‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’ is a remark often attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. This very contemporary sentiment does seem as if it could have originated with the legendary Renaissance artist, designer and architect. For those leading successful, hyper-busy, 21st-century lives in a very large city, simplifying one’s existence can seem like a utopian dream rather than a genuine possibility. Which is probably why the current owners of this holiday home in Deià on the west coast of the Spanish island of Mallorca decided to acquire this particular property – and why they asked Deià-based design firm More Design to work on its rejuvenation with them.
The homeowner, who is the creator of more than one cooler-than-cool fashion label, and her partner, a famous musician, were instantly attracted by the extensive spread of land that surrounds the house and its magnificent exposure to the wild coastline, explains Oro del Negro of More Design. ‘The site is well known as the old orchards of Son Bleda farm,’ he says, adding that the property included ‘a typical summer cottage built in the 1970s: open-plan, very basic and rudimentary, but honest’.
That was the upside. Listed under the ‘Not So Great’ column were that the home’s layout was highly compartmentalised into small areas, and that the building had not been constructed very well. So, says Del Negro, although the project was technically ‘a renovation, it rapidly became a full-blown new build, albeit one that respected the original footprint and volume’ of the pre-existing house.
From the very beginning, More Design felt that the most important aspect of the renovation would be to keep it simple. ‘Discretion and humility are words that come to mind,’ Del Negro explains, as ‘both the client and ourselves believe that bold gestures are often best expressed in an understated nature’. The completed home includes three bedrooms and three bathrooms, as well as open-plan living, dining and kitchen spaces.
Neither the private nor the public areas are especially large – indeed, the house very definitely has the feel of a country cottage rather than a rambling holiday villa – but the use of multiple built-in furniture pieces and a restrained interior-design scheme that prioritises natural textures and colours combine to make it seem cosy and contained while still being light-filled and laid-back.
Wood, natural stone, wrought iron and glass – complemented by locally sourced textiles and décor items such as vintage glassware and traditional woven-palm accessories – are used throughout the interior spaces. Every element has been carefully and sensitively selected, with the emphasis placed on subtle layering without any sense of clutter or confusion.
A sheltered, comfortably furnished veranda and numerous glass doors lead out onto the remarkably lush garden. The garden brief was to respect the mature trees in the wild forest on the lower part of the property, and to create a traditional Mallorquin patio with plenty of greenery close to the house. The planting was carefully designed by Katerina Christensson of the Garden Company.
As Christensson says, ‘Here, given the perfect situation surrounded by wind-protecting dry stone walls, we could plant a tropical, evergreen courtyard with typically cold-sensitive plants that might ordinarily be difficult to grow in Mallorca.’ These include exotic banana trees (Musa ensete or Ensete ventricosum) and the very fragrant red frangipani (Plumeria rubra) as well as a lime tree and a passion-fruit vine. Rounding off the planting are some gorgeous ferns, with the Philodendron selloum’s poignant foliage combining with sago palms (Cycas revoluta) and slender lady palms (Rhapis humilis) to give the garden close to the house ‘the ultimate tropical look’, says Christensson.
Both outdoors and inside the house, an utterly tranquil atmosphere has been created. As Del Negro says, the most satisfying effect of how the finished project has turned out is the way it appears rustic and simple, yet preserves all the comforts life has to offer. Whether its occupants are spending a relaxing afternoon reading on the veranda, clustered at the kitchen island preparing a meal together, or gathered around the interior fireplace to chat while enjoying a glass of wine on a cool autumn evening, the house enlarges and enriches these holiday pastimes.
Story by Noreen Johnson
Photographs Greg Cox
Styling Sven Alberding (Bureaux)