Designing Tranquility — Inside The Minimalist World of Isern Sera and Valeria Vasi –
Spanning his interior work from residential to exhibition design, Isern Serra conveys minimalism with a human face in every space he designs. His style, deeply rooted in the architectural traditions of Catalonia, invites Mediterranean serenity to otherwise bustling cities. Although he started his practice over a decade ago, it is the architect’s own home that has solidified his position in the international design scene—a testament to his signature style. The light-filled space is shared with Serra’s partner, Valeria Vasi, a renowned designer herself, whose carefully crafted objects enliven the space. We visited the couple to discuss their home, ongoing projects, and their life together as creatives.
Situated in Barcelona’s Glòries neighborhood, Valeria and Isern’s apartment is housed within what was once an old industrial office. The space immediately captivates visitors with its uncompromising peacefulness, a stark contrast to the vibrant streets just outside the building. From the outset, it’s evident which features combine into Serra’s architectural style: clean arches, built-in furniture, and bright, open spaces. Having launched his practice in 2008 amidst an economic crisis, adopting a minimalist mindset was almost a necessity for Isern to cautiously start a new business. These circumstances proved to be a valuable exercise in making a great impact with limited resources, shaping an overall sustainable approach in his practice.
Following the recognition of the couple’s Barcelona home in the press, Serra was commissioned to design the studio space for digital design studio SixNFive. This marked a decisive moment in his career, establishing the theoretical principles of his office, which now hires a team of seven people.
For Serra, the paramount quality of good architecture and interior design is to reveal its human side. Among his most significant influences, he points to José Antonio Coderch: a prominent post-war Catalan architect who, in the 1960s, advocated for the need to humanize architecture and free it from clichés and formulas. “I find beauty in imperfection. The custom-built elements exhibit this imperfection and infuse the space with a lot of character,” Serra explains. While he becomes more experimental with retail or exhibition spaces that captivate with vibrant lighting and surreal aesthetics, in residential projects, the emphasis is on the timeless. This pursuit of humane architecture is evident in the architect and his partner’s apartment. First, visitors encounter the absolute tranquility of the space, followed by a sense of warmth—and not just from Barcelona’s hot sun. It’s the comfort that envelops the visitor and allows them to savor the space. Isern states, “Whether it’s an office or an apartment, I aim to create spaces in which one wants to stay.”
“For me, the main idea about this space was to achieve a balanced relationship between inside and outside, and to create a feeling of a Mediterranean countryside house.”
When asked about their decision to acquire the apartment, the couple responds unequivocally. “Although the space itself was in poor condition, we just loved the windows that stretched over the whole wall and the view from there. The light coming in was incredible and knowing what Isern is capable of, I had no doubts that we found a hidden gem,” confides Valeria. Isern then adds, “For me, the main idea about this space was to achieve a balanced relationship between inside and outside, and to create a feeling of a Mediterranean countryside house. Additionally, I wanted to incorporate a dedicated space for Valeria’s studio, where she could work on her projects.” The built-in concrete pots with large plants, along with a collection of artisan objects acquired during various trips, truly evoke the atmosphere of a countryside retreat. With the windows designed to fully open, one is almost surprised not to see the seaside when looking outside. The private areas, including the bedroom, bathroom, and children’s room, are situated towards the rear of the apartment. “The common areas are designed as an open space, but we’ve created a separation for Valeria’s studio by placing it on a slightly elevated level,” explains Isern. “This way, there’s a clear distinction between the personal and working areas.”
“This space was designed to act as a blank canvas for our creativity, allowing me to effortlessly transform it into a photo shoot set and combine the two things I love: product design and art direction.”
With her primary background in fashion, Valeria has consistently been drawn to art and design, eventually leading her to launch her own line of decorative products. Her carefully crafted vases and sculptures cleverly play with the visual possibilities of each object, showcased through imagery that the designer creates herself. All the designs are photographed within this space before being introduced to the world. “This space was designed to act as a blank canvas for our creativity, allowing me to effortlessly transform it into a photo shoot set and combine the two things I love: product design and art direction,” says Valeria. Vibrant colors, unpretentious shapes, and natural materials lie at the core of Vasi’s projects, with her ultimate influence being Constantin Brancusi, an artist who favored organic shapes and employed photography to document his works. “I think he was such a unique craftsman,” says Valeria, her voice filled with excitement.
Working with a diverse array of products and materials, such as glass vases, metal candle holders, or wooden sculptures, Valeria acknowledges that her numerous travels have been a significant influence for her. “I’ve been fortunate to travel and live in different parts of the world, which has enriched me with diverse visual references. I think the main influence has always been Japan and its approach and dedication to craft,” says Valeria. “I have an eternal curiosity that pushes me to continually seek new ideas, materials, and methods of working,” she adds, sitting against the built-in wall that serves as the finest testament to her aesthetic: filled with shapes and colors yet representing a perfect harmony.
While currently engaged in various projects, balancing professional and family life has undeniably been the greatest challenge for both Isern and Valeria in the last two years. “Our twin daughters are now two years old, and it hasn’t been easy to pursue creative projects while maintaining balance in the family. But I believe that when your work is your passion, you always find the energy nevertheless,” confides Valeria. When asked if they have collaborated or plan to work together, Isern responds without hesitation, “I don’t make any significant decisions in my projects without consulting Valeria first. We have some ideas for joint projects, but we need time for them. And now, the girls are the priority.” Valeria nods with a smile before saying, “Yes, our primary collaborative project right now is the family.”