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Alcuzcuz: a lifestyle by Jaime Parladé

What I have is a good eye; about good taste…I do not like to use that expression because good taste is something so relative and so difficult to define”.

More than good taste what one must posses is a good eye to see things. In other words: The capacity to enter a place and see something that you are interested in and that you like. To tell you the truth in my particular case, what I see and what catches my attention has more to do with eccentricity than with the quality of a piece of furniture or an object. At the end of the day I must say that I am quite crappy (cutre), I like poor art, I cannot stand shine… all I do is scrub and scrub to remove the shine”

These are some of my favourite quotes from the iconic Spanish decorator Jaime Parladé, Marques de Apezteguia, who sadly left us in January this year. Dubbed “The doyen of Spanish designers” by Architectural Digest magazine, Jaime and his English wife Janetta, were dear friends of my mother Mary Melián. They met in 1962 when we moved to Andalucía while my father Alfredo (Freddy) Melian Zobel was beginning the groundwork and search for what was to become the gated community of Sotogrande.

Just 2 days ago I was archiving some of my mother’s boxes of correspondence and found many receipt from 1965 and 1966 from Jaime’s legendary shop La Tartana. Receipts for azulejos, a table, some chairs, some lebrillos (flat wide and large earthenware bowls), wrought irons, two big white rugs from La Alpujareña factory in Granada… Jaime’s shop was exquisite and specialized in local antiques, andalusian earthenware, oriental rugs and fabrics and unpretentious furniture. Few and well chosen pieces that were more about local arts and crafts and tradition than bling. La Tartana opened in 1958 in the heart of the old Marbella, as Jaime began his interior design career and soon his shop, run or rather reigned by the larger than life Menchu Escobar, became the social heart of the town. Subsequently Jaime decorated Menchu’s Bar which also became one of the pillars of the swinging Marbella and then La Fonda Hotel, another 60’s success. Some of the guests at La Fonda Hotel included Brigitte Bardot, Kim Novak, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Omar Sharif and many royals such as the Duque of Windsor, The king and queen of Belgium and Don Juan, Count of Barcelona and father of Juan Carlos of Spain.

jaime parladé

 

A beautiful book of his work was published last year by Ediciones El Viso. Thoroughly researched and written by the respected interiors journalist Ana Dominguez Siemens and photographed by Ricardo Labougle and Derry Moore, the book covers most of Jaime’s work and also gives you a glimpse into the pioneer days of Marbella in the 50’s and 60’s and the unique group of people and places that turned it into the glamorous Spanish Riviera and was also the backdrop to many of Slim Aarons’s photographs . Jaime was very low key and humble, and subsequently not very well known abroad. Hopefully this book will be translated and sold internationally since he deserves to be up there and recognized amongst the best.

Jaime decorated the homes of the Rothschilds, Von Bismarcks, Julio Iglesias, Diana Ross, Duchess Of Alba and the Abelló and March families, travelling around the world and its markets, always curious, always alive and open to new ideas. His taste and choices were “poor” but his clients were grand. The Jaime Parladé style was in fact a mixture of styles : luxurious, classic, poor and modern were combined to create a lived-in atmosphere or what is now called shabby chic, even though I much prefer the term rustic chic. I guess he was the pioneer of all that.

Josef Frank (1885) the Austrian-Swedish architect-designer said: “There’s nothing wrong with mixing old and new, with combining different furniture styles, colors and patterns. Anything that is in your taste will automatically fuse to form an entire, relaxing environment. A home does not need to be planned down to the smallest detail or contrived; it should be an amalgamation of the things that its owner loves and feels at home with”. Frank was a modernist at heart and belonged to the same generation as the pioneers of modernist design : Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier. In a way the lifestyle philosophies of Josef Frank and Jaime Parladé remind me of Eugenia Errazuriz, the pioneer of the “poor” style, but interpreted in its most minimal way.

