An abandoned cowshed in rural Spain transformed into a glorious country house

Creating a rustic retreat from her busy Madrid design practice, Belén Domecq has used natural materials, traditional textures and a palette of sandy and ochre tones to evoke a sense of the surrounding landscape
Belen Domecq's Toledo country house

While the house feels integrated into the landscape, untamed nature is at one remove. Between the wings, in a walled space beyond the pergola, is a stylised garden – a civilised buffer between house and unspoilt country, designed by landscape architect Jesús Ibáñez. Here, he has corralled indigenous plants within steel-edged beds, separating them from wide, river-gravel strewn paths. Four impressively gnarled, 400-year-old olive trees have been retained, while the garden also evokes an ancient Roman villa, thanks to several cypresses. To one side, there is a new swimming pool. ‘It’s designed to resemble the water tanks livestock drink from, which I’ve seen in Tangier,’ says Belén, whose frequent visits to Morocco have also influenced design details in the house.

A 16th-century Belgian tapestry hangs above an antique French table in this new structure adjacent to the old part of the house.


Likewise, with its mix of elegant antiques and homespun furniture, the interior oscillates between formality and informality. The main entrance feels grand with its 16th-century Belgian tapestry, antique French table and hunting trophies looming large on one wall. Yet a rush mat and plants in earthenware pots create a relaxed feel. This hall leads to a sitting room in the old part of the house. Here, panelled-wood doors and ruggedly uneven original beams provide a backdrop to Vico Magistretti’s sleek Seventies ‘Atollo’ lamp, alongside traditional Moroccan copper pots – all unified by a soothingly muted palette. The original windows have been retained, providing a visual link to the adjoining hallway.

Belén’s desire to take it easy when not working is abundantly satisfied by the main bedroom, in which her taste for relaxed eclecticism is most apparent. Here she has teamed a mid-century Finn Juhl chair and a handsome 17th-century chest (in the dark wood that is traditionally popular in Spain) with a capacious Seventies armchair. The en-suite bathroom has a roll-top copper bath and a decorative chinoiserie screen. Summing up how restorative her rural haven is, Belén says, ‘My husband and I can happily spend hours in here, taking baths and listening to music’.

Belén Domecq-Grupo Cosmic: