" One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life, that word is love."- Sophocles 406 B.C.
Stone plaque at the entrance of S'Estaca.
So if you didn’t think that a home couldn’t be more beautiful than Diandra’s Santa Barbara house, La Quinta, you are in for a real treat with Diandra’s Mallorca house, S’Estaca. I spoke to Diandra yesterday and she gave me full permission to write about the house and use my personal photos because she’s cool like that.
I have been lucky enough to visit S’Estaca five times in the past 15 years and every time I am in complete awe. I am warning you that today’s blog is going to have a boatload of photos because you just have to see every inch of this house/property. You will be gobsmacked.
Arriving to S’Estaca is no easy feat… It’s a bit Planes Trains and Automobiles. Once you arrive to Palma, Mallorca usually via Barcelona, you are greeted by Diandra’s trusty property manager, Juan, who has worked for the Douglas’ for 36 years and is the ultimate country gentleman. It’s a good thing that Juan is driving because otherwise it is nearly impossible to find the house as it is discreetly tucked away into the hillside of the beautiful town of Valldemossa which also happens to be the village where
Frédéric Chopin arrived in the winter of 1838. Chopin lived here with his lover Aurore Dupin, the French novelist who wrote under the nom de plume George Sand. Chopin wrote letters home describing Mallorca, “A sky like turquoise, a sea like lapis lazuli, mountains like emerald, air like heaven.” French novelist
If you’re not careful you will even most likely miss the driveway of this 247 acre estate as there are no neon signs shouting, “S’ESTACA THIS WAY!” The drive to the house is worth the trip alone… You know you are in Spain as you drive past century-old fincas with olive groves listening to the melodic sound of the lambs in the fields “baaing” combined with the endearing sound of the bells around their necks. Further and further out of the city and into the countryside you find yourself at your first surprise. Ahead of you is 10 minutes of one of the scariest roads on earth. Hairpin turns on the side of the cliff with nary an inch to spare and you hope and pray that a car is not coming up the mountain because there is only room for one of you. If you make it to the safety of S’Estaca your first thought is, “I need a drink.”
The first time I ever came to S’Estaca, Diandra was having a huge party so I arrived with other guests from around the world. Diandra came out of her upstairs balcony to greet all of us in our native language… in English, in Spanish, in French and in Italian… All at once, as she speaks each language fluently. Feeling like a hillbilly with only English and conversational French under my belt, I vowed to make it my motherly duty to force Gracie to expand her foreign language studies (so she’s not a moron at dinner parties). Diandra was partially raised on the island with her incredible gypset mother and speaks the Mallorquin dialect with ease and has told me about her fond memories of her childhood spent having spaghetti parties with her friends on the terrace of the historical estate, Son Marroig. Diandra’s mother was friends with the artist, Joan Miró, who lived on the island and painted a 6 foot tall, 4 feet wide birthday card for Diandra. I mean, c’mon! Diandra is truly in her element on Mallorca.
Gracie on her first visit to S'Estaca in 2009.
Immediately upon your arrival, you know you’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. S’Estaca isn’t even similar to a five star resort, it’s a 12 star private house. The best part about it is that it is not only an historical home overlooking the sea, but it is also the creation of Diandra’s genius because, you see, our girl built the entire property from the ground up with the exception of the original house…. The Moroccan guesthouse, the Italian guesthouse, the artist guesthouse, the children’s house, the staff housing, the kitchen, the living room, the dining room, the courtyards, the pool, the gardens, the groves, the pool house, the terraces and every other extraordinary part of the property is all Diandra’s creation. It is truly a masterpiece and the funny thing is that this is just a summerhouse … No doubt the greatest summerhouse on the face of the earth.
Let’s start with the main house… Dating from the 1800s, the house was bought by Archduke Ludvig Salvador of Habsburg, cousin of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria in 1878. I took Gracie to the little museum and much to my surprise I found original photos of the house… Look…
The main house is strictly for Diandra as her guests are nicely tucked away in their own cottages. One of the best parts about visiting S’Estaca is that one’s privacy is highly respected. You do what you want and no one is on a stupid schedule of activities. If you want to stay in your room for five days straight, drinking and smoking and writing poetry, feel free. No one notices and no one cares. However, if you do decide to come to breakfast, you are greeted with a big Spanish welcoming. Okay, back to the main house. The main floor consists of a picture book tiny Spanish kitchen that is only used by the staff. At the front of the house is the painting room and to the right are two little bedrooms that no one ever uses. Downstairs is the wine cave where all of the property’s wine is stored and there is an incredible secret dining room with a huge wood Spanish table, surrounded by wine bottles and candelabras dripping with wax. On the top floor is Diandra’s domain… Her bedroom, her living room, her bathroom and her terrace. Sometimes I feel like I should ask Diandra if I could spend my remaining days in her upstairs as I cannot think of a better refuge. Let’s take a look…
Diandra's private garden
Main entry to Diandra's private quarters.