About my mother, Ana Dominguez writes : One day the couple Freddie Melián and Mary Melián Randolph appeared at la Tartana, nearly fifty years ago. This would be the origin of another important stage in the life of Jaime Parladé as a decorator. Jaime said: ” They came with the idea of whether I could collaborate on the Sotogrande project. Freddie was a great motorcyclist and had been commissioned by Colonel McMicking to comb the Spanish coast looking for the ideal terrains for his project. Freddie hesitated between some lands in Almeria and some in Cadiz which were considered military zone. Mary was an American with a total lack of pretensions and with all the good taste, good eye, or whatever it is that one had to have. We became friends and I would frequently accompany Freddie in a Land Rover around the dunes of Sotogrande. They commissioned the ten bungalows by the new golf club and after that commissioned other residences”.

Yesterday I was very lucky to be able to visit the cortijo La Dehesa del Alcuzcuz, Jaime and Janetta’s paradisiac home in the mountains on the road to Ronda and a 20 minute drive from Marbella. I remember when my mother would go to visit the Parlade’s and would return with fascinating stories and pictures of the stunning grounds and main house, as well as laden with flowers, vegetables and fruit from their garden. Janetta was a wonderful gardener and water-colour artist and part of the Bloomsbury group. To me Alcuzcuz was exotic, somewhat eccentric and made me dream of the garden of Eden filled with rock’n roll people.

Alcuzcuz jaime parlade

Above: Dehesa Del Alcuzcuz. Photo credit The World Of Interiors

The house was built originally in 1884 , Jaime and Janetta re modelled it in 1984 when they made it their main home. Sitting on 10 acres of land the property is composed of a large vegetable and fruit garden, two huge albercas (water reservoirs) for watering the plants,  a hidden swimming pool which looks and feels like an alberca because it blends in so naturally and has views to the sea. This reminds me of my mother’s favorite criteria for planning a pool : set it as far away as you can from the main house: “Who wants to look at people in bikinis all day?”. The terraced gardens of Alcuzcuz are full of exotic species and the wild parts are covered in olive, carob and arbutus trees. There are many rose gardens and monochromatic flower beds and trellises. Winding paths take you through never ending mixed borders and layouts that are at times sensual and delicate and at times masculine, bold and daring. What is surprising is the care and perfection wherever you look, and being the daughter of an outstanding gardener myself, I know what that means : never-ending work and dedication.  It moves me to think how much they must have enjoyed walking daily through their garden and sitting at the many benches and lookouts which are spread throughout the property, making mental notes of what needed to be pruned, deadheaded, watered or planted.

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

Above : the 2 vegetable garden albercas at Alcuzcuz. Photo credit fashionsphinx.com

Below : in the vegetable garden a wall covered in nasturtiums. Photo credit fashionsphinx.com

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

Below: garden paths through roses and iris. Photo credit fashionsphinx.com

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

 

My sister Sylvia Melián says: “Like in the house, you feel that air of multi-culture through the combination of plants and flowers. Every rose bush is special. The delicate Pierre De Ronsard roses from France in white chalky pots line a dark red wall or climb a palm tree from which they cascade over row after row of Iceberg roses from England. An explosion of white Banksia roses jutting out from the walls, reminding me of the Parque De Maria Luisa in Seville and the many beautiful Andalusian farms which stand out for their simplicity and elegance”.

 

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

Below: yellow albero earth cover some of the trellised pathsPhoto credit fashionsphinx.com

 

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

Sylvia says: “There are also Italian irises with big blossoms, kitch carnations with tall stalks and big red blooms as if taken out of an 18 th century painting, in the style of Spanish costumbrismo, herbs in planters and low lebrillos outside the kitchen where the couscous is being prepared. Bright yellow and orange capucines tumble down the embankments of the vegetable gardens, poor and colorful. Wild plants from the Serrania de Ronda like the pink sistus and the lentisco blend with the most exquisit plants brought from far away places. Blue glicinias, red thumbergia and many fragrant flowers which assault your senses, a visual and olfactory orgy. Jasmine in bloom, huge masses of fragrant sweet peas in pinks and purples, stephanotis, rows of citrus trees laden with fruits, avocados, nisperos, artichokes, tomatoes, chard…..I have never seen such exquisit refinement. A garden with a thousand hidden corners, surprises and mystery. Areas where color flows from blue to white to grey and silver to yellow and then brown”. 

