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.

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