Wednesday, January 6, 2010

French Island Elegance

I am not a fan of winter. That is actually an understatement. I am downright miserable in cold weather. I look forward to the holidays and then come January 1st, I'm over it and I want my spring and summer back, STAT! On this particularly cold, dreary, gray day I found myself looking at my beach vacation pictures, which is one of the small ways that I, both, relax and torture myself. Anyhow, I came across the file that houses my honeymoon photos and was lost for a good twenty minutes in French island love. When I finally came out of my trance I thought that a little island style might be a good post, as I'm sure most people are sick of the brown, dead, cold, blah blah blah...
My husband and I had the unbelievable privilege of spending our honeymoon on the amazing island of St. Barthelemy (St. Barths) in the French West Indies. Just a fun little tidbit...I didn't know that was where we were going...my husband completely surprised me. He told me to pack for the tropics and when we arrived at the airport I found out where we were headed!
Back off ladies, he's taken!
St. Barths is a dream. It is by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! Clear, azure water, unspoiled beaches, postcard worthy photo ops EVERYWHERE you look. I fell in love with the West Indies style while I was there and it will always hold a special place in my little designer heart.
"If the French Riviera were to collide with the Caribbean, the result would be St. Barths. Think yachts, dark sunglasses, and mopeds careening around jagged green hills dotted with bright orange rooftops. Add a few hairpin turns and a fleet of cessnas landing at the seaside airport and you have a scene right out of a James Bond movie - dubbed in French, of course" Coastal Living
Well, Coastal Living, you have painted the perfect picture of this caribbean jewel!
The lobby of our hotel, Hotel Guanahani & Spa
The bright colors and relaxed charm of the Caribbean are mixed with the sophistication of France. It is the perfect blend.
The hotel that we stayed at was comprised of these quaint little bungalows right on top of a crystal clear cove. The architectural details of our bungalow were so very West Indies. The gingerbread moulding along the roof line adorns almost every traditional structure on the island.
Inside of the bungalow.
The pool at our resort.
Bungalow at our resort.
The Clarins Spa courtyard...the center is a koi pond covered in lilly pads and the structure in the center is where the massage tables are.
Hotel Guanahani, our hotel, has one of the exclusive and luxurious Clarins Spas that I had the distinct privilege of visiting while we were there. The hubs had some appointments booked for me as part of the surprise...did I tell you how much of a catch he is?!
The pool at the Clarins spa. To the right of the pool is a cragged cliff that drops off into the crystal ocean below.
Some of the many breathtaking views from around the island.
Here we are, newly married and happy as clams.
Frank and I having a mid afternoon libation on Shell Beach.
Through the mangroves to one of the many unspoiled beaches. There are no structures on most of the beaches so you have to walk out to them and most of the time we were alone because the population on the island is so small. It feels like a scene right out of The Blue Lagoon :-)
The center of town where all the overpriced shopping is. It looks like a postcard doesn't it?!
The style of the West Indies, that I fell so deeply in love with, is tropical with heavy French Colonial and Swedish influences. The islanders use a lot of ultra-heavy woods, like teak, mahogany and ebony, that can withstand the tropical weather. Their designs are very clean and simple. The natural colors of the Caribbean are brought in with turquoise, coral, grassy greens, purples and pinks and they are contrasted against crisp white, all while being anchored by the earthy and rich browns of the woods used in the furniture and floors.
The structures are very un-fussy. They leave the ceiling beams exposed and the paneling on the walls uncovered.
Large windows and doors are usually the prominent aspect in the room to allow for coastal breezes to drift effortlessly through.


There is rarely a definition between the inside and outdoors. I think this is the only place where I would be considered an "out-doorsy-kinda-gal".
I love the exposed wood on the ceiling and the casual and, commonly, slipcovered upholstery.


The large four poster beds, set high off the floor are very common and allow air to circulate around the sleeping area. Notice all of the colors, that you would find alive and swimming around a coral reef, so elegantly contrasted with deep browns and crisp white.



Exotic tropical hardwoods and indigenous stone. Large doors to allow the fresh coastal breezes in, and simple textiles and furnishings.

I think this is a perfect example of the marriage of tropical and colonial. Look at the exposed teak ceiling meshed effortlessly with the colonial columns.


If you love the look as much as I do, here are some furniture selections from Hickory Chair and Somerset Bay to help you achieve the aesthetic.






If you would like to see more architecturally significant dwellings and estates in the West Indies check out this cocktail book (you know I love my cocktail books) by Michael Connors who is a West Indian decorative arts scholar.

I hope our little jaunt into the French West Indies has dragged you out of the winter doldrums if only for a bit...now back to the real world....

2 comments:

Alli Aars said...

LOVE it. Oh my gosh I am dying in this cold. This post allowed me to "escape" even if for a moment. I've never been to St. Barths! Always wanted to go...

Maria Beck, ASID said...

Thanks Alli! It is freezing!...as you can tell, I highly recommend it for a vacay spot :-)