Moskito Island, British Virgin Islands
Set amid emerald isles and turquoise waters in the British Virgin Islands, Sir Richard Branson's latest tropical retreat allows the natural beauty of the location to take centre stage.
Words by Natasha Were. Photos courtesy of Virgin Limited Edition.
In late 2015, Richard Branson unveiled his new Caribbean hideaway, the Branson Estate on Moskito Island. Carving out his personal paradise on this 125-acre undeveloped island has taken over five years, but the result has been worth the wait: a sensational blend of tropical architecture, understated luxury and environmentally-sensitive design.
Located at the eastern end of the island, the Branson Estate comprises three luxury villas – Headland House, Beach Villa and Mangrove Villa – connected by raised walkways, plus a fully equipped recreation area and expansive clubhouse. Architect Ken Kao’s inspired design succeeds in outwardly nestling the 11-bedroom estate into the landscape, whilst the interiors allow the stunning backdrop to be the dominant feature.
Although each villa exudes a particular character and ambience, something the architect says was dictated by the specific siting of each one, as a whole, the Branson Estate is a synthesis of the Balinese and Caribbean vernacular, where the boundaries between indoors and outdoors blur, and traditional styles are refined and modernised.
Headland House, Branson’s own home on the island, sits on a rocky outcrop, where the vistas are superlative. The full effect of the ocean panorama is best appreciated from the circular bar in the great room, where a corner window perfectly frames the views of reef, open ocean and his other private island, Necker, on the horizon.
Furnished and decorated in soft creams and whites, the muted palette is a soothing contrast to the vivid tones beyond. Seashell decorations, turquoise accents and towering potted plants all maintain a connection between the luxurious interiors and the natural surroundings.
Similarly, sand and driftwood were the inspiration behind the pale yellows, greys and taupes of the Beach Villa’s décor. Subtly feminine, with a combination of rustic and classical styles, this is Branson’s daughter’s house. With folding glass doors on three sides, the living area merges with the deck and infinity pool, which in turn appear to reach out to the ocean. It is in the master bedroom, where a bed dressed in crisp white linens is centrally positioned below a steeply angled, timber ceiling that the architectural drama plays out.
Branson's son’s house, Mangrove Villa, is elevated among the trees, and exudes and altogether more masculine feel, with dark wood ceilings and floors, large sculptures and ethnic woodcarvings. With four bedrooms, all with en suite bathrooms and private verandas, and a wrap around deck with private pool, it is no less opulent, however.
The breezy, open plan Beach House was conceived to cater to residents’ and their guests’ every whim. A full bar, pool table, dining and seating areas are laid out beneath a soaring roof, whose deep overhangs shade the graceful curves of the pool deck. The pool itself meanders along in the lee of the building, sheltered from the strongest breezes, and below that a beach is the launch pad for all manner of water sports.
Throughout the estate, the use of wood, thatched roofs and natural tones soften the lines and appearance of the buildings, ensuring they sit in harmony with nature. The environmental sensitivity of the design does not stop there, however. Although invisible to the unschooled eye, the construction and engineering also incorporate a host of features that ensure it is both energy-efficient and low impact.
Each villa has been positioned to catch the prevailing breezes and make the most of the ocean views, and flexible glazing allows passive cooling of the interiors. The peaked roofs are insulated to prevent heat gain and incorporate skylights to reduce lighting needs during the day. By building on piers, designing cantilevered decks, and connecting villas with wooden bridges, the existing vegetation and mangroves have been conserved and the habitat of the endemic dwarf gecko has been protected.
The Branson Estate may be newly built, yet it seems firmly rooted in place. The clever design, organic shapes and natural materials create a place of undeniable warmth – a sense of a home, rather than merely a house. By framing a different view from every window, ushering the outdoors in, and ensuring minimal impact on the natural surroundings, it’s a home that is also an eloquent tribute to its owner’s love of this unique part of the world.
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