At GoldenEye, Chris Blackwell’s jewel of a Jamaican property, things are simpler than you expect. So much fame has slept here, but I drove by the gate three times before I found it, and at one turnaround, dramatically plopped the rental into a massive pothole to the disbelief and hilarity of local onlookers in Oracabessa. Once inside the gate, it was refreshing to know that it’s not lavishness or pomp that make this place special—it’s a cool island vibe infused with the aura of music legends. Chris says, “I don’t interfere with the basic beauty of a place; I just want to make it comfortable.”
In Jamaica, “vibe” is a word used a lot, and once you’re here, it’s clear that word’s the best way to describe what’s purely felt and wordlessly comprehended. Marika Kessler gets that, and when Chris engaged her to redecorate key parts of the property, he didn’t have to explain what he wanted—she understood. Marika is a friend in Jamaica and also someone Chris knew to have an exceptional eye. Anyone who knows her knows that’s a truth in stone.
The story goes like this: “One evening on Chris’ veranda at Pantrepant, he handed me a sketch of what was to be the now Ian Fleming Room at GoldenEye and said ‘what would you do with this?’ So I just picked up a pen and did a rough sketch of what I thought looked best. Chris said, ‘Ok, thank you’ and I thought that was the end of it,” Marika explained. Little did she know, she was auditioning for the job any interior designer would leap for. She was daunted, but says, “I looked at myself in the mirror, took a swig of scotch and thought ‘what do you have to lose?’”
But there was a twist: Chris wanted everything made locally, which is easier said than done. “There’s so much talent in Jamaica,” he says, “In Westminster Abbey there’s a lot of work done by Jamaicans. They actually ship the people over, because Jamaicans are so skillful.” As Marika walks me through the completed Ian Fleming Room, the Field Spa, Gazebo Restaurant and outdoor lounge areas, she points to one incredible piece after another and proudly says, “local, local, local.”
There’s a polished concrete coffee table that looks like a giant stone smoothed by waves. There are countless stools carved from the trunks of trees, with a graceful tapering at the waist. The restaurant has chairs with an organic, original shape, and no two are exactly alike. The gates, chandeliers, mirrors and benches are all made right here. “I used Guinep wood, Greenheart, Teak, Cedar, Bullet—and of course, driftwood,” Marika says. Then for almost six months, she worked tirelessly with craftsmen to make this very particular place an even cooler reality. But of course, you’ve got to see for yourself.
Digging Jamaica? Visit the 100m Shop and get your jerk-reggae-patois-sunshine fix. (Sunscreen recommended.)