A villa worthy of James Bond!

A villa worthy of James Bond!

Using technology to transform a swimming pool into a helicopter pad or entertainment space, and LED lights to colour its glass balconies, Majorcan luxury villa  Chameleon House seems to have it all, writes Andrew Allen.

Chameleon House, in the exclusive hillside residential estate of Son Vida, is one of those sprawling luxury houses that appear to lack for nothing. At the press of a button, the entire floor of the 1,830-square-foot main swimming pool rises to ground level and becomes an entertainment space or even a helicopter landing pad - like something out of a James Bond film!

The process, which takes around 10 minutes, also includes swinging the 9-metre, or almost 30-foot, bridge that spans the pool over to one side of the terrace, where it can be used as a bench. It is not the only unusual feature of the 2,496-square-metre residence, which looks out over the Bay of Palma and the Mediterranean. The villa derives its name from the LED lights embedded in its 150 square metres of glass balconies and some interior spots.

 The lights can be programmed to illuminate the house in a variety of colours, and the glass in the balconies was specially engraved to ensure the light reflects throughout the entire pane for maximum effect.

The 10-bedroom property is a 10-minute drive from Palma, the capital of the Balearic Islands. It is listed at 39 million euros, with Engel & Völkers Palma Surroundings. The project began five years ago, when Marabú Properties, a German/Swiss consortium, selected Juan Carlos Erralde, based in Majorca, and Patricio Muñoz of Toledo, Spain, as the winners of an architectural competition to design the house. Erralde, who now works full time for the developer’s project management team APM, or Arquiproject Mediterráneo, says the villa was the most exciting and challenging design he has ever worked on.

 “From a technical point of view, it was a complex project,” he said. “Strict planning constraints here in Majorca forced us to adopt a design to make the most of a relatively small parcel of land.”The steep slope of the 6,500-square-meter site forced the architects to create two principal buildings - one for the main living space, the other for the spa and indoor swimming pool - while planning regulations required that the structures be separated by a minimum of three metres.

An underground tunnel is the only physical link between the two buildings, although the design used the pool terrace to link them visually. The hydraulic floor in the 1.6-meter-deep swimming pool was another way of dealing with the site’s limited space. “The idea for this came from a member of the developers’ consortium who had a similar feature, though smaller, installed on his swimming pool in Switzerland,” Erralde explained. The system uses two subterranean pistons to lift the 239-ton concrete floor as 2,31,000 litres of water are drained off through specially designed sluices. Its Swiss manufacturers sent engineers to install the feature, which Erralde estimated to cost 4,59,000 euros. There is also a second, smaller outdoor pool.

The architects themselves came up with the LED lighting. “We’ve installed the same feature on much smaller houses in Majorca, obviously to a far lesser extent. As it is basically just engraving in the glass, it adds little to the overall cost,” Erralde said. “What was important to us was that it was a subtle feature. We didn’t want the house to look like a disco.” Another challenge was finding and installing the large triple-glazed, frameless windows, the largest of which measures three by six meters. The German manufacturer Schüco developed a prototype of the large panes but had yet to bring them to market when the house was being built. “We approached them and they put us in touch with another manufacturer capable of producing the glass panels,” Erralde said.

The panes, the largest of which weighed nearly 900 kilograms, had to be embedded into the structural concrete of the exterior walls. Most of the panels are so heavy that they have to be opened electronically, but some can be opened manually in an emergency, he said, adding that they cost a total of about 1.5 million euros.One part of the main house, designed by the architects, in collaboration with the Belgian interior designer Yvonne Hennes, includes a library, cinema and wine cellar as well as a bar with a distinctive ceiling decoration that resembles floating drops of mercury.

The walls of much of the main house are finished with a special stucco that required eight coats of paint! The main house also has a glass elevator that leads to the garage, a separate service elevator and a staff apartment near the kitchen area. The second structure contains a spa and indoor swimming pool, and there is also a four-bedroom guest house on the property. Outside, Burmese teak was used in finishes for the terraces, patio, pool borders and footbridges over water areas. Binissalem stone, a Majorcan stone that is used in many of the walls bordering the island’s rural roads, was used extensively in the house’s garden walls and parts of the interior, such as the spa.

 

Power is supplemented by dozens of geothermic wells under the two principal buildings and 70 solar panels on the roof of the main house. The technology is controlled from three machinery rooms. “The house is designed to require minimal maintenance and minimal spend on energy,” said Gabriella Muñoz, managing partner of Engel & Völkers Palma Surroundings. “In fact, it has the same main energy consumption as a typical property a quarter of its size.”

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