Amaro Sánchez de Moya Became a Master of Illusion in His New Seville Apartment

The Spanish designer deployed his full bag of tricks to surprise and delight at every turn.

living room with check floor, green sofa, wicker chairs and large painting over sofa
Ricardo Labougle

Caprice is not a word usually associated with Amaro Sánchez de Moya. Whether he’s transforming an Andalusian palacio or a chic Portuguese eco-resort, the Spanish architect and designer is known for a maximalist classicism that embraces symmetry, ordered lines, and enough sumptuous textiles to outfit a royal court or two. But when it came time to design his own pied-à-terre in the ancient city of Seville, his normal rigor was tempered with a bit of spontaneity and even whimsy. “It’s true that a taste for the classical, a certain historicism, underlines almost all of my work,” he says. “But because it was my home, I could make it a little more capricious.”

kitchen with black and white checked floor, small table, floral backsplash
The kitchen of Amaro Sánchez de Moya’s Seville pied-à-terre. The vintage garden table and chairs are Spanish, the pendant is Napoleon III, and the custom hood is flanked by 19th-century Spanish vases. The antique backsplash tiles are from Manises, Spain, and the checkered floor is in Carrara and Nero Marquina marbles.
Ricardo Labougle

It helped that he had a relatively blank slate with which to begin. After moving to Madrid, Sánchez de Moya bought the apartment in the Andalusian capital, where he was born, with the intention of using it as a second home. Built in the early 20th century, its 1,000 square feet held little architectural interest, and except for a few interior doors, none of its original features were worth keeping. The building’s wonky layout­—all odd angles and unevenly shaped rooms—posed a challenge, but they eventually gave Sánchez de Moya his point of creative entry. “I wanted to try to make all the rooms geometrically perfect,” he says. “Despite the irregular footprint.”

Inspired by the small apartments of Haussmann-era Paris, Sánchez de Moya indulged in some sleight of hand. After remaking the floor plan to fit his symmetrical ideals, he enclosed the “leftover” spaces behind what appear to be doors to passageways.

bedroom with green patterned wallpaper
In the bedroom, the bed is dressed in linens from Matarranz Ropa de Casa and the curtains and upholstery on the early-20th-century French settee are in a Zuber fabric; the wallpaper panels are in the same Zuber pattern. The gilded 19th-century table and chair are Italian, the 1940s crystal La Granja chandelier is Spanish, and the engraving is by Pierre Paul Prud’hon.
Ricardo Labougle

The trick not only hid the newly generated storage, but also altered the apartment’s proportions. “In one room you’ll find four or five doors, but not all of them lead somewhere,” he says. “Some of them open into a wardrobe or a bookcase, and some of them don’t open onto anything at all. They’re there to balance the room, but they also make the apartment seem much bigger than it is.”

The flooring in the salon and bedroom also fosters illusions. The black and white marbles are a nod to Seville’s history—it’s an inland river-port city that has served as a hub for materials from Genoa, Italy—but the erratic patterns create dynamism. “It’s as if the rhombuses are turning concentrically around the squares,” Sánchez de Moya says. “I like that kind of geometric game, where you can bring a sense of motion to something that is normally fixed and heavy.”

“I wanted to try to make all the rooms geometrically perfect,” Sánchez de Moya says.

If his choice for the floors was intentional, other early elements were more serendipitous. The designer hadn’t considered installing etched glass, for example, but when he stumbled across some old windows from the Hôtel Lutetia at an antiques shop in Paris, he realized they would add interest and coherence to the apartment’s two bathrooms. Equally exciting was the moment he came across the massive French Regency fireplace that now anchors the salon.

“I wasn’t even sure that I wanted a fireplace,” he says. “But you find something like that, and one thing leads to the next. Once I had that fireplace, for example, I had to make sure that the moldings were coherent with it, so they became Regency instead of Louis XVI.”

large tub
The main bathroom’s tub and fittings are by Cifial, the 1950s boat-shaped chandelier is Spanish, and the antique sconce is French.
Ricardo Labougle

Yet with the architectural elements in place, the designer suddenly found himself worrying that fate had led him too far astray. “All the walls had moldings. The etched glass, the fireplace, the doors—I had found them all in Paris. So now, even with those marble floors from Seville, I thought it was turning out too refined, too Parisian,” he recalls with a chuckle. “That’s when I decided to make the decorative elements a bit more folk.”

He chose what he calls “less pretentious” wicker for the salon’s seating and opted for a leafy hand-painted Zuber wallpaper for the bedroom, which added a garden ambience. Instead of hiding the coffeepot and other household items behind cabinets, he keeps them on display in the kitchen to give it a country feel.

Brightly colored fabrics—including striking red checked curtains in the salon—injected more lightness. “Because it’s a second home, I didn’t want it to be too serious,” he says. “I wanted it to have that sense of pleasure and recreation. So even though the architecture itself was very sedate and classical, the decor is united by a kind of freshness.”

Perhaps nowhere is that freshness—some might even call it capriciousness—more evident than behind the kitchen doors that were the sole components repurposed from the original apartment. “I like an element of surprise,” the classicist admits. “So I created a door that looks banal from the outside but opens onto an interior that is entirely hot pink or lime green. It gives you a tiny moment of joy.”

elle decor december 2020 cover

This story originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of ELLE Decor. SUBSCRIBE

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