Charles Marlow was recently featured in a Country Life International article called ‘All being well’ that examined the rising trend in wellness and sustainable properties. Charlie Hill, Partner and Head of Sales for Charles Marlow, was also quoted in a Financial Times ‘How to spend it’ piece speaking about Cas Bernats, an exceptional home for sale on Mallorca’s West Coast that has extensive vegetable gardens, orchards and olive groves and sheep grazing on its land.
Since Charles Marlow started, seven years ago, the company has been determined to do business in a sustainable way that protects, preserves and enhances the environment of Mallorca and Ibiza. Now felt like a good time to speak with Charlie about real estate and environmental awareness.
I also spoke with Oro del Negro, a partner in More Design, the Deià-based architecture, design and landscaping company with whom Charles Marlow often works and Alexander of Mallorca garden and terrace design company Mashamba.
In the FT ‘How to spend it’ piece, Charlie is quoted as saying that Charles Marlow’s international clientele is now ‘looking for sustainable smallholdings to help cut the carbon emissions caused by intensive farming and by the transport and storage associated with mass‑scale agriculture’. Does Charles Marlow have a manifesto regarding ecology and the environment?
‘My brother Patrick and I are committed to leaving the planet better than how we found it,’ he told me. ‘Which means doing our best to make a positive impact. One of the main ways we protect and preserve the environment is by living a sustainable life in Deià and Ibiza that we love. We naturally want to play our part in looking after these beautiful places. We sponsor Mallorca grass roots marine activists Asociación Ondine, which does great work, and support the Ibiza Preservation Foundation. Recently, we were proud to sponsor arts festival Deia 19. We believe artists are instrumental in creating awareness around new ways of living. Our blogs in Deià and Ibiza routinely feature posts that relate to environmental issues in the Balearics and offer a platform to activists we feel are doing important work.’
Why does Charlie think protecting and preserving the environment is so important? ‘To me, what is happening to our planet is an invitation to live in a more harmonious way. It’s why Patrick, my brother, and myself follow a plant-based diet. I don’t see it as saving the planet, she will live on. It’s about saving ourselves.’
[More people] recognise the huge impact of shipping food around the world and they’re producing exciting pioneering initiatives that overlap with the sustainable conversation. The motivation is not profit but to give back and see the land return to its original use, enhancing biodiversity while producing delicious food.
– Charlie Hill, co-founder of Charles Marlow & Bros
You sell mainly to high end clients who travel by air more frequently and tend to have at least one home. How do you align this with your business?
‘We focus on inspiring through our own actions. I’m proud of the business we’ve created and the role it plays in the communities we call home. I would say that we attract people who are successful and love nature. After all, why would you spend a premium on buying a home here because you love the landscape, beaches and so on and not want to help look after it? Protecting the Balearic environment is in everyone’s interest.’
How does Charlie see the future for environmentally sensitive living in the Balearics? ‘Renewable energy will be big,’ he says. ‘But more important will be the shift from simple sustainability to a regenerative culture. This means building structures that leave things better than when you found them.’
And what advice would Charlie give clients who want to make the properties they buy more sustainable or regenerative? ‘I always suggest they speak to More Design.’
Oro grew up in Deià. Helping to sustain and regenerate the village and surrounding area is close to his heart. More Design works in Mallorca, Ibiza and farther afield.
More Design has recently completed an off the grid project that required more than just building green. No plastic was allowed on the site. The property was insulated with mulched, compressed wood paneling and a full stone façade.
Functionality and energy efficiency were critical to create, as Oro puts it, ‘a simple, analog, resilient, healthy home’. The home uses solar power for energy combined with a hi-tech Brunner wood burning oven that burns recycled wood pellets for the winter months.
For Oro, ‘Living sustainably is a frame of mind, a discipline, a new muscle one has to train. It’s great that our clients are waking up to what this brings to a project. Increasingly, More Design integrates ‘bio-construction’ – defined as using living elements to construct an architectural element – into the concept design and development phases of our work.’
More also takes great care to align its work with the Balearic environment and using traditional, local knowledge. ‘We try to use all local resources and materials,’ Oro says, ‘before buying in large carbon footprint imports. It’s fortunate that the traditional Balearic architecture vernacular is extremely sustainable and eco-friendly in essence. We’re reviving and adapting older building techniques such as using lime mortars and paints, adobe, hemp and cooked clay blocks, rammed earth techniques, algae insulation and harvesting olive wood.’
Above all, as Oro points out, ‘our landscape can no longer support golf courses, lawns and pools. It’s critical that we engage in and encourage permaculture practices, soil regeneration, growing our own food and capturing, storing and recycling water intelligently. Drought resistant gardens are of paramount importance.’
For Alexander Warren-Gash, who runs Mashamba with his wife Jennifer, ‘Sustainability is really the very essence of our business. Whether our clients are environmentally aware or not, when we design and create something, we need to be sure that it’s not just going to work in the short term but develop spectacularly in years to come. This can only happen if it’s in tune with the local environment and climate.’
Water is, of course, the biggest challenge when it comes to gardens in the Balearics. ‘Even people with their own bore holes are beginning to have problems with them running dry in the summer months. So it’s really no surprise that dry gardens using drought tolerant plants are becoming more popular. We’re also seeing the same kind of “self-sustainability” that Charlie talked about in the FT. Almost everyone wants a Mediterranean herb garden as well as local fruits trees like citrus, apricot, pomegranate or fig.’
Alexander kindly shared five tips for using water wisely in a Balearic garden:
If you’re keen to find out more about how More or Mashamba can help you make your home and garden more sustainable and regenerative, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.