In My ROOM WITH CLAUDIO
Claudio, at the forefront of Parachilna, an iconic Barcelona lighting company, continues a third-generation family legacy in Spain's design industry. His lineage began with his great-great-grandfather who founded the legendary Metalls Arts, a construction material business that evolved into Metalarte, a pioneer in lighting design. Claudio grew up surrounded by art and design, which deeply influenced his creative sensibilities. Although he initially ventured into business studies, his passion for design remained undiminished.
Claudio's diverse experiences, from launching a startup to exploring Latin America, shaped his multifaceted approach to business and creativity. Taking the reins at Parachilna during a critical phase in the last 18 months, he infused new life into the company, steering it through challenging times with a vision that blends heritage with contemporary innovation. As we step into the new year, Claudio shares his ambition for Parachilna with ReFramed and how they aim to champion local talent, embodying a commitment to Barcelona's rich design history and the vibrancy of its current scene.
ReFramed: Ok so I want to get into your story as well as Parachilna since it’s also a part of your story. Can you share how you saw the family business as a child growing up in your household?
Claudio: My family has been linked with design for three generations. My great-grandfather had a construction company where they built apartment buildings in Spain and sourced construction material and carried out metal work that you might need, you know, like welding and stuff. The company was founded in 1932 and was called Metalls Arts, which in Catalan means metal arts. Later, it became Metalarte and naturally, they started transitioning into lighting because the clients were asking for this more and more. When they started they were designing old-school lamps that weren’t designed at all, they were the types of designs that your grandmother would have in her home. But then my grandfather started traveling, and he “discovered” design during his voyages. So he started doing a few copies of typologies that he was enchanted with from other companies, he was kind of a pioneer in Spain at that time because no one was doing that. Eventually, as the company became more successful he changed his approach to the products he was making and started giving a voice and a platform to Catalan designers such as André Ricard and Joan Antoni Blanc. The company flourished up until the early 2000s and then was later sold to a new owner.
RF: So when was Parachilna born?
Claudio: My father was working with my grandfather as he was transitioning out of Metalarte during the crisis and then decided to create a new company called Parachilna 10 years ago.
RF: Where does the name come from?
C: My father came up with it because he discovered a tiny town in the middle of the desert in Southern Australia. He loved it because the minimum you need to be called a town in Australia is a train station, a bar and a phone line. He was very much drawn to the idea of humbleness and simplicity that came with the name.
RF: How lovely, I’ll have to find it on a map and check it out. Can you tell me a little bit about your relationship to design?
C: My family was very into design because of the company so growing up I went to a lot of museums and all my idols were artists or designers. I loved art, design, drawing and everything that had to do with culture, you know. When I was a teenager I started doing graffiti and street art. I was captivated by the movement, with artists from Barcelona and international ones like OBEY and Banksy. Personally, I am a super nerdy guy. In Spain we say ‘friki’. I love all the production processes for creating a product or artwork. In another life, I might have chosen to be an engineer or designer, but my father told me ‘I'm in the design industry, I know what it is. Maybe it's better for you to take a more secure path and if you really have it in you, it will come naturally.’ So I ended up studying Business at university and soon after I graduated I set up my first business with a couple of friends running an online soccer game here in the city. It had nothing to do with design but I was still close to the running of the family business and still dreamed of one day working there. After four years, we closed the gaming business and I went backpacking across Latin America for several months.
RF: What happened after that?
C: When I came back I started to work at Parachilna but it was a start-up around that time so it was struggling. Despite the challenges, it was still great because I was working in the industry that I loved. However, I reached a breaking point and I couldn’t manage it anymore. I was balancing the family business with some personal things that were happening at the time and it became too much. I had been in Barcelona my whole life and I needed to go out and experience something new. So I quit and moved to Mexico City.
RF: Why Mexico?
