How to buy a house in Ibiza: The art of creating a home with design agency Pepe Cabrera

Pepe Cabrera Homes Interview

Architecture is a discipline that combines the non-negotiable technicalities of science with the creative expression of art. And it takes a skillful master to fuse these two seemingly opposing skills to craft a harmonious end result.

Helping discerning buyers from all over the world to find their dream property in the Balearic Islands, the Fantastic Frank Ibiza team has joined forces with experts in the field, the multi-disciplinary architecture and design company Pepe Cabrera. 

What started out as a family business in the picturesque town of Dénia has, thanks to its founder’s inimitable flair for design and art – as well as the company’s dedication to excellence and the highest level of customer service – grown into an internationally renowned agency. The museum-like 4000 sqm showroom on Spain’s Costa del Sol – complete with an onsite restaurant headed up by a Michelin Star chef – is nothing short of spectacular, and sets the tone for the discerning clients stepping through its doors.

Jason Ham, Fantastic Frank partner and senior real estate agent, says, “We’ve been looking for a while to find a ‘one-stop’ agency with a 360-degree bespoke service that includes architecture, interior design, and furniture – from the first hand-drawn sketch to advising on and installing the highest quality, exclusive brand kitchens and bathrooms.

“The Pepe Cabrera philosophy of creating a design – whether from scratch or as a renovation project – that will suit its owners’ lifestyle now and many years into the future, is a perfect fit for our company.”

In part three of our Ibiza real estate series, we speak to Pepe Cabrera architect and designer, Fernando Navadijos, about the fascinating 30-year history of the company, his heartfelt approach to creating a home that can grow with its owners, and the team’s dedication to excellence as they enter the unique property market of the White Island.

The museum-like Pepe Cabrera Homes showroom in Dénia.

Thank you for your time, Fernando. Please tell us a little bit about yourself!

I designed my first house in 1991 – a long time ago. I taught myself everything, because I love art. Paintings, sculptures, architecture, interior design – art is everything to me!

After studying in Madrid, I moved to Deniá to open a furniture shop, but I had to close it in 2008 because of the global financial crisis  – and decided to go back to work as an architect. Originally, I set up a company together with my brother, but later we went our separate ways. 

I already knew the company of Pepe Cabrera through their work as interior designers, and so I called them and said, ‘I need a change in my life.’ They asked me, ‘What do you want to do?’

The best thing about Pepe Cabrera is that it is a 360-degree company: We do everything from architecture and construction to interior design and furniture, and also property management. I don’t want to do just one thing, because I have experience in public relations, in design… I want to do everything! 

Can you tell us more about the founder, the late Pepe Cabrera?

He was a really nice guy. Pepe never officially studied design, but he had an inherent sense for art, fashion, and architecture. He was a very curious person and started to look in books and magazines. He was a true visionary, and the Pepe Cabrera Homes we know today started as a furniture store he opened together with his wife. Their children, Paula and Nacho Cabrera, later followed in their parents footsteps and studied architecture – they learned their father’s sense of style from a young age and are now carrying on the Cabrera legacy. 

What sets Pepe Cabrera – the company – apart from other architects and designers?

For us, the most important thing is the service to the client. Because we are responsible not only for our clients’ money, but also their dreams for a family home. And that is the key: We do everything from the heart and with a lot of love because we don’t design houses – we design homes. The care for our clients comes above all.

Would you say the company has a signature style?

In architecture, we don’t have a signature style. On our website, we have a portfolio of around 50 houses and they are all different – you could say that ‘anything goes’. But for the interior design it is contemporary, with the highest quality furniture from Italy. We have exclusivity with some of the best kitchen suppliers in the country, and if we have a client who is making a big investment, we can take them to visit the factory in Italy and they can choose the fabrics and materials themselves. It is the highest level of service.

Pepe Cabrera Homes has become known for only working with top quality materials and suppliers.
From the first sketch to the finishing touches, attention to detail is everything.

In which regions do you operate?

We have built houses in many different areas – South America, Poland, and Russia to name a few. We are looking to expand all over the globe. So far, in Ibiza, we have been involved in an exciting interior design project in the famous Boas building in Marina Botafoch.

