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Osa Major, the natural beauty of Mallorca, Spain

Jan 12, 2018 | Beautiful Spaces, Featured, Features

A holiday house on the Spanish island of Mallorca teams its idyllic location with a rustic contemporary design sensibility

A tranquil, envy-inducing holiday home, Osa Major is situated almost in the middle of the island of Mallorca. So it’s a little surprising to hear that when homeowners Brenda Ooteman and her partner first discovered the island, they did so as sailors. Hailing from the Netherlands, the couple had a boat on which they regularly holidayed with their children, and they often docked at Palma de Mallorca.

“We weren’t looking for a fancy house, but for a beautiful place in nature.” She describes it as “hilly, with almond trees and vineyards growing among little old dreamy villages. ”

Soon, the family began exploring the island’s natural beauty beyond the spectacular coastline, venturing further and further inland. And about 12 years ago they identified the area where they would like to buy or build a holiday home.

About 10 years ago they found and bought a place located down a sandy track. The structure consisted of only walls and a staircase – the build had been halted for several years when an archaeological site was discovered during construction. The ceramics and other artefacts that were unearthed and catalogued – some of which are 3 000 years old – are now on display at a nearby museum.

Because of the time taken for the archaeological dig, the required state permit to build on the site had expired, and it took three years to get a new one. During this time Brenda and her partner regularly visited the site. “It was good,” she says of a period of time that would have frustrated most people no end. “We learnt so much about the site – where the winds come from, how the sun changes with the seasons. We’d go there with a picnic and there would be sheep wandering around the place. At one time there was an owl living in one of the rooms.”


The interior is contemporary in style, with an emphasis on natural materials


The best way to decorate a space is to keep the base clean and simple with beatoful floors and finishes.



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Once the requisite building permit had been obtained and a certified Spanish architect located who could draw up the house plans, Brenda set to work. By this time she knew exactly what she wanted, and what could be done away with. The existing skeleton of the house, she says, was too old- fashioned in terms of how the interior was laid out. “We wanted it to be spacious. For us, accustomed to the small living spaces typical of the Netherlands, space is luxury. I also wanted every bedroom to have its own bathroom.”

The result is that the exterior of the house has a gloriously traditional look, whereas the interior is contemporary in style, with an emphasis on natural materials. The interior walls, for example, are finished using a traditional Moroccan lime-based plaster called tadelakt. This basic white lime plaster, which comes from the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, can be coloured with pigments. The subtle colour (in Osa Major pale green, sandy beige and off-white tints, individually chosen for different rooms, have been added to the plaster) is built up layer by layer, and then to finish it, the plaster is polished by hand using stones – a key part of the process, as the word “tadelakt” means “to rub in” or “to massage”. This gives it a hand-made, individual and slightly imperfect finish. The final step is a treatment with a natural soap solution (olive oil or black soap) that makes it water- resistant.

“For me, the best way to decorate a space,” says Brenda, “is to keep the ‘base’ of the interior clean and simple, with beautiful floors and finishes. This means that if someone comes into the space and there’s absolutely nothing there, it will still look lovely. And then you can add – or if you like, accessorise with – textiles, colour, whatever.” The result is an interior that is very much a naturally inflected, loose and effortless one, and one that avoids ever seeming overtly or self-consciously styled.

The central architectural feature of the house is a sculptural staircase, built to replace a staircase that took up too much space for Brenda’s liking. There’s a “basement” level that contains a casual living-relaxing space with built-in banquettes, and leads out onto a narrow terrace. One floor up is the expansive open-plan main living area, encompassing a beautifully equipped kitchen – which leads out onto another large terrace with gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside – plus a dining space and another (smaller) living area. There are also two en-suite bedrooms on this floor. Another flight of the staircase takes one up to the main bedroom floor, which features four en-suite bedrooms, and then a final series of stairs heads up to a bedroom in the eaves.

Much of the furniture is hand-made, and most of the textiles, glassware, ceramics and baskets were bought by Brenda on her travels around the world. Among these are eye-catching hanging lamps that are repurposed Indonesian rice pots, and simple wooden side tables made from recycled Burmese teak.

Brenda also enjoys collecting glassware, especially bottles and vessels in old-fashioned shades of green, but her great love is textiles. Beautiful fabrics are on show everywhere in this home. There’s the exquisite bed linen, for example: Brenda prefers either Egyptian cotton or pure linen from the high-end Italian store Society Limonta, and only in either pure white or subtle tones of sandy beige. And in the more public areas of the house, wall hangings, throws and gorgeous upholstery fabrics constantly catch the eye. “I always buy textiles,” says Brenda. “I don’t always know what I will do with them or where I’ll put them. I just buy what I love, which tends to be older, of high quality and richly coloured. And sometimes I’ll wear a piece of fabric first, then put it on a bed.” The end result is that the textiles and other artefacts that Brenda sources from all over the world and uses in her home “all somehow go together – like a chain that is connected”.

With her children now grown up and living independently in Amsterdam, Brenda has been spending a lot of her time here at Osa Major, hosting guests and gatherings such as yoga retreats. The house is also available for rent.

Credits: Photo: Robyn Alexander, Production: Sven Alberding Photographs: Greg Cox/

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