Masquespacio is an award-winning creative consultancy created in 2010 by Ana Milena Hernández Palacios and Christophe Penasse. Combining the 2 disciplines of their founders, interior design and marketing, the Spanish design agency creates custom-made branding and interior projects through a unique approach that results in fresh and innovative concepts. Our team had a special conversation with the design duo and asked them all about their deepest design secrets!
Taking the leap into the world of interior decorating can be a scary thing, especially the first time around. Just like a budding relationship, the start of a decorating project can bring a symphony of emotions: the heart-swelling when imagining the end result, the butterflies when spotting your dream sofa, the nerves when swiping the credit card, the doubts when awaiting delivery…Is it a good fit? Will it last? Will I love it? Fortunately, there are interior designers who can guide you through every step of the way with their expertise. Masquespacio is the name that is always coming up when trying to find the most suitable designer to transform our design dreams into reality.
THE CREATIVE JOURNEY
Masquespacio is a renowned creative studio based in Valencia, Spain, with a portfolio filled with some of the most astonishing worldwide design projects. Ana Milena Hernández Palacios, an interior designer, and Christophe Penasse, a marketer, decided to combine their different industry backgrounds to make an agency where branding, product design, art direction, and space design would come as one.
Ana Milena Hernández is the founder and creative director of Masquespacio. She is passionate about design and everything that has to do with it. For her design is much more than employment, it’s a lifestyle. A lifestyle that makes her take care of every detail in her projects, looking for the optimal solution for every client, without losing the focus on distinguishing their brands from their competitors with fresh and innovative concepts.
Christophe Penasse is co-founder and actually marketing director of Masquespacio. As a marketeer he loves creating new concepts for his clients, giving greater importance to the design and identity of each brand. He likes everything to do with marketing, besides being passionate about design. At present, in addition to his job in Masquespacio, he is working as a chief editor for Blog del Diseño, a media specialized in design founded by Masquespacio.
- Tell us about the beginning of your journey in the design world? How did the love for products and interiors emerge?
In 2010 when Ana had recently finished her studies in interior design we found ourselves in a very tough financial crisis in Spain with few job opportunities. The few available jobs were looking for people who wanted to develop the technical part of the projects more, while Ana was more interested in developing her creativity. Therefore we decided together to found our own studio. At first, we were focused on decorating houses, but we realized very quickly that we wanted to design custom projects, so we quickly refocused on the commercial sector. We started by building a store and office to evolve into restaurant design. As an intermediate step, we also began to offer to brand and consulting services for furniture and lighting brands. We began to develop the strategies and artistic director of various brands. At this time we were already making custom products in our interior design projects, but we had not yet designed a product for a brand. We really wanted to design some pieces and after thinking about it a lot, we jumped into the pool there in 2015. The reception was a success and we were hooked on developing more collections.
“We create emotional projects, full of details and textures that surprise users, whether in an interior design project or in a product design. We also speak many times of our universe in which we mix colors, materials, and textures in search of innovative proposals for each client.”
- We know that you are both from different countries of origin, yet you came together to create one of the most renowned design studios in the world… How did Masquespacio studio was born?
I (Christophe) had always had an entrepreneurial streak and when I saw that Ana couldn’t find a job in what she liked, I convinced her to set up our studio. We had been together for a couple of years at the time and she didn’t think much of it. The truth, however, is that neither of us came from families related to interior design and product design, nor architecture, so although we developed a business plan the first years we had a bit of finding our way, however, we were very clear that we had to offer something different to compete with the existing studios. Little by little, we began to develop our own vision. Especially because we realized right away that we were not satisfied with simply doing a project. We had to do something different, more innovative, and come up with a surprising result. We are people who like to progress, see the world differently, and try to face new challenges that help us in this evolution. As we were doing more projects we were able to start talking about our vision and we think that it is what makes us stand out today with our projects. As for our origins in Belgium and Colombia, they are highly reflected in our projects and our way of working. Maybe not so much in terms of style but in the Latin passion that Ana has in the projects and the Belgian methodology/structure of mine.
- In terms of your creative process, do you are usually on the same page when it comes to the inspirational process?
Our creative process always begins with knowing the client and their needs. From there I start to develop a concept. The concept can vary a lot and depends a lot on the type of project we are working on. Thus, creating a concept for a hamburger chain in which a commercial image is sought is not the same as a boutique hotel in which a much more unique project can be developed. Once the concept is determined, I begin to create the project. I do everything in 3D and I go through many sources of inspiration: fashion, cinema, design, and art, among others. My clients are always part of my inspiration because I design for them. Also traveling is another great source that I use…. In short, all the details that surround me can end up being part of a design. Regarding the 3D processes, I do tests and tests and tests until I reach a result that I can say I am satisfied, without looking at the clock and the hours invested. The main thing is the final result!
- Do you think the relationship between designer and client is a fundamental part of the creative process? Why?
For us, it is of major importance to have a good connection with our clients as this is the beginning of a successful project. When we receive a request from a client the first thing we evaluate is if we are connecting with them and if the concept they want to develop matches our requirements. Without an open relationship and a client in search of something new, it would be impossible for us to create a unique project design.
