Far From the Madding Crowd
Mario López-Cordero -- Interior Design, 1/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
The Spanish island of Ibiza boasts a temperate climate and white-hot nightlife. All that's lacking is reasonable zoning laws: New construction is difficult to finesse, so any fresh enterprise needs to be masked by the guise of renovation.
To build a vacation home for a family of six, Vicens + Ramos Arquitectos took advantage of a 6-acre hillside parcel that came with an unfinished 15-year-old structure. "It was nothing but pillars and beams spread over two platforms," Ignacio Vicens says. Still, it was enough to bestow on the new project the conceit of a "renovation."
He and José Antonio Ramos transformed that skeleton into a three-level house terraced, Vicens says, "like an olive grove." A total of 9,000 square feet allows ample space for a master suite, four children's bedrooms, a guest room, two staff bedrooms, and a guardhouse. Every room has a private porch—and that's in addition to the large deck and pool overlooking the Mediterranean.
The house appears less monolithic than it is, thanks to an opalescent curtain wall—an effect produced by a white layer of vinyl sandwiched between the glass panels. "It looks like blocks of ice, which is refreshing," Ramos says. "It also deflects the sun's glare, which conserves energy."
Walls inside are semigloss white; floors are ebonized cedar. "The goal was to gain the maximum effect with a minimum of materials," Vicens explains. And even derive a sense of luxury from them.
In the expansive bathrooms, the white paint is treated to repel humidity, and the cedar flooring is furnished with grates for drainage. A steam room, next to the playroom on the lowest level, is entirely clad in running-bond ceramic tiles glazed to mimic stainless steel. Up in the master suite, his and hers bathrooms stretch off the bedroom in proportions that would rival a five-star resort's. Omnipresent is the fabulous view, the poshest feature of all.
The Mediterranean can be seen both from the tub and from the kitchen, where the young children eat breakfast at the creamy white Corian counter. "Life is casual," Ramos says. "They practically live in their bathing suits."
That laid-back vision is coupled, however, with the kind of sophisticated features you'd expect from James Bond. A glassed-in jewel box of a wine cellar controls temperature and humidity in precise increments. The few window shades descend at the touch of a button. And the heating, cooling, and lighting systems, all completely centralized, can be operated remotely. A phone call placed as the family leaves their house in Madrid ensures a comfortable arrival on the island a few hours later.