What is the most important part when you begin the design process?

For us, it is to talk to the whole family and find out what kind of lifestyle each member wants. Maybe the father wants to host parties for his friends, the mother wants to sit in a quiet corner with a book, and the children are very sporty. We have to take all of these things into consideration – and that includes the future that they envision for themselves. We like to build houses that can grow with the family. I want to think ahead to encompass their whole lives; I love to create houses that can last for 100, even 200 years.

Wow! Is that really possible?

There was an incredible architect from Austria called Adolf Loos, and he made a house for a Doctor in the 1920s. It was a very good design, very modern. 20 years after he completed the house, he unexpectedly received another cheque from the Doctor. He wrote to him, ‘Herr Loos, thank you so much for the incredible house you created for my family – I need to pay you again because all my friends who built a house at the same time as me have had to change them or build a new house. But the design you made for me is still incredible.” 

That’s what I want to do. I don’t like the artificial, and I don’t want to be celebrated like a movie star. I like normal people without ego, and I want to build houses for families – not for ‘me’.

Looking at the evolution of architecture and what is possible today, do people come to you with outlandish ideas?

In this day and age, everybody has access to architecture books and interior design magazines – so some people think they can design the project themselves. But it’s more complicated than that. It’s similar to when you bring a picture of a haircut to the hairdresser – not every style that looks great in a magazine will work for your unique features.

From first meeting to moving in, can you walk us through the process?

Of course! First, we meet with the clients, and find out as much information as possible. That also includes getting all the details from the real estate agents and the town hall. We start to design and we think about everything: the light, the materials, the garden. I even think about the door handles. Everything. We make sketches, models and 3Ds.

The construction of the house is actually the most complicated part of the process. Because joining the different materials together can be complicated.

Pepe Cabrera Homes Interior Design
Creating designs that can grow with its owners is one of architect Fernando Navadijos’ greatest passions.
Pepe Cabrera designs are personalised to every last aspect – even a garden can become a living art installation.

Licences are another notoriously tricky subject – especially here in Ibiza! But you have a dedicated person to take care of all that?

It’s actually quite unique to find a company like ours, because we deal not only with the architecture, but everything from the licences to the interior design. And yes, we actually have a person in our company that is dedicated to just licences. For us, everything is connected – and everything is important.

How do you work with renovation projects?

I really love to do renovations, to feel the spirit of the house and to honour the character and potential of a property. For me, you can destroy good architecture with a bad interior design – but you can also make very bad architecture better with a good interior design.

Ibiza is a very unique island with some incredible properties. How do you feel about entering this market?

I feel a special connection with Ibiza. The first time I came here was in 1995 and when I saw Es Vedrà, I felt the magnetism of the rock. It really is breathtaking. We have a mountain in Dénia that, for me, has the same power. Some people have told me the two are connected underneath the sea. So I think there is a good energy between Ibiza and Dénia.

What do you think of the Balearic design aesthetic?

On my travels around the world, I discovered that the Mediterranean style is not only found in Ibiza. It is also in Tunisia, in Kenya… The Swahili people, for example, combine elements from India, Africa and Muslim culture. So part of the Mediterranean style comes from Muslim and African cultures, and I have introduced some elements of that into my projects in Dénia – and it works really, really well.

What has been one of the most outstanding projects you have worked on?

We made a house for my friend in Kenya and the only rule he gave us was that we couldn’t cut down any of the trees – but the land is surrounded by forest, so it was a challenge! And we made a house that was kind of like the drawing of the elephant inside the snake in the tale of “The Little Prince”. 

After three years, when we finished the project, we went for a fantastic dinner there and the owner showed us the swimming pool. There was a tree next to it, and we advised him that the tree would need to be cut because the roots would eventually cause cracks in the pool. He said, “You know what, guys, you built me a fantastic house. We can repair the crack every year, it doesn’t matter.” That was very nice.

To find out more about Pepe Cabrera Homes visit www.pepecabrera.com.

To contact the Fantastic Frank Ibiza team email ibiza@fantasticfrank.com or visit www.fantasticfrank.com/ibiza.

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