I recently had the privilege of visiting the Caribbean island of Bequia. Bequia (pronounced BECK-way) is the largest of the Grenadine Islands and measures 7 miles square, with a population of about 5,000. The quickest way to get there from the states is to take a tiny plane, into the tiny airport, from Barbados. You can also take a ferry from St. Vincent or several of the other nearby Grenadine islands. Once you finally get there, you know at once you have arrived in a magical place. Not only is Bequia a jewel of an island itself, it is also a haven for well-designed villas and inns.
View from Cassava Peace, Lower Bay, Bequia
My husband and I were very lucky to be staying at the brand new Cassava Peace villa with good friends (and excellent hosts) Lady Alexandra Connell and her talented photographer son, Ivar Wigan. Ivar and Alexandra began looking for property here in 2007 and they now have two fine villas available for rent, just steps away from one another and the beach. Ivar’s Dragonfly Villa was being renovated at the time so we stayed with Alexandra a bit down the hill in the neighborhood of Lower Bay. The villa’s name comes from a play on where one of their favorite dancehall artists, Mavado, grew up in Jamaica - Cassava Piece.
Cassava Peace has been expertly decorated with weathered Indian artifacts, antiques shipped over from England and local finds from Bequia and St. Vincent. Alexandra and Ivar scour London’s second-hand shops and antiques stores on Goldbourne Road in Notting Hill and Lillie Road in Fulham as well as Church Street Antiques. Special pieces include an amazing carved wood monk’s table in the dining room, Japonesque trays and desks and gilt mirrors mixed with fun modernist pieces as well.
For a special occasion (my birthday!) and knowing my interest in design, Ivar and Alexandra suggested lunch at the newest boutique Inn on the island’s upper east coast, nestled in a reef-protected bay. Sugar Reef is a 65-acre working plantation (coconuts, bananas, guavas, papaya) featuring accommodations either directly on the beach or up the hill at French House. The Beach Club has a 1950s beach vibe and also houses the Reef’s delicious restaurant.
Sugar Reef Dining Room
While Sugar Reef opened in late 2012, the buildings are from the 1970s and constructed of local stone, mahogany and other natural materials. Designed by Jonathan Berger, the main area boasts driftwood and sea glass chandeliers and mirrors by Ann Arbor, Michigan-based artist Ben Forgey, comfy couches and chic seashell-covered furniture. The structures’ eco-friendly designs incorporate deep verandas, cathedral ceilings and French doors and windows to capture the island’s cool breezes.
Sugar Reef Sitting Area
Up the hill, castle-like French House has epic views over the estate, beach and surrounding hilltops. The house consists of just eight guest rooms with a shared veranda, sitting area, library, dining area and plunge pool. Each room is individually decorated with locally-made furniture original to the construction and each plush, carved-wood, four-poster bed comes complete with mosquito nets.
French House Library
French House Veranda
French House Tiles
The Old Fort is the only fully restored historic plantation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, dating back to the 18th-Century when the first French settlers migrated to the Caribbean. The large plantation buildings have been restored and turned into luxurious and quirky accommodations which are located throughout the expansive property.
Pool with views over The Grenadines
Unfortunately, we were unable to see the rooms but each is decorated individually with local artisan charm. Bamboo furniture, primitive art and an eclectic mix of accessories make the Old Fort more than just an insight into the history of Bequia.
Original buildings from the 18th-century
Communal space for gatherings
For more information about Bequia in general have a look at this great 2011 New York Times article which really sums up the island well.