- If you had to name the project of your career and your life, which it would be?
We have several highlights in our careers, but for different reasons. Nozomi Sushi Bar is one of the first ones as it was our first restaurant developed for a fine dining experience and at the same time, it allowed us to know a new culture and way of thinking. The Toadstool collection on the other hand was our first official furniture collection developed for a brand for which it was the starting point of our product design projects. When we did the 2 residences for. The Student Hotel in Barcelona a few years ago with 22000 m2 and 2500 m2 it was our biggest projects at that moment and we had to learn how to work more organized and with more details on a technical level for which we call it many times a master for our studio. Last but not least, we would like to highlight the exhibition to celebrate the 100 years of Italian company Poggi Ugo we presented during the last Milan Design Week.
THE LATEST DESIGN TRENDS
Masquespacio’s design experts claim that they are big fans of contemporary style with an eclectic touch, and, in fact, it can characterize their unique signature style filled with bold colors and elements. The eclectic design style evokes a whole host of superlatives that belie its wily nature. It’s a riotous juxtaposition of color and texture, old and new, and high and low—a study in contrasts that allows one’s unique personality to shine and the freedom to think outside the box.
- As Designers, how much in your opinion is important following the design trends established in the industry?
As an evolution of our career, we are more and more focused on getting away from the design trends. Although when you work on a more commercial project we think it is important that you know the design trends and try to reuse them as you will need to attract a mass market. When you are working for a chef or a boutique hotel on the other hand you can get away from the design trends. The market is although evolving and the masses are more and more informed by the design trends, for which they are also much more open to totally new and innovative concepts.
NEW PARTNERSHIP, NEW CHAPTER
- In your vision what is the essence of the brand’s Essential Home?
For us, it’s a mix of several things. First of all, of course, a mid-century-inspired design. Secondly, a high-quality production that gets away from the timeless neutral creations we have seen a lot through Scandinavian brands, bringing an aesthetic that seeks more to present emotions and unique forms.
- Which are the techniques you appreciate most or would you like to examine in-depth?
We have been working previously with some Portuguese brands and were highly surprised by the high quality of carpentry in Portugal, combining craftsmanship and technologies to create an outstanding production. We especially like to highlight the capacity of Essential Home to create a much more innovative design with singular forms and mixing different techniques that are highlighted amongst the many brands with an approach to Nordic Design.
- How do you feel about this unique partnership? It was a challenge working on the collections just by virtual in the last months?
Although it is always more difficult to create a connection through the virtual world, we directly created a great connection with the Essential Home team. I think it was clear from the beginning that both teams as a partner wanted to do the same: create unique collections to surprise their customers.
- What was the thing that captivated me the most to o go forward with this project?
We were attracted by the brand already a few years ago. We felt that they were more into creating a unique aesthetic with a highly emotional factor traduced in furniture collections full of surprising details. When Essential Home contacted us, since the beginning we were excited to develop some designs for them. For us, it is important that we feel connected with the brand that wants us to develop some items for them and this was the case with Essential Home. Thus, we offered a wide range of products from chairs and tables to barstools and even some lighting features. All the designs are divided into 2/3 main collections with each a different aesthetic and concept.
“The collections are inspired by different actors and actresses from the past and the present and connect together or just can stand out separately. From the romantic movie ”An Affair to Remember”, to the burlesque world from Zsa Zsa Gabor to Charlie’s Angels.”
- What is the main message that you want to pass to the design world with this collection?
We want them to enjoy a moment of joy full of emotions when they use our designs in their environment no matter if the products are used for a restaurant, hotel, or just your home. Let’s make the customer smile for a moment and be surprised by some pieces full of surprising and exciting details.
- How would you describe your unique products for Essential Home to any design enthusiast?
We would say they are full of emotions, organic forms, and contrast of materials in the typical style of our designs. Of course, there will also be a strong touch of color and let’s say some new type of textures.
“The reinterpretation of the Mid-Century aesthetic by new young designers is pushing it to another level. This also happened many years ago with the New Memphis which evolved to a mass market. The New Mid-Century will possibly evolve the same way although as it is much more timeless it’s probable that it will maintain to be a trend for a more selected market.”
- How would you describe your unique products for Essential Home to any design enthusiast?
We would say they are full of emotions, organic forms, and contrast of materials in the typical style of our designs. Of course, there will also be a strong touch of color and let’s say some new type of textures. The final result of the partnership between Masquespacio and mid-century brand Essential Home is a unique collection, just like in the movies, called “Hollywood Glamour”: A unique mid-century modern collection inspired by three of the most popular movie styles in that era, from passionate love affairs to fun burlesque environments. The idea is to connect the past and the present by reviving the bright side of old Hollywood glam.
There is a significant move towards rounded shapes in interiors, particularly furniture like this cocooning chair. There are no hard edges and the round shapes are kinder and more welcoming. “Hollywood Glamour” by Masquespacio is a collection that redefines the limits of the products and shows its versatility in unique and unexpected spaces.