Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

Before & After: Reclaiming a 17th-Century Garden on Mallorca

Search

Before & After: Reclaiming a 17th-Century Garden on Mallorca

April 13, 2018

Of all the ideas I file away for my someday-house (black-painted floors, a garden above a rocky beach in Maine), I never thought that teules pintades—painted roof tiles from the Medieval era on the Spanish island of Mallorca—would make the list. But after writing last week on Remodelista about Ca’n Rei, a 17th-century Mallorcan house on a cliff overlooking the Balearic Sea, the tiny painted pictograms are on my wish list.

Ca’n Rei—redone, and inhabited, by the young couple behind local Isla Architects—has some of the more original interiors we’ve seen in a while. But it’s the setting that earns the house its royal name (“Ca’n Rei” means “King’s House” in Mallorquin). With a charming potted terrace garden and sweeping views of the blue sea, the kingly exterior has ideas the rest of us can take away. Join us for a look:

Photography by Luis Díaz Díaz, courtesy of Isla Architects.

The rehabbed house, with a newly sunny exterior, sits on a rocky cliff.
Above: The rehabbed house, with a newly sunny exterior, sits on a rocky cliff.

Juan Palencia and Marta Colón, the couple behind Isla Architects, found the 17th-century house in the little seaside town of Banyalbufar when they moved to Mallorca last year from Basel, Switzerland, to set up their firm on the island. Colón is originally from the nearby town of Esporles and “had been always looking for a house with sea view in this part of the island,” Palencia says. They set about renovating the house for themselves, stripping back the dated additions from the last century and renovating the crumbling clay-tile roof and stone facade.

The couple added curb appeal with a summery vibe: brightly painted teal shutters, a small outdoor dining area for late-summer dinners al fresco, and—our favorite element—a garden with a jumble of terra cotta pots, with lavender, rosemary, ferns, agapanthus, aspidistras, amaryllis, and gaura (also known as bee blossom), all planted by Colón and her mother.

 Palencia and Colón by the front door (actually a set of vintage wooden double doors). Note the paved-stone pathway and sculptural stone bench topped with simple cushions, which turns the narrow front garden into an outdoor lounge space.
Above: Palencia and Colón by the front door (actually a set of vintage wooden double doors). Note the paved-stone pathway and sculptural stone bench topped with simple cushions, which turns the narrow front garden into an outdoor lounge space.
  A hand-drawn crown adds some whimsy. (For more playful ideas for house numbers, see Curb Appeal: 9 Quick Fixes with House Numbers.)
Above:  A hand-drawn crown adds some whimsy. (For more playful ideas for house numbers, see Curb Appeal: 9 Quick Fixes with House Numbers.)

The architects used the house number as an opportunity for artfulness—and another nod to Mallorcan tradition. “In Mallorquin, the local dialect of Catalan, ‘ca’n’ means ‘house of’ and ‘rei’ means ‘king,’ although it’s more likely that Rei was a family name rather than being the house of a real king,” the architects explain. “The house had that name for a really long time and everyone in the village knows the house by this name, so there was no point of renaming it.”

Before

The exterior, before, with less-than-bright shutters, a potted garden that felt hemmed-in by a rock border, the small patio, overgrown with weeds, and nowhere to sit and enjoy the view.
Above: The exterior, before, with less-than-bright shutters, a potted garden that felt hemmed-in by a rock border, the small patio, overgrown with weeds, and nowhere to sit and enjoy the view.

After

Here are the teules pintades I’ve been coveting for the past week. Palencia and Colón hired artist Luis Urculo to paint rust-colored symbols beneath the clay roof tiles as an homage to the medieval tradition said to keep away bad spirits.
Above: Here are the teules pintades I’ve been coveting for the past week. Palencia and Colón hired artist Luis Urculo to paint rust-colored symbols beneath the clay roof tiles as an homage to the medieval tradition said to keep away bad spirits.

The couple painted the shutters in a cheerful teal: “The traditional color for blinds in this part of the island is mainly green and also blue, so we choose something in the middle that we liked.”

Inside, the effect is bright and beach-like. With two traditional Mallorcan rocking chairs—found in the house and reupholstered in blue and white striped fabric—and a traditional lime floor called trispol that feels cool under bare feet, the interiors have the air of summer about them.
Above: Inside, the effect is bright and beach-like. With two traditional Mallorcan rocking chairs—found in the house and reupholstered in blue and white striped fabric—and a traditional lime floor called trispol that feels cool under bare feet, the interiors have the air of summer about them.
The windows in the front of the house have unobstructed views of the Balearic Sea (and are often left open to let in the ocean air). The architects also installed windows in the back of the house, for catching cross-breezes.
Above: The windows in the front of the house have unobstructed views of the Balearic Sea (and are often left open to let in the ocean air). The architects also installed windows in the back of the house, for catching cross-breezes.
The view.
Above: The view.
Here, vines give the illusion that the old house is being overtaken by the wild Mallorcan botany.
Above: Here, vines give the illusion that the old house is being overtaken by the wild Mallorcan botany.

The architects had to make small adjustments since the house is built into the earth on one side: “It’s placed between terraces, so half of the house is sunken and in direct contact with the terrain,” they explain. They installed a clay ventilation system between the house’s inner and outer walls to keeps the inner walls dry, and treated the walls on the back of the house with a “highly-breathable mortar.”

The couple relaxes on the long, rambling stone wall that divides the narrow front garden and terrace from the hill.
Above: The couple relaxes on the long, rambling stone wall that divides the narrow front garden and terrace from the hill.
The rambling village is built into the seaside cliffs.
Above: The rambling village is built into the seaside cliffs.
A new kind of curb appeal: Even from a distance, out over the ocean, Ca’n Rei stands out for its cheerful facade.
Above: A new kind of curb appeal: Even from a distance, out over the ocean, Ca’n Rei stands out for its cheerful facade.

We love the perpetual summer vibe of Mediterranean gardens. See more of our favorite Mediterranean plants in our curated Garden Design 101 guides, including Rosemary, Lavender, and Lemon Trees. And find a few more favorite Mallorcan gardens here:

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation

From our network