J. Beriestain: I never dream. I do
Not for the first time is Barcelona mentioned as a natural habitat and shelter for all sorts of creative types and artists, who after a couple of years of artistic liberty become global icons in their respective fields. Design world celebrity Jaime Beriestain says that moving to Barcelona from his homeland Chile 20 years ago was probably a key shift in his career. Today he looks relaxed and calm as we sit talking in the cafeteria of his own concept store in the center of Barcelona.
“If you are smart enough to turn your passion into what you do everyday, you won’t have to work. It might sound cliché, but that’s what happened to me,” smiles Jaime. And somehow, as you look at the pleased loyal customers in the store and the shop assistants calmly chatting with them, the couples and friends savoring their meals, you find yourself believing him.
Meeting a person who has a success story to tell, I want to know most importantly: where is that thin line when you can say that you’ve achieved everything you were meant to achieve? Jaime, who began working with the most famous international clients right after graduating BA studies, might be a good example of someone who has reached that line long ago. He could certainly have a deservedly calm and relaxed life, working a bit on the side. But for this serene-faced man with salt-and-pepper hair and a coy sparkle in his eyes, ambitions seem to be growing in just the right proportion to his success. Isn’t this what made him come up with the idea of a new business, a local concept store in Barcelona?
– Jaime, why your own store?
– I’m an idealist. One day I realized that in Barcelona, such a creative place, I was unable to find the things I really liked. Flowers, furniture, accessories – all these trendy inspirational things that you could easily find in New York, London or Paris, were missing here, in Barcelona. After struggling to find them I realized I could bring the flowers directly from Holland and the cushions I like from the designer in Italy, and actually show people more than they are offered here.
This was a personal passion before it became a business idea. But of course it makes me happy that my store lets more people enjoy great design by the original makers from all over the world. Guests of mine kept asking – where did you get these beautiful glasses? How come you find such amazing colors? Who makes this? Now those things are all available from my store and I am happy to share the design world news with the citizens of Barcelona, one of the fastest growing and most innovative cities in Europe.
The same happened with the restaurant. To be honest, I didn’t initially plan to host people or become a chef. The idea came alive very naturally, after a few amazingly cozy dinners with friends who kept suggesting that I share my delicious South American roots (Jaime is Chilean in origin) with a wider audience. With such a crazy and busy life as mine it’s difficult to be a good and frequent host, even though I love doing it. Now I can combine my work and the pleasure of inviting people over for little pleasures. I know that my guests will be well treated and I can join them for a meal or just a cup of coffee.
– Do you cook yourself?
– Badly, and I don’t have time to do it daily. But I try all of the recipes together with the chef. I only offer my guests things I personally enjoy. Just like the concept of the store itself – I wanted to make all of my favorite thing available to the public.
– How is hosting people in your own home different than hosting in a restaurant? Is it the same?
– It isn’t the same. Even though the store and the restaurant are made to resemble my own home, I feel more responsible here. Even if it were only friends of mine having lunch at different tables in the restaurant, I would feel obligated to offer them the best. Besides, inviting people to the restaurant allows me to be a discoverer, to notice and to improve. Trying to step on the other side and paying more attention to small details which you might not notice as you simply enjoy your meal with friends, leads me to perfection.
– Judging from your store and personal work, it seems every smallest detail is insanely important and meaningful to you. Are you a perfectionist?
– It is an inevitable part of my work, indeed. When it comes to design, a little detail might be key. My store is part of myself, so how could I disregard details? Even in my own home, I am just naturally oriented towards the small things. Not only for visual reasons, but for comfort as well.
– Clients all over the world, a huge farm you call home, meetings, research of new ideas, now the new store and the new role of a restaurant owner – how does all this fit into your daily agenda?
– I only sleep for a few hours every day, and my agenda is always strictly planned. With time and a clear goal in mind, I was able to organize my days so that treasures, work and meetings overlap all the time. Now I don’t feel like I’m working anymore – I feel that I’m doing my most beloved things every day!
– Was the concept store you own today a dream of yours?
– I never dream. I do.
– So what brought you to where you are now?
– Probably my best decision was to effect a “big change”, to be a student again. Back then, after my first studies, I was probably a lucky kid; I started working in design straight after I got my diploma. Quite soon I got good clients and started to make money. That continued for nearly a decade, and it was a great experience! But after you become too comfortable and too confident with what you do, the magic of creativity disappears. I am grateful to the power that moved me to leave my comfort zone after ten years of work to go back to where I started – university.
– What was so magical about that?
– It took my perspective to a brand new level! I already had techniques; as for my line, the financial part, I was pretty experienced and knew all I needed to work well. But with time I had forgotten a bit that design is creativity, I had forgotten to be inspired.
After I became a person with both experience and an open mind for creativity again, I really started evolving with my points of view and personal concept.
– How did you achieve that?
– I will never forget this one class. I got an assignment, floor plans and so on. “Do you have any questions?” the professor asked. “What is the budget?” was my first question. The professor even got angry a bit. “You are here to work on ideas and to create what only you can create. Forget about the budget!” And that was a point of view to remember, after ten years of work with clients. I can be open to any kind of ideas.
– And are you still using this formula today? Is it possible to be just a creator?
– There is no magic formula, it’s a way of thinking. If you believe in your idea, you will find a way to achieve it even with very limited resources. Answers will come on their own, if you know what you are looking for.
– So where do those great ideas come from?
– Well, this is why inspiration is such a special thing — it doesn’t have a recipe. To me inspirations come from different moments and situations. For one of my collections I got the primary idea on my way from Barcelona to Madrid – the shapes of the landscape, the colors of the fields, the perfect harmony of separate items and minimalism at the same time just showed me where I had to go. Inspiration can also come from an opera, a funky disco, a dream, anything.
– What has been your favorite project so far?
– For a while already I am deeply into my farmhouse, where I live. It is the perfect raw canvas. I have lived there for a while already and there’s always something going on. At the moment I am working on an organic garden – my first tomatoes and eggplants have already given their first harvest. The peak of the garden “project” will be my own little vineyard. My house is my personal Sagrada Familla (laughing).
This interview is published in the Aesthetics issue of Llamas’ Valley. Read it on your iPad.