Interview with Grapic Designer and property buyer Tina Nilsson
I hear you are a Graphic Designer. Where can we see some of your work?
Yes I am a Graphic Design Manager for baby diaper packaging at a global hygiene product company, called SCA. You can find examples of the work we do on the website.
You recently purchased a property in Valencia through Lucas Fox. Can you tell us where it is and why you chose this property?
Our starting point was to find a big enough apartment for two people in the Eixample district, with a terrace. We found a duplex penthouse with a south facing terrace on one of Valencia’s most beautiful streets, Gran Vía. Gran Vía itself is fantastic, with many restaurants and an excellent atmosphere. Furthermore, from Gran Vía it is just a short walk to the city centre with all it has to offer. And it is also just a short walk to the Turia Gardens, which we love.
Why did you choose Spain as your holiday home destination and more specifically why Valencia?
In the last few years we have spent our holildays in Italy or Spain. We like both countries very much, so we started to consider investing in a property. As we set up our list of criteria we said that we wanted to live in an area offering the Mediterranean climate but also a broad range of possibilities all year round. It’s great to have easy access to beaches, but even more important are the cultural events, fantastic food, shopping, great football and much more. So rather than looking for a typical touristic area, we wanted to look for a bustling city. In Italy we started to look at Florence but we realised we wanted a city located near the sea. We live on the coast in Sweden and we realised this was also important when looking for our second home. We didn’t find quite the right place in Italy, but more importantly we decided we preferred Spain. We have been to a number of cities in Spain and it seems to us that there is always something going on. The Spanish ‘appetite for life style’ combined with the fact that most things are quite well organised in Spain (we Scandinavians don’t want to wait for buses that never show up etc), was a deciding factor for us.
In Spain we first considered Barcelona but we soon realised that a city the size of the Scandinavian cities would be more convenient as they are easy to get around and you quickly feel at home. During our first visit to Valencia we knew we had found the city we were looking for. Valencia is a perfect place for our family to meet up to enjoy the Mediterranean climate, have a good time, do some shopping, attend a football game at Mestalla or simply relax.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I work in a big global hygiene product company, called SCA, as a Graphic Designer for baby diaper packaging. I work a lot with colleges from many different countries and our ambition is to develop a common base for our design according to our brand strategy. It is however quite a challenge to find a balance between corporate branding and demands to reflect local trends in design, which might depend on important cultural differences between the markets. We also need to pay attention to the different requirements and legal demands of the different countries.
I’m inspired by being outside in a natural environment. The best is to walk close to the sea. By the sea it’s easy to have an open mind. Somehow problems fade away and there are no hindrances for creativeness and new ideas.
I also like to stroll around in the city and pop into small designer boutiques, bookshops or fashion stores. I like it best if they have a slightly unusual assortment of things as I like to be surprised!
I obviously surf the internet and try to find interesting blogs or web pages. I’d like to mention Pinterest, which is a global kind of catalogue for ideas, where I can check out other people’s ideas and also develop my own. I can really lose myself when doing that.
I also love visiting libraries, reading books and magazines. I certainly hope libraries won’t disappear, because physical paper somehow gives an extra dimension.
How do design trends compare in Scandinavia to those in Spain?
Scandinavian design is characterised by simplicity, minimalism and functionality, which emerged in the 1950s. I also think that Scandinavian design is seen internationally as a designation for bright, simple and solid elegance, renowned for its stylish simplicity.
I think one major reason for the typical Scandinavian design is due to our climate here in the north. Scandinavians recognise the importance of natural daylight because there are so few daylight hours during winter. Scandinavian homes are designed to let as much light in as possible. Windows are large and kept clear of obstruction. Interiors are bright and white and balanced with natural wood, which helps to create a cosy and welcoming home even during the long, dark winters.
The lines and organic shapes of pieces, which often represent Scandinavian design, are simple and minimal, creating a calm atmosphere and feeling of space – something that’s really important when spending extended periods of time indoors. Also, good storage is key to creating a more streamlined look and getting rid of all clutter, making for a calmer and less stressful home.
I am not yet very familiar with the Spanish design trends but during our process looking for an apartment in Valencia, I saw several homes that seemed to shut out the light and also had a dark interior and displayed too many items. This is of course understandable since in these latitudes the sunshine is more intense and you spend more time outdoors. My personal opinion is that we are approaching each other, and the interest of Scandinavian design and its fascination internationally is increasing. At the same time, Scandinavians find new sources of inspiration that we bring into our design. One very nice thing that we discovered when we started looking in Valencia was the Valencian architect, Santiago Calatrava, who has designed several of the buildings in the ‘Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències’. He has also designed a very famous new building in Sweden, ‘Turning Torso’, with its characteristic turning curves taking steps away from the typical Scandinavian design.
How did you find the buying process in Spain and did your knowledge of the language have an impact on this?
Initially we had some difficulties in the buying process. Partly it depended on us, as we needed some time to understand which area we wanted to focus on. Partly it also depended on the quality of the agency. The first agency we met was not very used to foreigners and they didn’t quite understand our needs and possibly didn’t have the kind of properties in their portfolio that we were looking for.
The key to success was then to get in contact with the right agency. Marco at Lucas Fox supported us in an excellent way throughout the process. Due to this in the end it was no more complicated to find the right property and finalise the deal in Valencia than it would have been to close a deal in Scandinavia.
What do you think are the key assets a real estate agency should have when buying a second home?
I would say that there are two key assets that are very important.
Firstly, you have to make sure that the portfolio of the agency is in line with your expectations. When you go to view potential properties, in our case to Valencia, you need to be quite efficient. You don’t want to waste time viewing properties of no interest as you will have limited time.
Secondly the competence and the service level of the agency is important. Obviously the agency needs to have skilled and committed representatives. However it is actually slightly more complicated to buy a property abroad as there are some extra challenges to overcome and for this reason it is very important that the agency has international experience.
How does life in Scandinavia compare to Spain?
People in Scandinavia are in general quite work oriented and also family oriented. We work long hours and we spend a lot of time at home with our families. In addition, the climate is not very inviting for outdoor activities during a substantial part of the year. This means that we don’t meet in public, like at the beach, in parks or in the city centre, as much as people do in Spain. If you go to the city centre, for instance, during the weekend in a Scandinavian city, you will see fewer people then you do in a Spanish city. You will also find that the majority of the people you actually see are younger people, as families and older people are more often meeting with friends in their homes.
In Spain you see three generations enjoying life together in public areas. Of course the climate contributes to this, but there is also a different mindset in the sense that the city is offering something to everybody. I find this very attractive and welcoming, that the public city of Valencia really is everyone’s home.
In Scandinavia we spend more time at home and consequently we also spend more time and money on interiors and decorations for our home. This has most likely contributed to the fact that Scandinavian design has been developed to a high standard.
I have also noticed that in Spain there are many amazing public events, like ‘Las Fallas’ or ‘Running of the Bulls’ and of course many other less spectacular events as well. I have the impression that there is always something going on and I think it’s significant in the Spanish way of life.
In Scandinavia, however, we have an amazing natural environment. We have plenty of forests, mountains and dramatic coastlines offering spectacular sceneries. Scandinavians like to experience this great nature, with just a few of our friends. This might be an example of the characteristics of the Scandinavian way of life.
Would you ever think of moving permanently to Valencia?
I think we are happy to have two brilliant residences. We now spend as much time as possible in Valencia. Over time we will spend more and more time in Valencia, but we will also keep our Scandinavian residence in the future, so it’s not really Valencia or Scandinavia, as both will be important residences to us.
What three words would you use to describe Valencia?
Sunny, Diversity, Welcoming.