A house by the sea should be a house of dreams. Where windows and doors are thrown open to the ocean, and gusts of cool, salty air turn us all into kids again–buoyant and joyful. Spending childhood days on the beach and in the magical, romantic chaos of her family’s rambling house internationally renowned interior designer Celerie Kemble has a deep-rooted connection to the sun and surf. However, in the summer of 2004, Kemble laid eyes on a wild swath of jungle in the Dominican Republic next to minty-blue water and an endless stretch of golden sand, she fell madly in love. Over many years, she designed a home away from home there, an island retreat–a clubhouse and a grouping of family homes and guesthouses–suffused with light and air, full of indoor and outdoor rooms for relaxation. In her latest book, Island Whimsy, Kemble recounts the deeply personal and creative journey of designing Playa Grande and bringing this labor of love to life.
The chapters of this book are organized around the different ways Kemble sought to braid her family’s story into the larger landscape of Playa Grande and to provide inspiration, joy, and respite to all who come. “Fantasy” looks at the way she used whimsical, dreamlike elements–from the latticework cabanas by the pool to the lamb statues on the property who “mow” the lawns–throughout the property to create a sense of play and possibility. “Light, Salt, Air” describes how she went about bringing the most precious elements of the beach into the homes themselves, creating a feeling of flow and permeability, and reminding visitors constantly of where they are. “In the Jungle” looks at the design cues she took from the flora and fauna of the tropical rainforest surrounding Playa Grande to create an alluring tension between chaos and refinement. “Sweet & Dark” examines the surprising color combinations that tango into life in the tropics–whether in the form of tribal prints in hot Gauguin colors mixed with Jordan-almond pastels or handmade objects like a papier-mâché lobster mask that brings a shout of spirit to a room. Finally, “Texture” focuses on the powerful impact that thoughtfully layered materials–from rough, local coquina stone and painted antique wicker to the smooth polished cotton of Dutch wax prints–have on a space.
Throughout this lovingly crafted book, ideas abound for anyone decorating a sunny home or fantasizing about spending time in one. Kemble shares inspiration for creating a sense of openness to the sea, sand, and sky; offering places to wash sandy feet or perfect viewing spots for a sunset-saturated drink; and infusing spaces with invitation, welcome, and magic.
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