On the Canary island of Lanzarote, Spanish model Jon Kortajarena has built himself a refuge in complete harmony with nature.
“My refuge is more than a summer resort,” says Jon Kortajarena about his house on the north coast of Lanzarote. Looking inside, with its lack of artifice and imperfect walls of cement and sand, his statement makes sense. He’s one of the few men in the world who can be called a supermodel, starring in music videos with Madonna and making his film debut in Tom Ford’s A Single Man. But on this island, he is surrounded by only the basics, without luxuries. “I’ve removed everything superficial – I don’t even have a TV – to be able to enjoy the sunsets. I’ve been traveling for years at a really hard pace and with an intense social life, so I needed a place to rest. And I’ve got it,” he shares.
Kortajarena’s connection with the volcanic island is not new. Although he was born and raised in Bilbao in northern Spain, he lived part of his childhood on Lanzarote. Ten years ago, he bought this 1970s house with its views of wild beaches and solidified lava landscapes. He renamed it Casa Sua and set about reforming it, staying true to the aesthetic developed by César Manrique in Lanzarote by working with one of the architect’s collaborators, José María Sánchez Pérez.
“I knew he would understand me,” Kortajarena explains. “Sometimes I would arrive at the hotel at night and start drawing new ideas, and the next day I would propose to him how we could integrate them.” The result was a residence of more than 200sqm with a main floor that includes two en suite bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, and dining room, as well as a basement and second floor. “One of my childhood friends on the Canary Islands, Morena Bucher, helped to decorate it. It took almost five years to finish. It was very complicated and slow, although I tried to come here whenever I could. I didn’t want to lose control. It was a challenge explaining to the workers that I didn’t want the walls to be perfectly smooth – I wanted them to preserve the cracks and roughness. It’s important to do it with love and sensitivity.”
The outside areas were key to him. The grandiose terrace features a round metal bathtub forged by a Navarrese blacksmith, and an imposing volcanic stone from which the shower and even a toilet was carved. “A small eccentricity,” he observes. The walls were covered with mirrors and lush indigenous vegetation: Canary palms, cactus, and vivid bougainvillea. The interior is filled with pieces he fell in love with while traveling, from a wooden table in Bali to a marble basin found in New York and a chandelier in a Turkish bazaar. Objects that have traveled half the world are mixed with ones he designed himself, such as the black velvet sofa and the pulley lamp in his bedroom. The materials are in keeping with the idea of a sanctuary. The iron beams are combined with wooden frames from Biscay and the glass walls – like the one separating the bedroom from the living room – are joined by theatrical linen curtains and polished cement floors.
“I’ve been told that the house reflects my personality,” he says. “On the outside, it’s more glamorous, more striking, but inside it is very intimate. The beauty is in the austerity, where there is nothing superficial.”
Jon Kortajarena’s Island
Tequise: “The Sunday market in this small town is one of my must-visits.”
Famara: “One of the most untouched places on the island, with sandy streets, the best fish, and spectacular views.”
César Manrique: “The artist and architect who gave shape to the image of the island. My favorite places to visit are Cueva de
los Verdes and Jameos del Agua.”
Órzola and Haría: “First, to eat paella by the sea and second, for its landscape with a thousand palm trees.”
Lagomar Restaurant: “I like to visit this restaurant in Tequise.”
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Photography: Ricardo Labougle
Style: Amaya de Toldeo