Ibiza homes: Casa Romero – A modern day gin palace
Photography by Sofia Gomez Fonzo
When Nathalie and Hendrik – a fashion stylist and interiors consultant and marketing and communications expert respectively – first came to Ibiza for a friend’s birthday party in 2011, they couldn’t have imagined five years later they would own their own home on the island. The idea of Ibiza was a little garish to the Belgian couple, their perception of island style a little too slick and bling, and yet from the moment they arrived, it was very clear there was an authentic spirit that broke away from any preconceived notions they may have had. Ibiza had won their hearts.
With extensive experience in managing a successful holiday home on the border of Belgium and the South of France, the duo were in the market for another project. They were seeking a place they could retreat to for their own valuable vacation downtime, but also somewhere that could be commercially viable as a holiday rental while they were not in residence. “My dream was to have something with a sea view,” Nathalie explains of the search for the right property. “But Hendrik loves the mountains. We looked at Portugal, at Santorini and Mallorca… but nothing had the spirit of Ibiza.”
Admitting most of the time spent at Casa Romero since acquiring the property has been more of a case of work rather than play, the aim was to have the first stage of renovations complete in time for Nathalie and Hendrik’s May 2016 nuptials – the first time they would really enjoy their new home with friends and family. Learning very quickly to adapt to ‘island time’ and go with the flow of the locals’ way of doing business, the couple worked closely with architects, constructors and landscape gardeners who really understood the land and climate to see their dream come to life, starting with the lower level of the house.
Three of the five bedrooms are spread out spaciously here with the star suite – dubbed ‘the Santorini room’ – actually carved into the stone beneath the house, like a cave. Carefully restored pieces of rare Sabina wood, found on the property, were laid into doorways and arches to add the traditional feeling, as were latticed cupboards and wardrobe spaces – adding natural form and organic texture to the spaces. Each of the ensuite bathrooms were designed like spa wet rooms, and feature stylish black tap fittings and Italian designer basins that stand out almost like a sculpture centrepiece from the rendered concrete finishes.
The gardens were one of the biggest challenges according to Hendrik, yet also yielded one of the biggest surprises. After meticulously digging through rocks and weeds to create chill out zones and plant a Mediterranean garden around the house, the next step was to start work on clearing the pine forest around the house, where it appeared the pine trees had started to kill out the valuable Sabina trees on the hill. Now, Nathalie and Hendrick have committed to preserving the Sabinas and have planted over 200 on their hillside, hoping to restore it to its former glory.
The real surprise however, came as a by-product of landscaping. As they were walking around the land with their trusted gardening advisor and entrepreneur Fran Alonso of Ibiyepro, he pointed out the fruitful supply of juniper berries, cactus flowers, wild rosemary flowers and Mediterranean herbs on hand. “What could we do with it?” Hendrik asked of the landscaper. “Make gin of course!” Although neither Hendrik nor Nathalie were experts on gin to begin with, some extensive research saw them connect with a very respected Belgian professor who worked with them on distilling their homegrown botanicals and Blue Hill Ibiza dry London Gin was born.
“It started out as a joke really,” Hendrik admits, as he pours a glass of the exceptionally clean tasting, fragrant spirit directly from the source, a hefty metal tank. “I wasn’t even really a fan of gin before, but now I love it. The professor who we work with has created his own gin, that was awarded second best place in a respected gin contest, and now he thinks Blue Hill Gin is even better. We are convinced this is the best quality in the world and it is so limited due to the batches of fruit on our land. In the beginning, it was just for our family and friends to try, plus a promotional tool for guests who were renting the villa but now, maybe we’ll do something with it. I think it’s very important to keep it artisan.”