For someone who runs a luxury real estate rental business, Paola Gheis knows all too well what makes a house stand out from the rest, and when she’s looking for a second home for off-season use and yet another bespoke property to add to her company portfolio, she knew just where to look.
“I’m a Sardinia-born Italian and now live in Barcelona. I am very fond of the sea, which is why I created the property ‘Refugi Blau’ in Menorca, one of the four Balearic Islands in Spain,” said Gheis. “In Minorcan language, ‘Refugi Blau’ literally means ‘Blue Shelter’. It’s a place where I can escape from the city to work remotely and enjoy the island every time I hear the call of the sea.”
Declared Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, Menorca has long been a popular tourist hotspot. Albeit measuring only around 30 miles from west to east, the laid-back island is peppered by a dozen of sun-splashed beaches, rolling hills and a coastline stretching more than 125 miles, not to mention the whole of Menorca is skirted by the historic Camí de Cavalls trail, much coveted by hikers, cyclists and divers alike.
The moment Gheis laid eyes on the breathtaking scenery around a quaint little house on the Mediterranean island, she knew she wanted to craft her dreamy escape there, filling the house with the same warmth and mellowness as the natural premise it calls home.
“The idea is to leverage the light that the island irradiates and fan it across the indoor and outdoor spaces, making the apartment fresh, bright and livable,” said Farré & Costa Interiors, whom Gheis tapped to helm the project.
Just a stone's throw away from the pristine Son Bou Beach, the two-bedroom apartment measures around 750 sq.ft. in area, plus 300-sq.ft. outdoor space that includes a seasonal pool amidst luxuriant greenery. The living room is fitted with floor-to-ceiling sliding windows that can be fully opened, bringing the outside surroundings in for a seamless, relaxing vibe.
Where some designers may go all out with an island-and-tropical-style decor that can be over-the-top if not done right – adorning the space with more than enough rattan accessories, bamboo and linen fabrics, for instance – the said house comes off as more modest, almost unassuming and yet evokes an understated luxury that doesn’t compromise on its comfort.
A range of bluish and white hues mingle with natural details among the textiles and lighting fixtures; elegant furniture like the Maisons du Monde white sofa and the pendant lamp from Aroma del Campo punctuates the space with a touch of sophistication.
“Gheis wants to use the house mainly for off-season so it’s important to create a stylish, functional alfresco dining space with comfortable seating on the front terrace. A place for people to take in the spectacular views and enjoy the good weather all year round,” the design team said.
With a specialty in luxury marketing consulting, it’s little wonder that aesthetics, art and functionality are essential parts of Gheis’ work and personal life. “I love art and have commissioned British artist Chelsea Davine, who lives and works in Barcelona, to illustrate the azure sea and sky of Menorca in a large-scale abstract painting.” Now wall-mounted down the hall, the piece conjures up a pleasant, welcoming atmosphere for people setting foot in the apartment.
Overlooking idyllic forested mountains, one of the many protected areas on the island, Gheis made her mark in the two bedrooms with African and Sardinian handicrafts that recall her place of birth, and the resulting vibe is as spacious and airy as the main living area. Inside the master bedroom, three large custom-made wardrobes with oak doors covered in Naturtex raffia and the double bed’s headboard are included for both functional and stylish purposes.
"I take pleasure in the fact that, in less than half an hour of flight from Barcelona, I can reach my island sanctuary, breathing in the nature of Menorca as much as I desire,” said Gheis.
Photo: Laura Tomas