One enters in Lorenzo Castillo’s house in Madrid’s center and all its belief disintegrate a nothing remains but astonishment. There you can find galleries and stances filled with all kind of furniture and artistic and decorative objects, each one of them is a prodigy, but the combination of them is a bigger prodigy. In the middle of that huge wonder chamber, the owner receives us with a coffee cup while answers our questions.
Congratulations for your house. I don’t have words: the eye isn’t able to see everything. For how long do you live here? And what is its size?
Thank you. It’s about a thousand square meters. I think I bought it seven years ago. Before I had another flat in this building, and the former idea was to add them, but a Barcelona antiques dealer wanted to buy it and I sold it. I do not attach to stuff. I do my everyday life in the most close and cozy zone with my own kitchen.
I imagine that you have been gathering this objects for a while and this decoration is the result.
No, because to buy this I had to make an auction with all my furniture and objects which was a complete success. I took a chunk of money, but I was without furniture and I had to start again. I already told you that I do not attach to stuff, despite what it might appear. People often ask me if this is a house-shop and if I sell the furniture in it.
And what do you answer?
I answer no. Another thing is that, afterwards I use some stuff for my projects. I buy for me what I like, and then some clients ask me if they can acquire some of my stuff. But I’m not an antique dealer who buys with commercial criteria, to sell it. I buy with a decorative eye. That is what I like the most. That’s the key of my success.
Only that one?
And the mixture of styles, which is fashionable nowadays, but when I started nobody else did it in Spain. Except for Paco Muñoz who was influenced by David Hicks. When I started, the antiques dealer with good taste was the one dedicated to French furniture, like the Portuondo. Nobody did 20th century: there was even a dislike for it. The same that nowadays happens with 80s and 90s, which by the way they are entering. And that’s why, there’s a come back to classicism now, this is cyclic.
Let’s go to your beginnings. How were they? You have university formation, right?
Yes, I studied Art in Madrid’s Complutense, and then decorative arts in a private university. When I got there I already know everything because I was reading about that from six years ago! First I used to sell antiques and as a natural step I jumped into decoration, because my customers asked me. The biggest media step was when I decorated the Loewe stores ten years ago.
Which term do you prefer to your work? Do you like decorator, or interior designer?
Well, depending on the project I one of both. It depends on the level you reach: in interior designer you transform interior spaces, and in decorations you only dress them. But on top of that I’m a designer, that’s the part I like. Each time I tend more to it, like the cloth design for Gaston and Daniela: we present our second collection in September. I also work for The Rug Company and as a novelty I will tell you that just got called from Bergdorf Goodman to design a new object collection.
The big New York stores? Wow. Well, as I was saying, through history there as been architects-decorators considered as big artist, like Le Brun, Percier and Dontaine, Robert Adam or William Morris, but most of them are British or French. Why there aren’t similar cases in Spain?
It only comes to my mind, Ventura Rodríguez. In the 19th century there was Gaudí and then Feduchi and Gutiérrez Soto, for example. The problem is that Spain hasn’t had a bourgeoisie, which is the main antique customer. In their place there was the church, and that’s why we have so many churches and cathedrals, so much religious paintings and silver. And there is no palaces, but castles, with a defensive purpose. There was an aristocracy not focused in commerce and that’s bad for decorative arts.
I think that the adjective best describes you as a decorator, is bourgeois. It reflects this concept in a very intense way.
Yes, because of the quest of comfort. Which is a modern idea that starts in England and France, later in the US where if it is necessary, the classic rules of elegance are broken. All this is associated to bourgeoisie. The good taste, the beauty, which was gathered by aristocracy. I think it is important to get surrounded by beauty: it gives me energy, but always maintaining the comfort.
So your style only consist in mixing both concepts…
It must be that way, because we are in the 21st century and people has determined necessities, electronic devices, TVs, there’s new ways of lighting… We must adapt beauty to that.
Topic question and easy to make. What inspires you?
Classic cinema, for example. Hollywood around 30s, 40s and 50s. Also art, books, architecture.
Do you consider yourself as an artist?
I have drawn all my life. If that is being an artist, I might do… But, let’s say that I have a creative ability, there’s no doubt about it. And it manifest through decoration, which is considered as a minor art. I’m neither an artisan, because I do not do handmade works.
What kind of art do you like? I see you have a mix of influences that ranges from 18th century until Vasarely in your work and house.
Yes. Geometry obsesses me, also the pop art. The truth is that I have some lacks and I’m pretty ignorant in contemporaneous art, despite afterwards I go every year to Art Basel and love it. But I prefer Spanish religious art form 17th century rather than contemporaneous art, which was my specialization in university. it was like a challenge.
Well, there is no need to apologize about that. Which are your favorites ones, then?
The top is Spain in 16th and 17th century, the maximum elegance. The fashion, the colors… Velázquez inspires me; I have used his colors multiple times in my work. Ribera and Zurbarán also. And Sánchez Coelho, Pantoja de la Cruz, Carrreño de Miranda… Afterwards not that much, it is sad the historic Spanish come about. Despite I love Goya. And the 20th century in our country was to cry about. Franquism and all that stuff… but I also had my fascist stage in the art, which lucky for me it passed (he laughs). I also like Italian tenebrism, or Carraci. I’m excited with that, not inside the MoMA.
In which museums are you excited?
