Our fashion editor — unplugged on Harbour Island in the Bahamas — falls prey to the power of island design. Will she ever be the same?
by BRADLEY AGATHER
At its best, a vacation is a source of food for the soul. Often, it will leave us feeling inspired for a fresh start once we’re home. My recent trip to Harbour Island in the Bahamas left me with all of that and something else: decor envy. Never have I returned from a trip with such a desire to redecorate my entire apartment as I have after visiting The Dunmore.
With its pink sand beaches and candy-colored dwellings, Harbour Island is a longtime vacay favorite of Dallasites and designers alike (Diane von Furstenberg and India Hicks both own homes on the island). The tricky part? Getting there. It’s a bit of a Planes, Trains and Automobiles situation. Or in my case, two planes and one boat. But that’s another tale.
My advice: Fly from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (its airport code is FLL), then charter a plane to Eleuthera. Your other option is to fly into Miami — which, if you’re travel-savvy, you already know really isn’t an option at all. But once you’ve endured the big-plane, small-plane journey, you will soon realize it is well worth it.
I was told that despite its small size — the place is only 3 miles long and less than a mile wide — Harbour Island is full of hidden jewels.
The Dunmore is one of them. Founded in 1963, the hotel was originally a private beach club operated with an invitation-only rule. Since then, the beachside hotel has changed hands several times, most recently in 2010 when it was purchased by Dallas real-estate investor Gil Besing and his wife, Tricia Besing.
In an effort to re-establish the hotel as a luxury resort, the Besings tapped designer Amanda Lindroth. The Florida-born, Nassau-based designer worked alongside Miami’s De la Guardia Victoria Architects & Urbanists to preserve the historical integrity of the hotel, while giving it a much-needed refresh. “All I had to do,” Lindroth says, “was remember the history of the charming little clubhouse and refresh it and make it relevant. It was just waiting for some love.”
The result is a 16-cottage, pink-beach paradise. With its rattan furniture and white-lacquered wood, the hotel has all the charm of a Slim Aarons photograph — and much more. The entrance pavilion, one of the few new structures built during the renovation, sets the tone with its black-and-white cabana stripes, sisal rug and tables piled with shells. Lindroth claims this as her favorite spot in the hotel. (“It’s a tiny masterpiece,” she says.) The style is disarming but authentic, making you feel more like a guest in your best friend’s beachside abode than in a hotel.
In an effort to maintain the hotel’s historical roots, Lindroth focused on updating the mainstays. The cottages, which had always been named by color — Lime South, Aqua North — were given face-lifts with new textiles and fresh furnishings. Lindroth, a self-proclaimed addict for fabrics by Quadrille and China Seas, chose Island Ikat, a linen-cotton from China Seas, as the textile focus. Each cottage boasts identical decor — rattan headboards, Lucite bedside tables, lacquered desks — but with variations on color, keyed to each cottage’s name.
Just down the limestone paths from the cottages is the main clubhouse. Here, Lindroth has transformed the building into a space that is, at once, light, airy and elegant. White-lacquered wood is punctuated with pops of conch- shell coral and tangerine, and the layered art, mismatched textiles and sea- grass rugs beneath my feet all served to make me feel at home. (For those who don’t just want to feel at home, but to be at home, the property does have six residences. Four are already spoken for.) There are two dining areas in the clubhouse. The outdoor patio — where I experienced the best conch fritters of my life — features dark wood tables offset by white directors’ chairs. The indoor dining area, the more nostalgic of the two, is outfitted in orange- and-white striped banquettes and features island ephemera galore.
(The straw baskets turned lampshades are my favorite.) The room’s walls are lined with black-and-white photographs that Lindroth pulled from local photographer Roland Rose’s archive and feature Dunmore’s glamorous visitors of the ’60s. The outdoor cabana, outfitted in the hotel’s signature aqua-and-white color combination, also received a Lindroth overhaul. There is a nonchalance to the whole freshened-up getaway that is exactly what I crave when I’m at the beach.
My home back in Dallas is already seeing the Dunmore Effect, if you look carefully: the conch shell on the entry table, the straw basket on the bookshelf. If you miss those, there are two plump armchairs in my living room. I had those reupholstered immediately upon my return, in, you guessed it, China Seas’ Island Ikat. They are the perfect places to sit, patiently, while I wait for the conch fritters to show up.
The Dunmore on Harbour Island, owned by Dallasites Tricia and Gil Besing, gets the Slim Aarons overhaul from designer Amanda Lindroth. Here, an exterior porch converted into a comfortable lounge and bar.
An oceanfront suite is updated with new furnishings and bedding, including a quilt by John Robshaw.