30 July 2008

Beach Houses #6 - Jamaica

imageIn this age of glitzy resorts, where bigger is better, and fancy ostentatiousness reigns, there's something to savor about the low-key charm of a hotel whose hey days in the 50's is long passed.  Round Hill Hotel and Villas opened its doors in 1953 on a  100 acre peninsula on Montego Bay, Jamaica.   The land was was once occupied by a sugar plantation and its 18th century  manor house is today the location of the hotel's spa.  The hotel is comprised of just 36 ocean front guestrooms and 27 privately owned villas.   Back when the resort was first opened,  both American and European socialites were invited to invest in the resort and build their own villas there.   The original shareholders included:   Noel Coward, Adele Astaire, Bill Paley, Lord and Lady Ednam, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Hammerstein, Clive Brook, Jack and Natasha Wilson, the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Tiarks and Viscount and Viscountess Rothermere.  Today, the famous have mostly left the Jamaican resort in search for something more glamorous and exotic.  There is, though, something to be said for tradition and the continuity of quiet elegance and genteel customs, which is exactly why Round Hill continues to thrive despite the intense competition in the vacation industry. 

Although Round Hill is no longer a magnet for the well heeled, it does boast one very famous villa owner.  Lifestyle maven Ralph Lauren owns, not one, but two villas on the property. Ralph and Ricky Lauren both adore their homes at Round Hill and it's exclusive atmosphere fits right in with Ralph's own adopted image of "old wealth."  Through the years, Round Hill has maintained it's reputation as being a refined place of great beauty and quiet elegance.   Operating during the winter months of the high season and, on a smaller scale during the off season, the villas are available to let when their owners are not in  residence.  Recently, Round Hill underwent  a major refurbishing headed by Ralph Lauren himself who redecorated all 36 of the Pineapple House guest rooms using his own brand of furniture and using Waterworks for the bathrooms.   Two new infinity pools were built and the Spa was also spruced up.  If you are looking for a quiet place to vacation, with great privacy and old world charm and manners, Round Hill may be just the place for you.



The 36 ocean front Pineapple House guest rooms were recently  newly decorated by Ralph Lauren using furniture from his eponymous line.  The decoration included adding white stone floors and white wood ceilings combined with white bedding and hot pink and navy blue accents. 




Blue and white porcelains, and pink and blue pillows and throws --- Ralph Lauren's touch is obvious here!



The bathrooms are a gorgeous mix of Waterworks fixtures and country inspired beadboard -  my favorite combination!



The 27 villas are decorated by the owners, so before you book a room be sure to check out each villa's individual decor on the hotel's web site!  These privately owned homes resemble each other as most were originally designed by the same architect.  The Round Hill "look" is British Colonial chic, with gorgeous mahogany shutters and high, vaulted wooden ceilings with fans.    This particular villa is exceptionally attractive with its vintage rattan furniture and crisp white slipcovers with red accents.  Through the French doors, onto the covered veranda, the view of Montego Bay is gorgeous.



This villa was originally owned by Fred Astaire's sister, Adele.   The arched mahogany French doors are exceptionally attractive.  Notice how in many of the villas, authentic Jamaican straw mats are used instead of more trendy seagrass or sisal.  Most villas share the same roof lines, replete with exposed rafters.



The bedroom of Adele Astaire's villa.  Notice how gorgeous the hardwood floors are!   Much of the furniture in the various villas is made from native Jamaican mahogany wood.




Villa #17 is my favorite one.  I could actually move in here today and be quite  happy with the decor.  White slipcovers with bright accent pillows.  The mahogany louvered doors open up to one of the bedrooms.   I think this villa was decorated using all Ralph Lauren furniture, just as the ocean-front Pineapple House guest rooms were.



One of the Villa #17's bedrooms with the Ralph Lauren bamboo bed and plantation style chairs.



Villa #17, the charming exterior is somewhat different than that of the other villas. 



Villa #12 was originally owned by Oscar Hammerstein.  He met with Maria Von Trapp here to discuss The Sound of Music while it was being written.  Many of the villas have open verandas that are used as outdoor living rooms.



Hammerstein's villa - the master bedroom.



This is Villa #11 where the movie "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" was filmed.



John and Jacqueline Kennedy preferred to stay at this villa, #10.



Villa #6:  matching day beds double as sofas.  I love the two child sized French chairs.  The owners painted the ceiling's outside rafters a cream color, while leaving the inside rafters natural, thus creating a two toned effect.



Villa #5 boasts an Olympic sized swimming pool!  Most villas have their own pool, though a few do not.  The hotel recently built two new infinity pools overlooking Montego Bay for the use of the Pineapple House guests and for the villas without pools.



Villa #19 - situated over three stories, this recently updated  villa is beautifully decorated.




Ralph and Ricky Lauren, Round Hill's most famous villa owners today.  Featured here in Architectural Digest, the Laurens are personal public relations advocates for the island of Jamaica.


