House & Garden

House & Garden

Island of the Blessed

Mustique is a secluded island of barely 1,400 acres, which is situated an hour’s flight by small plane from Barbados, 18 miles south of St. Vincent. It is surrounded by deserted beaches of pure white sand, with the azure waters of the Caribbean on one side and the rougher seas of the Atlantic on the other. Mustique’s reputation today as the ultimate hideaway retreat is due to the vision of one man. Colin Tennant bought the island in the late Fifties, when the profitable trade from the sugar plantations of the eighteenth century had long since collapsed, and the island was used by a few locals as little more than pasture for cattle and sheep. With no water and little working infrastructure on the island, Colin Tennant spent the intervening years creating a new village, and set out to improve basic standards of the islanders and to make them more self-sufficient; by the late Sixties, the island was producing sea-island cotton and the land had also been planted with citruses and coconut groves. He then set up The Mustique Company, which has been protecting the island’s interests ever since.

Colin Tennant’s close circle of friends was intrigued by his beautiful island, and when he presented Princess Margaret with 10 acres of land as a wedding present, it was not long before the international jet set began to arrive. It has been a favourite destination for wealthy lotus-eaters ever since.

Theatrical designer Oliver Messel collaborated with architect Arne Hasselquist to build a series of beautiful, secluded villas on Mustique, which were strategically scattered round the island to ensure maximum privacy. Unlike other islands in the Caribbean, however, The Mustique Company took steps to ensure that Mustique would never be exploited for its tourism potential, and an agreement was drawn up restricting the number of villas to be built to a maximum of 120, thus safeguarding the island’s natural rugged beauty for future generations.

The result of this building restriction is that Mustique has reached its full quota of bespoke villas. Existing properties rarely come onto the market and potential newcomers are subjected to stringent vetting. With only one small hotel on the island, the Cotton House, casual holidaymakers are rare, and most newcomers to Mustique are invited privately or drop anchor in one of the bays round the island. Those who fall under the island’s spell may wait years for the chance to acquire a villa. Anyone looking to buy into the dream must do so through The Mustique Company.  The owner of this house bought it over eight years ago, although she had long been a visitor to the island. She was first advised that the property was for sale when the essential concrete shell of the villa had to be completed – it can take anything from two to four years to build a house on the island. The idea of taking on a house in which all the utilities had been installed and the floor plan of the rooms devised was appealing.

‘I loved the wildness of its location – there were no proper roads and I often had to stop the car to move tortoises out of the way.’ In eight months the villa was ready for occupation, mainly due to the unstinting work of New York-based architect Peter Marino, and designer Jennifer Bradford Davis, who was then working with Peter and has since set up on her own. The villa was painted inside and out and the rooms of the main house were finished.

‘It took longer to sort out the guest cottages,’ says the owner. ‘I had to build a drive to the nearest road and then landscape the garden and the terraces, and I also designed the gazebo, which we use as the pool house and where we often eat in the evening.’

The villa is situated on one of the two highest points of the island, overlooking Mustique’s small harbour and the sea. It is blessed with light trade winds that are sufficient to discourage mosquitoes and to remove the need for air conditioning. The villa is constructed in such a way as to take full advantage of the sea breezes, which blow gently through the rooms and open terraces. Furnishing her holiday home was a pleasure for the owner, who travels extensively. The result is a mix of Asian furniture from Burma and Thailand, wicker, Caribbean mahogany and a clever use of textiles and simple fabrics.

‘I decided on a theme for each bedroom, but was determined to keep the rooms as simple as possible. Instead of silk (too fragile for the tropics), the curtains and bed hangings are handmade in soft, Indian voile, which I dyed. Other curtains are made of canvas, and in one of the rooms I had these appliquéd with a Viennese design.’

Any islander, from the Shetlands to the Caribbean, acknowledges a shared problem: saltwater is no respecter of property – curtains and chair covers have to be constantly replaced, and furnishing fabrics need to be very hardwearing. Lining the walls are artworks chosen for their colour and appeal. The design of the villa suits the owner well. During the time when she is alone on the island, she stays in the main house, which is completely self-contained. In the garden, cottages for guests descend down the hillside towards the beach – which remains as idyllic as Colin Tennant intended.

« Press Page

Bookmark the permalink.