The Grand Tour

This 394-Square-Foot Madrid Home Is an Homage to the Desert

An interior designer created her own calming space filled with curves
“The living room is the area where life happens... since it is the area that gets the most natural light in the whole...
“The living room is the area where life happens... since it is the area that gets the most natural light in the whole house,” the designer explains. The space is divided from the kitchen and the dining room thanks to curvy arches.

Spanish-born María Teresa García Santiago, an interior designer working under Patricia Bustos, cites organic architects like Fernando Higueras, César Manrique, and Ricardo Bofill as formative influences. Years later, curvilinear forms not unlike the structures those three visionaries created continue to resonate. During the pandemic, María Teresa took a series of trips to Almería in southeast Spain and to the Canary Island of Fuerteventura, where she spent much of her childhood. There, she realized these desert landscapes would ultimately inform the design aesthetic for her new home in Madrid.

María Teresa in her Madrid home

“When I travel I usually visit remote places, like the rocky cliffs that hide secret caves and homes in hard-to-reach places, where I can reconnect with the purity of the natural elements,” the interior designer explains. So when it came to designing her own home, María Teresa wanted to create her own domestic landscape where all elements would feel like they’re part of the environment.

Despite all the incredible details and textures happening in the kitchen, the palette and overall essence remain as cool and calming as in the rest of the home.

The built-in bench includes concealed storage space inside. It is made of masonry and outfitted with made-to-measure cushions featuring corduroy upholstery. Nearly all decorative items were María Teresa’s own designs, including the birch wood chairs, the glass table with orange and yellow gradient, the integrated wall sconces, and the hand-painted cement vases. The Area 50 pendant lamp is by Mario Bellini for Artemide.

Drenched in natural light, the living space is an open area connected to the kitchen and dining room by a series of arches. “The kitchen, for me, is a meeting place to eat with friends [and] have a party,” says María Teresa, who often uses the island as a DJ table. “It’s also a place to paint, think about ideas, and develop my projects.” Odes to the desert can be found too: The carpet in the living room, for example, is inspired by dunes with different shades of sand, while one of the walls, which is plastered with pieces of broken travertine marble, looks like an eternal sunset.

Much of the pieces in the living and dining space are custom works from María Teresa and Patricia Bustos Studio.

The window borders are tiled and have Alpi veneer coating on the interior to match the backsplash of the kitchen.

“Everything in the house has an organic continuity…. There are no corners, but [instead there are] rounded edges,” María Teresa says. The ceiling, walls, and floor are covered in cement of the same tone while the lighting is integrated into the walls and floors to create a feeling of tranquility and warmth. The furniture is minimal, with built-ins maintaining a sense of continuity while allowing for more space.

“This part of the house has no natural light, so I [built] a kind of tunnel [to] create the effect of a cave,” she explains. “This is the first thing you see when you walk inside. It feels very peaceful and cozy.” The sculpture by Carla Cascales, called Tamariua, was made using marble and wood eroded by the sea.

The built-in bed is cement-lined and includes built-in storage space. The María Teresa–designed ceiling light features brass and gradient details that give the room a yellow-to-orange glow—keeping up with the desert theme. The headboard is from ALPI. The linen duvet cover is by Zara Home.

The tunnel-like corridor guides the way to the bedrooms—where more built-ins await. The primary bedroom is designed to look like a cave (very much in reference to César Manrique). María Teresa took inspiration from natural environments and the shapes, organic colors, and curves of rock formations in the room’s own walls. The bed is made of stonework and is covered in microcement. Even the mattress is rounded.

“I have a desire to live in a sheltered universe that isolates me from the madness of my neighborhood,” she says. “This house is my personal desert.”

María Teresa designed both lamps in the guest bedroom, including the cement fluorescent wall sconce and the table lamp. The Wassily chair is a vintage Marcel Breuer piece she found in an antique shop. (She reupholstered it herself.) The Cotton duvet cover is from Zara Home. “I love to receive people at home, so while things look nice, everything must be functional and comfortable,” she says.

The bathtub and the sink are lined with clay tiles in a sandy color to match with the natural palette of the home. “The bathtub is one of the most important areas of the house and one of the parts I use the most,” María Teresa explains. The chrome plated steel side table holds an Inma Peroli ball vase and a white candlestick from Llopmadrid.

The second full bathroom is located off of the living quarters. It features a checked plastered mirror designed and painted by María Teresa. The vintage pendant lamp is from a flea market in Madrid, while the white candles are from Mullier. The terra-cotta pampa candle is from Llopmadrid.