Ground floor entry
Ground floor entry
Down to the wine cellar
Diandra's private living room
Diandra's private living room with terrace to the left.
Diandra's private bathroom
I don’t have for some reason many pictures of the guesthouses but I have stayed in each one of them and I can tell you this, they are extraordinary. The Moroccan house is a two-story apartment with a private courtyard. Yolanda and I shared this house the first time we came to S’Estaca in 2005 . There is a cozy sunken living room that is furnished with indigenous Moroccan furniture directly from the souks. It’s legit. My bedroom was downstairs with a private terrace. I remember thinking that the bed was the most beautiful bed I’ve never seen. Antique headboard, embroidered linens, fluffy pillows, two fabric covered bedside tables each stocked with an icy cold bottle of house wine and by house wine, I mean their wine. In front of the window was a beautiful Spanish desk with a view of the sea. If you cannot write the Great American novel here, you can’t write it anywhere, I remember thinking. And then there was the bathroom… The glorious bathroom. Wooden cabinetry, tile countertops, marble sink and… A centuries old marble bathtub. I don’t have photos of the interiors of the Moroccan guestroom but you can imagine!
Another guesthouse is called the Italian house. It is a two-bedroom cottage that shares a dome like entry that is completely empty with the exception of an extraordinary marble bust that rests on the floor. The two-bedrooms are furnished with Italian headboards, 4 billion thread count linens, fabric bedside tables, a desk with a view to the sea and two bathrooms with those marble bathtubs!
My favorite guesthouse is the artist house. To the left of the main house and down stone steps you arrive at a thatched terrace with a stone cottage overlooking the sea. I could literally live here forever. Gracie and I stayed here for almost 3 weeks in 2009.
Artist cottage terrace
Artist cottage bedroom
Children's cottage bedroom
All of the guestrooms have these marble bathtubs
Time stands still in Mallorca. You rise and fall as you please. Every breakfast is brunch as no guest ever makes it to the kitchen before 1 PM. Blame it on the previous evening. In my opinion, the best part about S’Estaca is the kitchen for the obvious reasons and the not so obvious reasons. Three meals are served every day formally and there are ever ready plates of Spanish tapas to snack on throughout the day. The house chef spends his days collecting fruits and vegetables from the garden, and sourcing the rest of the ingredients from local farmers markets. Vegetable and cheese omelettes for breakfast, melon and Spanish ham for lunch, paella for dinner. I remember coming in for lunch one day and sitting at my customary chair and the chef promptly served me my lunch… Delicious bright green pea soup served cold (like gazpacho) with my initials swirled into the soup with crème fraîche. Swear to God! The table is always set anytime of the day with monogrammed gold chargers and local Spanish pottery plates. I remember remarking to Diandra about how beautiful her glassware was and she informed me that the glasses were handmade in a little village on the other side of the island. Of course they were.
The kitchen is the hub of the house and where everyone meets and feels secure to talk about their very private lives. I can’t tell you who because that would just be rude (but I will tell you that Valentino has visited the house. Hello!). I can tell you that there were some very extraordinary guests… My favorite being Luisa. Everyone had something interesting and intelligent to say peppered with some always appreciated gossip. The kitchen was also where we planned our adventures… A trip into Palma for some shopping and cocktails, a boat ride around the island to a secret restaurant, a caravan over to the town of Deià for a family dinner at a local restaurant, an excursion to a bullfight which has now been banned thankfully even though it’s part of Spain’s history, a car ride over to the neighbor’s house for his famous yearly party, or a walk down to the fisherman’s village for a swim which was my favorite activity. Let’s take a look…
Entry to kitchen
The second room that everyone convened in was the massive living room. This is where everyone had an after dinner drink, watched movies, ate popcorn and just relaxed. I think it’s a good time to point out that yes, the entire property is air-conditioned. This is no easy feat in Europe, let me tell you. Temperatures in the Spanish summer can soar into the hundreds yet the second you walk into any one of the rooms on the property you are met with a cool air conditioned respite. You can wear a sweater, crawl under the blankets and watch a movie which is completely decadent in Europe. Also rather decadent in Europe is a subzero refrigerator, an ice machine, giant washer and dryers and an industrial ironing machine, all of which S’Estaca has. Off of the living room is an extraordinary dining room… That we have never used. Everyone is more comfortable at the big table in the kitchen. Off of the dining room is one of the most beautiful powder rooms I’ve ever seen… Let’s take a look…
Windows of living room
Gracie doing her homeschooling homework. Beats a classroom.
