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THE HERMITAGE - Bluefields Bay, Jamaica by Kaya Morgan

Old world ambiance overlooking the azure waters of the Caribbean.

There is a place in the Caribbean where nightlife and high-rise hotels fade away, where clocks and calendars seem to wind down slowly to a halt, where the azure sea laps gently beside dark earth, green hills, and vibrantly-hued fruits and blossoms. It is a fantasy location, the ultimate escape from reality. The lucky travel there to visit. The truly blessed return to create their vacation dream home.

Known as Bluefields Bay on the southwest coast of Jamaica, this little piece of paradise proved irresistible to Washington D.C. architect, Deborah Moncure, and her husband, Braxton. After visiting this idyllic spot over thirteen years ago, they found it difficult to just pack up their bags and go home. So, finally, after years of negotiating with the local government, they bought some land and made their plans. The glorious result is "The Hermitage."

The villa's unique location is steeped in history when some 250 years ago, renegade pirates led by the adventuresome Sir Henry Morgan set sail for the Isthmus, with plans to carry out a daring raid on Panama. Bluefields, then known as "Blewfields," became a base for buccaneer strikes against Spanish ships and ports, flourishing with taverns and gambling and carousers.

But today, little evidence of that scandalous era still exists. In fact, for more than thirty years, the area has remained virtually unchanged, without the commercial development that has invaded other parts of the island. With no airport, one road, an isolated beach, and only a few private villas, Bluefields Bay is home mainly to fishermen and to those looking to escape, in the true, tranquil sense of the word.

The couple drew upon the tradition of stately Jamaican Great Houses for their design inspiration, with Deborah responsible for all architecture and Braxton as the interior designer who collected the unique furniture and artwork for the home. "I tried to revive as many of the old motifs as possible, Deborah explains. "So much Jamaican contemporary architecture has neglected the fine details and highlights of Jamaican vernacular. I wanted to rectify that in designing The Hermitage."

And that is exactly what she did. The home takes its name and its sense of gracious style from a plantation house that occupied the site two centuries ago, and many details were drawn from a nearby 1730's Great House, Caledonia, and a late Georgian period sugar plantation house, Acton.

Set on four acres of waterfront with a crescent of white-sand beach, the stunning villa includes cut-stone walls and carved mahogany woodwork, dramatic gabled rooflines and soaring arched doorways. It is a unique design that not only harks back to a bygone era, but also succeeds in co-existing harmoniously with the environment by utilizing flowing, open spaces that pay respectful deference to the dazzling location.

The home is designed as adjoining octagons, including an octagonal pool and spa with uninterrupted views of the sea. Wide overhanging eaves extend outward from the wood-shingled roofs to create areas of cool shade and to direct rain away from the home's opensides, but they provide the additional benefit of trapping the soothing sounds of the sea like a shell. Created from primarily Jamaican materials, the home features foot-thick walls of locally quarried coral lime-stone, floors of pink marble in the octagonal living room, and bedroom floors of random-width guango wood.

On one boundary of this property runs a deep gully that years ago carried the Bluefields River. Now it is filled with lush tropical vegetation, including Tarzan-like vines and tall banana plants. Stones from this gully course, smoothed for so many years by rushing water, were utilized to create the cobblestone terraces and spacious pool surround.

Inside, rich mahogany warms the rooms. Carved louvers, wall pilasters, and arch trimwork came not only from Jamaican wood, but from the hands of lamaican craftspeople. The attention to detail, though expensive and time-consuming, resulted in a house with a truly "old world" feel - a strong tribute to Jamaican workmanship and design.

The main living area of the home is a twenty-two-foot-wide octagon with wraparound views. The expansiveness of this central room makes it a perfect hub for home entertaining, with seating for up to twelve and the adjoining outdoor terrace for added space. From a comfy seat on the sofa, three Jamaican cedar-and-mahogany archways across the room dramatic pool and sea vistas. Thoughtful design was also employed in the spacious kitchen. Separated into two main areas, the kitchen features a butler's station adjacent to the dining room, with space set aside for silver polishing and for the storage of fine china and crystal.

Classic furnishings abound throughout the home, due in part, no doubt, to Braxton's background as a fellow of the Royal Furniture Historical Society of London. The villa's furniture collection includes antique dining room furnishings, re-assembled from a Jamaican Great House that was destroyed by Hurricane Gilbert. The nineteenth-century table, mahogany with removable leaves, was milled in England. It is surrounded by classic Jamaican Georgian dining chairs and flanked by an oversized nineteenth-century lamaican mahogany sideboard with roped legs and a scrolled backboard.

Each of the each of the four bedrooms faces the sea, so that the sounds of the surf are omnipresent and the magnificent stretch of coast is the first sight of the morning. The tranquil master bedroom opens onto a loggia, where wraparound views can be enjoyed in privacy. Indeed, the view that this home boasts makes it difficult to stay inside.

But the terraces also beckon. The large pool terrace on the upper level is accessed directly from both the living and dining room. And the pool itself features large deep end on one side and set with whirlpool jets on the other - talk about a perfect spot to sip champagne at sunset! The lights of Sav-la-Mar, seven miles away across Bluefields Bay, twinkle in the distance.

The three downstairs bedrooms open onto private terraces overlooking the water. Hidden further down at sea level, a secluded seaside patio features gates that open directly onto a perfect white-sand beach and the sparkling Caribbean. Nearby, a magnificent cottonwood tree marks a two-bedroom guest cottage which, when combined with The Hermitage, creates a total of six bedrooms.

The Hermitage is now offered as a exclusive private villa rental, as are their three other waterfront properties nearby. Although being involved in the luxury resort business was not the couple's intention, the idea evolved naturally as more properties became available. And it is not surprising that the Moncures' affinity for the land and concern for the natural environment makes them ideal proprietors for this special, pristine, private place, just as it made them the ideal couple to create it.

To reserve this luxury villa, call 202.232.6517 or go to

For more articles by well known author, Kaya Morgan , click the link.

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With respect to the articles and their subject matter, it is based on information provided through research and/or by the interviewed parties and is not based on any original ideas or opinions of the author.


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