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

Above: a row of simple white terracota pots and Pierre De Ronsard rosesPhoto credit fashionsphinx.com

Below: a yellow and orange flower bed with brown irises. Photo credit fashionsphinx.com

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

 

As you walk into Alcuzcuz crossing the wide esplanade of bright yellow albero earth and palm trees you think that you are in an Andalucian cortijo with its black and white pebbled floors from Cordoba, a water fountain, geraniums of every colour of white, pink and mauve, a tall datura tree full of fragrant blooms, a low wooden bench with a simple linen mattress, and a marble and iron table full of small pots of agapanthus. Crawling up the wall a tangled mass of night blooming cirus, like a giant alien creature.

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

Above and below : the main entrance with the pebbled floorsPhoto credit fashionsphinx.com

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

 

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

Above: the entrance door and antique Spanish lebrillos hang on the walls.

Below: the entrance patio with begonias and wicker. A night blooming cereus  crawls up the wall.  Photo credit fashionsphinx.com

 

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

 

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

 

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

 

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

The house is a pure reflection of Jaime’s unique style. Elements of the villas of southern Spain, the comfort of the English and the andalucian humor, grace and delicacy as well as the Moroccon influence of a childhood spent growing up in Northern Africa.

Jaime said : “I always liked objects that were excentric, Irish pieces for example, they are always so strange, and everything English. On the other hand, I am not crazy for the french (objects), even though there are some pieces which I cannot but admire; I am horrified by its richness, its ostentatiousness, it represents everything that I do not want. A house with a comode full of decorative elements makes me ill”.

Below: one of the living rooms at Alcuzcuz. Photo credit The World Of Interiors

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

Above and below : another one of the living rooms that give on to the terrace. Photo credit The World Of Interiors.

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

Above: a guest bedroom inside the old chapel, ornate antique azulejos line the walls. Photo credit The World Of Interiors.

Below: a guest bedroom. Photo credit The World Of Interiors.

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

 

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

Above: the massive kitchen also used as a dining room. Photo credit The World Of Interiors.

My sister Victoria Melián remembers: “The most beautiful kitchen in the world. You never wanted to leave the table. The chimney was lit, there were cut flowers everywhere, wonderful food cooked with vegetables from the garden, the conversation was cultivated and witty”.

Below: Couscous is served on the terrace. Photo credit The World Of Interiors and fashionsphinx.com.

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

 

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

 

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

Above: a potted bougainvillea by the terracePhoto credit fashionsphinx.com

Below: the terrace with views to the Mediterranean and the Straits of GibraltarPhoto credit fashionsphinx.com

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

 

 

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

Above: a floral and Mediterranean view from one of the bedroomsPhoto credit fashionsphinx.com

Below: the winter garden with two old wicker chairs to sit on and look at the flowers and the Mediterranean over a forest of palm trees, cipreses and banana trees. Another night-blooming cereus creeps up the wall.  Photo credit fashionsphinx.com

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

 

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

 

Below: the swimming pool with views to the Mediterranean and the Straits of Gibraltar. Photo credit : The World Of Interiors.

alcuzcuz jaime parlade

Alcuzcuz is a unique place, a lifestyle lesson, an experience. Jaime’s nephew Andrés Parlade and his cousin Jaime inherited it and are taking great pains to sustain it. Andrés tells Fashionsphinx: “Now it is our responsibility  to maintain it, we are the sixth generation to manage it since it belonged to the familly, and even if we are slightly scared because of the expense of caring for it, we are very thrilled. Our idea is to do short term rentals so as to have the income to keep it in a perfect state and to be able to enjoy it when it is free”. I take my hat off to that and to Andrés and his wife Rocio who are working so hard to save an important Spanish landmark.

Returning to having the eye, Jaime said that my mother had the eye, and yes she did! Big time.

