The Art of Slow Living

Federica Barbaranelli left the stresses of the city to find happiness in the country. 


There are people who seem endlessly inspired and full of ideas, and they are inspiring for that very reason. Federica Barbaranelli is one of these talented people. After years owning and running one of Madrid's most iconic shops, Federica & Co, she decided to pack her bags and her dogs and together with her husband, they went looking for a better life in the North of Spain, to a region called Cantabria, that is green and pleasant just like England but, some may argue, with better food. Indeed, food is one of Federica's passions and she has made her mission to promote the Slow Food Movement she has embraced.  The country has also become a wonderful canvas for Federica's many projects. After finding an abandoned old house in the village of Novales, the couple spent countless weekends painting and decorating it to create their dream country home. This is now their permanent base where they run a new online business and a small b&b, a lifestyle project under the same name as her previous urban incarnation. The house acts as a showroom and many of the Swedish and French antiques, tableware, textiles and decorative objects are for sale so things change pretty quickly!

Federica, who’s also a chef, offers cooking lessons and workshops. Her cuisine is inspired by her Italian heritage and you’ll find lots of pasta and parmesan in her pantry! She also loves French food from Provence and the Perigord.  An interesting fact about Novales is that despite being in the Atlantic Coast, it is in a valley that enjoys a microclimate and this allows for the cultivation of citruses and other Mediterranean staple. Federica’s garden is filled with orange and lemon trees and she also has an extensive organic potager. Her love of animals is one of the reasons she moved to the country. Her dogs love the freedom of running in the wild and swimming in the nearby sea. Her donkey, Darwin, is a new addition to her ‘animal family’ and she simply adores watching them enjoying the freedom of nature.


For the interior design of her home, Federica is not afraid of using florals on walls and ceilings to create a timeless look reminiscent of the 19th century European style. Painted shutters, antique dressers, armoires and chandeliers give a timeless charm to the sunlit rooms. A blue entrance door decorated with lattice and a big slate heart welcomes you to the entrance hall where a pair of turquoise curtains by Jim Thomson announce something very special: the kitchen. This is no doubt the hub of the life at Federica's and where all the meals are prepared convivially for guests and among friends. Federica's love for florals is present here too. The soft green hues of the wallpaper contrasts with a rustic farmhouse table. It’s a beautiful room inspired by a by-gone era that defies the rule book kitchens of today.

The original staircase has been painted white as well as the floorboards and decorated with a large mirror and antique wall lights. Upstairs, we find the three guest bedrooms for those urbanites who wish to spend a few days enjoying country life and gastronomy. During their stay, they can learn to cook, practice yoga or simply use the house as a base to explore the region. The bedrooms are each decorated in a different colour and wallpapered in classic Laura Ashley florals in blue, yellow and red. Each guest room has a name (Towanda, Blixen and Marlin) and most contain antiques and objects that are also for sale. The magic and love with which Federica has infused this place is evident in every detail and spending a few days here is a lesson in slow living and in appreciating the beauty of every day.

Read more in Issue 14