’s favorite place. He would sit there every night before or after dinner with a book. The red room became his refuge.”
The residence shows an incredible balance in a composition that makes every element work in good harmony. It is a home with great character.