House Tour: Dominican Republic Holiday Resort
Naturally, the Venezuelan couple wanted to have plenty of room for guests at the new vacation home they were planning in the Dominican Republic. After all, they had children and grandchildren, and, as leading figures in their country’s political and philanthropic communities, the pair wanted to create a place that was truly an inviting destination for their wide social circle.
The living room’s sofa and armchairs are by Century Furniture, and the large-scale photograph is by Ruud van Empel; the cocktail table and spherical iron light fixture were designed by Montoya, the bookcase and bar table were purchased locally, and the custom seagrass rug is by ABC Carpet & Home.
But then again, as they made clear to Juan Montoya, the Colombia-born designer and architect who splits his time between New York and Paris, there is such a thing as too much togetherness. “They wanted their guests to enjoy the intimacy of a family compound, but also the discretion of a boutique hotel,” says Montoya, who has long been known for delicately navigating the complex desires of his rarefied clients. “It was precisely the kind of challenge that I love to undertake.”
In a Dominican Republic vacation house decorated by Juan Montoya, the upper deck is furnished with sofas strewn with pillows from Mexico; the wood stools and wicker side tables were found locally, and the straw rug is Colombian.
Montoya’s concept, which took two years to execute—the architecture itself was overseen by local architect Antonio Imbert—was to turn the experience of the property, on a rectangular lot and comprising more than 22,000 square feet, into a “procession,” a meandering stroll from the entrance toward the sea. “I wanted people to feel themselves getting more relaxed as they went through,” Montoya says. “I wanted it to be a conscious process.”
In the open-air dining room, raffia-upholstered chairs surround a custom-made table with a coral-stone base and petrified-wood top; Montoya designed the oversized copper light fixture, and the wall is travertine.
Now, family and friends make their way up a wide set of steps fashioned from local coralina stone and are ushered through a pair of enormous 19th-century wood doors sporting their original weathered turquoise finish. Montoya bought the doors in Colombia more than a decade ago, knowing that someday he would build a home where they belonged. From there, a winding stone path leads to a series of cottages, most of which have lower levels that are open to the tropical air. There is a luxurious area to shoot pool, a sprawling living room, a pond, and numerous small seating areas and hammocks shaded from the blazing sun.
Circa-1870 Colombian doors at the entrance to the compound.
On a second level, above the open-air spaces, are the luxurious private quarters. Accessible by covered passageways made from dark eucalyptus—”You want the contrast, the intrigue, the shadows,” Montoya explains—each of the six suites has its own theme, among them the African suite, the coral suite, and the turquoise suite. Of course, all look out to the sea. “The journey is to get to the water,” says Montoya. “It is all about the water.”
A walkway suspended above the outdoor living room leads to bedrooms; the sofa in the foreground is from Andrianna Shamaris, and the other sofa and armchairs are custom made. The cocktail tables are Chinese, and the flooring is coral stone.
The compound may well be the perfect laboratory for the designer’s refined aesthetic, which has evolved steadily since his years as a favorite of the Studio 54 crowd. He has worked with this couple many times before, on residences around the world, so he was able to perfectly channel their needs and wants. And he knew that they were fans of his approach to design, which balances a triad of obsessions: the power of geometry, the strategic use of color amid earthy neutrals, and the importance of scale.
Such values are writ large in the master suite. Between tall ebonized doors with graphic bamboo embellishments sits a vertical oak-and-parchment chest of drawers. There are deft touches of coral in the linens and a chair. An enormous Thai orb made of bamboo and rice paper, wired as a light fixture, looms over the airy room.
Colombian hammocks with Indian pillows in a lounge area.
Of course, there were challenges in building such an ambitious compound. The wind and rain in the Dominican Republic, especially by the sea, tend to blow horizontally and with great force. That dictated many of the choices of materials. The massive main outdoor living space, for example, couldn’t have the rug the clients had envisioned—no matter what the material, it would never dry out—so Montoya designed an inlaid border of black polished pebbles to create the illusion of a rug and outline the space.
A custom-made bamboo bed and a wicker bench, purchased locally, in a guest room; the lamps are by Christopher Spitzmiller, the fan is by Hunter Fan, and the sisal rug is by Pottery Barn.
Despite such practicalities, there was also room for plenty of serendipity, Montoya insists. The first time he visited the site, for example, he found inspiration in an unlikely place: a small construction foreman’s shack, the only shelter on the property at that point. The workers had painted it turquoise, and that struck him as a sign. “I thought, Wouldn’t it be wonderful to incorporate the color in a big way?” he recalls. So while most of the buildings have a lower exterior of neutral, sand-colored coralina stone, the upper floors are clad in vertical slats painted in a hue bright enough to give the Caribbean Sea a run for its money.
Black slate tiles and river pebbles line the floor of a powder room; the teak chair is from Andrianna Shamaris.
The pool, separated from the pristine white sand of the beach by a median of greenery, is another place where Montoya’s eye for color and scale reign: Its shape resembles an undulating fairway or the curved drive in front of a country estate. And rather than painting the pool’s interior the same color as the sea beyond, as is customary, he specified a deep cobalt blue.
“I was very conscious that the pool should seem cooler than the sea,” Montoya says. “I was certain those two shades would give deep pleasure. And that is what this is all about. That the eye will relax, that there will be a sigh.”
The bed in the master bedroom is dressed with hand-embroidered Mexican textiles, the teak bench is from Andrianna Shamaris, and Montoya designed the ebony-and-bamboo doors; a photograph by Chester Higgins, Jr., hangs above an oak-and-parchment chest of drawers from Mecox Gardens, the rice paper-and-bamboo light fixture is from Thailand, and the floors are mahogany.