A spur-of-the-moment decision to up sticks and move her family from London to Ibiza has proved to be a happy one for the new owner of this idyllic modern finca
How the look of a recently constructed house in Ibiza was inspired by the natural simplicity and easy charm of its idyllic surroundings.
On New Year’s Eve 2013, interior architect and designer Cate Watts made the bold resolution to move to Ibiza. Even more radically, she actually made it happen. ‘I had worked in London for 20 years and I just needed to get away,’ she says. Six months later, she had sold her house and was living on the island with her two children, then aged seven and nine.
Some of Cate’s friends expressed surprise at her chosen destination. ‘Ibiza is associated with partying, but it really has so much to offer. The landscape and the changing seasons are beautiful, and winter is especially magical,’ she says. Another big draw was the island’s cosmopolitan atmosphere, and the open-minded attitude of its people. This provided a gentle introduction to life in Spain, which was important as Cate did not yet speak the language.
Starting from Scratch
When Cate first moved to the island, she rented an old finca, an experience that discouraged her from taking on a renovation project. ‘Those types of buildings are beautiful, but they have virtually no foundations and tend to suffer from damp.’ She decided to build her own house instead, and began looking for suitable land. As luck would have it, she quickly found a plot on a picturesque hilltop with permission to construct a single-storey house. As the proposed design was not to Cate’s taste, the council agreed she could make alterations, provided she stayed within the designated footprint. ‘I wanted it to have the simplistic feel of an old building, without creating a pastiche,’ she says. Her design combines the thick, gently slanted, exterior walls and recessed shelves characteristic of Ibizan architecture, but with the addition of modern elements, such as picture windows. ‘I wanted to appreciate the light, the views and the beautiful sunrises and sunsets.’ Also key to the look and feel of the house is the garden, which is inspired by Ibizan meadows and is full of native plants and flowers. ‘I’ve taken the naturalistic planting right up to the windows,’ says Cate.
When decorating, Cate’s main objective was to counter the starkness of the new house. ‘I restricted myself to a small palette of natural materials, which have interesting textures and patinas, to help give the house an instant sense of character,’ she explains. Accordingly, the materials range from unpainted, hand-applied plaster, French oak boards, Spanish linen and hammered and brushed stone floors. To this palette she added bespoke, locally made furnishings. Now named Can Caterina (meaning 'house belonging to Catherine'), the finished property has a special quality that Cate had not anticipated: ‘People often remark on its aura,’ she says. ‘It is a very healing space.’
reaping the rewards
Despite enjoying a more relaxed lifestyle in Ibiza, there are still periods when she works round the clock. Her favourite way to unwind is to paddleboard around the coastline. ‘As soon as I step on the board, everything else falls away and I think: this is why I came to Ibiza.’
SITTING AREAOriginal 1960s lights, including George Kovacs’ stacked chrome lamp, flank the table, which is often used for playing cards. Vintage chairs, Fiorenza Tarroni Studio, fiorenzatarroni.it.