I reflect on everything I saw yesterday and think that most decors and houses in the magazines and blogs now look the same. As I step out of my popular and still authentic barrio to the hipper or richer areas of Madrid I see beautiful old shops, restaurants and bars that have been torn down and made over in what is the prevalent and uniform style of this city: Brooklyn hipster, distressed and artisan or industrial and urban. This gives me eye ache and brain ache. Neither Jaime Parlade nor my mother had the internet, they did not have easy access to information, there were no contemporary art shows or fairs to go to in Andalucia, lets say that access to a certain type of culture was non-existant. In the case of my mother, in the 60’s and 70’s, she was subscribed to four magazines: Town and Country, Vogue USA, Southern Living and National Geographic. All her ideas and inspirations came from being outside visiting the local villages, antique or junk shops and surrounding herself with the arts and crafts of Spain. With this information, and that of many reference books on architecture and gardens around the world as well as her conversations with the artist friends she frequented, she created something unique, and like Jaime she was a visionary ahead of her time.

Too much information kills the information. There is too much use of the internet, too many people writing or blogging about the same things : copy, paste, copy, paste. Few people are creating or discovering new things, everyone is following, sitting in front of their computers, lazy assed. Taste has become homogenized. Through fashion and interior design we have two great tools to express ourselves and reaffirm our identity and our independence, and yet we have perverted both and we copy one another.  You don’t get an eye, you are born with it, but if you don’t have it at least you can you can train it. How? By looking in the most unexpected places at the most simple things. I always say that the first place that one should visit when arriving in a city is its market and its arts and crafts museum. When was the last time that you went to a library? Beauty is everywhere, you just have to go out and look for it beyond your computer.

And just because : a last shot of a Jaime Parladé interior,with some beautiful tiles. Photo credit : Architectural Digest.

Jaime Parlade

 

 

 

 



12 responses to “Alcuzcuz: a lifestyle by Jaime Parladé”

  1. Macarena says:

    Maravilloso Eugenia! Menudo reportaje, vi el libro en casa de Sylvia y no me gusto ni la mitad que este post. You made my day!

    • eugenia says:

      MUCHISSSSSSIMAS GRACIAS por tu comentario, me alegro que te guste !!!!!

      fashionsphinx

  2. JESUS GOMEZ says:

    MI querida Eugenia, soy Jesus el jardinero, he disfrutado muchisimo de tu artículo, eres ademas de una persona especial y atenta a todo lo que ocurre y viene, una maravillosa, inspirada y elegante redactora, hemos recorrido contigo y tus palabras este bello e iconico lugar.

    Aun recuerdo cuando estudiando yo agricultura, sin estar muy convencido de mi vocación, llegó a mis manos una antigua revista de NUEVO ESTILO, hablo de los años 80, y hablo de TRAMORES, la antigua casa donde vivian Jaime y Janetta, ver esa casa tan bella, humilde y autentica, me hacia darme cuenta de que quizas buscaba en mis estudios agricolas, ese contacto con el origen, con lo bello, con lo natural; la cal, el hierro, el ladrillo, la madera, la loza…..la belleza sin pretensiones. Para mi fue un “shock”, un shock que derivó mi oficio de agricola, a artista interesado en todo lo que es bello: jardines, arquitectura, antiguedades, decoracion, pintura………Jaime y despues Mario Connio, hablaban del gusto por la vida, por lo natural, un canto a la libertad, y ala belleza en cualquiera de sus formas y nunca pretenciosas. Tu articulo me ha gustado mucho mas que el libro, donde a veces aparecen casas demasiado costeadas y como decia su asistenta, creo que es Ana Maria, Jaime cuando mejor hace las cosas, es cuando el presupuesto es menor”

    Tambien vuestra madre fue un referente, en esa España que empezaba a interesarse por la decoración, el arte, la arquitectura…….

    GRACIAS
    My dear Eugenia, I am Jesus the gardener, I thoroughly enjoyed your article, you are also a special person and attentive to all that happens and is a wonderful, inspired and elegant writer.

    We have come to you and your words this beautiful and iconic place.

