We joined Javier Sempere in Alicante, Spain, at the height of his country’s preeminent festival, the Saint John’s Day bonfires. Held in mid-summer, Alicante’s boisterous lineup of parties, rituals and street dancing is the biggest campfire of its kind in Spain.

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“The whole city is on fire tonight,” Sempere says from his newly renovated three-story house with its beautiful facade. It was the evening of creamarson, when whimsical effigies symbolizing the past were set on fire in the streets, squares and on the beach.

Sempere has an excellent view of the festival – its windows overlook Calvo Sotelo Square, which dates back to the 16th century. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom house, erected in 1900, is a historic feature in Alicante, but after almost 20 years of ownership, Sempere is reluctantly selling the house as work occupies it elsewhere.

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“Everyone knows this building, the history of this building,” says Sempere, whose house is a five-minute walk from the beach.

But not everyone has been inside, where the true marvel of 17 Plaza Calvo Sotelo can be seen. Stripping back the layers of earlier renovations, Sempere revealed the original white stone on the interior walls. Plus, he paired that raw look with an eclectic industrial design. The avant-garde interior features an exposed HVAC system, original steel beams, floating iron staircases and antique doors from Bali and temples in India.

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“Everyone who visits says, ‘Oh my God, is it here? I mean, I would expect that in New York or Berlin, but it’s really a surprise,” says Sempere, who was born in Alicante, perched on the 200 kilometer Mediterranean coast of the Costa Blanca. He studied engineering and industrial and interior design at the Valencia campus of CEU. In 2009, he founded Massa Projects, which specializes in residential and commercial projects.

In 2003, a 23-year-old Sempere began buying the building floor by floor starting with the top floor. He bought the second floor in 2010 and finally the first floor in 2017, while renovating at a total cost of 1 million euros. A herbalist occupies the ground floor, which he does not own.

“It was a really big investment for me, and now it’s my masterpiece,” says Sempere.

The light-infused building is positioned on a corner, allowing for an unprecedented 15 balconies. “Now they make small windows when building, and if they have balconies, there are only two or three on the main facade,” says Sempere.

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The entrance to the house is on the third floor. An open living room with a kitchen and a dining area fills the space which also includes a service bathroom. A loft space hovers above with two bedrooms, a bathroom and access to a roof terrace. In the attic, a corridor set on a glass floor offers a view of the entrance on the ground floor. The master bedroom and bathroom occupy the lower floor and include a walk-in closet, office, reading area and gym. All bedroom floors are heated.

Each floor is approximately 90 square meters for a total of 270 square meters.

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Rare global finds fill the house; Sempere offers them all as part of the purchase price, including an 1890 upright piano with candle sconces sourced from Paris. A tufted leather sofa fashioned from the front quarter of his 1972 Mini Cooper is a kitschy touch, especially since the headlights work. The various pieces of furniture, lighting and other elements have been custom-fitted to the house, thus complementing Sempere’s singular vision.

“With all the sadness in my heart I am selling this house because 80% of the time I am no longer in Alicante,” says Sempere, who often works in the Balearic Islands off Spain. “The passion of my life has been to create this house.”

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The master bedroom features the home’s original fireplace with ornate pilasters, but now features an elegant liquid ethanol furnace. The fireplace is a wooden beam hewn from a nearby train track; similar wood is also used elsewhere in the house.

“For me, the kitchen is a work of art, it is made in one piece,” says Sempere. A ventilation hood hovers above the sleek cooking station and sink, and directly opposite are two retro-style Smeg refrigerators finished in ebony. There is a remarkable Y-shaped oak table in the adjoining dining room. Dating from the 1960s, it came from Bali.

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Minimalist floating stairs cross two of the floors. Constructed from a single piece of polished iron, the stairs are works of art in themselves. Contrasting with the ornate doorways of Balinese and Indian temples, the look could be described as high-end bohemian. The house has an additional original staircase, covered with blue tiles, which connects all floors. This could however be removed in favor of an elevator.

Sempere first fell in love with the building as a child. “I would always walk past it and admire it,” he said. “It looked like an ancient palace. In the 1960s and 1970s, many historic buildings were demolished; I was hoping someone would renovate it.

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The original owner lived on the top floor with apartments for each of her three sons on the lower floors. Sempere got to know him and soon realized Sempere’s true passion for structure. She agreed to sell the building to him as her funds became available, floor by floor.

Sempere first pulled off a 1960s renovation that “was awful”, he says, but had fortuitously protected “the gems of the house”, which included stone walls and tiled floors, among other features. “When I found out about this, I knew it would be an amazing project.”

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Sempere was meticulous in his restorations, hiring a master carpenter to duplicate the decorative woodwork that had been removed from the tops of the exterior windows. He also restored the distinctive plaster trim outlining the windows above the original scrolled iron balconies.

Although the house is historic, the zoning allows for three additional floors to be built above the building. “So you could even build a super modern glass cube on top,” says Sempere. “It’s a very good investment.”

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The floors are covered with original tiles or glossy oak in a herringbone pattern. Many ceilings are set with beams. The bathrooms have roughly hewn marble sinks, and in one there’s a whimsical urinal in the shape of an open mouth with firefighter’s red lips.

Some light fixtures came from a theater and a church in Madrid, adorning the home with an urban polish.

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A gym next to the master bedroom includes a bench press, free weights and a punching bag. The walls are in patinated tiles. An inventive laundry room is adjoining. It consists of custom-made black metal containers that open to a washer, dryer, ironing station and clothes rack.

While the house itself could be called an epicurean delight, this is most evident in a top floor bedroom. There, an elegantly angled antique tub with gleaming claw feet sits about a meter from the bed. Detached from the usual bathroom decor, it looks just like another piece of furniture – perhaps reminiscent of a scene from a steamy romance novel. Best of all, it’s fully sealed.

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“I bought it at an antique store in Valencia,” Sempere says of the fixture. “You can take a relaxing bath while talking to your partner, maybe while they’re reading in bed or watching TV. It’s super cool.

Victoria Kabisova of Inmobiliaria Rimontgo made the list. The asking price is available on request.


Inmobiliaria Rimontgo is an exclusive member of Forbes Global Propertiesa consumer marketplace and member network of elite brokerages selling the most luxurious homes in the world.