COTE DE TEXAS: Beach Houses #5 - The Dominican Republic

Beach Houses #5 - The Dominican Republic



The charming Oscar de la Renta at his home in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

The always dapper and extremely handsome courtier Oscar de la Renta was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, a large island in  the Western Antilles of the Caribbean.  It's history and culture is one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere - Christopher  Columbus discovered the island  on his maiden voyage of 1492.  Two thirds of the island Hispaniola is occupied by the Dominican Republic, the other third is the independent country of Haiti.  Oscar de la Renta has remained loyal to his birthplace.  He lives part of the year there in a beautiful beach house in the area known as Punta Cana.  Previously, Oscar lived in another, more populated area of the island, but along with his move to the resort town of Punta Cana, he became a major investor and tourist attraction there.    His cachet draws the upper classes to Punta Cana where they can relax in relative privacy behind the gated doors of its beach community.  President and Mrs. Clinton are among some of the regular visitors to Oscar's compound.  Other close by neighbors are Mikhail Baryshnikov  and co investor with Oscar, singer Julio Iglesias.  A few years ago interior designer Bunny Williams and husband,  antiquarian John Rosselli, also built a house in Punta Cana, using the same architect as Oscar, the Cuban born Ernesto Buch.   But, don't let the famous names scare you off.   If you want to enjoy Punta Cana,  you don't have to have king's ransom to do so.  The affordable, all inclusive Club Med has a beautiful resort on the island.  For more exclusive digs, there is always Oscar's and Julio's hotel, the Tortuga Bay.  Enjoy!


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An aerial view of Oscar's beach house on Punta Cana.  The compound was designed by the famous architect Ernesto Buch, known for his many houses he has designed in the Dominican Republic.


Oscar and his wife heading home.  Note the dual staircases that lead to the piano nobile, or the second floor - which is actually the main living area.  At the beach, Buch employs the piano nobile for the sweeping views of the ocean it provides along with the protection against rising tides during storms.


The open air pool pavilion, built in the same style as the main house, albeit much smaller.  The home and its outbuildings are built of coquina, native coral stone and stucco, applied by hand. 

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Inside the house on the piano nobile, evening means the candles need to be lit for the night.  Immense votives are everywhere.  The large wood table divides the room into two equal halves.   The center table is piled high with art books and a large blue and white bowl holds an array of orchids.  On the dark hardwood floors is a huge, threadbare blue and white antique dhurri rug with a Greek key border.  Tall French doors on both sides of the room open to the porches overlooking the ocean on one side and the gardens on the other.  The walls are made of coral stone.


Apologies for the poor picture quality!!!!

Both sides of the room are anchored by matching fireplaces with overmantel mirrors and flanking bookcases.  A  large limestone pediment tops the mirrors.   The large slipcovered sofa between the bookcases is from Oscar's furniture line with Century.  Oversized blue and white porcelain vases became lamps. 


A close up of the living room with its coral walls and oversized architectural elements which help bring the huge room back to a more human sized scale.


A guest room with a white canopy bed and striped dhurri rug.  The walls are a soft apricot stucco.  Notice the  exotic secretary on the right.


On the balcony, the designer introduces his outdoor furniture line for Century, using his Punta Cana home as the perfect stage.  I love what he's wearing here:  white linen with the sleeves pushed up along with white linen pants!  Hey, Oscar -  can I borrow your outfit?


The Way He Was:  Before the move to Punta Cana, Oscar lived in Casa de Campo, a more touristy section.  Here is his wooden house - blue and white ikats abound, along with blue and white garden seats.  This summer, Oscar's fashion line featured many ikat fabrics, proving his  continual   love for it.    Here, he's still wearing white linen!

Oscar De La Renta (© Slim Aarons)


And one other shot, by Slim Aarons, at Casa de Campo.



Tortuga Bay, the resort that Oscar and Julio built and partly own - a small boutique hotel, Oscar also designed it and furnished it with pieces from his own furniture line.


The suites have limestone floors and white walls.   Oscar's famous slipcovered sofa is here too.  The green painted coffee table is adorable!


The master bedrooms in the villas have a large canopy bed.


The other bedrooms have rice beds painted black.  Imagine waking up here each morning!   Heavenly!


