THE ABILITY TO BALANCE THE STRESSES OF THE MODERN URBAN BUSTLE WITH THE SOOTHING STROKES OF BALMY OCEAN BREEZES AND ABANDONED BEACHES IS THE BEDROCK UPON WHICH THE ART OF LIVING HAS GROWN INTO A WORLDWIDE MOVEMENT
The art of living, island-style
Just off the east coast of Mauritius, property developer Tatiana Schaub has created an idyllic island home that offers the perfect antidote to her busy life in Paris. But how she ever manages to leave her magnificent Mauritian idyll, L’ilot, and return to her life in France is beyond us!
First there’s the remarkable island site, with sole access via a narrow bridge which affords absolute privacy and a feeling of being adrift at sea. Then there’s the house itself, a wood-andstone barefoot luxe affair that hunkers down on a bed of volcanic stone, surrounded by natural rock pools and a fringe of palm and pine trees. But the jewel in the crown must surely be the seductive sequence of Indian Ocean views that vie for your attention through every window, door and room.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF REAL
“Down-to-earth, yet luxurious” is the only way to sum up this place. Tatiana’s ensured that every comfort and convenience necessary for utter relaxation is on hand, without sacrificing that most essential of holiday ingredients: an altered reality.
Here daily routines revolve around regular dips in the sea, reading, lunch on the verandah and obligatory afternoon snoozes. “I can be here for an entire week without crossing the bridge once,” says Tatiana. “Ali, the fisherman, brings lobster and fresh fish daily and Teeram, who sells the most delicious rotis, is a regular visitor on his bike. My housekeeper brings whatever else I may need, such as fresh bread and vegetables.”
Originally built as a garçonnière (a bachelor’s residence), L’ilot has been in Tatiana’s family for more than 30 years. It originally belonged to her uncle, who had a brood of eight children, with whom Tatiana spent many a school holiday. “I have wonderful memories of leisurely Christmas lunches at long tables under the trees, where my uncle performed various operatic songs while we kids caught crabs and bigorneaux [periwinkles] on the rocks for fish soup,” she recalls.
A DEEP, WIDE HISTORY
Back then, houses at the sea didn’t come with the creature comforts they do today. “Mauritian people used to call them campements because, at that time, most people lived on the higher part of the island and literally camped out here on weekends,” says Tatiana. “In fact, L’ilot was a very simple place then, its claim to fame being a noisy generator that could be heard in nearby Roches Noires!”
Born in Mauritius to a French aristocratic mother and a Russian architect father who designed many of the island’s first hotels, she grew up in a large, wooden maison creole house furnished in the compagnie des indes style, so she has more than a passing interest in design and architecture. Trained as an engineer and now working in real estate investment, she’s spent much of her life between Paris and Mauritius. “I was schooled in Paris and built up my career in real estate investment there, but I’ve come back to Mauritius as often as possible. It’s always been a powerful antidote to my life in France,” she says.
1. A view to remember – the deck at the front of the house extends just about the length of the islet and is a great place for social gatherings and lazy afternoon snoozes. 2. Pendant lights and outdoor furniture were brought in from France, while everything else was designed by local interior decorator Amelie Montocchio and made locally. 3. Tatiana used wood for decking, walls and in furniture because of its ability to age well. 4. Tatiana installed bamboo blinds throughout to shield the interior from sunlight and on-shore winds at different times of day. “I didn’t want the house to feel shut out against the elements and the blinds are great, as they create privacy, shade and shelter,” she says.
Her dream of commuting between the two became a reality 17 years ago, when the opportunity arose to buy the house from her cousin. “My overriding desire was to create a beach house with a firm connection to its location and to the elements. I loved the simplicity of L’ilot when I was a child, so I wasn’t after a sophisticated look as much as a mix of natural and rough materials of good quality that would age well in a subtropical climate prone to cyclones!” Quite a feat, considering that the previous house had been reconstructed at least three or four times due to cyclone damage.
But Tatiana and her local architect, Edouard Koenig and Paris-based architect Gabriel Guenoun, tackled that head on. “We raised the foundations of the house to a high-tide level that surpassed previous cyclones by bringing in 35 tons of sand.
Yes, we’re probably tempting fate,” she laughs, “but it was really more of a precautionary measure – the only real risk is the bridge, as it’s been washed away countless times.”
All that remains of the old house now is a solid four-wall base in which you’ll find the living room. “We demolished everything else, but decided to keep this, as it was the heart of the original home,” explains Tatiana, “and because the 65-year-old walls made of thick rock were still in good condition.”
All the more remarkable when you consider that subsequent add-ons, such as a verandah and a second storey made of wood, were all destroyed. “One year we even found a fridge on top of a tree!”
“MY OVERRIDING DESIRE WAS TO CREATE A BEACH HOUSE WITH A FIRM CONNECTION TO ITS LOCATION AND TO THE ELEMENTS.”
“WE RAISED THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE HOUSE TO A HIGH-TIDE LEVEL THAT SURPASSED PREVIOUS CYCLONES BY BRINGING IN 35 TONS OF SAND.”
When it came to the finishes, flow and requirements of the new space, Tatiana’s brief was challenging and her decisions often contrary to the advice of her architects. “I love natural materials and the way they change over time, so instead of plastic or aluminium, I insisted on natural wood for the door and window frames.” And as she wanted a concrete finish for the exterior walls, to ground the house with its natural surroundings, she tracked down a special “blue” rock not commonly used in Mauritius. “It’s actually found inside much larger rocks in the sugar cane fields, which were literally cut on site by the workmen.”
Sadly, the necessary techniques for concrete finishes weren’t well known in Mauritius at the time and Tatiana had to compromise on her desire for more concrete finishes indoors. Not one to give up easily, she persevered with her idea of white concrete floors throughout, even when they had to be redone three months later. “It was quite a battle – so much so that I eventually gave in and laid tiles in the kitchen,” she says.
NATURAL COLOURS AND STYLES
Another requirement of Tatiana’s was that all trees remained untouched during the construction period. “There are very few plants that can grow here, so their survival in such an aggressive environment – they literally grew on a bed of rock – made them precious to me.”
The decoration of the house, marrying local craftsmanship with imported designs, is just as considered. Tatiana worked with local interior decorator Amelie Montocchio, who designed all the fixed pieces of furniture in the house.
“She immediately understood my love of natural colours and understated style,” she recalls.
“When we first met, we’d both prepared a book of elements and ideas that we liked – and they were virtually identical!”
Throughout the house, Tatiana’s remained true to her desire for understated simplicity by blending childhood memories (old family photographs) and her love of the natural world (stones, wood and shells picked up on her travels) with a sharp style (Philippe Starck chairs and Driade lights) that complements, rather than detracts from the beauty lying beyond L’ilot’s doorstep.
“As the house is available for rentals, I wanted to create a down-to-earth, yet luxurious space for others to enjoy. I also wanted it to be a place I can return to and feel the magic of my childhood, together with a deep sense of contentment that comes from living in harmony with the elements,” she says. Visit: www.lilot.biz/en
6 5. With natural sand banks and rock pools that stretch far out along the reef, oskermen snorneooers Dnd swlmmers Dre commono\ seen exsoorlnj tkls tropical paradise. 6. Tatiana Schaub. 7. Tatiana’s kept to a natural palette in DOO Iour Eedrooms ensurlnj tkdt tke\ Doso DOO KDYE sed IDCLNJ Yerdnddks. 7KLS doueoe en sulte Eedroom Dt tke Iront oi tke Kouse Ooons out onto tke Iront Yerdnddk Dnd tke cordo reei Ee\ond.