Carmen Ruiz de Huidobro’s Bohemian Sanctuary

June 21, 2018

Some people have an eye for beauty which, through hard work and intelligence, they are able to translate into a myriad of talents. Carmen Ruiz de Huidobro is one of these people. Her good taste flows out from her in every direction she turns. Whether it be through art direction, fashion, cooking, or home decor, her style is effortless, chic, and full of the depth and passion you would expect from a strong, Spanish woman.

Carmen was born and raised in Madrid, where she began her career in art direction and set design. She traveled to New York to study at the Parsons School of Design and get some more tools for her design toolbox. Over the course of her career, she has worked for directors such as Steven Spielberg, Milos Forman, and Michel Gondry. Her most recent work has been with Paul Thomas Anderson on his music videos for Radiohead and Haim.

After the birth of her two children, Carmen craved projects that would allow her to spend time closer to her home in Los Angeles. She went back to her roots and began Espanolita Foods, a Spanish delicatessen business through which she distributed an expertly curated product line and taught Paella cooking workshops.

During this time, Carmen was inspired by the public’s sincere interest in Spanish culture. She became determined to build a platform through which she could share her unique, insider perspective. Soon after, Espanolita.net was born. Her website features interviews with Spanish artists and artisans as well as photographic tours of the magical places for which Spain is known.

Lucky for us, Carmen is now sharing her knowledge of Spain first hand through Espanolita Trips. On these incredible journeys, travelers avoid tourist traps and have an authentic experience of the very best food and atmosphere Spain has to offer through Carmen’s eyes.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to photograph Carmen’s Los Angeles home and dig a little deeper into the method behind her beautiful style.

Annie: How did your interest in design begin?

Carmen: A love of design was unavoidable with parents like mine. My dad was a naval engineer with a great eye for architecture and construction. My mom was always inspired by costumes and all things fabric. She developed her passions throughout her early motherhood years. At home, we were surrounded by antiques that we inherited from my parent’s families. As a result, my mom learned furniture restoration and knew how to source old pieces from markets.

Annie: You are one of these rare people who can go into a thrift shop or a flea market, identify the highest quality pieces, bring them home and style them so that they appear to be out of a magazine. Is there any advice you can give to the rest of us trying to do the same?

Carmen: I have no proper training identifying antiques, so I trust my eye and also the emotion a certain piece makes me feel. I do not really follow trends, so I make random purchases when I run into something special.  The one trick is to only choose pieces that are made of noble, whole materials. I look for solid wood antiques, real silver, and clothes made from linen, unmixed threads. It makes no sense to buy something old that was mass produced. Furniture was made much better in the old days. I get a rush when I score undervalued gems. My best purchases have all been around $25.

On the stunning Moroccan rug: “I have a soft spot for Morocco, where I met my husband while we were both working on a film there for months. Badia is an importer not far from our home in L.A., and I feel pure joy browsing through the rugs and then negotiating the price in French with a Moroccan accent.”

 

“The donut lamp is one of two I got for $50 at a thrift store on Lankershim in the Valley. We fell in love with the secretary at the Rose Bowl from a Danish importer. We didn’t really need it, but the price was right and you can never have too many.”

“This secretary is from another thrift store by my house. I bought it for cheap and I just couldn’t believe it as I was loading it in the car. When I got home, I opened the first drawer and the blonde wood paneling of the inside desk blew my mind.”

 

Annie: Who are your style icons? From where do you gain your inspiration?

Carmen: I don’t have any style icons. I am however greatly inspired by the life of certain artists and creatives, present and past, who lived their eccentricities and produced incredible work throughout the years. Those people and hardworking people are inspiring to me.

Annie: What is your favorite aspect of your home?

Carmen: I love our home in Los Angeles because it is a collection of memories. Adam and I built the home together. It’s where we’ve grown our family. Still, we are so adaptable that we can make a temporary home anywhere with our children, as we do when we move around for film projects. Our home in Los Angeles is definitely a work in progress with no rush to finish decorating.

On the pitch perfect army green cabinets and tile: “We sanded off the reddish brown stain on the cupboards and then just asked the painter to mix colors until I liked the hue. The tiles are from Anne Sacks.”

“I think the brass sconce is from Restoration Hardware. I’m not good at buying antique lamps. The bedding is from Matteo, I think.”

“The sconces are nothing fancy, but so practical. I believe they are made by a Chinese provider. The bedside tables are from another thrift store in the Valley. The wall hanging was made by my friend, Spanish macrame artist, Belen Senra.”

“The stepping stool is from the Land of Nod, I think.”

“The pillow is from the same Anthropologie sale as the living room blanket. The chair is from CB2.”

“The dresser is an heirloom from Adam’s English family.”

“The coffee table was given to me by my roommate in NY. I dragged it across the USA to Los Angeles because I just couldn’t let it go. It’s triangular and crazy damaged, but I just love it. The white cushions are from my NY student days, as well. I think there was a sale at Urban Outfitters. The Blanket is from Anthropologie.”

Annie: I’m often struck by the fast paced life we live in America. It’s as if we’re racing against some invisible clock, but no one is sure why or to what end. It seems Spaniards live a much less neurotic existence in this regard. What practice or daily habit could we adopt from the Spanish culture that would benefit us the most?

Carmen: I think the clock in the U.S. is money, and it is managed very efficiently, so working in the U.S. is a pleasure. However, not everything in life should be measured though this lens. There are things that are measured with abstract units; things that feed our souls and are necessary for a healthy existence and connection to others. In Spain, this takes the shape of passionate discussions while at a coffee bar, enjoying food at a table, spending time with family. We also take holidays, the sacred Spanish holidays…

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