For as long as she can remember, Silvia Hengstenberg has been looking at houses with her family. Her mother, her mother’s sisters, her grandparents… Seven years ago, she and her mother Sylvia Girón took on the renovation of a family estate, Sylvia as interior designer and Silvia using her hotel consultant skills. They enjoyed the experience so much that they decided to go into business together. Today, the mother-and-daughter team are The Sibarist, a 360-degree property service based in Madrid, that brings together management, hospitality, interior design and art. And we are fortunate to have a number of their homes in our collection. We sat down with them to find out more, starting with…
What is a Sibarist exactly?
“Sibarist for us means a way to be in this world; it’s a way of appreciating beauty, design, the unique, and not only what is tangible, but also the experiences on offer — the feeling of well-being, the relationship with our senses. A view, music, a beautiful table, a good meal with friends, cooked in a cozy kitchen, a sunset in a special enclave. All these details are key for us. The property itself does not have to be a luxury house. On occasions, it’s the contrary. It’s a question of selecting properties with soul and essence… simple yet absolute luxury, for their uniqueness or the unique experience they can offer.”
How do you choose your properties?
“We consider the overall space, its potential and character. It has to offer something special. Though the location is important, we have selected properties in emergent barrios (the Spanish way of saying ‘authentic neighborhood’) and we have given them the bohemian character of the area. That, for us, has been the most entertaining experience – bringing out its essence and giving each one its personality. We also manage properties that have been created by interior designers whose style we like and whose philosophy we share.”
You talk about using all five senses in your design. Why is that so important?
“Senses, for us, form part of the essence. Usability and comfort are as important as design. The creation of the space is focused on the travelers’ needs and what will fulfill them best. We work with the energy of the spaces, and we balance all elements within them to connect them directly with the senses.
“For sight, we take color and design into account. When entering the property, the traveler falls in love. First impressions are truly important. For touch, the sensation of natural textures. As we all carry a bon vivant within us, we make sure all visitors are treated to 100% Egyptian cotton sheets or a large cosy towel after a relaxing bath or shower.
“For smell, we love natural and subtle aromas. They can offer well-being and improve rest. For this reason we have created our own line of soaps, gels and pillow spray, made out of essential oils, without parabens, and inspired by the flowers of our countryside.
“For taste, the kitchen is a vital space in the house and we take every detail into account, all the equipment you may need to cook is in the kitchen. For hearing, no matter how central the apartment is, we want our spaces to be as quiet as possible.”
Why did you decide to create a Picasso apartment?
“When we were asked to carry out this project, we decided to make a colorful and bohemian house, just like the area it’s located in. You can see a mural just in front of one of the balconies which states that Picasso lived there a period of his life. The colors of the area — blue, ochre, maroon — captivated us. We had found the beginning of our path… to create a house like the barrio itself, full of vibrant colors, just like the artist’s work. The type of house Picasso would have lived in during the 21st century.
“We applied the colors of Feng Shui with advice from experts. A violet, purple and cherry-colored kitchen? Why not! What an overall experience: a room with predominant green and blue, yellow radiators, a cherry-colored kitchen, elements such as wood and metal… none of it distributed randomly.
“A house for us represents a space we treat with utter respect and that should offer its best to all of its guests. It’s the place where you recharge your batteries, you recover. It’s your temple, and for this reason we take care when selecting the materials for the renovation. We work with artisans, artists, we search for singular pieces we give a second life to. And the result is a signature house with personality and character.”
What do you love about Madrid?
Silvia Hengstenberg: “What I love about Madrid is how vibrant it is, and the possibilities it offers, both culturally and in terms of leisure. Its gastronomy definitely stands out as well as the authenticity of its barrios. Madrid is special because it’s so complete, an experience in itself… you have to live here as it’s not possible to explain it all in words! People say that Madrid can trap you, and they always mention how the kindness and joyfulness of its people stand out. I’m from Madrid — I should know!”
Silvia Girón: “Madrid is becoming more and more cosmopolitan. Its cultural heritage continues evolving and being reappraised. Its buildings, fashion shops, its cared-for gardens. It’s always bubbling and always transforming. It’s such a welcoming city — you will definitely want to come back.”
What do you look for when you travel?
Silvia Hengstenberg: “That depends where I go. I enjoy old barrios, those that tell you a story, to get lost in their streets, restaurants, taverns, art galleries… I love everything which takes me to the heart and essence of each place. I am a defender of the authentic. I dislike products that have been created for tourists. They are often expensive and bad. I like what is real, what the local people would choose. Design is a very important factor — beautiful and cared-for spaces will always be more attractive.”
Sylvia Girón: “Factors that are important for me are (in order of importance): comfort, a good place to go to at the end of the day and rest, a good shower and if possible a nice relaxing bath, good healthy food, cooked with taste and feeling. Design is also very important, the colors of the place, the views. I am especially fond of the artistic. I enjoy delving into the culture of the place, getting to know its people, their customs, their human side. The experience of all this together is what makes my trip.”
Check out our Sibarist properties here.