Spain’s Balearic islands have recently emerged as a hotbed for contemporary design. In the Menorcan capital of Maó, just steps from the harbour, the Hevresac Hotel renovated by local architect Emma Martí is the perfect place to take in these architectural gems — both new and old. The building itself boasts a rich history: It once served as the family home of navy merchant captain and author Joan Roca Vivent. Its name, Hevresac, derives from the German word Hafersack, meaning a backpack for barley, and playfully nods to the port city’s past as a trade hub.
Located in the city’s historic centre, the Hevresac Hotel is situated at the corner of Anuncivay and Sant Ferran streets. Its triangular plot is sandwiched between two 18th and early 19th-century party walls. Owners Ignasi Truyol and Stephanie Mahé enlisted Martí (their childhood friend) to conserve as many of the home’s heritage features as possible, while still designing a space that felt fresh.
Though the building is exemplary of Menorcan vernacular, it also retains some of the British influences — such as sash windows — that emerged when the island was captured by the Royal Navy in the early 1700s. Martí preserved these windows as an outward-facing symbol of the site’s heritage, while adding three new openings for thermal comfort. The addition of black cork on the façade and roof optimizes both insulation and acoustics.
Inside, the site’s unconventional layout posed a unique challenge. As a result of the unusually shaped floor plan, the rooms parallel to the long party wall are rectangular while those adjacent to Sant Ferran Street are trapezoidal. Thanks to careful space planning, the retrofitted single-family home now boasts eight bedrooms across its four floors, each with an accompanying ensuite (and three of which also have access to private terraces).
Likening the design process to surgery, Martí was careful to retain the building’s existing elements, and where it was not possible, substituted them with modern variants of the original. Everything from the stucco on the walls to the wooden ceiling beams and hydraulic mosaic tiled floors has been meticulously preserved and complemented with sustainable new materials.
In the ground floor entranceway, the original marble staircase, complete with Masonic symbols on its wrought iron railings, makes a striking statement. The adjacent living room also offers a window into the past. Here, original columns, Cesca chairs and an antique table are contrasted with more contemporary furnishings by Muuto and Milbar. The result is an eclectic aesthetic that helps to bridge the renovated building’s traditional and modern design languages.
Illuminated by a new skylight that draws much-needed natural light into the building’s core, an updated staircase, with a barely-there white steel railing and fir treads, leads up to the equally well-appointed guest rooms. Suspended Aspen S17 lamps by B.Lux add subtle pops of blue and orange, drawing from the mosaic tile motifs underfoot.
While the house’s original arched wood doorframes remain, a double wooden skin was devised for the guest room doors for added privacy. These same three-ply spruce boards are carried into the interior partitions, headboards, wardrobes and even the bathrooms. Like the living area, the bedrooms are outfitted with contemporary furnishings such as Spindle beds from Ethnicraft and lighting from Flos and Marset, alongside antiques sourced from all over Europe.
In the basement, a communal breakfast area and kitchen offer a sense of home away from home. The cavernous multi-purpose room features a vaulted ceiling made of local marès stone — one bay of which was removed to brighten the space and make way for a new staircase that links to the ground floor.
Embracing the Menorcan vernacular and the island’s British influences, the Hevresac Hotel is both rich in local identity and contemporary style. In eschewing the punctilious (and decidedly luxurious) aesthetic that defines many boutique hotels, Martí has instead curated a space that feels lived in — perhaps because it has been for centuries.
Local architect Emma Martí revives a historic single-family home with an unconventional floor plan as an eight-room retreat.