With a successful career as an interior designer, this man could dress any way he wants but really does not need to do anything to impress anyone. He feels good just like this and since all ads and press are usually selling something, we can conclude that what Isern Serra is selling is definitely comfort.
He was born in Barcelona in 1981, studied Interior Design at EINA and later met his working partner, Sylvain Carlet when employed at Antoni Arola studio.
Today he runs his own studio and we decided to talk to him, not because of all these prominent projects in the interior, exhibition and industrial design including CosmoCaixa in Barcelona, he is involved in, but rather because of his sharp sense of humour and one might say personal aura.
What do you do for a living?
Along with Sylvain Carlet, I have my own interior design firm. Together, we have been running a studio in the Poblenou district of Barcelona for around 12 years now. It´s a 240 m2 space with lots of light. I think the workspace is very important, in the end, you spend many hours of your life there and if you like what you do then it is no longer work.
During the days of quarantine, we are all staying at home. Circumstances are what they are but really there is nothing else like staying at home for real comfort. What makes you feel comfortable? Is there anything in particular that makes you feel at ease when at home?
I think when you rest at home is when it's night already. Normally during the day you work or at the weekends, you take advantage to do things or shop. It's at night or by the time the sun sets when you can finally relax. What gives me comfort is a well-lighted house. That does not mean a lot of light but little and in the right place. The light transmits peace and a spot with lighting, like a lampshade or a backlight, makes me feel good and gives me comfort.
What was the house that you grew up in like?
I grew up in a farmhouse on the outskirts of a town called Vallgorguina, which is around 50 km away from Barcelona. Very special place because it forms part of a National Park. It's full of trees and mountains and situated only 15 minutes away from the sea.
A nice house that my parents bought in the middle of the mountain. This made me grow very close to nature and appreciate its beauty as a child.
What are the things or maybe the absence of such that characterizes modern life in Interiors?
I think the house is the place that best explains how you are and people are very different from one other. I´m of the opinion that this diversity is good, otherwise, it would be pretty boring. And although I'm aware that the use of the house is changing, it's curious that each time we tend to create life at home, in the same kind of spatial arrangement, where we integrate a kitchen, the living room and a table that is used as a dining room or study. We also create a unique space that we try to make as big as possible. And the rooms, which are only used for sleeping, are reduced in their size.
I also believe in the concept of the adaptable and mutable house. Spaces that allow you to put on or take off walls and that adapt to your needs of the moment.When you are young and you share an apartment and you don't have a lot of money and you need different rooms to be able to pay it or when you are already in your 30s and you have a partner and you only need a room and a large living room to be with your friends. Or when you have children and you need to have rooms again, without forgetting the large common space.
Do you agree that hominess is neatness?
I agree that the house has to be clean, but I like a little bit of chaos. It just looks more lived in with objects that we like and that identifies us. I have a shelf full of objects that I have been collecting from different trips and that often helps me to design. I like honest houses more than the very perfect and neat ones.
Why is it natural for us to have our own private rooms where we retreat for a rest?
The truth is that I use the room only to sleep and to be with my partner and for little else. I agree that it's ok to separate the sleeping part from the routine with the whole family, as sleeping is such an intimate act that it's good to keep it as an independent activity. However, let's remember that not long ago different families lived in the same house and all slept in the same room.
The individualization of uses in a house is a fairly new concept when compared to the history of humanity, and I must say that it is important to me.
I find Mario Praz essay about the philosophy of interior decoration, called Stimmung - the sense of intimacy that is created by a room and its furnishings and not necessarily by its functionality, very interesting. Is there anything in your own home that shows the room conveying your own character? And if so how and what?
From the perspective of an interior designer, space starts to be good if their structure is good. Walls, floors and ceilings have to be beautiful and real. It would be very difficult for me to be in a room with a wood-imitation, porcelain tile or a horrible wall paper.
Five years ago I reformed the apartment we currently live in, in Born. A family apartment that my mother bought 25 years ago and that she laid a natural varnished pine wood floor. This floor reminded me of my childhood and I liked the way the floor aged. So the reform that consisted of converting a three-bedroom space into a large living room was intended to save the existing floor.
A floor that gave all the character to the new reform. Sometimes it is not about making everything new, but good interior design consists of recovering or saving those elements that add history to the project.
Is the kitchen the most important part of a home?
Yes. I think it is where we spend most of the time and where more encounters are generated when there are people at home. I don't believe in the concept of hiding the kitchen. In our new house, we have put the kitchen on a large island touching the windows next to a table and the sofa space. In this same environment, but separated by a gap, is Valeria's studio.
I believe in open and fluid spaces, spaces that although united allow you to discover their varied functionality.
Every period, sometimes even a decade has its own visual taste. How would you describe the one currently? Minimal? Austere?
I think that APARTAMENTO Magazine has educated us a lot about different types of current houses. Before we used to see perfect houses prepared for the photo with all the thoughtful details but they lacked soul and they were not real.I believe more at home with a soul, more Mediterranean more honest, that allows you to see the personality of the person who inhabits it.
Quoting Picasso, "La inspiración existe, pero tiene que encontrarte trabajando." Is there any secret that helps you to create things? How to see things that are not there?
For me, just like the house, the studio is a very important place. The truth is that nowadays during the quarantine, we all have to be more at home and I miss the fact that I cannot use it.
Our projects do not start from a formal but instead follow a conceptual idea that little by little unfold itself and adheres the form. We like spaces that explain stories and have a story behind. For this reason, it is very important for us to talk about the project and the idea. But it is also very good to keep in mind the work of masters such as Luis Barragan, James Turrel, Shiro Kuramata, Olafur Eliasson, Coderch among others.
Why do people turn to the past and buy vintage furniture?
I think people feel good with objects that have stories. Either because it belongs to a designer or to their grandfather or because they found it on the street.
Also, the house where all the furniture and elements are made in the same style could be too thought through. It needs a bit of soul. I guess it's the same for clothing. This jacket that you bought in a vintage shop makes you more unique. The same goes for furniture. You know that this piece is either very unique or only very few people have it and that gives it the value in the first place.
Inspired by a recent trip to Morocco Can Pep Rey created a collection called Atlas. How do you feel about Moroccan architecture?
I love Morocco! It was the first trip I made with my parents 30 years ago, and ever since I´ve been around 4 times or more. It is a country that fascinates me for its landscapes, its culture and of course architecture. The last time I went was with Valeria and we rented a car to go from Marrakech, crossing the Atlas to the Gouera desert. We stayed over for a night in the Ksar of Ait Ben Hadu. It is a walled City of Mud, these fortifications called Kasbah are like the Riads but in the countryside, small fortified palaces but earthen. It is fascinating how these architectures of clay, stone and wooden beams have lasted so long in time. They remind me a lot of the raw concept in the sense of the material that Can Pep Rey uses.
To know more about Isern and upcoming projects, visit his insta: @isernserra
Text by Marta Marszalek