Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Beach Houses #6 - Jamaica

imageIn this age of glitzy resorts, where bigger is better, and fancy ostentatiousness reigns, there's something to savor about the low-key charm of a hotel whose hey days in the 50's is long passed.  Round Hill Hotel and Villas opened its doors in 1953 on a  100 acre peninsula on Montego Bay, Jamaica.   The land was was once occupied by a sugar plantation and its 18th century  manor house is today the location of the hotel's spa.  The hotel is comprised of just 36 ocean front guestrooms and 27 privately owned villas.   Back when the resort was first opened,  both American and European socialites were invited to invest in the resort and build their own villas there.   The original shareholders included:   Noel Coward, Adele Astaire, Bill Paley, Lord and Lady Ednam, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Hammerstein, Clive Brook, Jack and Natasha Wilson, the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Tiarks and Viscount and Viscountess Rothermere.  Today, the famous have mostly left the Jamaican resort in search for something more glamorous and exotic.  There is, though, something to be said for tradition and the continuity of quiet elegance and genteel customs, which is exactly why Round Hill continues to thrive despite the intense competition in the vacation industry. 

Although Round Hill is no longer a magnet for the well heeled, it does boast one very famous villa owner.  Lifestyle maven Ralph Lauren owns, not one, but two villas on the property. Ralph and Ricky Lauren both adore their homes at Round Hill and it's exclusive atmosphere fits right in with Ralph's own adopted image of "old wealth."  Through the years, Round Hill has maintained it's reputation as being a refined place of great beauty and quiet elegance.   Operating during the winter months of the high season and, on a smaller scale during the off season, the villas are available to let when their owners are not in  residence.  Recently, Round Hill underwent  a major refurbishing headed by Ralph Lauren himself who redecorated all 36 of the Pineapple House guest rooms using his own brand of furniture and using Waterworks for the bathrooms.   Two new infinity pools were built and the Spa was also spruced up.  If you are looking for a quiet place to vacation, with great privacy and old world charm and manners, Round Hill may be just the place for you.



The 36 ocean front Pineapple House guest rooms were recently  newly decorated by Ralph Lauren using furniture from his eponymous line.  The decoration included adding white stone floors and white wood ceilings combined with white bedding and hot pink and navy blue accents. 




Blue and white porcelains, and pink and blue pillows and throws --- Ralph Lauren's touch is obvious here!



The bathrooms are a gorgeous mix of Waterworks fixtures and country inspired beadboard -  my favorite combination!



The 27 villas are decorated by the owners, so before you book a room be sure to check out each villa's individual decor on the hotel's web site!  These privately owned homes resemble each other as most were originally designed by the same architect.  The Round Hill "look" is British Colonial chic, with gorgeous mahogany shutters and high, vaulted wooden ceilings with fans.    This particular villa is exceptionally attractive with its vintage rattan furniture and crisp white slipcovers with red accents.  Through the French doors, onto the covered veranda, the view of Montego Bay is gorgeous.



This villa was originally owned by Fred Astaire's sister, Adele.   The arched mahogany French doors are exceptionally attractive.  Notice how in many of the villas, authentic Jamaican straw mats are used instead of more trendy seagrass or sisal.  Most villas share the same roof lines, replete with exposed rafters.



The bedroom of Adele Astaire's villa.  Notice how gorgeous the hardwood floors are!   Much of the furniture in the various villas is made from native Jamaican mahogany wood.




Villa #17 is my favorite one.  I could actually move in here today and be quite  happy with the decor.  White slipcovers with bright accent pillows.  The mahogany louvered doors open up to one of the bedrooms.   I think this villa was decorated using all Ralph Lauren furniture, just as the ocean-front Pineapple House guest rooms were.



One of the Villa #17's bedrooms with the Ralph Lauren bamboo bed and plantation style chairs.



Villa #17, the charming exterior is somewhat different than that of the other villas. 



Villa #12 was originally owned by Oscar Hammerstein.  He met with Maria Von Trapp here to discuss The Sound of Music while it was being written.  Many of the villas have open verandas that are used as outdoor living rooms.



Hammerstein's villa - the master bedroom.



This is Villa #11 where the movie "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" was filmed.



John and Jacqueline Kennedy preferred to stay at this villa, #10.



Villa #6:  matching day beds double as sofas.  I love the two child sized French chairs.  The owners painted the ceiling's outside rafters a cream color, while leaving the inside rafters natural, thus creating a two toned effect.



Villa #5 boasts an Olympic sized swimming pool!  Most villas have their own pool, though a few do not.  The hotel recently built two new infinity pools overlooking Montego Bay for the use of the Pineapple House guests and for the villas without pools.



Villa #19 - situated over three stories, this recently updated  villa is beautifully decorated.




