Another Side of Ibiza
In a quiet corner of the famed Spanish party island, rug designer Nani Marquina and photographer Albert Font have carved out a serene, site-sensitive home.
“There are two Ibizas,” states practically every guidebook written about the Spanish Mediterranean island. Yet it ceases to be a travel cliché as you leave Ibiza Town, Ibiza’s capital. Past the periphery of the city, given over to formulaic holiday apartments and billboards advertising Ibiza’s legendary dance clubs, the island’s scrubby, gently hilly terrain unfolds toward a coastline of sculptured cliffs cradling sapphire coves. In early spring, pale pink almond blossoms blanket valleys and carob trees fill the air with their pungent, chocolaty scent. Traffic is sparse and the whitewashed roadside bars and restaurants are empty. July brings a different scene, when the island is thronged by millions of tourists in search of their summers of love.
It was Font who was first attracted to Ibiza. He witnessed its heady alternative scene in the 1970s and as a photographer has often been sent here on assignment over the years. Apart from finding its natural beauty alluring, both he and Marquina were drawn to the fact that, unlike on the other Balearic Islands, traditional casas are scattered in isolation and not conglomerated into villages. Whenever Font was on the island, he went house hunting. “I had been driving around looking for a few weeks on one trip,” he explains, “and was about to give up when I got a call from an agent telling me that one had just come on the market.”
Conversation stops as their four-by-four makes the final potholed descent to their home, known by the traditional name Can Joan des Cocons. (Can roughly translates to “house of” in the Balearic dialect, and a cocon is a waterhole that forms naturally in a rocky surface; they are abundant in this area.) At first glance, it looks like a North African casbah in miniature: three sand-colored cubic structures spread over a natural elevation supported by dry-stone walls. Marquina walks straight to the era, a circular terrace once used for sorting wheat and canalizing rainwater. From here, a magnificent view sweeps down through the pine trees to the Mediterranean, a third of a mile away. “The agent didn’t tell us it had a sea view,” she says. “When we saw this we pinched ourselves and signed on the spot.”
The result is an aesthetically benign yet technically challenging modernization. In the spirit of conservation, the original ceiling beams of sabina (a local wood) were removed, sanitized, and restored, then placed back in the same arrangement. The exterior walls were returned to their original color using a mixture of whitewash and earth from the surrounding terrain, while the floors were rendered with polished cement combined with chips of marble from the neighboring island of Formentera. A water source was found with the expertise of a local diviner using a pendulum, and power comes from a generator. “Sometimes the previous owner sits and stares at the house from across the ravine,” says Marquina. “And he has told us that he is so happy to see his home back to the way it was many years ago.”
Despite the lovely interiors, Marquina spends most of her time outdoors, taking a siesta on the terrace or puttering about the property’s fragrant landscape. “Look at this,” she exclaims, caressing a bud on an almond tree. “For a city slicker like me, this is the most amazing thing about a place like this. Whenever I come back I see that life has gone on without me.”
Marquina's Greatest Hits
Since founding her rug and textile company in Barcelona in 1987, Nani Marquina has produced 180 rug collections notable for their unconventional colors and textures and sustainable and ethical manufacturing processes. Here are some of our favorites.