La Belle Helene, St. Lucia
Photography by Dan Christaldi.
Furiously coveted by French and British empires, St Lucia - known as ‘Helen of the West Indies’ in reference to the mythical Helen of Troy – seems the perfect setting for La Belle Heléne. Possessing all the pomp and circumstance of a royal residence, but cleverly tempered with innate Caribbean chic, La Belle Heléne’s impressive coralstone façade ascends boldly into the heavens, guarded by St Lucia’s emblematic, twin peaks, Les Gros and Petit Pitons. Winding through the densely forested hillside, home to Jacquot parrots and purple-throated hummingbirds, the steep approach to the villa’s grand-pillared entranceway is an exercise in tantalising anticipation, culminating in the first sudden glimpse of the Palladian-style Great House below.
Coupling aristocratic grandeur with exotic, tropical, La Belle Heléne is designed to impress. Comprising 20,000 square feet of floor space located on 2.2 acres of land in the secluded southwest of the tiny eastern Caribbean island, the villa sits like a jewel in the crown of the Val des Pitons – a designated UNESCO World Heritage site – overlooking the calm waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Boasting eleven bedrooms and ten bathrooms and capable of housing up to twenty-two guests, the villa’s classical proportions echo those of an eighteenth-century European Manor House: the triangular pediment, cornice moldings and window eyebrows introduce formality to the exterior, while high ceilings and vast interior living rooms amplify the home’s epic scope.
Cleverly retaining its distinct Caribbean flavour through standout features like the coralstone brick work, cedar roof shingles, green shuttered windows and mahogany floors, La Belle Heléne embraces indoor-outdoor living; its expansive covered terraces offer sumptuous cream-cushioned banana-leaf sofas and teak colonial planters’ chairs artfully positioned to maximise magnificent sunset views. Stately square columns, elegant arches and decorative fretwork tie the design together as the lawns sweep dramatically down to a 40-metre-long pool at the bottom of the grounds. Several self-contained thatched cottages look on – a last temptation before the lure of the private pebble-lined coast.
Designed by the owners, the interior possesses a regal quality. A luminous white marble entrance hall, completewith stunning Italian crystal chandelier, sets a sophisticated tone with its lofty coffered ceilings and coral-rendered walls. Wrought iron banisters line the double staircases up to the six first-floor bedrooms, with views straight through a central foyer and out to the sea. Characterised by vaulted ceilings and French doors opening onto outdoor sitting areas, bedrooms feature subtle colour palettes in deference to the intense tropical surroundings.
A generous master suite, featuring a green marble ensuite bathroom with his-and-hers rain-showers, WCs and cedar-tree closets, as well as a heavenly plunge pool with views of the Petit Piton, mixes Swedish and Caribbean influences in its choice of eighteenth-century fabrics, antique furnishings and gilded mirrors – all designed to draw the eye out toward the sweeping ocean vistas.
Downstairs the expansive living and dining rooms pair eighteenth-century antiques – many sourced from Swedish auction houses – with more contemporary elements such as locally produced table linens, woven decorative baskets and straw rugs to create intriguing design combinations.
Borne of a bygone era of lavishness and luxury, La Belle Heléne unequivocally palatial, a perfect match for the striking natural beauty of its surroundings. Harnessing the primeval vertical drama of Les Pitons, the plummeting valleys and rich biodiversity, it stands proud – a fitting tribute to the monumental splendour of its setting, and a fine dedication to its muse… La Belle Heléne of the West Indies.
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