18 Jan Designing a Caribbean style boutique hotel in the Dominican Republic
The idea to go with a Victorian/Colonial design for our Caribbean based Boutique Hotel was a no brainer. After all, the project was situated in the heart of the Caribbean, in the Dominican Republic an island nation with a large agricultural presence that includes sugar plantations (it’s rum is legendary). In addition, a large part of our furnishings would adapt and blend easily into the design ideas of the hotel having been bought in various corners of the globe while traveling or living abroad – Victorian style.
After securing the land the next step was finding an architect. Marie Claude and I thought it would be a good idea to use a local architect. We could show solidarity with-in the Dominican community and – perhaps, a bit too selfishly – we figured that they could facilitate the building process when any problems or questions surfaced. In the end, we couldn’t have been farther away from the right decision. The first architect lasted about 12 weeks, early on in the project he was very helpful with permits etc. but the design process didn’t go quite as planned, all our meetings and verbal conversations about design and the concept went well but he just wasn’t able to translate all that into plans drawn on paper.
With our hands in the air, we went back to France, and asked a good friend in Paris, the brilliant (an AD-100 best) Serge Robin to help us. Armed with a raw floor plan, and a design vision that could be translated into the kind of hotel that would allow our future guests to live in elegant comfort, in natural tropical surroundings, and also to pay homage to the Domincian Republic’s historical architecture, Serge executed our dream. The exterior was punctuated with intricate gingerbread panels, and the beautiful set of interior plans gave us the perfect room volumes – the space – we envisioned for our furnishings. Basically what Serge gave us over a decade ago – is The Peninsula House that you see today. When you enter – no doubt that you’ll have the impression that the house, or parts of it have existed, and been in use for at least a hundred years.
So much so – that when the BBC drama department was looking for a location to film their three-part drama, “The Long Song” (set to air in the middle of December 2018) which is set on a Jamaican sugar cane plantation in the 1830s, the production looked for the perfect spot in Jamaica as well as South Africa, Guadeloupe and Mauritius – but eventually found what they were looking for when they spotted The Peninsula House. Producer, Roopesh Parekh said of the location, “You can see the wildness of the trees and bushes and the ocean on one side, and then there’s Caroline’s (one of the protagonists of the story) room pretending to be in England”
Prior to construction MC and I took a two week road trip through the south east of the United States (an area filled with plantation homes) looking for some small architectural details like moldings, door designs, window treatments, and color inspirations that would define The Peninsula House as ours. Cities like Charleston, Bluffton, Savannah, and plantation properties like Drayton Hall, Boone Hall, Middleton Place, and the Nathaniel Russell House were treasure chests of visual aides. An old municipal building in Palm Beach, Fl. gave us the design for our arched windows that lead into the public spaces off the patio.
The Spanish-style interior patio is not a usual feature found in plantation houses of the Caribbean but their open-to-the-naked sky design is seen in the old homes throughout the colonial zone in Santo Domingo. We wanted to integrate that detail into the design of the hotel. The result? A brilliant idea. While the house may be closed from the outside, there is always a breeze flowing through the house because of the open air atrium – not to mention “le charme fou” when you have a light tropical rain falling in the middle of your home. While it monstrously increases the overall footprint on the ground in terms of square meters, I would happily try to implement another into any new house design that we may do, it’s that terrific!.
The four turned stone columns in the patio are local Coraline and the use of bricks are all part of architectural details found in Old Santo Domingo. Obviously we chose the option of hand made bricks versus factory made, its the small ‘details’ that make the difference. A hardwood called Tatajuba is found throughout the house in the form of moldings, columns, 4 poster beds and floors. It was imported from Brazil, and was grown, and cut from a multi generational family’s sustainable forest. The guest room decor rests firmly in the same vein of colonial style as the exterior. Honestly, we are not big fans of properties that have a beautiful exterior representing a certain period and when you walk inside get blasted by an ultra modern decor. No Thanks.
Our location on a bluff, overlooking the coast, guarded by the hills behind offers guests a feeling of total privacy and seclusion. After 10 years the view has not once gotten old, always a wow factor for new and return guests alike, always a wow! when we return home from a trip. It’s not a bad spot for morning coffee either as you can imagine, have a look at our Instagram account if you have any doubts.
All best, Cary