Amber Developments has long been known as the go-to project management specialist in Ibiza for those looking to fast-track high-end renovations, new builds or traditional restorations without compromising on quality or service. Founder Gray Gillot built his career on the ability to get things done on time and on budget, and when he turns his hand to an Ibiza project, his global expertise truly shines. With 30 years’ experience in the creative and the logistical side of property development, he is perfectly placed to understand a project from the perspective of the client, the design team and constructors alike. He is the conduit through which communication and ideas flow; under his management, all elements of a project flow smoothly and come together with military-like precision.
Punta Cabra is one of the latest projects to have been embarked on by the Amber Developments team; a 210 square metre three-bedroom home that has been completely redeveloped into a 400 square metre seven-bedroom luxury finca with a separate two-storey guest annexe and elevated swimming pool from which you can see Formentera. “Our client had originally seen an article about the development of my own property and was inspired to achieve similar results with a home he owned in Cala Llonga,” explains Gray of the motivation behind the new style. “Originally, he wanted to give his home a refurbishment to make it more appealing to his family; to soften its simple, square design and sharp edges into a more typical rounded finca style and to add some traditional Ibicenco design details that would give it more character and style.”
After his initial creative consultation with Amber Developments however, the client quickly realised that he wanted more than a quick fix – ultimately, he wanted to extend and elevate the property, add a swimming pool and completely redevelop the space in line with contemporary standards while achieving a traditional style through the use of Sabina ceilings, sloping walls and classic Ibicenco plaster finishes. The views too, were a key factor in the redesign. “The property is set on the highest point of the hill in that area – it has fantastic views across two bays and over to Formentera,” says Gray. “No one can ever build behind it and it’s also not looking down on anyone else – the beauty of this property is it that we could build it up to get an even better view.”
After presenting the client with Gray’s initial creative interpretation of the project, Amber Developments were appointed and set the task to bring together the right team of local experts to make it happen. First, Gray enlisted architect Jose Maria Barbellido to bring his sketches to life and take them to the planning stages. Due to the property being developed to the maximum allowance for its plot size (950 square metres), there was some initial opposition to the plans by local government, which resulted in delays in getting permission to build. This is, unfortunately, a typical issue faced by Ibiza property developers and in this case, Gray and his client both firmly believed it was worth waiting for. In true Amber Developments style, once the first lorry crossed the threshold and the team broke ground in October 2018, it wouldn’t be long until the client would see the fruits of his patient investment.
“We could have gone for a smaller development and approval may have gone through quicker,” Gray readily admits. “But we really believed in the project – there’s no point in investing a lot of money and then only getting 8/10 of what you really wanted in the first place. Thankfully, Jose was brilliant with the planning – some people may have given up but he pushed and pushed and eventually, we got it. What he’s managed to achieve in terms of expansion, while always complying with the local rules and regulations, here is outstanding.” When permissions were finally granted, it was all systems go and the next members of the Amber Developments team needed to be engaged.
Based on his extensive on-island experience, Gray put the project out to tender to four different companies, ultimately landing on construction specialists Danisol due to their experience, high standards and competitive pricing. “I knew they completely understood what we wanted to achieve with this project,” he explains. “The governing factors when appointing a contractor are price, quality of work, a thorough understanding of the brief and a commitment to working to our timescale. We knew Danisol were right for the job.” In addition to appointing the main contractors, Amber Developments recommends their clients always hire an aperagador – an independent surveyor who acts like a building inspector, overseeing and quantifying all the work the builder does in relationship to the architect’s plans. Gaspar Fernández (who works for Jose Maria Barbellido) was the right man for the role thanks to his methodical approach to analysis.
The project unfortunately hit a snag the moment the Amber Developments team began demolition – discovering that the existing foundations of the house were almost non-existent. Gray says this is a common occurrence in older Ibiza homes. “The problem is that the drawings produced by architects 50 years ago are very simple; there are no details about the foundations or the steelwork and structure. You are at the mercy of what you discover when you start to demolish and excavate – and in this case, we learned we also had to rebuild most of the ground floor, which we weren’t expecting.” This is a case where the aperagador comes into his own, ensuring the reports and costs from the builders matches any existing rates and prices.
With this process in place, in addition to Gray’s own invaluable experience in the industry, a client who is not based on the island can rest assured their investment is not being squandered on unnecessary extra works. “I’m here to look after my client’s interest,” says Gray. His long-term experience with Amber Developments on the island has led to the creation of meticulous processes that ensure nothing is lost in translation between expat clients and Spanish architects and tradesmen – weekly site meetings are held and then minutes are translated into English and Spanish to avoid any ambiguity, and most importantly, circumvent any costly mistakes.
The final piece of the puzzle was to appoint an interior architect to create a series of ultra-detailed interior drawings and mood boards for the Amber Developments team to work from. “Bloom Studio Ibiza are excellent when it comes to internal detailing,” says Gray. “People often confuse this stage with interior design but it’s very different. It’s not about colours and paint swatches – this is the finer details such as joiner design, glazed screens, track positioning, tiling junctions, exact lighting positions – these are details that can often be forgotten when a contractor is doing the final detailing work, but using an interior architect ensures every last detail is adhered to.” Once the client signs off on which tiles, counter tops and finishes will be used inside the house, the aperagador again checks the budget estimates against the final costings to ensure every last euro is accounted for.
Additional challenges faced on the project included limited access to the land, which meant the extension had to be completed in stages. Once the pool and annexe were complete, it was impossible to get any machinery to the rear of the building so careful planning was the key to its success. “Danisol have been very proactive throughout the project,” says Gray of the carefully considered process. “They’ve always offered the best advice and solutions to our client.” Right now, Punta Cabra is in the final stages of development and will be complete in July 2019 – completed in half the time most local companies would quote to do the project. Gray views the property as one of the best in the urbanisation and one that he, the Amber Developments team, and of course, his client, can be proud of for many years to come.