As you read this I will be lying in a hammock, swinging in the humid breeze of the Mayan Caribbean. A good book, a cool drink and a friend or two will make for a great trip.
Living in a tropical location, or setting up any vacation home for that matter, revolves around several basic tenants: keep it simple, make it user friendly, and encourage large gathering of friends. You don’t go on vacation to work, you go to have fun. So put a little thought into design to further your fun. Here are some tips.
Make the kitchen big and open, because that is where you’ll be spending a lot of time in the evenings. Provide lots of countertop space and durable surfaces, so you have room to work and don’t have to worry about cleaning up right away. Closed storage allows you to store staples out of sight until needed.
Focus on the pool, this is where everyone wants to be during the day, but celebrate both the shade and sun…some of us want to be in the shade! The shade will give everyone a place to retreat from the mid-day heat, or take a nap after that afternoon Pina Colada. Treat the pool with respect, providing vistas and places poolside to dry off. Infinity edges, even if there is not a dramatic drop off, provide a WOW factor.
Integrate local building materials into your modernist grid. This will help your home blend into the local architectural vernacular and environment. This means your home will also age gracefully when you incorporate local methods: agave plaster walls, bamboo screens, Ipe walls. This is also an economical way to benefit from the knowledge of local carpenters.
Create outdoor rooms. They provide shelter, while framing the view, for gatherings in the evenings, after dinner, when stories are being told. A good hammock, a butterfly chair, some floor cushions…it doesn’t need to be expensive, it does need to be comfortable. And the stories will come.
Add texture and color with local rugs, a few good books, local sculpture. This is designer-photoshoot 101, and you can incorporate it into your life. Without these bits of personality, your home will be cold, sterile, lifeless. Your home, especially your vacation home, should be layered in memories and warmth.
Lots of thought should be given to your bed. Its vacation, so you will be sleeping in or lounging with a good read. You could elevate your bed a little to help get some air, any air, circulating. And a good bed will function as a divan during lazy days. If space is tight, this could be a murphy bed to provide multiple uses to a small space.
Storage is the key to a good vacation home. You want to have what you need without the fear of having left something behind. This might mean that you need to stock up at the beginning of summer, but then you’ll be set. Trips to the local market or fish vendor and your dinner will be all set. To make this work, you’ll need to set up a good pantry and storage closet fit out with all the essentials. This means lots of concealed storage.
Simplicity takes center stage again in the bathroom. Focus on a view (who’s going to be looking back?), and minimize the need for cleaning.
David Bjørngaard, March 2016
Some images from L’île de la contemplation, Marie Claire Maison.