After Megève and Ramatuelle, Jocelyne Sibuet has just inaugurated Villa Marie in Saint-Barth. Between luxuriant vegetation, ethnic touches and bright colours, the owner has played a tropical GYPSET score.
This little piece of France is unlike any other island in the Caribbean. The airstrip, one of the shortest in the West Indies - only 651 metres - is just like this volcanic rock (Saint Barthélémy, christened "Saint-Barth" by the initiated), barely 25 square kilometres in size and surrounded by a string of islets. But, despite its size, this confetti, languishing in 50 shades of blue, can boast a palace - the Cheval Blanc - and nine 5-star establishments (a fine list of achievements!), the latest of which, Villa Marie, floats above Colombier beach.
Inaugurated last December by the Sibuet family - owners of Les Fermes de Marie, in Megève, and 11 other hotels - this refuge nestled in a tropical garden is the island's best kept secret. It's easy to see why: if you want to live happily in Saint-Barth, you have to live hidden. In this sanctuary dedicated to relaxation and well-being," explains Jocelyne Sibuet, "people come to rest and relax, even if the clichés have been around since David Rockefeller first set foot on this pearl of the Lesser Antilles in 1956, which is often caricatured for its excess. Saint-Barth is not just a millionaire's whim, it is also an island with jealously preserved nature, protected underwater depths, little frequented and surprisingly cool, despite the presence of many celebrities. Not one house is higher than the palm trees. Its inhabitants take great care to ensure that nothing disturbs the astonishing harmony of the place. These are the assets that seduced the Sibuet family when they bought this house in 2015, at the time one of the most renowned restaurants on the island. "This house was, of course, dilapidated, but we immediately saw the potential to transform it into a hotel with character. There was no question of cloning Les Fermes de Marie on the other side of the world! A successful gamble. After a year of hard work, the house was transformed into a property with 22 bungalows - "the antiresort par excellence" - with a chic tropical style, mixed with a bohemian aesthetic. In an exclusive interview, Jocelyne Sibuet gives us her decorating tips.
"The pineapple mirror irresistibly evokes - together with the palm tree motif - the lushness of the tropics and instantly injects a dose of exoticism into a home. This object, which also embodies the seventies and the hippie chic style signs with a bohemian atmosphere in harmony with the island tempo."
"If the dimensions of a living room or dining room allow it, I often play with the repetition of accessories to give rhythm to the space: I install, for example, two identical lamps on each side of a sofa, two pedestal tables or I like to hang two mirrors or two engravings on the same wall.
"I wanted to instil a 'return from travel' spirit in this hotel. For me, ethnicity is an open window on the world, perfectly in line with the island's multiple and diverse history. Here and there, we also find dishes from Ouarzazate, baskets and woven baskets from Egypt and straw lamps from Tunis.
"The headboard is a key element that instantly gives personality to a room. I always compose the decor around it. Here, it is a model made in an Anglo-Indian style that I have combined with a Syrian mother-of-pearl chest of drawers, made by craftsmen in Jaipur, and a shell trophy mounted on a stand. A tropical chic style with a bohemian gypset aesthetic".
"I wanted to keep the soul of this house, which is reminiscent of those of the planters: its restaurant (ex-François Plantation), its exposed framework and its dark mahogany furniture, which we restored so as not to alter the spirit of the place. In the varangue - a veranda typical of Creole architecture - I have installed a series of cane or woven rattan armchairs and swings for lazing around in the hottest hours of the day."
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