      I still remember when I studied agriculture, not quite convinced of my calling, I came across an old magazine NEW STYLE, speak of the ’80s, and spoke of Tramores, the old house where lived James and Janetta, see this house as beautiful, smart, humble and authentic, made me realize that maybe looking in my agricultural studies, this contact with the source, so beautiful, with nature; lime, iron, brick, wood, earthenware ….. unpretentious beauty. For me it was a “shock”, a shock that led to my trade of agricultural, artist interested in everything that is beautiful: gardens, architecture, antique, decoration, painting and then ……… Jaime and later Mario Connio , they spoke of the joy of living, so natural, a hymn to freedom, and beauty in all its forms and never pretentious.

    Your article I liked it even more than the book, which sometimes appear too much you paid for houses and as I said her assistant, I think is Ana Maria, “Jaime when makes things better is when the budget is less”

  3. JESUS GOMEZ says:

    MI querida Eugenia, soy Jesus el jardinero, he disfrutado muchisimo de tu artículo, eres ademas de una persona especial y atenta a todo lo que ocurre y viene, una maravillosa, inspirada y elegante redactora, hemos recorrido contigo y tus palabras este bello e iconico lugar.

    Aun recuerdo cuando estudiando yo agricultura, sin estar muy convencido de mi vocación, llegó a mis manos una antigua revista de NUEVO ESTILO, hablo de los años 80, y hablo de TRAMORES, la antigua casa donde vivian Jaime y Janetta, ver esa casa tan bella, humilde y autentica, me hacia darme cuenta de que quizas buscaba en mis estudios agricolas, ese contacto con el origen, con lo bello, con lo natural; la cal, el hierro, el ladrillo, la madera, la loza…..la belleza sin pretensiones. Para mi fue un “shock”, un shock que derivó mi oficio de agricola, a artista interesado en todo lo que es bello: jardines, arquitectura, antiguedades, decoracion, pintura………Jaime y despues Mario Connio, hablaban del gusto por la vida, por lo natural, un canto a la libertad, y ala belleza en cualquiera de sus formas y nunca pretenciosas. Tu articulo me ha gustado mucho mas que el libro, donde a veces aparecen casas demasiado costeadas y como decia su asistenta, creo que es Ana Maria, Jaime cuando mejor hace las cosas, es cuando el presupuesto es menor”

    GRACIAS
    My dear Eugenia, I am Jesus the gardener, I thoroughly enjoyed your article, you are also a special person and attentive to all that happens and is a wonderful, inspired and elegant writer.

    We have come to you and your words this beautiful and iconic place.

      I still remember when I studied agriculture, not quite convinced of my calling, I came across an old magazine NEW STYLE, speak of the ’80s, and spoke of Tramores, the old house where lived James and Janetta, see this house as beautiful, smart, humble and authentic, made me realize that maybe looking in my agricultural studies, this contact with the source, so beautiful, with nature; lime, iron, brick, wood, earthenware ….. unpretentious beauty. For me it was a “shock”, a shock that led to my trade of agricultural, artist interested in everything that is beautiful: gardens, architecture, antique, decoration, painting and then ……… Jaime and later Mario Connio , they spoke of the joy of living, so natural, a hymn to freedom, and beauty in all its forms and never pretentious.

    Your article I liked it even more than the book, which sometimes appear too much you paid for houses and as I said her assistant, I think is Ana Maria, “Jaime when makes things better is when the budget is less”

    • fashionsphinx says:

      Muchas gracias jesus por escribir y por tus palabras tan bonitas….so encouraging…..me da la energía para seguir escribiendo estos posts tan largos con la ilusión que vosotros que me habéis escrito , tengas el tiempo y el entusiasmo de leer posts tan largos
      gracias a todos y gracias a ti ! !…y ademas en ingles y en español. Ole !

      agradecida fashionsphinx

  4. Cristina de la Maza says:

    Fantastic article Genia. I remember Alcuzcuz before Jaime, going there as a child to visit the Parlades.
    Muy evocativo.
    Bravo!
    C

