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Ibiza homes: Villa Novia – A treasured family sanctuary

Gemma and Jack Bowman have created a stylish Ibiza home perfect for adults and kids alike. Photography by Ana Lui.

When a successful wedding planner and passionate landscape architect set about creating their dream family home in Ibiza, meticulous attention to detail is assured, inside and out. Gemma and Jack Bowman, who moved to Ibiza and set up their businesses – Ibiza Wedding and a property development business – in 2005, describe Villa Novia as their sanctuary today, the perfect space for combining family, work and entertaining.

The story of Villa Novia begins when Gemma and Jack purchased a half-finished house in the countryside of San Lorenzo in 2008, with a view to transforming it into their future family home. Enlisting renowned Ibiza architect Jaime Serra to rework the redesign, together they developed the existing carcass into their stunning vision of a modern villa that is Villa Novia today.

Six bedrooms, six bathrooms, multiple terraces, chill out areas, an expansive dining, living and kitchen space, a detached guesthouse plus the most fantastic private children’s play area on the island, Villa Novia is an extremely special property. Set within the tranquil countryside, the house is centrally located, close to Santa Gertrudis, San Juan and many beautiful beaches, making it an ideal home base.

Fast forward to 2016 – and add three kids and a dog (Obi, Bo, Ezra and Bonnie respectively) – and the couple treasure their space, which has organically evolved over time. The expansive open plan kitchen is the heart of the home (“We love cooking. The day often revolves around what meal is coming next,” explains Gemma), and a 24-seat dining table becomes the centrepiece for social gatherings on a monthly basis.

Scandinavian style meets Ibiza living at Villa Novia, with spacious white rooms complemented with personal touches such as Gemma’s gorgeous wedding dress, framed and hung on the wall like a covetable piece of art, family heirlooms, vintage photographs and family portraits on a picture wall, a freestanding tub in the master bedroom­, antiques sourced from markets, holiday souvenirs and upcycled pieces given a new lease of life when they enter the home. “Jack is a skip trawler,” says Gemma. ‘He’s quite handy, carpentry wise, so you never know what he’s going to come back with.”

The contrast of modernity and rustic Ibiza tradition is evident from the moment you step through the enormous reclaimed wooden door, fitted with ancient oxidised steel handles but surrounded by an elegant glass frame, allowing natural light to stream into the living area. Despite its cubic design and minimalist clean lines, the house has a very natural flow from inside to out – an effect the couple were inspired to create based on Jack’s experiences living in Queensland, Australia.

Villa Novia is an absolute paradise for children and families, with so many spaces to be enjoyed it is possible to retreat within its walls for days on end. The boys’ bedroom features an amazing mural depicting pirate style adventures on and below sea, and the playroom also carries through the shipwreck theme, with vintage maps framed on the walls. “We spend a lot of time in here at night,” Gemma says. “Sitting on the floor, reading books, watching movies. The kids love this room.”

Outside, the children are in their element, with a spectacular enclosed play area featuring a trampoline, rustic wooden swings, rope swings from trees and a see-saw all built by Jack (“he loves it as much as the kids.”). The star piece is the cubby house, fashioned from a genuine shipwreck washed up on a west coast beach, abandoned for 15 years before Jack saw its potential. “We drove past it as we were going to watch a sunset, and Jack said ‘wouldn’t that be amazing in the garden’,” Gemma explains, admitting she was less than enthusiastic about the idea originally. But when he explained his vision of turning it into a playground, landscaped with wild grasses that move in the wind like waves, she saw how the empty space at the back of the house could be utilised.

The beautiful gardens of Villa Novia are more of Jack’s handiwork, reflecting Gemma’s love of symmetry and complemented with soft, wild grasses. Mediterranean plants and bright bougainvillea grow as if they were wild (however perfectly executed and planted) from the front entrance, almond trees come alive with beautiful white blossoms, succulents thrive and tall grasses sway with the valley breeze. “I’m outside all the time,” says Jack, of the importance of spending time on your gardens. “The interior and exterior are equally important. There’s no excuse for you not to have equal emphasis on both.”

“It just had to be Mediterranean,” he says of his vision for the gardens. “I wanted a welcoming entrance courtyard with a Moroccan feel, where you come in through a big heavy door before you go into the house itself. Here, you walk in to the unmistakable, unbelievably overpowering scent of orange blossoms, creating such a sensory experience, even though it’s essentially your bootyard!” Once inside, the main room opens out onto a gorgeous swimming pool and Balinese chill out hut, where sparkling disco balls dangle elegantly from olive trees – detail is everywhere.

A rustic wooden detached guesthouse is Jack’s latest addition to Villa Novia, built from the ground up in three months. “It’s like a little love shack!” says Gemma proudly. “We didn’t want anything super modern, the idea was that it would be like a little chalet, with depth and warmth.” With a waste not, want not mentality, Jack used the wooden palettes that the limestone floors from the main house had been shipped in from Bali, to create texture on the wall. The space is ideal when the parents come to stay, and for guests in summer season, and Gemma admits to taking her laptop and retreating to the space when she needs some quiet time to focus on her busy work with Ibiza Wedding.

When the local school closes down for extensive summer holidays each year, the Bowman family pack up and head to far-flung corners of the world such as South East Asia for unforgettable holiday experiences, opening up their Ibiza home to holidaymakers, who then create their own Villa Novia memories. But the island draws the Bowmans back every September, not wishing to miss out on the magical end to the summer. “I just love it here,” says Gemma, as kids are running around her feet, Jack is busy cooking in the kitchen and her laptop pings with the sound of emails coming through. It’s modern family life, Ibiza style…

Hair and make-up by Jessie May Young

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