Ralph and Ricky Lauren, Round Hill's most famous villa owners today.  Featured here in Architectural Digest, the Laurens are personal public relations advocates for the island of Jamaica.


The Laurens have owned their main house for over 20 years.  They completely remodeled the villa when it was first bought.  Ricky says when she first saw the villa, the beautiful mahogany doors and shutters were painted gray, and the floors indoors and out were covered in carpet.   Here, Lauren decorates using lots of blue and white porcelains, hurricane lamps, vintage styled rattan furniture from the Lauren furniture line, and baskets everywhere.  The house, located at the top of a hill overlooking Montego Bay is called "High Rock."  Lauren describes his vacation house here:  “The house has an Englishness I’ve always liked,” he says, “an Old World elegance. I call it a jewel.”  Notice how beautiful the mahogany wood doors are!  Also notice the wonderful pair of red chinoiserie mirrors on matching consoles with marble tops.


The house exudes an old-world Jamaican plantation style.  The upholstery is all white linen.  Another outstanding mirror is atop the fireplace.



A corner of the living room shows the shelves piled high with well-read books.  Bright pillows add pops of color to all the white upholstery.



The open air loggia overlooks the swimming pool.   Notice the seating area at the end of the loggia with a wall of mahogany shutters behind it.


The master bedroom with the Ralph Lauren bamboo bed, covered in white linens.   Underfoot, the area rug is banana-leaf matting.  More vintage styled rattan and white slipcovered furniture complete the look. 


Recently, the Laurens added a media room and an adjoining sitting room to High Rock.  The media room is made entirely of mahogany and is surrounded on three sides by the Jamaican rain forest.  This gorgeous room matches the existing architecture of the villa exactly and it is impossible to tell it is a later addition.  




The villa's original swimming pool was the size of a bath tub, according to  Ricky, so the Laurens replaced it with a larger pool suitable for swimming laps.  The loggia sits at the back of this garden area.



Recently, the Laurens purchased another villa, #26 which sits directly beach front on Montego Bay.  They renamed the villa "White Orchid" and decorated it with white marble floors, white walls, and white linen furniture from  Lauren's furniture line.


The White Orchid was built by William Paley for his wife Babe, pictured above in front of the villa.  The Paleys abandoned Jamaica for the Bahamas in the  60's where they developed the exclusive resort Lyford Cay.



The White Orchid's decor is strictly white with accents of navy blue.  The atmosphere is more beachy here than at High Rock, the Lauren's primary residence on Jamaica.



The terrace of the White Orchid was expanded, its doors were widened and heightened and the roof line was extended by three feet.


Ralph and Ricky Lauren have adopted Jamaica as their home in more ways than one.  Their presence is felt through all their generous charitable contributions to the island.   It seems unlikely that the Laurens will leave Jamaica for another more trendy resort.  They seem perfectly happy in the privacy of their two beautiful homes at Round Hill



An ad for Ralph Lauren Home showcases the bamboo bed he used for the guest rooms at Pineapple House.


Another Ralph Lauren ad showing his wicker furniture and a mahogany table used at Round Hill.

Memories of good times at Round Hill Hotel  and Villas:


Famous guests at the Jamaican resort during the heydays of the 50's:   Rosalind Russell at a black tie affair, probably New Years Eve judging by the balloons.


Clark Gable with Liz Pringle, one of the original owners of Round Hill.


Adele Astaire, happy to be home in her villa!



Poor little rich girl, Gloria Vanderbilt.


And last, a very young and thin John Kennedy, before he was President, at Round Hill.

Round Hill has produced a book that recalls its illustrious history during the 50s and 60s.  Available here, it makes an fascinating read for anyone interested in high society of that era.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Beach Houses #5 - The Dominican Republic



The charming Oscar de la Renta at his home in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

The always dapper and extremely handsome courtier Oscar de la Renta was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, a large island in  the Western Antilles of the Caribbean.  It's history and culture is one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere - Christopher  Columbus discovered the island  on his maiden voyage of 1492.  Two thirds of the island Hispaniola is occupied by the Dominican Republic, the other third is the independent country of Haiti.  Oscar de la Renta has remained loyal to his birthplace.  He lives part of the year there in a beautiful beach house in the area known as Punta Cana.  Previously, Oscar lived in another, more populated area of the island, but along with his move to the resort town of Punta Cana, he became a major investor and tourist attraction there.    His cachet draws the upper classes to Punta Cana where they can relax in relative privacy behind the gated doors of its beach community.  President and Mrs. Clinton are among some of the regular visitors to Oscar's compound.  Other close by neighbors are Mikhail Baryshnikov  and co investor with Oscar, singer Julio Iglesias.  A few years ago interior designer Bunny Williams and husband,  antiquarian John Rosselli, also built a house in Punta Cana, using the same architect as Oscar, the Cuban born Ernesto Buch.   But, don't let the famous names scare you off.   If you want to enjoy Punta Cana,  you don't have to have king's ransom to do so.  The affordable, all inclusive Club Med has a beautiful resort on the island.  For more exclusive digs, there is always Oscar's and Julio's hotel, the Tortuga Bay.  Enjoy!


