Where to Find Show-Stopping Design in the Caribbean
Related: Best Caribbean Resorts and Hotels
A spate of slick resorts is helping make the Caribbean something of a design destination, one that's reveling in pared-back sophistication over effusive tropicalism. From the perferated exterior of Puerto Rico's El Blok (which boasts an almost Le Corbusier-ish modernism) to the villas created by famed hospitality designer Alexandra Champalimaud, the only things not changing are the islands’ pink-sand beaches and ice-cold cocktails—and we’re totally cool with that.
After a three-year closure and 18 months of renovations, the first Caribbean addition to the Auberge Resorts portfolio (one that includes Napa’s Auberge du Soleil and Aspen’s Hotel Jerome) reopened to much fanfare last November. The property—which was the first five-star resort on Anguilla when it opened in November 1984—has shed its 1980s vibe, ushering in fresh touches like a mint-and-saffron color palette, mirrored mosaic lobby floors, and Deco-style furnishings. Throughout the resort, spaces were blown out to play up an indoor-outdoor feel, which better highlights its amazing location on a bluff overlooking Mead’s Bay.
El Blok, Vieques, Puerto Rico
It may only be a 20-minute flight from mainland Puerto Rico, but Vieques—and the new El Blok hotel—feel worlds away from the cookie-cutter beach resorts of San Juan. Opened last November by former music industry exec Simon Baeyertz (a five-year Vieques resident) and co-founder Rob Feldmann, the undulating, four-story concrete structure looks less hotel than Le Corbusier-designed spaceship—albeit, one that’s conveniently landed on prime beachfront real estate. At first glance, the eye is drawn up to the façade’s perforated concrete louvers, panels that cast subtle dots of light into guest rooms. Each of the 22 rooms is outfitted with locally sourced furnishings and pops of bold color. Also bold and bright? The contemporary Puerto Rican fare of the hotel’s acclaimed chef, José Enrique.
SLS Lux at Baha Mar, Bahamas
Located within the $3.5 billion, four-hotel mega complex in the capital of the Bahamas known as Baha Mar, the SLS Lux is one of the Caribbean’s hottest debuts. In fact, the 300-room property just started accepting reservations in advance of its Memorial Day weekend opening. Designed by Dakota Development (in conjunction with Avenue Interior Design), this latest brand outpost is a departure from the über-luxe norm found at SLS properties in Beverly Hills, South Beach, and Las Vegas. Ocean-facing guest rooms have sleek white furniture and signature SLS tapestry wall coverings, this time with fun architectural graphics that depict a dock and Bahamian-blue waters. Indeed, there’s a healthy dose of Caribbean flair throughout—not the least being the hotel’s bright pink-and-white exterior.
Lone Star, Barbados
Each of the six rooms at this beachfront resort is named after a famous car (Cadillac, Lincoln, Corvette), which is fitting considering the property was actually a former Texaco garage. Still, its design—following a renovation that debuted in 2013—looks nothing like a beat-up classic. Crisp white linens, hardwood or marble floors with sisal rugs, airy four-poster beds—the décor evokes the chicest Hamptons home more than your Caribbean mainstay.
Beach House, Turks and Caicos
You’d be hard-pressed to find better beaches than those on Turks and Caicos, and Grace Bay Beach—the setting for this 21-suite resort that opened June 2012—is one of the territory’s finest. Ocean blues are aptly woven into the hotel’s cheery palette, where pops of orange are found on headboards inscribed with the cheeky slogan, “Where the rooms have no numbers” (a nod to the resort’s homey environment). Each room is also outfitted with a private balcony and kitchenette, plus (complementary) laundry facilities on every floor.
Gansevoort Playa Imbert, Dominican Republic
Fans of the luxury brand attributed with revitalizing New York City’s meatpacking district will find a new home-away-from-home at the brand’s latest outpost, set on the Dominican Republic’s less-trammeled north coast. The property, which debuted last December, brings a touch of urban sophistication to its 48 all-suite rooms, which have contemporary furnishings, private plunge pools, and kitchens with marble countertops and stainless steel appliances. The resort’s finest showcase of design, however, is perhaps its three-tier cascading infinity pool overlooking Playa Imbert’s crescent-shaped, sugar-sand beach.
O:live Boutique Hotel, Puerto Rico
They may be small, but each of the 15 guest rooms at O:live, which opened in May 2012, pack a stylish punch, boasting sleigh beds and Moroccan throws, verandas with Spanish tile and reclaimed wood, and rainfall showers with L’Occitane in-room amenities. And that’s all excluding the rooftop terrace and bar, plunge pool, and views overlooking the Condado Lagoon.
Island House, Bahamas
Opening this month on Lyford Cay—a private gated community on the western tip of Nassau—this boutique hotel is a welcome escape from the mega resorts of Paradise Island. New York-based design firm Champalimaud (the namesake company of Alexandra Champalimaud, whose work includes such iconic hotels as the Dorchester and Hotel Bel Air) oversaw creation of the 30 guest rooms, two restaurants, 48-seat cinema, spa, and fitness facilities, which include a yoga studio, two squash courts, a 25-meter lap pool, and a paddle tennis court. The hotel’s main showpiece, however, is the “living room,” a stylish communal space with local artworks, funky patterned rugs, low-slung furniture, and a 10-seat, rectangular table at the center, to be used for dining and work.
Casa del XVI, Dominican Republic
Punta Cana beachgoers rarely make it to the colonial city of Santo Domingo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990. Now, with the addition of the seven-room Casas del XVI in March 2014, travelers can rediscover the historic district from a home base with antique furnishings, conquistador-era tile floors, and works by local contemporary artists. Also noteworthy: the hotel’s lush central courtyard and swimming pool, available to those who book a luxury room.
Belle Mont Farm at Kittitian Hill, St. Kitts
The humble island of St. Kitts has nabbed a big prize in the form of Bangkok-based architect Bill Bensley (whose résumé includes Thailand's Four Seasons Chiang Mai and the Anantara Resort & Spa, in nearby Koh Samui). Opened this past December, the Bensley-designed Belle Mont Farm is the first debut at Kittitian Hill—a 400-acre resort and community slated for completion by 2016. From shingle-and-clapboard façades to louvered shutters and gingerbread trim, the 84-room hotel remains rooted in the Caribbean vernacular, but when it comes to each room’s private plunge pool, outdoor shower, soaking bathtub, and view of Mount Liamuiga—those are in-style no matter where you go.