The satisfactions of the table spring from the larder and stove, but there’s more to the joy of breaking bread than what appears on your plate. The buzz of conversation, the clatter of silver, the clink of glasses (Salud! Cheers! Prost!) are the ingredients of any good gathering. And the aftermath of a meal – breadcrumbs on the tablecloth, empty wine bottles marked with the fingerprints of many hands, once sleek candles reduced to stalagmite-like stumps – is as beautiful a tableau as the moment that first delectable dish was passed.
It’s hard not to be reminded of this at Mercedes Lopez Coello’s rejuvenated farmhouse on Mallorca. Built of a local stone called calizas de Mallorca and graced with aquamarine shutters and a canopy of bougainvillea over the arched front door, the unassuming, 200-year-old structure stands like the architectural equivalent of a midday Arrós brut, a classic local dish of meat and rice. Although its crisp, white, minimally outfitted interiors suggest a plate more typical of the long-gone El Bulli, the warm, worn aspect of the furniture generates a homeyness and a sense of authenticity, the feeling that this old house might have looked much the same back in the day, when it was the heart of a working farm.
“When we took it over, a heavy renovation had already been done by the couple who lived there previously, so the house was in good shape,” explains Coello. “But I wanted to bring back the old Mallorcan feeling to the interior, to keep the essence and character of the house. I wanted that everything new would feel as if it has always been there.”
Observing other old Mallorcan farmhouses – some of which have been turned into museums – Coello kept note of architectural and decorative details and made drawings which she presented to architect Cristobal Carrio, whose technical expertise allowed her to realize her vision. “To create a balance between the past and the present, everything new had to follow the same line of imperfection and organic feeling,” notes Coello, who shares the house with her husband and children. “I went by intuition and stayed true to natural local materials like stone, wood, straw, linen and natural paints.”
With its plaster and lime washed walls and structural ceiling beams painted white, the kitchen projects a very contemporary vibe. Coello mediated that look by incorporating wood, straw, and ceramics. “I wanted to pay homage to the rural heritage of the island, so some of the ceramic pieces were used in the old days to store olives or wine; the baskets to harvest olives, almonds and figs; and I have a basket that I love that apparently was used for fishing. I used part of an old birdcage to store plates on the wall and the dining chairs were once used in an outdoor cinema.” Outside, a newly-installed patio – set with a vintage ‘60s table and rustic Spanish chairs – is an enviable spot for a quiet morning coffee, informal family lunches and lively evening repasts. Even unoccupied, it telegraphs the deeply nourishing essence of home.
Photography by Montse Garriga Grau.