If you should wander into La Casona in Sitges to browse, you will find yourself surrounded by a sensory – and sensual – overload of textures, colours and shapes.
There are blankets in gorgeous tones, from a rich Sitges blue to discreet greys, or light but substantial pottery in earth tones, locally made wooden floor lamps with interchangeable shades, hanging linen lampshades in various sizes, cushions in cream with muted but deep shades, blankets and rugs of different shapes, sizes and materials – and much, much more.
If you happen to take an interest in the few pieces of furniture, you will be told they are made by local carpenters who can make you a piece in your choice of wood and design.
These are merely a few examples of the sorts of appealing items in natural colours and materials you can find in La Casona, a gem at the foot of the busy main street of Parellades with its often loud and odoriferous offerings.
The shop is owned, run and kept supplied with the latest designs by Toni Suñer Torralbas. She started out in 1981 with half the space she now enjoys, when her parents were still running the Bodega Bon Estar in the other half.
They very generously ceded her a large part of their locale so that their wayward daughter, who did not like studying but did like arts & crafts and obviously had a good eye, could have a meaningful occupation that she loved. At first, she carried largely popular ceramics from around Spain, as well as her own macramé hangings and lace, which she would sit and make in the shop while customers watched her, fascinated.
In those early years, of course, there were far fewer tourists or foreign residents in Sitges, and in the quiet winter months, Toni would pass the time making her own crafts for sale in the busier season. She continued perfecting her lace-making and crochet with a local woman who held classes in a nearby street.
Her family, Sitgetans from four generations back, were very glad to see her so involved in her work. She thrived on the crafts she could both make and select for the shop, and her dealings with customers, which you will quickly see she very much enjoys.
And slowly but surely, the items on offer were changing, becoming more modern and wider in scope. In 1995-6 the shop became part of Espacio SIA, a European brand of home decoration that, she says, helped to transform it. In addition, she was able to take courses with Espacio SIA to learn more about merchandising, display and window-dressing.
The shop remained under that rubric for some fifteen years, until 2010, by which time there were many more tourists and residents coming to Sitges and Toni had a lot of solid experience in all aspects of the business. Moreover, she had been able to expand the shop to its present size, taking over the area of the old family bodega as well.
Nowadays, what you see as you come down to the bottom of Parellades is a long, high window spanning the shopfront, allowing a generous view into the warm and welcoming space inside. Toni is often there, along with one or another of her collaborators.
She also goes to international design fairs, often in France, alone or accompanied, to observe the latest trends and keep up with what people coming to Sitges might want. There are items from many sources. Large wooden tables, end tables, armchairs, floor and table lamps are mostly from here in Catalunya and, as mentioned, can be custom-made.
The linen lampshades are made by Toni and her partners Sonia and Vinyet, while others come from Barcelona. In order to promote the uniqueness of the shop, they make more and more of their own smaller textile items, such as the lampshades, and curtains, cushions or throws. Some of the ceramics still come from La Bisbal in Girona, but more are now from Holland and Sweden.
You can also find or order rugs of all sizes. Although there is not room to keep many on display, you can see samples and catalogues. If you inquire about some of the woven rugs, you will be astonished to find out they are made of recycled plastic!
These come from various sources around Spain, look very natural and certainly do not have the feel of plastic. In fact, Toni says, there are more and more textiles nowadays made of recycled materials. She also buys rolls of material to work with herself, or for collaborators who come in to upholster furniture for her customers.
She will go to a home to give advice on decoration and is sensitive to what people like as well as what they need most, rather than simply pushing for a bigger sale.
She seems to truly love interior design, natural products of quality, and dealing with people. So, while you can expect to always find new and unusual items in La Casona, you will also see some of the same things year after year, if she likes the workmanship and style. As Toni likes to say, she and her collaborators have always considered the shop as their home: ‘You take care of it, you renovate it, and you do it all with lots of love.’
La Casona is at Carrer de les Parellades 65, Sitges 08870. Tel: +34 93 810 2378