By Claire Nolan
The good life with year-round sunshine: how one family went back to basics on this Balearic finca.
The rural finca is in the centre of Ibiza, far from the island’s clubbers and holidaymakers. ‘It’s a different world,’ says Anne. ‘I’m not sure I could live in a city again – I wouldn’t be able to sleep with the noise!’
Anne and René Sijmonsbergen live on an organic farm in Ibiza with their daughter Sofia, 11, six cats, three dogs, plus chickens and ducks.
‘I arrived in Ibiza with nothing more than a suitcase, so this finca stayed a spartan, white space for a while,’ says Anne.
She wanted to hold out on filling it until she had tracked down, built or recycled furniture ‘that reflected Ibicenco life’. It took a while, but 11 years on, local antiques, furniture hewn from driftwood and artisanal ceramics reflect the gentle pace of family life on this organic farm.
Anne and her husband René decided to make a go of life on the White Island after years of globetrotting (he’s Dutch, she’s American). ‘René’s family had a summer home here and I immediately fell in love with Ibiza,’ says Anne. ‘It seemed a wonderful place to put down roots.’
The farm’s fields and orchards are laced with intoxicating scents. As summer arrives, the lush vegetables and herbs that thrive in spring give way to crops of organic tomatoes and fruit
But taking on this rural finca meant going back to basics. ‘Our daughter Sofia was born just two weeks after we moved in,’ says Anne. ‘We had hardly any furniture and there was no electricity. We had been assured by the previous owners that the little generator was fuerte, meaning strong – but it never worked properly. I had to boil kettles to wash Sofia’s baby clothes.’
These days, the finca has made it on to the mains power grid and has been nurtured back to life, along with its acres of land. A full-scale renovation did not appeal to Anne and René – the white walls and gnarled beams look much the same as they would have 450 years ago, when the house was built – but tracking down authentic furniture served as an introduction to Ibizan country life. ‘I travelled round the local markets, junk shops and auction houses to find beautiful tables, chairs and lights,’ says Anne.
Reuse and reinvent is Anne’s mantra. ‘The old leather sofa was René’s, which I customised with Italian linen.’ The coffee table is made from an ancient Ibizan plough, with an added glass top. For similar antique tables, try Robert Young Antiques (robertyoung antiques.com) and for similar cushion fabrics, try the Khalo Weaves collection by Scion (scion.uk.com). The horse lamp was gifted to Anne and René by an antiques dealer who visited to help with the fruit harvest
The couple also love all things reclaimed: an heirloom leather sofa has been covered with vintage linen, cushion fabrics hark back to traditional Ibizan motifs and an antique donkey plough has been reworked as a quirky coffee table. ‘I prefer to recycle what already exists, rather than buy new,’ says Anne.
A return to working the soil the old-fashioned way has played a great part in the family’s journey back in time. ‘I’ve learnt so much from the people here – from how to dry figs, forage for wild herbs and cook traditional dishes,’ she says.
As a way of preserving the island’s recipes, Anne has collected them alongside her story of working on the finca through the seasons. ‘The longer you stay in a place, the more you realise how strong the culture is – the book is my tribute to the Ibicenco way of life.’
Anne’s book Eivissa: The Ibiza Cookbook is published by HarperCollins, price £20. To order a copy for £15 until 24 July, go to you-bookshop.co.uk or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15
Words Jo Leevers
The finca is dotted with nooks where Anne displays traditional ceramics; Anne’s shelves are lined with local ingredients, such as dried chillies and Ibizan salt. For similar glass storage jars, try Garden Trading (gardentrading.co.uk). Tadelakt London (tadelaktlondon.co.uk) can create similar moulded shelves
The living room fireplace is flanked by candles all year round. The mirror is a vintage Spanish piece; for similar, try Doe & Hope (doeandhope.com); ‘I like to layer rugs over the floors – in fact, the whole house is a layering of textures and fabrics,’ says Anne. For a similar Ibizan dining table, try Robert Young Antiques (as before). The rise and fall double pendant light was an auction find
The terrace’s outdoor seating and coffee table are made from reclaimed wood. ‘I love the feel of soft, weather-beaten timbers,’ says Anne. The seating is made by Ibiza Grey (ibizagrey.es); for similar, try Salvation Furniture (salvationfurniture.com). For similar striped cushion linen, try Ian Mankin (ianmankin.co.uk). The pendant lamps are made from traditional Ibizan fish traps. ‘A guy in San Juan market still weaves them and uses reeds to bind them together,’ says Anne. Dassie Artisan (dassie.co.uk) sells similar bamboo lights
A locally made basket sits under a lace-covered table on the terrace; ‘The cross of juniper branches at the window is our laid-back version of a security system,’ explains Anne
Anne with rescue dog Georgina on the terrace. Vines grow over a pergola to provide shade
The couple did not want to renovate the character out of the finca: ‘Besides, the walls are a daunting 3ft thick,’ says Anne; ‘We grow citrus fruits, apricots, plums and cherries – and I want to introduce banana and guava trees’
A small pool is an oasis in the middle of orange and cherry groves. ‘It was converted from the house’s old water storage tank and draws fresh water from a well via a noria water wheel,’ explains Anne. ‘In the old days, a donkey would have turned the cogs’
The goats belong to the couple’s friend Juan, who sells vegetables in the Santa Eulalia market