Designing luxury property is no longer about following trends; it has become far more personal than that, says Lucia Casaus, the co-owner of the architectural and interior design practice GC Studio.
Based in Marbella for most of her career and mixing in the same sort of social circles as many of her clients, Casaus brings almost forensic insight into how wealthy, well-travelled and exacting clients want to live in this sought-after patch of southern Spain. Her experience has led her to carve out a prolific career in designing large, luxury homes for buyers in the super-prime sphere, working on projects in Miami, Dubai and France, and collaborating with Sierra Blanca Estates on many of their ground-breaking residential developments over the past decade.
“Clients no longer want to follow a trend that is simply a statement of what they are able to acquire,” says Casaus, who co-founded GC Studio with her business partner and the company’s principal architect Alexis Gonzalez in 2017. “They are now more informed and connected to the world, and they are wealthier than ever before. They have their own criteria of what luxury means. It’s more personal than ever and it is codified in very different ways for each person,” comments Casaus, who regards herself as the “decoder” of her clients’ ambitions.
Their USP, she adds of her and Gonzalez’s approach to design, is to ensure that the architecture and interior design are conceived in tandem from the very start of the project. “When interior designers come to a project later, they invariably have to change a lot of things. It doesn’t make sense to do it separately, yet this is common,” she says. “Our approach is more holistic, so that architecture is at the service of interior design, and vice versa. Nothing is projected architecturally that has not been anticipated from a conceptual point of view about how the spaces will be used. The fewer conceptual fissures the final product has, the more successful it will be.”
One of her latest projects has seen her branch out into new territory as the interior architect of Sierra Blanca Tower in Malaga, Sierra Blanca Estates’ first project outside Marbella and their first ever high-rise scheme. The project marks a milestone for Malaga as the city’s first super-prime residential development with five-star amenities. The 22-storey tower, designed by Lamela Estudio architects, has also been a significant stepping stone for Casaus.
“It’s an urban beachfront project that presented me with new challenges of maximising the extraordinary panoramic sea views from the private and communal spaces within the tower, where it was important to blur the boundaries between inside and out. The challenge also lay in designing a calibre of new-build property that hasn’t been seen in Malaga before and which is attracting a new level of buyer to the city,” says Casaus.
Her work with Sierra Blanca Estates also includes designing the sports centre at EPIC Marbella, whose exquisite design detail and world-class facilities signal that this is as much a hallmark of the highly exclusive EPIC lifestyle as the residences themselves. And GC Studio are the architects and interior designers behind Villa Sierra Blanca, “an incredible house with uninterrupted sea views – and it’s set on the last remaining plot of the residential project that launched Sierra Blanca Estates more than 30 years ago,” says Casaus.
“This house is BREEAM-certified, which is a globally-recognised measure of sustainability, from the way it is constructed to the way it is run and maintained, and it is extremely rare. To combine the height of luxury living with ultra-sustainability in this way is something totally new for Marbella and it’s setting the bar even higher for luxury here. This is conscious luxury that looks towards a sustainable and responsible future.”
Her close working relationship with Sierra Blanca Estates has continued to strengthen over the years, she says, because of their shared vision of not just the design of such projects but the ethos that underpins them. “Their projects are of a quality that no one else is doing on the Costa del Sol. Their dedication and their attention to detail is second to none and they are the only developer I’ve seen who take care of everything, the whole process,” she comments.
“Their developments are a seal of guarantee to their clients that they will have the best location, the highest quality of materials and innovative design – all of which underpins their investment value. And they form relationships with clients that last far beyond the sale of the property.”
Many clients are repeat buyers, returning each time a new development is launched. And many then commission Casaus to design their private residences, whether it’s a huge, lateral apartment in a seafront tower or a one-of-a-kind villa designed by Karl Lagerfeld in Marbella. “They come to me with wonderful design requests too,” says Casaus. “I’ve been asked to create a wine cellar with a very specific way of ordering bottles by origin, and one client wanted a hand-crafted piece of furniture in which to store his clock collection.”
Encouraged in her career choice at a young age by her architect father, Casaus says they are both occasionally amazed at how the level of luxury on the Costa del Sol has transformed in recent years. “One thing we can be sure of in my work is that time redefines everything,” she says.
“Marbella is not what it used to be. It is simply much more. There are more nationalities interested in it as a destination, more services, more culture, more gastronomy, more options to lead a cosmopolitan and international lifestyle but with a Mediterranean accent that influences everything,” she comments. “After the pandemic, people began to value all of that – family time, good weather, open spaces, fresh air, endless nightlife. They wanted more of everything and Marbella has been able to give it to them. It has a new energy to it and it’s seeing a creative boom.”
So, what next for Casaus? “We are increasingly concerned with designing a lifestyle,” she says. “It’s no longer just about where to live, but how to live there, surrounded by the highest possible level of quality. Our work is challenging because we bring people’s private space to life, we make important decisions so that our clients feel that their recent purchase represents them and their families.”
Carlos Rodriguez, CEO of Sierra Blanca Estates refutes the vision of the GC Studio interior designer admitting that “for our company the relationship with the client does not end at the moment of handing over the keys, on the contrary, that is the instant in which we start our relationship accompanying their needs and creating memorable experiences for them. For us, having Lucía and her knowhow is a fundamental asset. There is no one like her and GC Studio to understand our vision, and share it, accompanying that experience designing the interior of our clients’ residences. Her work speaks of our work and the result achieved is one more guarantee of our brand.“