javier echenique design

The Illusionist

Madrid-born designer Javier Echenique reflects on 20 years of lessons learned, the magic of color, and his new chapter in Palm Springs.

Lisa Marie Hart Current Digital, Home & Design, Real Estate

javier echenique design

Wood baseboards and ceiling trim frame custom wallpaper from Swedish company Photowall and a midcentury Scandinavian platform bed with built-in night stands.

After a flurry of prestigious design magazines published his first project, a small apartment in Portugal, Javier Echenique felt bolstered to move from a director position in marketing into interior design. “It has been an amazing 20 years,” Echenique says. While building a portfolio of residential and commercial projects spanning cities and countries, he has connected with clients who “understand me as a creator and have given me the freedom necessary to get inspired.”

Echenique says he has learned “how to generate the wow factor” and that designers often become psychologists. “I have also come to understand something so simple yet so quintessential for succeeding as a decorator: that attention can be drawn to a particular object or corner making less-favored areas disappear from view,” Echenique shares. “A good designer is like a great illusionist.” How does he do it?

“By properly utilizing color, textures, and lighting, spaces can appear much larger and more spacious,” he says. Thus, a hefty budget is not a prerequisite for a welcoming environment, assuming clients can let go of the extraneous. “More than a decorator, I see myself as de-curator.”

Javier Echenique in a shirt he hand-painted and a bracelet he designed.

My Projects: Must be meaningful, purpose-driven, awe-creating, and fulfilling to all parties involved. I reject neutral design.

My Clients Are: Detail-oriented. My spaces do not seek mainstream approval but that of unique individuals searching for a unique habitat, one so special no one else will be able to possess it.

On Each Project: I leave a part of myself. I place handwritten notes with positive messages inside the walls, above the ceilings, before installing floor tile, or when we starting digging up the shell to build a swimming pool. I charge them to attract well-being, abundance, joy, and good health, and I believe this positive energy is received by the inhabitants.

I Have Lived: In a dozen cities where I have absorbed different styles. I love mixing these styles, materials, and colors harmoniously. I am pretty eclectic; my design is quite atypical, although warm.

I Love to Discover: New destinations. I have been to Mexico several times lately. They are happy people, and I like how they use color.

Color... Scares most people; it imposes too much on them. Look at the hundreds of people circulating through the corridors of international airports; the vast majority wear black, dark blue, or gray. The same goes for most house interiors. Color is essential in design; it changes moods, delimits zones, and illuminates areas. It is pure vibrant energy and it creates illusions. I love color and I use it without fear. In the design of my interiors, clothing, or paintings, one can feel the effects of its extensive use. In particular, cobalt blue or cadmium red attract me powerfully. In my sleep, I always dream in color.

Vertical solid wood trim on the walls and vintage wood wall art from Berlin warm the breakfast area. Saarinen dining table and 1960s Bertoia chairs by Knoll.

I’m Gravitating Toward: Natural finishings, wood, rope… artisanal materials. Those elements work better with our environment. The combination of wood, marble, and glass creates an irresistible symbiosis.

I Would Love to Design: A school for children, a shelter for orphans, a residence for elder artists, a futuristic temple.

My Path to Palm Springs: I was living in Manhattan and while I was in Cape Cod as a member of the Provincetown International Film Festival board of directors, I became acquainted with filmmakers Todd Hughes and P. David Ebersole who invited me to stay in their stunning house in Kings Point while they filmed the House of Cardin documentary in Paris. There, I became seduced by the natural beauty and ubiquitous exceptional architecture. I pictured myself working amidst these midcentury jewels, and within a week, I decided to move here.

After Four Years: I see the city has taken off internationally, drawing new neighbors to its warm climate, open spaces, unique architectural assets, and feeling of serenity. I could not feel more grateful for having done my bit, in the most-humble manner, for this amazing spot under the sun.

Photowall wallpaper pairs with a quartz countertop, Grohe faucet, and Porcelanosa porcelain wall tile.
My Local Resources: In Palm Springs, I love Flow Modern and PS212 HOME, where you can find something unique and beautiful from a professional team. In the stores on Perez Road in Cathedral City, I always find something cool. Misty’s Consignments in Rancho Mirage has something for everyone.

All Wrapped Up: The Indian Canyons condo shown here invites having fun.

In Progress: Casa Fierro mixes sophistication with spirituality/Zen and has a Japanese garden.

My Artistic Legacy: Casa Via Lazo, one of my latest projects in Palm Springs, has been selected as part of a Modernism Week 2022 tour.

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