The 300-year-old finca that houses the legendary Ibiza interior design business D Shop has borne witness to great change over the years. It began life as a simple farmhouse; later, it became a trusted general store. Set on the outskirts of Santa Gertrudis, it has always been easily identifiable by the three beautiful arches of its façade. As donkeys, horses and carts made way for cars and mopeds, major roads were constructed around it, but the charm and beauty of the building remained untouched. In 1979, the finca entered the next phase of its life, becoming the interior design and decoration showroom that stands today.
For over two decades, the showroom was the playground of Chiqui Uruñuela Zunzunegui – a fascinating island character hailing from the Basque country who was passionate about art, style and the people of Ibiza – before she passed the business onto her daughter Paola Madurga de Uruñuela. Under Paola’s care, D Shop grew and came to boast a little black book bulging with A-list contacts, from rock stars to royalty – contacts that were fiercely guarded with consummate professionalism. Another 25 years passed and eventually Paola felt the desire for a sea change. Meanwhile, in the UK, another experienced interior designer – Kate Tilbury Cooke – was feeling a similar urge to shake things up. Little did they know serendipity would bring them together.
Born and bred in the English countryside, Kate had spent most of her adult life living in cities, primarily London and New York, where she and her husband Damon – now business partner in D Shop – built their careers in interior design and finance, respectively. As their own family grew (the couple have two sons and a daughter) they began spending their summers in Ibiza. “We were completely smitten with the island,” says Kate. “We were using London as a base as we started looking to buy a summer home here. At first, we rented a holiday house which was the beginning of our exit strategy.”
Damon recalls quite a few years spent discussing a future life in the sun. “Our lives were fast-paced and non-stop,” he says. “As the kids were growing up, we started to think: how long are we going to do this? Finally, we decided to take a whole new direction in life.” It wasn’t instant of course – in fact, it was a chance encounter that put them on the fortuitous path to D Shop. During a half-term break in Ibiza, a friend mentioned to Kate that she knew of someone looking to sell their interiors business – the mutual friend being Paola, and the business being D Shop. Kate’s interest was piqued, and within 24 hours she and Damon were sitting down with Paola, planning the next stage of the D Shop evolution.
That meeting was in October of 2019, and in January of 2020, the business officially changed hands. Kate planned to travel back and forth from London as she got to know the intricacies of the D Shop business, looked for a new home and managed the transitional process of moving her family across Europe – then along came Covid. Running a business in Ibiza is a challenge at the best of times; trying to take over a business while confined to your own home in another country during a global pandemic presented an entirely new set of issues. The most obvious – how does one get to Ibiza at a time when the world has virtually stopped turning? A close second – how does an interior designer run a business remotely, when she can’t visit her clients’ homes, or go through her considerable library of textiles samples?
“It got to the end of May and I knew I had to get to Ibiza,” says Kate of the countless hurdles she faced. “My daughter and I were turned away from our initial flight, even though we had our papers in order. Eventually, after many phone calls, we cleared immigration but missed the flight by 15 minutes. We were told to come back three days later – the very same day Paola was leaving the island.” With literally minutes to spare, they managed the last stage of the handover. “Paola passed me her secret book and the D Shop keys as she was getting into her removal truck!” Kate laughs on reflection. Fortunately, Kate’s experience as an interior designer in London and New York meant she could hit the ground running.
A month later, Damon and their two sons piled as many of their belongings (including their spirited Jack Russell) into a tiny little car with no AC and drove through France to make it to Ibiza in time before the borders could be closed. “We look back on it now with rose coloured spectacles,” he says. “But it really was absurd! The UK announced a strict lockdown at 7pm on a Tuesday, and by 9am on Wednesday we’d had PCR tests, thrown the contents of the fridge into the car and drove straight to the Euro Tunnel in case it was our last chance. It was like the great escape.”
Escape they did, and Ibiza was waiting with open – if slightly restricted at the time – arms. The limited operational conditions at the time allowed Kate and Damon to focus on giving the iconic D Shop façade a new lease of life. Decades worth of ivy that had grown wild had completely obscured much of the building and its signage, with roots growing into the window frames. The “beast” as Kate calls it had to be manually trimmed back bit by bit, until eventually the rest of the 10 metres-thick foliage came down in one piece.
“Damon was a man on a mission,” Kate says. “He and the boys just didn’t stop until it was gone. We rediscovered a window, we found an old animal fountain where donkeys would have been tied up, and there was even an orange tree growing in there that you couldn’t see.” The process didn’t end there. “Once we got the ivy off, there was so much damp and layers of plastic paint that we couldn’t sand away,” Damon recalls. “The only way was to chisel it off by hand. We went through about six different colours of paint before we got back to the very original layer – it took days on end. There was ultramarine, green, terracotta, blue… finally, we repainted it in cal [a traditional lime-based paint] and took it back to its former glory. It was a real labour of love.” If those walls could talk!
Fast forward to summer 2022, and the D Shop storefront shines like a beacon from its prominent position on the road from Ibiza to Santa Gertrudis. With a chic new Art Deco logo – in a vibrant hot pink inspired by the bougainvillea that now climbs the façade – in pride of place, the building has once again become an island landmark. With Kate and Damon at the helm, the brand has strengthened its reputation as the island’s premier destination for textiles and bespoke soft furnishings, and that ‘secret book’ has expanded exponentially, to include local interior designers, homeowners, expats, restaurateurs and hoteliers, friends and even local passers-by who were initially fascinated by the transformation of the finca.
With much respect to the brand’s past, a deep love of island style, and a thorough understanding of Ibiza’s climate, lifestyle and architecture, the duo bring a tireless work ethic and personalised service to D Shop. “The business fits us well and we fit the business well,” Kate says. “We’re quite intrinsically British so that standard of professionalism and service is important to us, but we love the history of this place. We love the age of the finca, the longevity of the business, even the commercial history of the building.” Behind the scenes, the same team of professional artisans and craftspeople – including upholsterers, seamstresses, woodworkers and painters that have been with the business for decades – uphold these same standards.
In the post-pandemic world, homes have become more important than ever and D Shop is riding a new wave of success, with a steady stream of fascinating projects flowing in from long-standing customers and new clients alike. From made-to-measure curtains for windows with wonky measurements (as found in typically Ibicencan homes) and custom cushions for outdoor settings, to bespoke cushions and unique upholstery as well as a huge selection of carpets, there’s a design solution for everything within the walls of D Shop. With the island’s largest array of indoor and outdoor fabric samples – there are over 80,000 samples personally curated by Kate – to peruse, ranging from organic, linen, velvet, wool and cotton to fire-proof, waterproof, stain-resistant and more, you name it, they’ve got it. D Shop is the very epitome of living in a material world.