The Laurens have owned their main house for over 20 years.  They completely remodeled the villa when it was first bought.  Ricky says when she first saw the villa, the beautiful mahogany doors and shutters were painted gray, and the floors indoors and out were covered in carpet.   Here, Lauren decorates using lots of blue and white porcelains, hurricane lamps, vintage styled rattan furniture from the Lauren furniture line, and baskets everywhere.  The house, located at the top of a hill overlooking Montego Bay is called "High Rock."  Lauren describes his vacation house here:  “The house has an Englishness I’ve always liked,” he says, “an Old World elegance. I call it a jewel.”  Notice how beautiful the mahogany wood doors are!  Also notice the wonderful pair of red chinoiserie mirrors on matching consoles with marble tops.


The house exudes an old-world Jamaican plantation style.  The upholstery is all white linen.  Another outstanding mirror is atop the fireplace.



A corner of the living room shows the shelves piled high with well-read books.  Bright pillows add pops of color to all the white upholstery.



The open air loggia overlooks the swimming pool.   Notice the seating area at the end of the loggia with a wall of mahogany shutters behind it.


The master bedroom with the Ralph Lauren bamboo bed, covered in white linens.   Underfoot, the area rug is banana-leaf matting.  More vintage styled rattan and white slipcovered furniture complete the look. 


Recently, the Laurens added a media room and an adjoining sitting room to High Rock.  The media room is made entirely of mahogany and is surrounded on three sides by the Jamaican rain forest.  This gorgeous room matches the existing architecture of the villa exactly and it is impossible to tell it is a later addition.  




The villa's original swimming pool was the size of a bath tub, according to  Ricky, so the Laurens replaced it with a larger pool suitable for swimming laps.  The loggia sits at the back of this garden area.



Recently, the Laurens purchased another villa, #26 which sits directly beach front on Montego Bay.  They renamed the villa "White Orchid" and decorated it with white marble floors, white walls, and white linen furniture from  Lauren's furniture line.


The White Orchid was built by William Paley for his wife Babe, pictured above in front of the villa.  The Paleys abandoned Jamaica for the Bahamas in the  60's where they developed the exclusive resort Lyford Cay.



The White Orchid's decor is strictly white with accents of navy blue.  The atmosphere is more beachy here than at High Rock, the Lauren's primary residence on Jamaica.



The terrace of the White Orchid was expanded, its doors were widened and heightened and the roof line was extended by three feet.


Ralph and Ricky Lauren have adopted Jamaica as their home in more ways than one.  Their presence is felt through all their generous charitable contributions to the island.   It seems unlikely that the Laurens will leave Jamaica for another more trendy resort.  They seem perfectly happy in the privacy of their two beautiful homes at Round Hill



An ad for Ralph Lauren Home showcases the bamboo bed he used for the guest rooms at Pineapple House.


Another Ralph Lauren ad showing his wicker furniture and a mahogany table used at Round Hill.

Memories of good times at Round Hill Hotel  and Villas:


Famous guests at the Jamaican resort during the heydays of the 50's:   Rosalind Russell at a black tie affair, probably New Years Eve judging by the balloons.


Clark Gable with Liz Pringle, one of the original owners of Round Hill.


Adele Astaire, happy to be home in her villa!



Poor little rich girl, Gloria Vanderbilt.


And last, a very young and thin John Kennedy, before he was President, at Round Hill.

Round Hill has produced a book that recalls its illustrious history during the 50s and 60s.  Available here, it makes an fascinating read for anyone interested in high society of that era.


  1. Another Great Post, Joni! What a collection of photos - Very Impressive! I love the serenity of the all white cottage!

  2. Opened up my reader and once again my heart starts racing, JONI HAS POSTED SOMETHING, OPEN QUICK, WHAT IS IT. Ralph Lauren, love him, love his houses, I wish I could just jump into his life, it answers all my dilemmas. I want a beach house, I want a ranch, a nice country house and a city place and I want them all to be in classic styles. He does it all so well as do you. Thanks for the post.
    xoxo, MB

  3. *Gasp*
    I LOVE those ceilings...painted and not.
    Those mahogany doors...louvered and not...
    All the island white and palm fronds everywhere.

    I want, I want, I want!!

    Especially love the vintage photos of the owners and guests at play!! Perfect!

    Thank you, Joni. Thank you

  4. the Lauren's house is of course immaculately beautiful and perfect! If you read the memoirs of Noel Coward he speaks often and very fondly of Jamaica -where he spent the last days of his life. Oddly enough, as he was gay, the island is very homophobic and travel alerts are sent to gay couples planning on visiting, so something to keep in mind.
    These villas are lovely though. I LOVE the terazzo floors in the Hammerstein house!

  5. Great post. Not only was there wonderful decorating inspiration, but it's interesting to read the history and see the vintage photos. The villas are just gorgeous. I couldn't pick a favorite.

  6. Hi. I just posted an hour ago and included some pics from Round Hill. The ones you have are much larger and better! Love seeing these - If I were to go to Jamaica that's where I think I'd want to go. Michele

  7. Where do I sign up!! Wonderful place! I love Adele's bedroom and those Ralph plantation chairs! And the color of that sea!

  8. Beautiful posting Joni. I wish I was having ny morning coffee in the open air loggia overlooking that gorgeous swimming pool.