Guest powder room
Don’t forget that Diandra built every inch of this property. She, with the help of her designer, Craig Wright, the extraordinary duo spent years (and a fortune) sourcing all of the antiques, the materials (flooring, tiling, doors) plantings and the accessories from all over the world. Remember, nothing was on this property except the main house.
Now we come to the pool, the second hub of the house. It is the epicenter of all things S’Estaca and is where we spend most of our day into the early evening. I don’t even know if I have words for it so let’s just take a look…
Yours truly watching Gracie contemplate the view.
Pool house changing room
There are two dinners at S’Estaca… One with the children and one later with the adults. I like to go to both. Diandra’s children are the light of everyone’s life’s. Truly extraordinary children filled with silliness, sweetness and tenderness. Three little tow heads running around the property barefoot, swimming, reading, doing art projects always followed by their dogs, free to express themselves however they choose…Exactly how it should be. Diandra is a stickler for manners and insists that the children have compassion for others. This isn’t always easy for children under the age of 12 so someone is always spending a quiet afternoon “reflecting” on the outdoor “naughty bench”… Including Gracie.
Imara and Gracie
Hudson enjoying Gracie's birthday cake.
Sweet Hawk patiently waiting for his slice of cake, slightly concerned. By the way, Hawk was named after Stephen Hawking. Ironic, no?
H. on the naughty bench
Grace on the naughty bench. She brought a friend for company.
If one is feeling adventurous, a walk down to the fisherman’s village is in order. Packing a picnic is necessary because this is a whole afternoon. Accessible from the property, a 20 minute walk down the side of the hill to the edge of the sea to the fisherman’s village is something I will never forget. Little tiny cottages that are owned by locals are only used during the summer for lunching and swimming. I always thought it would be fun to escape from the world for a week at one of these cottages with no computer, no TV, no husband or children or cell phone… only my books, a journal and a case of wine. A crisp swim in the Spanish sea (watch out for jellyfish) with Africa in the distance, sunning on the warm rocks, munching on provincial Spanish ham and Manchego cheese, drinking Spanish beer and talking to the locals who couldn’t give one shit about the Kardashians, is a day that I cherish. Take a look…
Animals are everywhere at the property… Free to roam as they please. There is always a dog or cat underfoot, birds chirping away in their antique cages, and some very special burros (or are they called donkeys?) Whatever they are, they are part of the family. A very special burro is kept close to the house as it lost its mother… It even came to dinner once. The much loved fourth child needed a name so the children all wrote down their favorite names. Diandra, ever the diplomat’s daughter, decided that the three children would all have their say in the donkeys name… Hence, the name of the donkey… Bambi Darth Vader Douglas. And of course because this burro is a chic burro, it wears a Maasai warrior collar. Take a look…
Gracie, Blanca, the ivory Doberman, and a couple of friendly burros on the property.
Grace feeding Bambi Darth Vardar Douglas
Okay, now let’s look at some random photos from over the years…
On our way to the secret restaurant via boat.
Secret lunch spot
Click on arrow for a quick video of yours truly.
Yolanda and me at Son Marroig
Okay, you can exhale now. I mean, let’s be honest, is that house the greatest place on earth or what? Not only is S’Estaca historical, chic and top-notch but it is also welcoming, loving and filled with friends and family. Exactly how little summer cottage should be, non? Gracie is excited to be spending her 20th birthday next week at S’Estaca with Diandra and the children. It will be the second time she has spent her birthday there…
I am grateful that I was fortunate enough to spend five summers with Diandra, friends and children in Mallorca and I will cherish all of my memories. Muchas gracias Señora Douglas.