C: It was either going to be New York or Mexico City, and I preferred to have a better quality of life so I made the jump there. I found a job working in a tourist startup which wasn’t a match but after a year it coincided with COVID and I left the company. During that time, I often thought about Parachilna and I fortunately re-entered the company to manage the Mexican market remotely for a couple of years up until last summer. We went through a challenging situation with the company and it was heartbreaking for us, especially for my father. We had an offer come through from a company to buy us but it fell through at the last minute and then shit really hit the fan. I moved back to Barcelona to be with my family and decide ‘do we let it go or do we fight for it?’. Parachilna is part of our legacy that was born from Metalarte almost 100 years ago. It’s our family.
RF: So you fought for it…
C: It was a fucking nightmare but yes. With the help of some friends, I pulled together a business plan, restructured the company and went through a series of investment meetings, and finally after many months of sleepless nights we gave the company a new life line.
RF: That’s amazing.
C: Every day was like war during those seven months. But now it's a different type of battle, one where we have to meet and exceed the expectations that we set for ourselves. But I’m just so happy about the outcome. I’m ready for the challenge.
RF: So what is the new direction you’re looking to take the company in from a creative point of view?
C: I want to bring back our Barcelona identity. I'm proud of what my family has done in the design industry. I'm proud of where we come from and I'm super proud of the talent that is here in the city. That's what I want to recover and infuse back into the business. For a long time, Parachilna has put a big focus on international names, which has helped place the brand on the map. However, we receive a lot of English written emails from Spanish customers which means we lack a local presence. I think there is an opportunity to revive our roots. I believe there is a special power and value in brands that bet on local spirit and culture. I’m really looking forward to collaborating with some of design's biggest names, while giving a voice to young talented local designers.
RF: How do you think your time in Mexico will influence the company’s new direction?
C: I really got inspired by Mexico. Actually, why do I want to do this in Barcelona because when I was in Mexico, I felt so envious of the culture that is happening there. The voice of the city is given to young people who are given support and the opportunity to take risks on their ideas. No one does that. I really loved that energy of every day, every week, there's some new thing that's happening. I want to bring that same dynamism and energy here to the company.
RF: Tell me about the space that Parachilna works from, Colonia Güell, and how might that fit into your ambition for the company?
C: So when my father was looking for an office space with Parachilna he came across Colonia Güell, which is owned by the Güell family, an old Catalan family who were close friends with Antoni Gaudí and are well-known because of the famous park Güell in the city. It used to be an old textile factory because back in the day we used to have a big textile industry in the region but now it's a bit more run-down, and we are set up in one area of the building along with other businesses like carpenters, mechanics, painters and even a butcher. It’s a pretty unique space.
Thinking about the reset of Parachilna, I’d like to breathe new life into Colonial Güell and create a cultural space for architects, designers and other creative practitioners to come here and create with us, that would be my dream.
RF: Beautiful, that’s a really powerful intention to set for the company. Let’s switch it up now, I want to hear more about this incredible home we’re in. Tell me about it.
C: I was lucky I found this apartment in Sants. When I came to view it I fell in love because it's everything that I want in an apartment which is spacious enough so people can live super comfortably and I love the energy of the building. This used to be an old nautical sail factory so it has this industrial feeling to it, and each apartment has really high ceilings.
RF: How did you go about furnishing it?
C: As you can see, it’s still a work in progress. I’ve been really slow to furnish it but I already had a few things of my own like the carpets, the sound systems, the lamps. I have some prototype lamps that I designed and built myself.
RF: No Parachilna lamps?
C: You know in Spain, we have a saying, ‘en casa del herrero, cuchara de palo’, which is equivalent to ‘the shoemaker's son always goes barefoot’.
RF: How would you describe your relationship to your home?
C: To me it’s vital that I feel good in my home, oh my god! I'm introverted so I like to spend a lot of time at home. It's important to be cosy. I love looking around my house and seeing all the memories or ideas that have come to life. For me, coming home is the best moment of my day.
RF: Are there any items in your house that hold a special place in your heart?
C: Those big paintings behind us are from my grandmother, who spent years looking for them. One day my father travelled to Hong Kong and she asked him to see if he could find them there. He did but then he had to face the nightmare of bringing them back because they’re so big. They have always been displayed in my grandfather's dining room where our family would have Christmas or family reunions so they have always been looking over us. When they passed away, my father inherited them but had no place to put them so when he came to view this apartment with me he said this is the perfect place for them.