The old farmhouses of Ibiza are like paintings from the masters. Magnificent yet delicate, requiring white gloves to restore and a level of expertise that takes decades of experience. Restoration of Ibiza’s ancient farmhouses has long been a speciality at Blakstad Architects and Design Consultants. Unfortunately, as time goes on these kinds of projects are fewer and fewer, which is why the arrival of Can Guillamí on the firm’s roster was greeted with much excitement. This kind of project is not for the faint-hearted though. Coaxing these lovely old dames back to full health takes a strong and resolute commitment.
At one point, it was home to a sprawling and rather important family. “It would have been on a large tract of land to have had its own olive press,” says company director, Rolf Blakstad. “They would have been a very successful farming family.” Today the olive press has been beautifully preserved, and the space transformed into a dramatic dining room. The enormous Sabina wood beam that reaches across the back wall is pitted with hatchet marks made by the men who cut the tree down and fashioned it into shape. A weighty millstone sits in its trough, the barest remnants of the path a donkey or small pony would have made around it to crush fruit into liquid gold.
The walls themselves are works of art, built by hand from stone collected on the surrounding land and placed, one by one, to build a sturdy frame that has lasted for hundreds of years. On their exterior, a thick whitewash made with local ingredients has been layered on, over and over, creating a covering as soft-looking as marzipan. Original double doors with hand-forged bolts open to the porxo. This would have been the very first room to be built and served to house the patriarch, matriarch, their animals and tools until they were able to add another room, and then another, slowly building their home and farm to eventually support countless people.
The spaces inside and out are stunning testaments to history and patience, both to the original owners for the time it would have taken to create this stunning home, and to the Blakstad team for the skill which was required to bring it back from the depths of neglect. “A refurbishment was started in the late 90s,” explains Rolf. “But it was abandoned for some reason. The project came to us about five years ago and we started to rework it and develop the land.” It was basically a shell, left at a structural stage with a very limited first-floor addition. “A lot of effort and energy went into choosing materials and finishes to stay in line with the traditional style.”
Inside, the interiors speak to warm, familial spaces – a little bit of English country manor mixed with the lightest touch of bohemia. Crittal-style doors fit into impressive arches and open to lush gardens. The land is back to good health and filled with wild grasses, aloes, and centenarian olive and almond trees. A crystal-clear swimming pool sits in bright green lawns encircled by stout palms whose shapes recall a towering cousin located near the front entrance. This majestic tree is another indication of the accomplishment of the farm – they were planted to let neighbours know there was enough money to have drilled a well.
From above, it’s easy to see the trajectory the original architecture took. A room at a time, as required by the growing family. Several interior courtyards and walled gardens are paved with ancient stones and an unusual entrance for a carriage is another indication of the prominence of this particular property in days past. It’s a truly beautiful house and a real achievement to have brought it back to life. These projects are never simple and resisting the easy path of new tech and new materials is hard, but taking the long and winding road will always lead to a better result for both the owners, the architects and the island.