The small dining room that serves the hotel's even smaller  guest roster.  Exclusivity is the important word here!


Oscar, sans socks, proudly shows off the villa's living room.  He's so handsome, it's hard to resist putting his picture on here!!!  Here he is wearing yellow instead of white linen to coordinate with Tortuga Bay's yellow design theme.


After spending a Christmas vacation with Oscar, Bunny Williams and John Rosselli bought three acres there and hired Oscar's architect, Ernesto Buch to design them a house on Punta Cana.  After dating 15 years, the couple finally married right before the house, La Colina,  was completed.


The cover of Bunny Williams' new book shows the living room on the piano nobile.  A large rectangular table divides the room in half.   The last part of the book is devoted to the Punta Cana beach house.  Available here.


The great room on the piano nobile, again, designed with antiques from various homes the couple own, along with from their shops.  Antique textiles liven up the antique sofa and chairs.  The large mirror is one that John sells - he enlarged it for this home and painted it white.  Blue and white porcelains, lamps and garden seats are favorites of John.  This room is large, 30 x 50, which called for a higher than usual ceiling, according to Bunny.   My favorite item here is the taupe and cream striped dhurri rug! 

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A close up of the right side of the room.  Notice the beautiful shell table with the scalloped apron and the white elephant.  There's also a beautiful pagoda.  The base of the lamp perfectly matches the light blue slipcovers.  The framed pair of wallpaper panels perfectly set off the whole vignette.


The porch on the piano nobile is furnished with chaises from Oscar's collection for Century.


The ground level porch features a charming scalloped bench along with wicker chairs.


John's library, where he watches late afternoon TV??????   I'm not sure with a beach this gorgeous, that I'd be watching a TV indoors!!!  The massive tortoise shell is spectacular, as is the console upon which  it sits.  Notice the two cattle next to the shell.  It's accessories such as these that make a Williams-Rosselli interior unique and highly personal.


John's library with a wall of Swedish bird prints.  Anthropologie sells a wonderful copy of this set of bird prints.


The pool house doubles as a guest house. 


On a shelf, a collection of corals and shells decorates the pool pavilion.


In the master bedroom, an American empire bed shares space with a painted Swedish settee at the foot of the bed.  The large carved shell is 18th century, Italian.  Large botanicals flank the bed.  Notice how the door is painted black - a favorite design trick I like to use to make less important doors look, well, more important!


The house today, with its plantings lushly growing over the iron staircases.


From Ernesto Buch's web site, the house upon completion before the landscaping grew.


The front or back? of the house has a water feature than runs down the lawn in a long, skinny river.  Again, the landscaping had just  been planted and looks rather forlorn here!


Buch's site plan for the Williams-Rosselli compound.  The pool is not directly in front of the house, but instead, off to the right.  And interesting too, the house is not beach front, but rather on a small hill overlooking the bay.  Floor plans of this house and Oscar's are  available on Buch's web site for your perusal.  Additionally, there are several other Punta Cana houses featured that Buch has designed.


Buch's exquisite drawings show "Bunny's Den" above the three car garage.  I wonder if this is her beach office?

This house is located in Casa de Campo, Oscar's former neighborhood.  The architect here was Jacquelin Robertson, and the design team was MAC II, headed by Mica Ertugun. 

Here, the house is, like the other two shown, built of native coral stone and stucco.  The main difference in the Buch and Robertson designs is the piano nobile, or second floor.  The Robertson house is on the ground level and does not have the piano nobile.  Beautiful though it is, it doesn't have quite the commanding appearance as the Buch designed houses do. 


The large living area, like in the other two beach homes, is separated by a center table.   The room, built of native coral stone, resembles Oscar's living room, built of the same material.


A close up of the decor:  Gorgeous wood French doors lead to the outside.  The bookcases are made of the same wood.  Blue and white porcelains accent the room.   Notice on the far left the fluted wood column and urn - so classic!   The choice of fabrics and their colors would not be my first choice and they leave me puzzled.


A close up showing the texture of the gorgeous coral walls.  The mirror and console appear to have grown organically out of the stone.  Can I tell you how much I hate the green fabric on the chairs?  The house is magnificent, but the fabric choices are not Ertugun's best work.  Agree or disagree?


