Let The Merengue Play


A Sprawling Getaway Lets Mother Nature And Perfect Design Play Together In This Dominican Republic Retreat

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even with Mother Nature seemingly on a rampage, there remain places in the Caribbean that have been mercifully side-stepped. With gratitude, the resort community of Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic continues to offer the stunning treasures of island living. Developed in the 1960s, Casa de Campo is the oldest of the island’s three high-end resort communities. Interior designer Juan Montoya’s reputation for creating magnificently sultry island retreats in these sanctums set the stage for his eponymous design company to be chosen by the owners to build a 12,000-square-foot weekend home as a getaway from their permanent Santo Domingo residence.

“I was trained in architecture first,” Montoya says. “So in collaboration with architect Antonio Imbert, this beautiful, sweeping home was created.” Taking two and a half years to build, the home includes a private sitting room for the owners, a game room, and outdoor living spaces that seem to undulate like the breezes around the home.

Built on two levels, the higher primary living and entertainment space, as well as the master suite and a guest room are presented with vistas that take in lush tropical vegetation and a stunning view of the sea beyond. But dominating the foreground is a peninsular-like palapa that extends from the living room into a swimming pool with seemingly limitless boundaries.

Palapas (a Mayan word) are open-sided dwellings traditionally covered in thatch from palm trees or other fibrous material. With an ingenious “well-like” pool design arising from the level below, the towering palapa seems an island unto itself. “There are actually four peaked palapas in the home,” Montoya says. “They give a sense of place, but are as practical now as when they were indigenously created.”

Beneath the high peaks, swivel chairs make for shifting conversational centers. Using locally sourced canvas slipcovers for his bespoke sofas and ottomans, and a Montoya-created set of basket chandeliers crafted by local artisans, the palapa is as authentic as it is sophisticated.

To access the lower lanai, guest and children’s bedrooms, the architect created a sweeping stairway whose curves are replicated in Montoya’s white sofas and bar. In a scintilla of geometric blues, pillows by Serena and Lily call up the sea. “I love blending different cultural accessories,” Montoya says. Here, above Moroccan tables from Jalan Jalan, he hung six chandeliers wrapped in differing weaves made by Hechizoo. With delicate bar stools and blue-touched wicker chairs, all by Serena and Lily, easy entertainment happens by itself.

Montoya sees no reason to be confined to only Latin aesthetics. “I am always drawn to color and detail,” he says. In the entry to the homeowners’ private suite, on view through doors designed with pieces of quarter-round, the designer has placed a dramatic chest from India; elsewhere he turns to Indonesia. With matching silver urns from Mexico and artist Fernando Varela’s painting, the senses are set to tingle.

Beneath an internal palapa ceiling rising to an 18-foot peak, the dining room is at once intimate and vast. Providing seating options for the homeowners, instead of one static table, Montoya designed four from macana wood, each trimmed in bronze. “When pushed together, the bronze makes a truly beautiful pattern,” he says.

The kitchen is both utilitarian and elegant. With its own wine room enclosed in clear glass, and Montoya-designed tiles trimming white oak cabinets, splashes of color dot the corners and walls with woven baskets from Colombia.

“This is one of my favorite rooms,” says Montoya of the guest room in which he has placed a Philippines-made ebony four-poster and above it an Indonesian mirror covered in tiny reflective designs. The high yellow wainscoting diminishes the magnitude of the peaked ceiling.

Just as the entry to the private spaces ushered in a kaleidoscope of color, the creative master bedroom takes the next bold step. On the Montoya-designed bed, a striped accent pillow from Colombia and upholstery from Hechizoo sit below a series of white Aztec insets built into a screen that backs the bed.

Yet, the inviting interiors are only temporary respites from the splendor of the Dominican vistas. Whether intemperate weather calls for the draperies to be pulled, or starry nights require only the flicker of a candle’s glow, it is life below the palapa that draws — a place even Mother Nature would choose to relax.

Interior Design
Juan Montoya, Juan Montoya Design Corp., New York, NY

Photography
Courtesy of Juan Montoya Design Corp.

Architecture
Antonio Imbert, Simples Arquitectura, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Builder
Guillermo Strofer, Mobiliaria Arena Gorda, La Romana, Dominican Republic

Text by
Marina Brown