In the US, I always go to Washington’s National Gallery. I love the Smithsonian. And a bunch of small museums in Paris, like Jacquemart-André, el Carnavalet… or the Archeological Museum of Napoli. And the Hermitage from St Petersburg is world’s best: I go there, visit the museum and come back visiting nothing else. I can be over an hour in the Metropolitan’s roman sculpture area, everything black and white and stone… Gorgeous.
What about el Prado and Louvre?
Of course. But el Prado’s amplification scares me, nothing similar with Villanueva (the original architect from 18th century). From the outside I like what Moneo did. But that colors in the insides…
What about art galleries, do you visit them?
I’m not used to. I contact them via e-mail, because of my customers. I’m more used to antiques shop.
Which decorators you like and also inspire you?
I like the American ones. Miles Redd the most. Also Jacques Grange in France. I love what Andrée Putman did. From Italy, studio Peregalli, the heir of Mongiardino. Despite I do not like Italians too much.
And what about Spanish ones? There is a “TOP” decorator group that is shown everywhere. Let me assume that you hate each other due to the rivalry you have.
I get along well with all of them. Anyone you say is friend of mine for sure. I’m no one’s rival. But that feeling doesn’t have to be mutual (smiles). In the other hand, Spain had a golden age of decoration long time ago, when Paco muñoz, Pinto Coelho y Parladé met.
You are seeing a lot in parties. Do you do it for public relations, because its need for business or because you are social and you like it?
I don’t like it too much.
That’s what people who are in every party say.
Yeah, it’s about age. Each time I like more house plans like yesterdays plan. I was in Bori’s (Izaguirre) house, with Kike (Sarasola) and Loles León, and we didn’t stop laughing. Parties with commercial purposes I used to go if the ask me, because they don’t interest me anymore. What I would consider horrible is to socialize as an instrument to achieve something.
You receive lots of people every time. Doing a huge dinner. I do it in my home for four people and I’m already stressed. What about you?
Since I bought the house I though about doing one per week. That implies a lot of work and it would imply to have a secretary just for that. But I’m doing as much as I can. To nigh, for example I’m doing one. The house personnel already know how to do it; it’s an established process.
Aaaah, you have dedicated personnel. How many are they? Which are the best parties you have done here?
They are two, but very well trained. By me. Well look, I remember one with special affection, after an AD award, in the last days of Montse Cuesta as director. We were all exited. Then, a more recent one with the American ambassadors, they invited all their friends form the US. I like a lot to mix up people. In that one, Tita (Cervera), Naty (Abascal) and Isabel (Preysler), who doesn’t mix anymore, were present.
I like to mix people of different kinds, as I tell you. For example, when I had here Isabel Preysler and Ouim Gutiérrez, and they were talking together all night long.
Ah. And what about?
I don’t know. The thing is that the image of social animal that I can give you is only an illusion. I don’t consider myself frivolous. And then, it happens that most of my friends are famous, but that’s because of the environments I work in.
What environment is that?
What do you do in your free time?
I work in my free time. I do not have free time! I go to antique shops, for example, that’s why. Well, I used to go to the cinema when I can. I love watching TV.
No. I try it. I put “Sálvame” but it bores me and I switch it. I rather prefer American series. Shameless, Modern Family, Homeland… I love masters of sex. I told you that in my free time I work and its true. I love my job and I try it to be also like leisure. If I travel due to a project, I try to go to restaurants I like and pretty hotels. I enjoy my job.
You are present in social media. Do you carry them yourself?
Od course. Before I was on Facebook, which I used to hung work stuff, but I erased it because I felt exposed, in the other hand I was seeing that people used it to put political stuff and I didn’t like what is was becoming. I like Instagram: pictures without judgment. I use it most.
How many people there is in your team?
Permanent we are six. Then I subcontract people for each work. I do not want to be bigger. I try to preserve my work way, personal. I don’t want to become in a decoration machine, lose authenticity, like others… I won’t tell names, but there are some studios, Catolanian ones, that have lost their personal touch, especially in public projects.
Do you prefer doing houses instead of restaurants and hotels, for example?
I love everything, but the truth is that is difficult people give me a 300-room hotel: despite is what I’m doing right now, in New York. I like houses, special ones with an important creative work. In the other hand a Joaquín Reyes house doesn’t fit me. Although I also did them!
Really? That should have been a challenge.
Yes. It’s a difficult architecture, cold and open. Creating a warm environment there… It is though to not live in, and you must make it meant to live. Very difficult.
Tell me some know clients you had.
I can’t. I don’t like to give my work a “fashionable aspect”. Also in most cases I have signed agreements…
Confidential agreements? That’s serious business.
And with lots of money around. I’m screwed if I say anything. But I would have done it anyways. For me, my job is important, not the customers I have.
And what’s next? Anything you can talk about of course. I don’t want you to get in troubles.
The New York hotel, another in Barcelona, two restaurants in London, a house also in New York and another in Dominican Republic…
That’s a few. A non-stop. When are you going to rest? Where do you see yourself in the near future?
Well, I just bought a house in Ribadesella, because I have origins from Asturias and my mate is from there. It’s my grandparents old house, the first built in that beach. I’m decorating it now, with recently acquired furniture: what fascinates me is that everything I find I move it there. My idea is to stay there at least three months per year. Well, coordinating it with San Juan de Luz where I have my summer friends. But I see there myself most of the time. In the end, resting.