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An aerial view of Oscar's beach house on Punta Cana.  The compound was designed by the famous architect Ernesto Buch, known for his many houses he has designed in the Dominican Republic.


Oscar and his wife heading home.  Note the dual staircases that lead to the piano nobile, or the second floor - which is actually the main living area.  At the beach, Buch employs the piano nobile for the sweeping views of the ocean it provides along with the protection against rising tides during storms.


The open air pool pavilion, built in the same style as the main house, albeit much smaller.  The home and its outbuildings are built of coquina, native coral stone and stucco, applied by hand. 

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Inside the house on the piano nobile, evening means the candles need to be lit for the night.  Immense votives are everywhere.  The large wood table divides the room into two equal halves.   The center table is piled high with art books and a large blue and white bowl holds an array of orchids.  On the dark hardwood floors is a huge, threadbare blue and white antique dhurri rug with a Greek key border.  Tall French doors on both sides of the room open to the porches overlooking the ocean on one side and the gardens on the other.  The walls are made of coral stone.


Apologies for the poor picture quality!!!!

Both sides of the room are anchored by matching fireplaces with overmantel mirrors and flanking bookcases.  A  large limestone pediment tops the mirrors.   The large slipcovered sofa between the bookcases is from Oscar's furniture line with Century.  Oversized blue and white porcelain vases became lamps. 


A close up of the living room with its coral walls and oversized architectural elements which help bring the huge room back to a more human sized scale.


A guest room with a white canopy bed and striped dhurri rug.  The walls are a soft apricot stucco.  Notice the  exotic secretary on the right.


On the balcony, the designer introduces his outdoor furniture line for Century, using his Punta Cana home as the perfect stage.  I love what he's wearing here:  white linen with the sleeves pushed up along with white linen pants!  Hey, Oscar -  can I borrow your outfit?


The Way He Was:  Before the move to Punta Cana, Oscar lived in Casa de Campo, a more touristy section.  Here is his wooden house - blue and white ikats abound, along with blue and white garden seats.  This summer, Oscar's fashion line featured many ikat fabrics, proving his  continual   love for it.    Here, he's still wearing white linen!

Oscar De La Renta (© Slim Aarons)


And one other shot, by Slim Aarons, at Casa de Campo.



Tortuga Bay, the resort that Oscar and Julio built and partly own - a small boutique hotel, Oscar also designed it and furnished it with pieces from his own furniture line.


The suites have limestone floors and white walls.   Oscar's famous slipcovered sofa is here too.  The green painted coffee table is adorable!


The master bedrooms in the villas have a large canopy bed.


The other bedrooms have rice beds painted black.  Imagine waking up here each morning!   Heavenly!


The small dining room that serves the hotel's even smaller  guest roster.  Exclusivity is the important word here!


Oscar, sans socks, proudly shows off the villa's living room.  He's so handsome, it's hard to resist putting his picture on here!!!  Here he is wearing yellow instead of white linen to coordinate with Tortuga Bay's yellow design theme.


After spending a Christmas vacation with Oscar, Bunny Williams and John Rosselli bought three acres there and hired Oscar's architect, Ernesto Buch to design them a house on Punta Cana.  After dating 15 years, the couple finally married right before the house, La Colina,  was completed.


The cover of Bunny Williams' new book shows the living room on the piano nobile.  A large rectangular table divides the room in half.   The last part of the book is devoted to the Punta Cana beach house.  Available here.


The great room on the piano nobile, again, designed with antiques from various homes the couple own, along with from their shops.  Antique textiles liven up the antique sofa and chairs.  The large mirror is one that John sells - he enlarged it for this home and painted it white.  Blue and white porcelains, lamps and garden seats are favorites of John.  This room is large, 30 x 50, which called for a higher than usual ceiling, according to Bunny.   My favorite item here is the taupe and cream striped dhurri rug! 

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A close up of the right side of the room.  Notice the beautiful shell table with the scalloped apron and the white elephant.  There's also a beautiful pagoda.  The base of the lamp perfectly matches the light blue slipcovers.  The framed pair of wallpaper panels perfectly set off the whole vignette.


The porch on the piano nobile is furnished with chaises from Oscar's collection for Century.


The ground level porch features a charming scalloped bench along with wicker chairs.


