Royal Influencers: A Small Island in the Caribbean Makes a Lasting Impression
Colin Tennant, Lord Glenconner, purchased the small Caribbean island of Mustique in 1958 for not very much money. Once a French colony, then British, Mustique covers 1,400 acres (5.7 km2) and is part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Tennant had a vision to turn this island into a sanctuary for royalty and the upper echelon. In 1960 he strategically gifted Princess Margaret 10-acres of land as a wedding present. Oliver Messel, artist and stage designer (and the uncle of the Princess’s husband, Lord Snowdon,) designed her home. The design stage consisted of a watercolor rendering which evoked the vision, feel and character of what was to become the house and gardens. Enter Arne Halleqvist, Swedish hippy and architect, brought over by Tennant, who turned the watercolor into a reality. Hasselqvist had studied architecture and garden design in Kyoto and when he was sketching his own home, as well as Mick Jagger’s, he kept to this Japanese style, preferring the elegance and comfort found in the cooling pools, relaxing, open spaces that allow for great breezes and lovely views.
David Bowie bought an area of land on Hasselqvist’s property, but, having visited Indonesia and fallen in love with its artfulness, was interested in basing the aesthetic of his grounds on that archipelago. They brought in many containers from different islands and hired a landscape architect and designer team from Bali. Furniture and traditional carved walls and house fronts from Java were used; a teak pavilion designed and constructed in Bali was shipped over and reassembled in Mustique; beautifully carved columns reminiscent of those found in Sumbawa were artfully placed in the walkways.
It was around this time that my parents were visiting Mustique with friends and they received a phone call at their villa inviting them to a party at Arne Hasselqvist’s home. They saw first hand Hasselqvist’s skilled capabilities in architecture in the layout of the home: the smaller pools flowing into the swimming pool, fragrant and lush gardens, and the many places to dine with family and friends. Being in one of the most beautiful places on earth, with the mix of natural island beauty and the artforms of the tropics, made a deep impression on my parents and became an artistic draw that has been at play ever since. Some years later, in 2003, they applied some of this inspiration and created Sweet Lime Furnishings in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. More on that story next time.
A personal anecdote:
My parents purchased a two villa cottage on Bequia, where Mustique was visible from their property, and one day, while dad and I were walking to the beach, walked through the Friendship Bay hotel with me, as a 6 year old, where Mick Jagger was sitting at a semi-circle bar table with friends, who had taken a day sail from Mustique for a short visit to Bequia. My folks had walked through Jagger's Mustique home during construction, so it made it all kind of interesting to me. (And I later became a Stones fan.)
Photos 1 and 2 of Arne Hasselqvist's home: C. D. B. BRYAN (August 1990). East Meets Mustique Adapting Japanese Design in the Caribbean. Architectural Digest.
Photos 3 and 4 of David Bowie's home: ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST VISITS: David Bowie The Musician's Indonesian-Style Refuge on Mustique (September 1992). Architectural Digest.