ARCHITECT ANTONIO IMBERT AND INTERIOR DESIGNER JUAN MONTOYA SHARE THEIR EXPERIENCE WORKING ON A LARGE BEACHFRONT HOME IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC AS THEY GIVE IT A PLEASANT MIX OF ZEN AND TROPICAL LUXURY.
Architecture by Antonio Imbert | Interior Design by Juan Montoya | Written by Virginia Moghani | Photography by Eric Piasecki
Vacation homes reveal something about its denizens that a family dwelling can never fully express. Just as practicality and function command the look of our everyday abodes—how we live—second homes are a sincere extension of our personalities, where we’re not stifled by work and responsibilities. It’s this wistful approach to life that allowed acclaimed architect and interior designer Juan Montoya to create, for some longtime clients, Las Hamacas [The Hammocks], a truly unique luxury villa in Cap Cana Resort in the Dominican Republic. After working with the homeowners on more than ten projects in metropolitan cities such as Caracas and New York City, Montoya was tasked with designing the 12,000-square-foot beachfront property.
The home, situated just steps away from the ocean, was a departure for the designer, whose work for the family has been primarily in more formal spaces. “The project was about comfort and serenity, where one can forget about their obligations—very different from [the family’s] New York City home,” says Montoya. With a master bedroom, five guestrooms, multiple indoor and outdoor seating areas, plus a massage room, the design needs for the home proved varied and intensive. “Each area had its own concept and particular focus,” he says.
For more than a year and a half, Montoya worked closely with the family and Antonio Imbert, the architect on the project, to design a place where his clients could relax and unwind. The process was seamless, according to Imbert, who describes the relationship between Montoya and the homeowners as the winning formula that gave way to such a tailor-made project. The vision was barefoot comfort, or as he puts it, “A house where one can walk without shoes; where one should feel relaxed and able to kick back.” To keep things casual, Montoya made sure there was fluidity between the indoor and outdoor spaces. “It was important to the client that the home reflect its environment and remain as open as possible,” he explains. “In the tropics, we consider the outdoors as important as the indoors; when you have such divine weather, it would be a crazy idea not to integrate the outdoors on any beachfront property,” adds Imbert. “There is no painting that can compete with the beautiful Caribbean Sea and no sculpture that can outshine the Cap Cana palm trees.” Montoya designed playrooms for the children and places where the adults could relax or entertain, all of which are distinct but parallel in mood. Areas that are covered but not enclosed, such as an informal living room and open dining area beneath the big palapa (open-sided dwelling with palm-thatched roof), show a great deal of interaction between inside and outside spaces.
Bringing the outside in introduced a series of challenges that Montoya addressed through the use of utilitarian resources that held up to the elements. “In tropical climates, materials need to withstand wind, storms and weather extremes,” he says of his choices to use coral stone, cottons and wood, most of which are indigenous to the Dominican Republic. The home’s main structure was constructed of coral stone, or coralina, a virtually non-slip, saltwater-resistant stone that absorbs minimal heat, while the floors were built using durable black palm wood, or macana, although he painted the upstairs flooring in turquoise, for effect. Montoya was deliberate in using mostly local materials and working with local craftsmen and artisans to execute his vision for a Zen-like retreat; all of the fixtures he designed, for instance, were produced in the Dominican Republic. It’s perhaps because of this that, despite the tropical influences, the home has a decidedly Buddhist vibe. “I did use Asian elements that would feel comfortable in this Caribbean setting,” he says of the art and ornamental touches he used to create focal points in the respective rooms. Some areas center on a statue of Buddha while others emphasize a dramatic doorway. There’s also the bamboo detailing throughout the home, from multiple ceilings to furnishings inside the various powder rooms, which was crafted by local workers. Though pervasive, these unexpected elements were sparing and subtle. “I tried to have an oriental feel without making the building look like a temple,” he explains. The result is a space that speaks to its surroundings and is at once relaxed and luxurious. Because in the end, be it Asian or Caribbean, laid-back sophistication is what this paradise retreat was all about.