As a child, she spent days building houses with Lego blocks, drawing on every piece of paper and would always say that she would be an architect when she grew up. Now she is one of the familiar faces of the “Querido Mudei a Casa” (Honey I Changed the House) TV program and has a ‘passion’ to create and transform spaces. A profession that requires more ‘psychology’ than you think.
When facing a challenge, Ana Proenca does not rest until she feels a “click” that leaves her with a certainty that the right path is there. “It is often in the shower, early in the morning, that the best ideas occur to me, there I fix my whole agenda,” she says. Coincidently, Celia Mestre, Ana’s partner in the Spacemakers company that the two founded in 2005 – uses the same strategy to turn on the mind and unleash their creativity. “It’s a line of work in which we deal with plenty of pressure, people want things at a moment’s notice and are not aware of what is behind the implementation of a project.”
Hours upon hours from shop to shop, searching through catalogs for the materials they need, from a simple tap, fabrics, furniture or lighting solutions. Not only do they deal with tenants, but also with the construction permit, request quotes, ask the plumber questions and talk to the upholsterer or wallpaper applicator.
Have you ever sighed and thought to yourself, ‘If you could, what would I change in the house’? Have you thought of what you would change? Various types of requests are brought to the studio. From refurbishments to renewal of a division, homes or entire buildings, offices and commercial spaces. “We always listen to the customer’s ideas, which we value the most, their tastes and lifestyle, because they are the ones who will be there every day. They have to identify with the project, if not, it is meaningless.” That’s why, in that initial contact, listening is key to drawing out the customer’s profile and “decoding” what the they want, along with the photographic record and the measurements of the space, in addition to its characteristics. “We are slightly psychologists, we create an empathy with customers and sometimes people end up venting, even confiding in us.”
If on television, the surprise effect is one of the symbols of the “Querido Mudei a Casa” program, in her studio, Ana Proenca does not fail to show and discuss all projects with the customers. Sometimes adjustments are needed, but with care as to not forsake the underlying concept of the project. “When you feel resistance coming from customers, you have to backup what you’re saying to show that there are solutions other than those that the person knows,” explains the architect, who prefers to risk this than having an outcome that has no “flare”. “In any project, there’s a personal touch. A part of us stays there.”
It is not realistic to think that everything is ready in 48 hours, as in the TV program. Even then, there is a time-consuming preparatory work that is undergone, which is not reflected to the public. Depending on the workload, they need three to four weeks to renew a division and at least twice that long to change an entire house, from design to project implementation. It would be faster if it were not necessary to order most of the materials, as some come from across the border, such as fabrics and wallpapers. The work itself and the assembly takes little time: “We work with teams that are fast and efficient, dealing with everything. It’s a relief for the client. They don’t have to worry about a thing, we control the entire process. ”
The stress of having works done at home and the indecision in decoration, leads people to seek for their services. “Sometimes they think we are stars and that it’s not worth asking for an opinion, but that’s just not the case, there is always something you can do. It’s worth getting a professional to help you out with these matters than wasting money on solutions that do not work,” say the architects. “It is very easy to fall into decorating mistakes. The Portuguese tend to buy out of scale items, that seem small in the store, but at home become monsters. Not only that but they keep a lot of stuff and mix pieces that have nothing to do with each other.”
The theme for the decor can be a pattern or color that grabs the entire project, or otherwise suggested by the customer or studio. If the objective is to make the most functional space, this will be the guiding principle. “We’ve had to draw up furniture and lighting solutions in the past. We always try to find the best solution, customising the space,” they explain, “a good distribution of lighting helps to create different environments and it is important not to ‘abuse the amount of light’, because sometimes we walk into rooms that seem like refrigerators.” The same care is required with the use of color you have to go very well studied and controlled. “Dark colours in small spaces make them even smaller.”
“Some patterns simply do not work because they cause an optical illusion,” warns Ana Proenca. Some projects, on the other hand, stand out precisely because of the absence of colour. “Some people ask us for the cleanest decor possible, blank, free of information, to decompress. To others, it would be out of the question, because it makes them remember hospitals. Each project is designed for those who will inhabit the space. We look for a balance between timeless pieces and details that follow the current trends, so that at any time a refresh is easy to do,” she details.
What Ana and Celia like best are projects that are done from the ground up, to draw out the architectural project “pure and simple” and monitor the entire process, from licensing, contracting, furniture and decoration, then deliver it ready to be inhabited. “Just come in and enjoy without the headache,” she says. Deadlines and tight budgets are the biggest difficulties and sometimes “the ‘ideal’ project shifts into the ‘what as possible’ project”.
Collaborating with the “Querido Mudei a Casa” brought more visibility, but also more responsibility to the work of Ana Proença. “The moment in which the blindfold drops, we feel the impact we have on the lives of those people … They are two intense days of filming, almost without going to bed, where fatigue gives way to nonsense and ‘successive fits of laughter”. She states that the most difficult and rewarding challenge she did on the program was where she changed a studio flat into a two bedroom flat, with different spaces for mother and daughter, who until then had lived without comfort (watch this program here) Ana Proença never imagined doing something else. Since she was little, she said she would be an architect. Her father had the habit of buying many books and every time he came home with another volume, Ana had a pencil in hand to draw on the first blank page. Even today, when you open her father’s books, you see her childhood drawings. After her architecture course, she worked in many workshops and businesses, eventually deciding to form her own brand, in partnership with Célia Mestre. “In this line of work, you can’t funtion without full surrender, without passion!”
Source: SOL Newspaper (April 2011)
Author: Gabriela Cerqueira
Images: Sara Matos