Jacques Grange’s refurbishment of Cheval Blanc St Barth is a breezy take on French casual chic in a Caribbean setting – with eclectic design influences woven throughout
When the propeller plane nosedives into Saint Barthelémy – the French-Caribbean island better known as St Barth – you’re struck by the lush green hills surrounded by turquoise waters and just how tiny the runway is. And dotted around this tropical landscape are a multitude of metal roofs. Most are red, like tiny Lego houses, all unified in their architectural, hurricane-proof design. For while St Barth is renowned for its St Tropez vibe with year-round sun, the Caribbean climate comes at a price. In 2017, hurricane Irma destroyed the island’s properties, and the Cheval Blanc ‘maison’, like most other luxury resorts, had to be rebuilt again.
Nestled nicely on the east side of Flamand Bay, the LVMH-owned property turned this reality into an opportunity to reimagine its décor. French design star Jacques Grange – famed for his work with Alain Ducasse, Karl Lagerfeld and Princess Carolina of Monaco – was brought in to refresh the interior of this iconic property. Combining a relaxed beach hut style with luxury finishes, Grange based his design on the concept of a travel journal. Each room features design elements from different countries – like souvenirs collected on travels to reflect the globetrotting lifestyle of St Barth’s guests.
Colombian pots with pearls and shells decorate the beach suites. In the ocean suites, Fauteuil chairs by Serena & Lily mix rattan with light and bright coloured fabrics to echo a breezy Californian flair. Tai Ping carpets made of Tibetan wool soften the floors, styled with ornamental wooden side tables by London-based design duo Paolo Moshino and Philip Vergeylen. Lighting is varied, with some lamps designed by Portuguese Sculptor Bela Silva for Marini while others are influenced by Middle Eastern pottery. Dark brown leather Pouf Borneo by Walker Zabriskie is inspired by Bali, and Aboriginal artworks adorn the walls.
The interior backdrop, however, is paired back with natural finishes and Grange designed customised furniture, predominantly in white, to blend into the setting. Especially the suite walls, which are clad in bleached larch, convey the beachside ambience of this Palace-status hotel, the only one outside of France. Guests are invited to luxuriate in spacious bathrooms, with freestanding, cast-iron Devon & Devon bathtubs and geometric Moroccan mosaic tiling in the walk-in showers. Bath salts, scrubs, lotion and potions in Cheval Blanc St Barth’s signature scent “tropical chic” – specifically created by Guerlain – turn any post-beach, pre-dinner grooming session into an indulgent ritual.
With over 60 amenities, the branding at this particular ‘maison’ forms a memorable part of the visual experience. The soft blush tone found on all the products, including beach bags, towels, flip flops and fans, links back to the island: The colour is inspired by how St Barth’s typical red metal roofs fade in the scorching sun, into a faint blush pink over time. Furthermore, the resorts Caribbean context is amplified by the awe-inspiring tropical garden that surrounds the buildings. Madison Cox, the famous landscaper and Director of the YSL museum in Paris and Marrakech, designed the lush gardens as a perfectly perfumed nature haven.
This new look and feel – discrete luxury with a clear brand identity – marks the future of Cheval Blanc St Barth, perfectly symbolised by the new sculpture at the entrance, La Constellation de Pegase by artist Jean-Michael Othoniel. Yet, while the visual charm of the resort is mesmerising, the guest experience is defined by something more: The Art de Recevoir, a French term for highly attentive, creative and sophisticated service, is a constant companion, whether via culinary delights or customised refinements. Ultimately, the refurbished Cheval Blanc St Barth delivers with vibrancy, positivity and soul – much like the island itself.