island of memories
AFTER VISITING THE CARIBBEAN IDYLL OF MUSTIQUE FOR 20 YEARS, THE ART PATRON MAJA HOFFMAN BUILT AN EXTRAORDINARY HOLIDAY HOME ON PRINCESS MARGARET BEACH
“The colours of the Caribbean have always been strong. The sun makes them come alive”
The water is the most miraculous colour,” says Maja Hoffman, describing the dazzling azure of the Caribbean Sea as it laps the coralwhite sand on the private island of Mustique. “My house is located directly on Princess Margaret Beach, which is very beautiful and secluded. I swim twice a day and it’s like paradise.”
The view to the sea from the banana orchard at Lagoon Guesthouse is indeed the stuff of desert island dreams. Looking back from the beach, the sight of the resolutely contemporary property is equally extraordinary. While the architectural styles of the 104 homes on Mustique vary widely – from colonial plantation houses and Balinese-style bungalows to frothy mid-century follies – Hoffman’s is arguably the most striking.
Designed by the Venetian-born New York architect Raffaella Bortoluzzi, the gleaming, futuristic building is made up of a series of cantilevered concrete-and-steel cubes with tiered terraces and pools.
“I could have bought an existing house but I’ve always wanted to build one myself in Mustique,” explains Hoffman, who also owns the more traditional neighbouring villa Gelliceux, having built Neaubau Lagoon House in its grounds. “I wanted something unique. It takes inspiration from Latin American architecture and and looks experimental, but it’s really just a beach house. At first, planning permission was blocked but I think, people understand and like what we’ve done now. It has become a landmark on the island.”
The Gstaad, London and New York-based billionaire art collector and advocate is no stranger to controversy to surrounding architectural interventions. Hoffman reportedly donated €150 million of her considerable pharmaceuticals fortune to fund the creation of a Frank Gehry-designed ‘art and ideas resource building’ in Arles, Southern France, where she grew up.
More than a decade after the project was announced (provoking much opposition) the faceted aluminium complex rises defiantly in the centre of the umber-hued town. Whether it’s architecture or art, Hoffman favours nurturing experimental projects that otherwise might not have the chance to exist, and the Luma Foundation (named after her children Lucas and Marina) supports independent artists and sponsors cultural, educational and environmental initiatives. Although Arles is home, Hoffman heads to the Caribbean to unwind.
“I came to Mustique for the first time in 1993 and it reminded me of the simplicity of growing up in the south of France,” she says, “It was the first time in my adult life that I took a proper holiday and it was also where I met my partner in life [the film producer Stanley F. Buchthal] so it holds special memories.”
Hoffman visits the island several times a year with family and friends, and has ‘super-dedicated’ staff – gardeners, maids, butlers – running both villas permanently. “They take care of the houses in a way that makes them feel very lived in and welcoming,” she adds.
The building is covered in look-at-me turquoise, tangerine and saffron tones. The undulating metal panels which cover the upper part of the building and form the roof were 3D printed and coated in blue paint, which has to be refreshed regularly due to the humid salt air. The climate of the island is also why paintings are noticeably absent from the walls inside. Instead, the furnishings provide peppy jolts of pattern and colour. There are several pieces from the Italian company Moroso, including a rainbow-striped hanging chair and similarly uplifting designs by the London-based duo Doshi Levien.
“The colours of the Caribbean have always been strong and we wanted to reflect that,” explains Hoffman, “Here they just feel right. The sun makes them come alive.”
Visitors enter through the banana orchard, and to the left and right there are pavilions with sitting rooms that can be opened right up to the balmy air thanks to
retractable, hydraulic walls. Downstairs there are bedrooms, more informal living areas and a covered dining cabaña with a high-spec outdoor kitchen. At the back of the house is a glass-tiled wall with free-form curves, and the angular architecture is softened further by terracing and tropical planting – myriad palms, baobab, frangipani and night-flowering jasmine – by the Belgian landscape architect Bas Smets.
Hoffman’s neighbours are a wealthy, starry pack, earning the island a reputation for exclusivity – Mick Jagger, Tommy Hilfiger and Shania Twain are all residents – and the roll call of recent famous visitors includes Tom Ford and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Of course, the royal resident who first gave Mustique an air of jet-set glamour was the late Princess Margaret, who would find that comfortingly little has changed on the island. It is still a ‘no shoes, no news’ kind of place where souped-up golf buggies known as ‘mules’ are the preferred mode of transport. ‘’Mustique has a certain reputation but everyday life is not about being wealthy or flashy – it’s very easy going,” says Hoffman, “There’s also a real feeling of community life, which is very appealing and you can dip in and out of the social scene very easily.”
The ‘scene’ revolves around the art deco bar in the Great Room at the 17th-century Cotton House hotel, where the well-heeled gather to get well-oiled every Tuesday evening. It was decorated by the legendary theatre designer Oliver Messel, Lord Snowdon’s uncle, who also designed Les Jolies Eaux, Princess Margaret’s Mustique home. Hoffman's extraordinary, colourful Caribbean home is already just as iconic.
“Mustique has a certain reputation, but life here isn’t about being flashy”
ABOVE: A rainbow-hued Tropicalia hanging chair BELOW: A colourful guest bedroom OPPOSITE: The house has been built to accommodate the topography of the coastline – trees and a rocky outcrop add focal points to the pool lounge