John's library, where he watches late afternoon TV??????   I'm not sure with a beach this gorgeous, that I'd be watching a TV indoors!!!  The massive tortoise shell is spectacular, as is the console upon which  it sits.  Notice the two cattle next to the shell.  It's accessories such as these that make a Williams-Rosselli interior unique and highly personal.


John's library with a wall of Swedish bird prints.  Anthropologie sells a wonderful copy of this set of bird prints.


The pool house doubles as a guest house. 


On a shelf, a collection of corals and shells decorates the pool pavilion.


In the master bedroom, an American empire bed shares space with a painted Swedish settee at the foot of the bed.  The large carved shell is 18th century, Italian.  Large botanicals flank the bed.  Notice how the door is painted black - a favorite design trick I like to use to make less important doors look, well, more important!


The house today, with its plantings lushly growing over the iron staircases.


From Ernesto Buch's web site, the house upon completion before the landscaping grew.


The front or back? of the house has a water feature than runs down the lawn in a long, skinny river.  Again, the landscaping had just  been planted and looks rather forlorn here!


Buch's site plan for the Williams-Rosselli compound.  The pool is not directly in front of the house, but instead, off to the right.  And interesting too, the house is not beach front, but rather on a small hill overlooking the bay.  Floor plans of this house and Oscar's are  available on Buch's web site for your perusal.  Additionally, there are several other Punta Cana houses featured that Buch has designed.


Buch's exquisite drawings show "Bunny's Den" above the three car garage.  I wonder if this is her beach office?

This house is located in Casa de Campo, Oscar's former neighborhood.  The architect here was Jacquelin Robertson, and the design team was MAC II, headed by Mica Ertugun. 

Here, the house is, like the other two shown, built of native coral stone and stucco.  The main difference in the Buch and Robertson designs is the piano nobile, or second floor.  The Robertson house is on the ground level and does not have the piano nobile.  Beautiful though it is, it doesn't have quite the commanding appearance as the Buch designed houses do. 


The large living area, like in the other two beach homes, is separated by a center table.   The room, built of native coral stone, resembles Oscar's living room, built of the same material.


A close up of the decor:  Gorgeous wood French doors lead to the outside.  The bookcases are made of the same wood.  Blue and white porcelains accent the room.   Notice on the far left the fluted wood column and urn - so classic!   The choice of fabrics and their colors would not be my first choice and they leave me puzzled.


A close up showing the texture of the gorgeous coral walls.  The mirror and console appear to have grown organically out of the stone.  Can I tell you how much I hate the green fabric on the chairs?  The house is magnificent, but the fabric choices are not Ertugun's best work.  Agree or disagree?


Here in the master bedroom, the architecture is breathtaking.  The high ceiling and beamed roof, the gorgeous wood French doors, the coral walls all add to the room's richness of design.   The bed's mosquito netting provides the softness and romance to the setting. 


The porch, with it's coral stone floor and columns.  The table is also made of the same material.  Notice the charming wicker chair.  Here, the outdoor furniture is much more romantic than the more contemporary line of Oscar de la Renta outdoor furniture used in the other two houses.  Which do you prefer?  The vintage wicker or the newer version?


For the masses:  Club Med Punta Cana, a family destination, is located near by Tortuga Bay, a much more exclusive address.  But, the beach is the same and so is the scenery, and this resort looks pretty good to me!  One of Ben's and my favorite trips we have taken was to a Club Med - so it's a vacation spot I highly recommend, especially if you have small children.


Sailing and swimming at Club Med Punta Cana.


An aerial shot of the beach and the swimming pool.  OK, I'm ready to go!!  This looks just a little bit nicer than South Padre Island, especially after Hurricane Dolly came and damaged it this week.  And no!  We are not going there this summer  because of Dolly!!!    :(


Club Med Punta Cana has been totally remodeled recently.  These rooms are furnished in pinks and reds.  The bedroom is separated from a sitting room by a screen of pickets.  The floor is coral stone.


Wait a minute - THIS is Club Med???????  Wow - a bathtub!  We we were there, we had just a tiny shower stall.


And the biggest surprise of them all?  A flat screen TV.  Whatever happened to the "no telephones, no televisions" rule at Club Med?  And do they still sing "Hands Up" every minute of every day???

If you do want to visit Club Med at Punta Cana or anywhere else in the world, be sure to call my friend, Eddie.  His company offers discounts to all the villages.  Tell them Joni sent you!  And no, I'm not getting a kick back either.  I actually used to work for Eddie and took reservations over the phone from my home for him.    Call Mill Travel at:   1-800-242-6378  in order to get the discount.

The beaches at the Dominican Republic are so beautiful, but the architecture is even more so!  Don't forget to visit Ernesto Buch's web site for more pictures of various other homes he has designed on the island.