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28: NIKIVAN, their new Ibizan Villa in Cala d'Or

This corner of the island had, during the twentieth century, developed such a beauty that visitors who went there, once, were never happy till they had returned to make quite sure their memories were not playing them false.

When the Smirnoff's moved to Palma for the winter their minds were made up; they, too, must build themselves an Ibizan villa in Cala d'Or. With an eye to the future Ivan bought a well-placed plot of ground, large enough not only for his immediate needs but also, should he want it, for an extension that would make the original building into a small, private hotel. The location of the Smirnoff's new estate was high up on the south bank of Cala Gran, on Carrer d'Es Marques de Comillas, 10.

Ivan's last address was in number 10

Palma offered cosmopolitian society of a different sort - film stars, socialites, nightclubbers. Ivan liked them well enough but his heart remained with the community at Cala d'Or. He and Niki went to many happy, sophisticated parties, but they often stayed quietly at home, reading and listening to the radio. They were actually occupying a charmingly furnished villa at San Augustin.

But every week they hoped to hear that their own place was ready; getting a house built in Majorca, they were finding, was a protracted business. There were endless discussions and dramatic scenes with the contractors, a family business, and Ivan enjoyed them hugely, leaving most of the negotiations to Niki, whose gift for languages was a godsend.

Niki had explained in detail the way she wanted the kitchen laid out, the height of the sink, the clearance required on the inside stair that ran up to the penthouse studio. "Si, Si!" beamed papa builder, his sons busily making notes of everything, all would be as the señora wished.

But when the Smirnoff's called to examine progress they found that the "casa" was going up not according to their wishes, but to the plans the building family had always followed before. In the kitchen the sink was placed a foot or so from the floor, in the Majorquin fashion; the headroom on the stairway was so restricted that Ivan risked decapitation every time he went up or down.

Firmly Niki demanded that the sink be heightened.
"Por Dios!" exclaimed papa; "in the whole of Majorca is no sink ever higher than this one!"

It looked like deadlock till one of the sons reminded all concerned that Doña Niki would never even have to see the sink once the house was built, all kitchen work would be for the servant.

On another dreadful occasion papa builder fell to the floor seemingly in a dead faint; his sons, casting themselves on his body, burst into load tears and reproached:

"See what you have done!" they wailed to Ivan. "You have killed our father!"

Of course papa builder was not dead, he had not even fainted. And in the end the house was built to the required specification, but at much more than the original estimate.

Never mind, the Smirnoff's were learning how to handle the native labour force, and their house was so lovely when it was completed that they forgot their impatience at the long time they had had to wait for it.

Niki & Ivan in front of their villa in 1952.

The Smirnoff's stamped their personality on the sturdy white villa in a couple of ways that astonished the community. Most of the villas had Spanish names denoting their appearance, location, or the fancy of the builders. Where a 'made up' name was used it was skilfully given a Spanish look and a Spanish sound like "Enelha" which held the Spanish sounds of the owner's initials NLH.

Carrer d'Es Marques De Comillas, 10

So there were raised eyebrows when the Casa Smirnoff was fitted with hand-glazed white tiles carrying the word NIKIVAN in black letters. The name was constructed out of NIKI and IVAN.

The inner tile with the name of NIKIVAN is still to be seen in year 2007. One can also see that there must have been some tiles with a blue decoration surrounding the name. There are still some remnants of blue to be seen at the edges of the 'name-tile'.

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