Rafael Borrego is an architect and co-founder of RB12. We sat down with Rafa on a very comfortable Saba sofa to learn about his relationship with interior design growing up in the Canary Islands, stories and memories captured in art, and avoiding magnolia walls at all costs!
Rafa grew up in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, on the island of Gran Canaria – a town with beautiful beaches and stunning panoramic views of forests and volcanoes. Interior design wasn't something his parents were particularly interested in, and much of the furniture he grew up with was nondescript, apart from an antique cupboard that had belonged to his grandmother. That said, Rafa has fond memories of a 'very 70's sofa' that lived in the living room.
"It was the first sofa my parents ever bought and when my younger sister arrived they celebrated by buying it new covers – brown with white flowers. My sister and I used to love playing around it and jumping all over it pretending it was a boat – whilst being careful not to crash into the glass-topped oak table which stood right in front!"
As well as transforming into a brilliant boat, the sofa was comfortable and Rafa remembers thinking that it was beautiful when he was a child.
Rafa left the Canary Islands to study Architecture in Madrid at Universidad Alfonso X El Sabio, and now lives in London with fellow RB12 co-founder, Dean Louw, and their son. When we cast him off to a hypothetical deserted island – perhaps on a sofa-boat? – the born islander is quick to choose the three design pieces he'll be taking with him.
"The first thing I would take is a painting Dean and I bought together on a trip to South Africa, where Dean grew up. I would also take a piece of art we bought on our honeymoon to Brazil. It's a trinket that alludes to the charm bracelets that slaves used to wear. They were rewarded for their hard work with charms, and when the bracelet was full, they were released."
The third piece, Rafa explains, is the sofa in their front room – one which took a year to choose.
"Our last sofa had perhaps been comfortable in a previous life, but not as comfortable as the very cheap one which stood next to it. When we moved we wanted to create a living room that we could relax and feel comfortable in – a room that had no want or need for a sofa no one enjoyed sitting on. Having spent such a long time trying to find the perfect replacement 'siesta sofa' – which we eventually did – I would never want to leave it behind!"
When it comes to advice for making a house a home, Rafa recommends taking time before making purchases and not to be afraid of empty spaces as you begin the process.
"You shouldn't feel that you need to fill every space straight away. Take your time when making decisions. Try to include a personal touch to what you choose to buy. It's better to have an empty space for a while than to make an impulse buy which you regret later."
Walls should not be neglected either.
"It's such a shame when people don't use walls for anything. Even painting the walls in another colour can make a huge difference – as long as it's not magnolia. Never paint a wall in magnolia. White beats magnolia everytime."
And lastly, don't forget about lighting.
"Lighting should not be overlooked. It's a fantastic way to create atmosphere and can be a lot of fun to play around with."
Find out more about Rafa and Dean's London home in their interview with The Observer.