“I always had a dream to have a place here,” recalls Melissa Spero, a British-born public relations specialist whose passion for interiors led her to completely refurbish and redesign Can Olivos, the beautiful Ibiza home she shares with her husband Christopher and daughters Lola and India. The journey to finding their perfect property was not without its ups and downs, however the destination was perfect in the end. “In retrospect, I’m really glad,” Melissa says. “Because in the end, this is what my heart was set on. I like the juxtaposition of being in the middle of the countryside but seeing the sea and the sunset. I love the light which enters the house – it’s unbelievable. It’s the one thing above everything which reminds me of how lucky I am to be here. Her first taste of Ibiza had been at the age of 23 – a beach and clubbing holiday with friends – when she felt the famous magnetic pull of the island. “The older we became, the less it was about clubbing and the more it was about days at the beach,” Melissa says. “I had a friend with a house here and I’d stay with her and experience the best bits of Ibiza.” When she met Christopher, he had never visited the island and it wasn’t until 2008 that they visited Ibiza together, when his career as a house and techno producer and DJ, and one half of electronic music act Dense & Pika led him to perform at the legendary Space Ibiza.
It was love at first sight for Christopher too and in the years that followed, the couple would visit every summer with friends, renting a villa they had become particularly attached to in Cala Conta. “We tried to buy that house in the lead up to getting married,” says Melissa, of the beginning of their journey to becoming Ibiza homeowners. “We got quite far down the line but on our return from honeymoon we found that it had fallen through. The house had a lot of underlying problems – but its view became my criteria when looking at houses after that. I always wanted to be able to see the sea and the sunset – especially after we had children, so you could stay home but still benefit from all the beautiful things the island has.” Melissa and Christopher began widening their search in the hope to find the perfect home – ultimately looking in all parts of the island. “We lost our way a bit as we got desperate,” Melissa says as she looks back on the experience. “At one point, after another sale had fallen through, it was like, let’s just get a house! It was such a rollercoaster ride. We thought it was never going to happen and then our agent told us this house in the middle of the island, in Benimussa, had come up. I liked the fact it was central to everywhere and so we jumped on an early morning flight – straight after Christopher came out of a gig with no sleep – and came to view it.”
It was at this point the Speros’ Ibiza destiny finally fell into place. “As soon as we went onto the top terrace and saw how fantastic the view was – we had the sea and the sunset, we were in the campo but we weren’t totally isolated – we said yes! It was a no brainer for us.” says Melissa. “The house definitely needed updating but we thought it was at the right stage for us to step in. It didn’t need knocking down and rebuilding – it was more that it needed decorative elements and a bit of personality. It was a great opportunity for us so we put an offer in and… third time lucky!” In May 2014, they took possession of Can Olivos and work began to transform it into their dream home while the family continued living in London. “We painted all the walls white straight away,” remembers Melissa. “In terms of the wood, we didn’t want it to be too dark, but equally we didn’t want it to be non-descript white! There are perils doing renovations when you’re not here, and at one point the windows were painted an electric blue, so we had to tone it down with copious amounts of white paint. Now, four years on we have totally switched to a very light French grey. I had a lot of angst over the colour – I’d stare at it for hours and hours. The builders thought I was completely mad. If you don’t get these details right, you have to live with them for a long time.”
Melissa’s intent for the interiors was to fuse the airiness of Scandinavian design with the charm of French country chic, with a little bit of Ibicenco style thrown in. The result is an elegant family home with all the charm of Ibiza living. “I love interiors,” Melissa admits. “It really is my passion – but it’s a big responsibility as my decisions can impact the family’s enjoyment of living here. So far, it’s been massively positive – but I know they’ll tell me straight away if I haven’t got it right! I’ve been doing up properties since I was 21. In fact, my father always encouraged me to work in interiors, but I didn’t think I was creative enough so I stayed in financial PR. Perhaps it’s the fact Melissa has used her passion on personal projects rather than working for clients that makes Can Olivos so special and perfectly tailored to suit the family’s lifestyle. “I come at it from an emotional perspective,” she says. “Maybe interior designers put logic behind things – but for me, everything is done on a gut feeling rather than a qualification. Building works are expensive so you don’t want to make a mistake! Christopher is a good person to bounce ideas off.” Her supportive husband laughs when asked about his involvement. “I stay out of things until I’m asked,” he says. “But I love the way she does things – even though Melissa spends a long time making a decision, she never likes it to begin with. There’s always a 24-hour buffer until she loves it!”
“It’s true,” says Melissa, who also learned Spanish so she could manage the entire project from afar. “I never look at it and say it’s amazing. I angst over big decisions. Our builder Abdul is fantastic and extremely patient. But sometimes it’s a slow burn until I like it.” From ripping out old red ceramic tiles and replacing them with sleek contemporary micro cement floors (“We didn’t realise how long it would take and the entire family had to live upstairs for weeks!”) to updating the bathrooms, kitchen, terraces, plumbing, electrics, her decisions – be they infrastructural or aesthetic – have all proven successful. With seven bedrooms perfectly spaced throughout multiple floors of the house and a guesthouse, Can Olivos is spacious enough to be fully occupied without feeling crowded. “It makes me happy to have people here, so we made a lot of different zones for people to hang out in,” says Melissa. “It’s good to have people scattered when we have a full house. We have great family lunches and dinners; all the kids can run around safely but then I can also retreat to my own oasis upstairs. I need that contrast – privacy is really important to me.” The roof terrace upstairs is both Melissa and Christopher’s idea of heaven. “When the kids go to bed in the summer, we head up there for sunset with a glass of something… that for me, is happiness. I have a theory that when I’m too old to go up and down the stairs, I’m just going to live on that floor!”
Much of the art and décor within Can Olivos has been collected over a lifetime of world travels or are family heirlooms, complemented with one-of-a-kind finds from Ibiza antique stores, auction houses and interior specialists plus statement pieces ordered from the UK. “I don’t think you need a lot of furniture,” says Melissa. “I’d rather have less but have something impactful.” A solid oak swing hanging from a tree was a must for the garden, purchased prior to the move, while outdoor sculptures were handcrafted by Christopher, who was once a student at the prestigious Central Saint Martins college. “I’d love to start doing it again when I’m not touring so much,” he says. Today, Melissa and the kids are based in Ibiza full-time, as she runs her PR firm remotely, travelling to see her international client base when needed, while Christopher’s work sees him split his time between his studio in the UK and in Ibiza, with a non-stop touring schedule in between. “I fly back and forth a lot,” he admits. “It’s hard in the winter without direct flights, but it’s so worth it when you get here.” Melissa loves the multi-cultural aspect of the island and believes it’s a wonderful place to bring up children. “What I love about Ibiza is that people are from all walks of life, colours and creeds,” she says. “You can be submersed in nature, and part of a small community, yet in a group of very open minded people.”