  9. Your blog is so inspiring to me...not just the pictures, but the way that you point out why the room works is especially helpful to me...a non-gifted designer fan. ha ha.. Thanks for all the work you put into this. It is obviously enjoyed by many!

  10. Thanks for stopping by today. I have so much fun here at your place, I've added you to my blogroll!

  11. Joni,

    This is a great post. I love the Carribean architecture.

  12. joni-

    though i'm luky enough to live in one of the most pleasing climates on the planet, you've put me in the mood for a tropical vacation vacation.

    that white orhid is stunning...

  13. I was sitting here trying to conjure up some creativity at work and thought..."mmmm....I wonder if Joni has a new post to check out.."" and POOF!!! there it was, and a gorgeous array of photos and inspiration at that!! Thanks for boosting my creative energy..AGAIN!

    And.. I must say, JFK was looking mighty fine!

  14. Beautiful post as always! Thanks for posting this today. I'll be using your pictures as evidence in the Painted rafters vrs. Non-Painted rafters debate going on here at the tiny tudor. Ill let you know how it goes ;)LC

  15. Just a f**king beautiful post (don't know if you allow swearing on your beautiful blog Joni). I misspent many, many of my younger days in Negril, staying at Ten Sing Pen, Blue Cave Castle, The Rock House, and rented some little love shacks too. I visited Round Hill, and boy oh boy. Irie mon, irie...thanks for taking me back to my JA man.

  16. Joni, what can I say? You just continue to outdo yourself! I am thoroughly enjoying yur beach house series and love what Ralph and Ricky have done at Round Hill - beautiful!

  17. ABout 20 years ago, friends got the use of one of the Round Hill houses for two weeks as a wedding present. So a whole group of us went down there for a week, and then left them alone for a week. I can't remember which cottage it was, but I am sure it's changed a lot.

  18. Joni, I was completely enthralled with your story of Round Hill Hotel. As most people I too am a huge fan of Ralph Lauren and I immensely enjoyed seeing his villa's and all their splender. It actually made me think my little lake house isn't as outdated as I originally thought. We have a lot of mid century modern wicker furniture as well as mahogany pieces. Thank you for the wonderful inspiration.

    Anna :)

    p.s remind me again why you haven't written a book yet? ;)

  19. You have me dreaming of a vacation in a lovely & tropical beach house. Sigh, oh, the beauty you share!!!

    Thanks Joni, coming here is always fun & insightful!


  20. great photos -great design.

  21. How do you solve a problem like 'Maria'? (you send her to Round Hill.)

  22. We visited long ago and my fondest memories were swimming at the "Blue Lagoon" Remember that film with Brooke Shields.
    Again, what a collection of photos. Why am I less than surprised.
    Back to work!

  23. That's it. I'm going home to paint the outside of my house white and turquoise.

    I wish.

  24. fantastic post !!! Now I don't know where to choose either Dominicân republic or Jamaica ??
    These houses are very inspiring !!

  25. Wow! I have never been to Jamaica, so this is so fun to see. That Ralph certainly knows how to do things. These villas are all so gorgeous, and I love all of pops of red in many of the photos. Thanks again Joni! ;)

  26. Oh I just love those laid-back and relaxing rooms and spaces. Such a wonderful post, long but a very good read coupled with great images.

  27. I have the AD issue with the Lauren article. Simply lovely. I enjoyed reading about Round Hill and seeing the images. Beautiful place with great stories!

    Thanks Joni!

  28. Another treasure-filled posting -- thanks SO very much for doing all this work to bring us inspiration and information too! LOVE the RL style -- elegant, charming and so welcoming! I adore the Astaire villa -- something to dream about these hot dusty dry days here!

    Jan at the parched Rosemary Cottage

  29. Thanks for the compliment! The virtual weddings are fun to come up with!!

    I loved this post! The houses are so picturesque and beautiful! I'd much rather stay someplace like this than a huge and slick hotel. I will say though, that I think I prefer Ralph Lauren's new guest cottage to his main house. I like that it's white and bright - it puts the focus on the landscape! And how cool that Babe Paley used to own it???

  30. First Notting Hill, and now YOU! You girls make me want to paint and drink in the tropics all at once!

  31. Joni, I don't know how it is that you manage to find these amazing and Huge photos of these fabulous places. Really takes one away to a fantasy paradise! Thanks so much for sharing, good way to start the weekend :)


  32. What wonderful rooms and photos. Great selections and a pleasure browse.

  33. Views of Montego Bay, Waterworks bathrooms, and private villas! Thanks for the gorgeous escape. And what great research, down to the vintage photos. Bravo!

  34. The terrace of the White Orchid- I so want to be there right NOW!

  35. I live in the subtropics and am unsure how to use lighting with ceiling fans. Lauren photos have given me clues. He just seems to use good big lamps and no ceiling lights, how simple a solution.
    Love your blog and especially your comments to each photo.

  36. Such a beautiful home. I have friends that live in Jamaica.She's been trying to get me to come visit and even more there. It's such a beautiful place it;s temping.


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