  5. Beatriz Alvear says:

    Hello Victoria,
    My name is Beatriz Alvear, we met the other day at the presentation of Jesús Moraime book on Gardens of Lisboa, my ex husband its the architect Richard Lincoln, who worked very closely with Jaime for more tan 30 years. They made and extraordinary team and build together the most beautiful houses. I am so glad that you pay homage to this extraordinary man. I had the privilege to stay several times in that Paradise of Alcuzcuz, and always leaved the house inspired and filled up with the energy and charisma than both Jaime and Janetta where exuding. Frequently I walked on my own around the property, as Richard and Jaime where always working, and it was mesmerizing. I use to start my little solitary walks in the beautiful formal garden of the front that has incredible views of Africa on the other shore of the strait sea and the peculiar shape of the Rock de Gibraltar on the horizon. I always thought what a privilege view it was, as I don’t think many places in the world have a view of the exact geographic point in witch two continents such as Africa and Europe are hardly apart by a few miles and two great seas as the Atlantic and the Mediterranean meet. I never took that view for granted and was fascinated over and over imagining the busyness and the stories that where taking place down there, while I was standing in this quiet, sophisticated garden, where I felt like a privileged witness in the front row. One of my favourites moments in the house were precisely when we all had a little drink before dinner, Jaime and Janetta usually a little whisky, in the terrace overlooking the Estrecho at twilight with a indigo sky and the hazing shape of the mountains of Tanger and the sparkling lights of the city on the other side of the shore.
    On my little walks, from the front garden I usually continued down to the swimming poll and penetrate to the luxuriant, thick and mysterious kitchen garden on the back, filled with aubergines, tomatoes, all kind of beans, avocados, grenadines, herbs… where I often saw Janetta, one the best cook I ever met, with her old Straw hat an big Straw basket, piking the fresh ingredients for the delicious and extraordinarily sophisticated dish that were to going enjoy that evening. I joined her a few times, but I’m not so sure that she liked company for that task, as I suspect she preferred to do it alone, and jump from one parterre to another with her characteristic air of fragility that indeed disguise a strong determination and a excellent fitness.
    I can honestly say I had the best dinners and lunches of my life in Alcuzcuz, and not only because of the extraordinary cooking of Janetta (everything was home made in Alcuzcuz, from the toasted almonds of the appetitive, to the home made bread, deserts, sauces, biscuits… ) The fact that de dinning table was actually in the kitchen (that amazing kitchen that looks like a cosy restaurant) gave a perfect low key and relaxed atmosphere that encouraged the most fascinating conversations and discussions. I was so lucky to have dinner or lunches with ambassadors, politicians, journalists. I remember specially one dinner, about fifteen years ago, with Frances Partridge, the great member of the Bloomsbury Group of whom the intelligent Janetta was one of her best friends. The lady must have been 80 years old, and I was about 35, but that gap of age did not matter at all and I enjoy every moment of talking with Janetta and her about art, religion, literature or sciences.. It was ever so inspiring. I had the great luck of visiting other houses of the Parlade’s in Dordogne, Carmona and of course Madrid and London, in witch the atmosphere was equally mesmerizing.
    Therefore I thank you Victoria for homage to this master of good taste, sensitiveness, and intelligence. I attached an article I did on Jaime on Vogue magazine about ten years ago. I hope you enjoy it. Plus I totally agree with the reflections you make about homogeneity, mediocrity and the lack of personality in aesthetics now days. Congratulation for this post and best regards.

    • fashionphinx says:

      Dear Beatriz. My name is Eugenia.I am Victoria and Sylvia’s sister and the author of this piece. I am so happy that you liked it and I am enchanted that you took the time to write your experiences and memories in such great detail….priceless….I am sure that many readers of my blog will enjoy reading your comment and I will make sure that Andres Parladé receives it too
      Thank you again Beatriz !
      Best
      fashionsphinx

  6. carol ann emqquies says:

    Fantastic!!

  7. Nuria Arfa says:

    Ha sido el mejor (y mira que hay gente buena!)

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