What happens when an interior architect takes a short sojourn from city life, only to end up locked down on an island in the middle of a pandemic? Like many others, her priorities shifted and changed, but for designer Jessica Summer, spending the lockdown period in Ibiza also allowed her the space and time to find inspiration among her new surroundings. Ibiza became so much more than just place to take a relaxing break in the sun; after the crisis, the island represented a new beginning, a fresh source of creativity and the chance to apply her unique approach to design to a different destination.
Having spent the past ten years working as a successful interior designer/architect for top design firms in London – including six years with the illustrious Rose Uniacke and a period with Tino Zervudachi prior to that – in addition to completing projects under her own name, Jessica’s client list reads like a who’s who of modern British style: Matches Fashion.com, Regent Hotel Group, Victoria and David Beckham, and Luke Kelly of the Roald Dahl Foundation among others. As a born and bred Londoner herself, she’d never considered working abroad or remotely – her high-end projects in the UK were a source of career satisfaction and even after a decade, Jessica’s passion for design and dedication to her craft was unwavering.
In February 2020, whilst on maternity leave, Jessica and her husband decided to spend an extended period of time in Ibiza, making the most of the warmer winter climes with their five-month old baby in tow. ‘We’d visited the island many times previously but this was the first time we came in the off season,” the designer recalls. “We were captivated by the beauty of Ibiza in the quieter months, and it seems a wonderful place to be with children.” Fast forward a few weeks, and the entire country had been placed into lockdown and it appeared as though the rest of the world would soon follow suit. Rather than hotfoot it back to the UK, the couple decided to stay on in Ibiza, immersed in nature in a valley near San Miguel in Ibiza’s north west.
“I was taking a break, I had just had a baby, and I really had to slow down after working so intensely for ten years or so,” she says of the experience. “At the same time, the whole world coincidentally slowed down.” With less pressure in terms of work, and much more time to connect with nature, her family, the island and its people, Jessica began to feel inspired, embracing the laid-back lifestyle Ibiza offered while recognising there were many industrious opportunities to be found. “I was doing a lot of sketching, and designing lots of furniture – which is something I’ve always wanted to do but never had time. It was great to go back to the drawing board, put pen to paper – it felt like a really nice moment in time.” And so, the family made the decision to adopt the island as their new home.
Now firmly settled into island life, Jessica has recently launched her interiors company here in Ibiza, catering to residential, commercial and hospitality projects alike. “Whilst living here, I have come to see that my aesthetic and approach to design would really sing on projects in Ibiza,” she says. “Needless to say it’s a beautiful place, but there’s something about both the lifestyle and design on the island that is so informally luxurious, and this is very much in line with my work. I create serene and restful spaces that are relaxed and comfortable, special but livable, and with an emphasis on natural materials and connection to nature.” While all projects are different due to the unique combination of the space and the owners’ individual requirements and tastes, the harmonious and timeless nature of Jessica’s designs are her signature. There’s a sense of warmth, comfort and nostalgia combined with pure luxury in all of her work.
“I love creating a balance between old and new,” she says of the holistic design process that sees her immersed all elements of the project, from architecture and electrics to lighting and bespoke furniture. As an interior architect, Jessica’s work goes above and beyond that of a decorator who simply works with colour schemes and furnishings, and goes deep into the overall design of the home in addition to the psychology of how the space will be used. Her inspiration comes from a variety of sources – from historical references, houses and furniture of the past, in addition to nature – and the development of a project grows from there. “Building is expensive, and it can be incredibly wasteful,” she reflects. “”For me, designing has to feel like it has been there in the past, and it can be there in the future – it’s important to design responsibly and sustainably rather than following fads.”
Jessica’s relationships with the finest metal workers, master carpenters and constructors has been honed over many years of working on projects from conceptualisation through to completion, meaning every last step of a project is completed to the highest level. “I try to respond to the space or building, in addition to the clients’ needs while breathing new life into a home,” she says. She prefers sourcing high quality or beautifully restored antique pieces to bring a sense of uniqueness to a space, and when she can’t find exactly what she’s imaging, Jessica custom-designs pieces to fit the space. “I love old furniture, handmade pieces and interesting fabrics,” she says. “They have so much inherent character in it already, in the patina and the craftsmanship. Combining this with new, practical pieces that suit modern life, like big sofas you can put your feet up on to watch TV is important too.”
After the global lockdowns and with the ever-evolving situation around travel restrictions, there’s no question people are placing more of an emphasis on ensuring their immediate surroundings, as our homes become – quite literally – the places we retreat from the world. “I think the best spaces are those that have been conceived as a whole,” says Jessica. “I love it when all of the details really talk to each other well in the finished project. Sometimes it can be the tiniest thing from a conceptual presentation that sparks the development and feeling of a project,” she says. “It might be a little image of some pottery, or the striking colour of a curtain, or the foot of a chair – these trigger the bigger picture, and from here, projects can develop quite easily and organically.” Seeing the physical manifestation of her ideas is the most satisfying part of the design journey for Jessica – her creative gift being the ability to giving an old home (or a very special new build!) a new spirit that will live on for many years to come.