Ibiza homes: Can Oliva – Organic evolution
Photography by Ana Lui
Georgina Scarbrough Penn’s heart has been in Ibiza since she was 17 years old. Born in Yorkshire, she’d heard tales of a magical island where you could laze on the beach and shop at hippy markets by day, then dance the night away until it was time to watch the sunrise. It was a place where rain and grey skies didn’t seem to exist and troubles seemed to melt away. Her first holiday here in 1995 didn’t disappoint. It was everything she’d ever dreamed of and more. From the minute she touched down, she was in love.
Love and Ibiza would become recurring themes in her life – love for the island, love for its lifestyle and love in the form of her future husband, Will Penn, who she met while holidaying in Ibiza in 1998 and has been with ever since. The couple shared a long-term love affair with Spain, having spent many childhood summer holidays here as Georgina’s grandmother owned an apartment in Menorca while Will’s family often stayed in St Martin, near Girona.
“It made me realise life is too short,” says Georgina. “If it didn’t work out, we could always go back to London and if it did… amazing!” The year was 2005 and they began the dual tasks of setting up their new business in Ibiza and looking to invest in a property. “Everything we looked at just wasn’t right. We had an idea of what we wanted, but our budget didn’t quite match it and one day my dad suggested we buy a plot of land and build – not that he’d ever built a house in his life!”
Within a week they’d found a plot of land in Es Cubells and from that point, life as they knew it would change forever. “As soon as we got here, I knew this was it,” says Georgina. “I absolutely loved it and Will thought I was crazy. It was like a forest. But I just had a feeling.” And thus they embarked on a design and construction project that would become their future home, Can Oliva.
The Es Cubells plot of land came with pre-approved plans to build a home. Typical of traditional Spanish fincas at the time, the design featured closed off dining and living spaces, a small kitchen, tiny windows and many walls placed within the home. Through their new business – 365 Productions – Will and Georgina had been fortunate enough to spend time scouting and shooting many of the island’s most amazing architectural masterpieces, inspiring them to rework the interior of the house to be open plan and add huge windows to allow it to be flooded with natural light.
“We’d take pictures of location houses and show them to our lovely builder, who would then incorporate design details within the footprint of the house,” Georgina remembers. They’d always envisioned using the home as a location for shoots, so aesthetics were important and both were extremely hands on throughout the process. “We kept seeing what our clients liked to shoot and would then make changes with the builders as we went along.”
One such inspired detail is the striking staircase that goes up an exterior wall of the house – an element that has proved popular with stylists and photographers ever since. Another is the bamboo pergola covering the south-facing chill out area, casting shadows and diffusing the light when the sun hits it at different times of day. The edges of the five-bedroom home were cleverly rounded, giving the new build the appearance of being a restored finca – modern yet rustic. An atrium within the open plan living space brings nature indoors, via a 150-year old olive tree that had to be crane lifted into the space, though at first glance one would think the house had been designed around it.