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A perfect blend of old and new

Few can deny that old houses have soul but there’s a certain artistry involved when it comes to renovating them.

It starts with respecting the traditional methods and materials with which they were first built. Then it’s a question of time—and patience. Armed with these and the expertise of craftsmen and women steeped in the knowledge and the necessary know-how, it’s possible to gently rub away any scars of ill-considered changes and take the property back to its original structure and essence.

Much of Mallorca is blessed with characterful old houses. While some find the prospect of bringing them sympathetically into the 21st century alarming, it’s an opportunity that the team at Berrow relish. The reason is simple: this approach means that the houses can be carefully adapted to make them suitable for today’s living requirements while maintaining and preserving—wherever possible—many of the original details and characteristics.

At the core, the aim is to ensure that the houses offer supremely comfortable spaces with the finest fixtures and fittings and, crucially, flexible layouts that can change and adapt according to need. Open-plan living rooms flooded with natural light make for perfect family spaces for both eating and entertaining throughout the year. Connecting these rooms to the outdoors, and making the most of the available views, dissolving the boundaries between inside and outside is another key factor designed in from the start of each project. Finally, houses embrace modern working requirements offering up quiet and private spaces from which to set up a home office, kitted out with the very latest in communication technology.

A Modernist masterpiece

Standing on a street which was once home to some of the wealthiest merchants in Sóller, and just moments from the vibrant town centre, Mon Cor is a handsome and historic three-storey townhouse. Built in 1903, it’s redolent of the island’s famous Modernist period.

Originally constructed as a holiday home by a French merchant who came to Sóller for work and fell in love with a local woman, Mon Cor (which translates as “my spirit” in Mallorquín) measures 385 sq m or over 4,100 sq ft. Its scale and architectural style is emblematic of a time in Sóller when many of its finest buildings were constructed, fuelled by the trade in citrus fruits with southern France. Many of these buildings which still stand today were designed by Parisian architects and feature fine materials which were often shipped in from all over the world.

Fast forward over 100 years, and this architectural gem has been sympathetically reimagined, using a timeless and pared-back aesthetic, into a family home. While maintaining the original features and charm, it has been gently adjusted to ensure the house meets the requirements of modern day living including integrated cabling for audio visual equipment and super-fast WiFi, and air cooling.

One of the first steps taken by the team at Berrow was to ensure that all the details that were original to the house were preserved. The rustic stone floor, many of the doors, shutters, windows and even the stone sink in the kitchen all date from 1903 and have been restored using local craftsmen. These men and women between them boast decades of experience in looking after houses of the same period which is widely regarded as Mallorca’s most prosperous—before the arrival of tourism.

The outside walls are made of local sand-coloured stone which has been expertly restored using traditional lime mortar. Each of the windows are flanked by wooden shutters painted in Treron, a dark grey green by Farrow & Ball, and beyond are views of the UNESCO world heritage site of the Sierra de Tramuntana.

From the street, the main door opens into a spacious room taking in the majority of the ground floor with vaulted ceilings reaching up to 5m in height. With long views towards the garden, the sunny space is flooded with natural light. This room can at once be a hub for the family to meet and eat relaxed meals in the spacious open-plan kitchen, featuring bespoke oak cabinets and natural stone countertops, or it can also pivot to being a perfect room for entertaining on a large scale. A dedicated bar area with custom shelving has been created with this in mind. For more formal dinners with family or friends, there is a further room leading from here which could easily accommodate a table for ten, or equally could be used as a living room or snug—the flexibility has been in-built for the new owners to make the decision.

A pair of wooden doors, above which is an iconic early 20th century transom window in burgundy, open out to a feature which makes Mon Cor unique for Sóller: a sun-drenched south-west facing garden which isn’t overlooked by any neighbours. The salt water pool forms an elongated oval in shape—a nod to the transom glass detail over the door—and anchors the garden. It’s heated year round by an air-source heat pump and is surrounded by an oasis-like setting featuring citrus trees, shady palms and a heavily scented wall of jasmine. At the back lies a large built-in seating area with a dining table for alfresco lunches and dinners.

Leading up from the ground to the first floor is an ornate staircase of cast steel which again has been completely restored. With elegant handrails, the stair treads feature the original terrazzo tiles each which have been removed, washed, re-laid and polished during the restoration of the house. Upstairs, four spacious bedrooms enjoy views to the surrounding mountains and feature bespoke wooden wardrobes while their respective bathrooms are fitted with baths and showers from leading British brands including The Water Monopoly and Lefroy Brooks.

At the top of the house, and overlooking the rear, is a rooftop living room–a space that’s been conceived as the house’s creative hub, which could be used as a home office or dedicated homework space for children. It has exposed wooden beams on the ceiling, elegant parquet floors and extensive views to the mountains. If required, this could be used as a further bedroom.

Mon Cor has been envisaged to be enjoyed not just as a holiday home but as a full time residence—a nod to mobility of today’s workforce and the plethora of top-ranking international schools on the island of Mallorca. Every aspect of the house has been examined through this prism including the basement with its vaulted ceiling which is home to a wine cellar with a backlit bottle store for up to 48 bottles, as well as a tasting table. On the lower ground floor is a series of useful rooms including a laundry, cloakroom and storage. Meanwhile, to the right of the front door is a courtyard area which has been designed to act as a private parking space or somewhere to house sports equipment—the decision has been left to the new owners.

Environmentalism has been considered in every step of restoring the property. At Mon Cor, rainwater is collected from the roof and terrace and stored in an existing 5m deep underground reservoir, to be used for watering the garden and general pool maintenance. Not only that but for the summer months, the property has been equipped with an aerothermal system which is considered a far more sustainable solution than conventional air conditioning systems.

Whether stripping back old properties to their original structure and gently adapting them for the 21st century, or building architecturally designed new houses which embrace local materials and expertise so that they sit perfectly within the landscapes, the focus of the team is ultimately to create supremely comfortable, beautifully designed homes for year-round flexible living and remote working.