Sunrise House, Mustique, St. Vincent
Vintage meets visionary at Sunrise House in Mustique.
Words by Juliet Austin. Photography courtesy of The Mustique Company.
Exuding an easy classicism redolent of the colonial Caribbean, Sunrise House descends the steep curve of Mustique’s undulating hillside in tiers from its dramatic seat in the Heavens to the secluded sandiness of Simplicity Beach below. Formerly a pocket of decadence for pop stars, aristocrats, socialites and royalty, Mustique’s tranquil easterly coast seems a lifetime away from the shenanigans of its carousing past, ruled over by its uncrowned monarch, the late Lord Glenconner. Here, cradled in the palm of nature like some fantastical open-air auditorium, the sun illuminates a sea of wild, endless aquamarine, the “ever-fixed mark” that is, paradoxically, both scene-stealing backdrop and star of this sumptuous tropical getaway.
Inspired by unrivalled, sweeping vistas and Mustique’s reputation for guarding privacy at a premium, the owners sought the expertise of US-based architects, Jay Dalgliesh and Mark Bittle of Dalgliesh Gilpin Paxton. Sensitive to the nuances of site, landscape and regional vernacular, lessons learned renovating Les Jolies Eaux – formerly Princess Margaret’s celebrated sanctum designed by Oliver Messel – translated into the scheme for Sunrise House. “From the top looking out to the ocean and then to the palm shaded shore below, the architectural challenge was immediately apparent: to design a complex that would create an exciting process of moving effortlessly from the high drama and expansive views enjoyed above to the intimate beach, where one feels as if one has drifted onto a deserted island, albeit with every desirable luxury,” Dalgliesh expounds.
With five ensuite bedrooms, including that of the achingly pretty beach cottage, the villa possesses all the inherent comforts of the Great Houses of the plantocracy era yet was built as recently as 2004. With integrated high tech features, floodlit tennis courts, a professionally designed gym and media and games rooms, it presents every luxury and convenience along with ample opportunity to just lie back and examine one’s navel. “Each area has been designed to allow intimacy, personal space or entertaining without compromising the luxury of remaining barefoot,” the owner explains.
Cooled by Atlantic breezes and anchored cleverly in context through use of local stone, its vintage-meets-visionary exterior honours the past while interlacing fresh design elements. “Stone outcrops were native to the site and dictated that the plinth of buildings should grow from them,” says Dalgliesh. Stucco walls echo the rising sun becoming lighter as they climb, and weathered, wooden rooflines interface seamlessly with both the softness of the native landscape and the villa’s own exotic fruit and flower gardens. “Thus, the spaces nestle into the topography rather than perch upon it as a totally enclosed behemoth,” adds Dalgliesh. What is more, with sheltered rooflines extending to dramatic tiered terraces, outdoor areas become “open air pavilions,” drawing guest to the very edges of paradise with vertiginous views of endless blue.
While subtle level changes deliver powerful panoramas at every turn, the ingeniously conceived infinity pool cascades from on high, creating spellbinding liquid illusions; magical portals into a tropical wonderland. “The pool is the organic heart of the design,” states Dalgliesh. “Not only does it provide the enjoyment of water at the uppermost spaces of the complex, but it reaches out to the sea below, providing an unbroken link and a sense of the nearness of this much larger body of water.” Reflecting a mirage of Caribbean skies – from palest sunrise to moonlit indigo nights – the recurring water motif plays to upper level living spaces from every vantage, emphasising the transparent connection between indoor and outdoor spaces. Fulfilling the same role below, a plunge pool oasis perches tantalisingly just above the beach, becoming part of an idyllic Caribbean tableau complete with powder white sand and swooning palm trees.
...the sophisticated scheme retains human scale and sensibility, emanating old world charm and easy intimacy.
Inside, characterised by British award-winning interior designer, Michael Reeves’, signature neutral chic ‘handwriting’, interiors exude comfort and elegance. Fresh contemporary detailing combines with antiques and bespoke, handmade furniture, resulting in a visually stunning, cool-as-linen ambience with an undeniably legendary quality. Despite a façade of faded grandeur, the sophisticated scheme retains human scale and sensibility, emanating old world charm and easy intimacy. Says Reeves: “Neutral and ‘nature’ colours… allow the beauty of the outside to blend with the interiors but always to remain the focus.”
Calming stone flooring inside and out symbiotically emphasises the energetic flow between interior and exterior, while above, timber tray ceilings with a dragged paint finish work join with muted neutrals in taupe, aqua, soft grays and vanilla, to absorb the sun’s glare, lending rooms a tranquil luminosity. Grasscloth in subtle hues, botanical prints and uplit decorative mirrors in lacquer, silver-gilt leaf and metal – including an intriguing Queen Anne style mirror made in Senegal from auto parts – accent walls, while vast windows, softened by billowing white curtains frame views of the everchanging sea, its inky horizon forming vibrant organic canvases of irresistible azure.
In the Great Room, steel-framed, floor-standing mirrors recessed in four alcoves deliver movement to the symmetry driven scheme, reflecting light and allowing artful, panoramic glimpses of the room’s every facet. Oversized linen slip-covered sofas and a massive buttoned leather ottoman offer comfy seating while, “the huge, rustic console table, laden with lamps, clam shells and vases, looks like it has evolved over time rather than having that ‘just decorated’ feel,” states Reeves. And always, no matter where you are or what the time of day, there is… the sea.
In its tacit assertion that sea and sky shine in the limelight, Sunrise House distinguishes itself. With subtle lines and soulful forms, the property ingeniously becomes part of the organic whole; a homogeneous and magical theatre-in-the-round where, sheltered by nature’s bounty, worries wash away as the sun rises on a new day in paradise.
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