x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Hands-on renovation project produces idyllic Ibizan hideaway

Home of the Week When Sia Taylor and her husband Neil settled in the unspoilt Ibizan village of Saint Agnes, they acquired a 200-year-old farmhouse and transformed it into a light, bright, uncluttered home.

The couple knocked out walls to bring in more light and enhanced the home's natural features.
The couple knocked out walls to bring in more light and enhanced the home's natural features.

Who wouldn't say "yes" to an idyllic 200-year-old Ibizan farmhouse, a cosmopolitan bunch of friends and a year-round tan? Certainly not jewellery maker Sia Taylor and her artist husband Neil.

After years spent travelling the globe together - having a lot of fun, but ultimately searching for a magical place in which to settle - they finally kicked off their flip-flops for good in sun-drenched Ibiza. "It's not the Ibiza you read about in the papers though," says Sia. "Our life is a tranquil, laid-back one that inspires an abundance of creativity."

Sia, who originally trained to be a sculptor, gets her inspiration from the organic forms and unusual patterns to be found all around this peaceful paradise. Her jewellery designs are made from tiny handmade elements in gold and silver and are suggestive of delicate clusters of insect eggs, seed pods and grasses.

"I love this place to bits, but I have to admit I miss the buzz and bustle of London,' she says. "Thankfully that's where my main market is, so I get to pop back for an urban fix whenever the urge becomes too much."

After years of to-ing and fro-ing between Ibiza, north Africa and London, Neil and Sia finally settled in the unspoilt Ibizan village of Saint Agnes in 2001, "before the property prices went mad". "It's a magical area with just a bar, a church and a school," Sia says.

The couple bought themselves a spacious 200-year-old farmhouse but, having not been touched since the 1970s, it required a considerable amount of work. The inside of the property was dark and cave-like, so the couple knocked through walls to create one large living space or entrada, from which all the other rooms can be accessed.

"We completely renovated it on an extremely tight budget, but the beauty of the traditional way of building here is that it's very simple. We tried to put back some of what had been taken away - curved white walls and no sharp edges - and throughout we've kept it uncomplicated, uncluttered, white and light," Sia explains.

Neil did much of the work himself, from the electrics and the plumbing to the plastering. Friends also chipped in, says Sia. "A nuclear physicist turned builder friend of ours tiled the pool, for example. It was a slow process, but bit by bit, it's come together."

Sourcing good furniture was a major challenge and Neil ended up building a lot of the items himself, transforming old doors into tables and so on. With no Ikea to call on and available items proving extremely expensive, the couple also bought some of their furniture from Habitat in the UK and had it sent over to Ibiza.

While the house has been fitted with all the necessary mod cons, the couple also decided to take a more sustainable approach to their new life.

"We've got the essentials, of course, but we live off rainwater. It collects in two big tanks and we are all very aware of how precious it is and not wasting it. We have a walk-in shower instead of a bath, which is much more eco-friendly, and solar panels in the roof provide our heat. It does get cold in the winter and we don't have central heating, just a wood-burning stove."

In addition to a home, the renovated farmhouse also acts as an "office" for Neil and Sia, who both work from home. Two of the building's outhouses were transformed into studios for the creative duo.

"It's a wonderfully peaceful place to work. The inspiration for my jewellery comes from seed pods, sticks and grasses which are here in abundance. There are five or six British jewellery makers on the island and we share shows and exhibitions here," says Sia.

Neil and Sia's life revolves around their children and the parents that they know from school, much like it would if they were back in the UK, or anywhere else in the world. It's just that they get to do it in better weather.

"There's a good social scene if you want it, with nationalities from all over, but it's essentially much, much quieter [than the UK]. Our son Woody went to the local primary at first but now he's at the international school. He's fluent in Spanish, always outside, tearing around on his bike, being sporty. It's a great life if you've got young kids."

While the couple love their Mediterranean lifestyle, buying property abroad did present its own set of unique challenges, Sia admits. "Right after we'd signed the contract we found out that there was a 'right to reside' clause, which allowed two old ladies to live here if they wished.

"The lawyers said they were both dead, but one was still alive and over 100, and when she discovered we'd put electricity in she wanted to move in. Luckily her family dissuaded her."

For more information on Sia Taylor's jewellery creations, visit www.siataylor.com