David Bowie’s House on the Caribbean Island of Mustique
“I think Mustique is Duchampian—it will always provide an endless source of delight,” says David Bowie, with his new wife, actress Iman.
“The house is such a tranquil place that I have absolutely no motivation to write things when I’m there,” says Bowie. Robert J. Litwiller, the New York designer who oversaw the project, says, “The first view from the entrance is of two fish ponds and the pool, beyond which is Britannia Bay, where the yacht is anchored.
Architect Arne Hasselqvist conceived a series of Japanese/Scandinavian pavilions, such as the lower living room, that descend down the slope. Indonesian elements, including the Javanese dining pavilion (right) were introduced by Bali-based designer Linda Garland.
A section of the horseshoe-shaped veranda circles the upper pond. Teak housefronts from the Javanese village of Kudus were used as façades for the kitchen area. The intricately carved columns were inspired by originals on the island of Sumbawa.
“You’re never able to see much of the house at one time,” says Litwiller, “and we wanted to create different moods as you proceed through, with surprises around corners. We hit upon a formal European living room that enhances the whole ‘British retreat in the tropics’ concept.” Garland, who designed the 19th-century-style furnishings, used antique beveled glass for the shutters. At left is a set of circa 1825 engravings of the pagodas of Pagan and Rangoon. The circa 1850 crystal oil chandelier, one of the final details of the five-year project, was found in London.
“I’m an early riser,” says Bowie, relaxing on a 19th-century Indian recliner. “I get up between five and six, have coffee and read for a couple of hours before everyone else gets up. And then we have breakfast and everyone goes down to the beach—nothing startlingly original. One thing that’s quite sweet about the house is that it’s broken up into little areas that you can get lost in—you can go at least eight days and find a different place each day. I am doing a bit of sculpting there, something I’ve not attempted since I studied art.”
An octagonal guest pavilion with palm-tree trunks and an ornamental bamboo ceiling was constructed by landscape designer Michael White on Bali and reassembled on the site. A Javanese gaming table is flanked by 19th-century planter’s chairs.
“By the stone entrance is a 19th-century teak carved wall known as a ‘pateanaring panel,’ which is an internal wall from a traditional house in central Java,” explains Garland.
The freestanding teak dining pavilion with a circa 1825 English lantern, is an adaptation by Garland of the Yoglo style used in the palaces of central Java. She reinterpreted the carved balustrade, which depicts the Naga, the symbol of immortality, and reproduced the dining chairs from ones used at Raffles.
A collection of 19th-century Egyptian Revival furniture highlights the master bedroom. In the corner is an inlaid 19th-century Moroccan chest-on-stand. The floors are covered with antique lacquered rattan matting.
A palm-frond pattern was silk-screened onto the mosquito netting and bedcoverings in one of the guest bedrooms. South American greenheart was used on the floors throughout to deter termites.