Here in the master bedroom, the architecture is breathtaking.  The high ceiling and beamed roof, the gorgeous wood French doors, the coral walls all add to the room's richness of design.   The bed's mosquito netting provides the softness and romance to the setting. 


The porch, with it's coral stone floor and columns.  The table is also made of the same material.  Notice the charming wicker chair.  Here, the outdoor furniture is much more romantic than the more contemporary line of Oscar de la Renta outdoor furniture used in the other two houses.  Which do you prefer?  The vintage wicker or the newer version?


For the masses:  Club Med Punta Cana, a family destination, is located near by Tortuga Bay, a much more exclusive address.  But, the beach is the same and so is the scenery, and this resort looks pretty good to me!  One of Ben's and my favorite trips we have taken was to a Club Med - so it's a vacation spot I highly recommend, especially if you have small children.


Sailing and swimming at Club Med Punta Cana.


An aerial shot of the beach and the swimming pool.  OK, I'm ready to go!!  This looks just a little bit nicer than South Padre Island, especially after Hurricane Dolly came and damaged it this week.  And no!  We are not going there this summer  because of Dolly!!!    :(


Club Med Punta Cana has been totally remodeled recently.  These rooms are furnished in pinks and reds.  The bedroom is separated from a sitting room by a screen of pickets.  The floor is coral stone.


Wait a minute - THIS is Club Med???????  Wow - a bathtub!  We we were there, we had just a tiny shower stall.


And the biggest surprise of them all?  A flat screen TV.  Whatever happened to the "no telephones, no televisions" rule at Club Med?  And do they still sing "Hands Up" every minute of every day???

If you do want to visit Club Med at Punta Cana or anywhere else in the world, be sure to call my friend, Eddie.  His company offers discounts to all the villages.  Tell them Joni sent you!  And no, I'm not getting a kick back either.  I actually used to work for Eddie and took reservations over the phone from my home for him.    Call Mill Travel at:   1-800-242-6378  in order to get the discount.

The beaches at the Dominican Republic are so beautiful, but the architecture is even more so!  Don't forget to visit Ernesto Buch's web site for more pictures of various other homes he has designed on the island.


  1. Such beautiful properties! It's fun to see how the other half lives! I was laughing at the Club Med photos at the end though. I can't believe I went to CM 20 years ago. So cheesy!! And poor Bunny W...doesn't want to look at the pool from the main house. That would be terrible, wouldn't it, to gaze at that beautiful pool and pool house all day? Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Oscar de la Renta's house is absolutely stunning. I especially love the pediments over the mirrors between the bookcases and the detail on the shelves. So classy and elegant.

  4. The piano nobile with the archway underneath looking to the ocean is just fabulous!! Love Oscar's house. What a debonnaire man! The coquina is perfect...and I want staff to light my candles in the evenings.....

  5. I LOVE how thorough you post- down to the sans socks! I love an elegant beach home... can you imagine Oscar hanging up surfboards and life preservers? I am going to rethink a real home on the beach filled with more art books, antiques and subtle nods to the ocean. Native coral stone walls wouldn't be bad either!!!!

  6. Ah Joni, I'm swooning! The word of the day is: piano noblie! And word up on men in white linen! My Alberto hardly ever wears socks! I just thought it was a thing guys from Buenos Aires do! It must be a universal Latin culture thing. Let's book Club Med and drop in on Oscar and Bunny! Thanks for sharing your massive clipping file. You're the best!
    PS Sorry about that bitch Dolly messing up your island and your vacation :-(

  7. Great post Joni. No socks is also a "Carolina" thing. None of the men around here wear them. It's "weejuns" and no socks almost year round. I love the details in Oscar's house. Beautiful! A great Saturday morning read. Thanks!

  8. Beautiful post and pics. So many great details in every room. And isn't Oscar de la Renta just so rico suave?

  9. Wonderful beach house ! So exotic ! The perfect one for me

  10. Beutiful post, Joni! Filled with photos and ideas to float around in my head, next week at the lake!

    J is a no socks fella too. I love it!

    Have a wonderful week!

  11. Loved seeing those great houses compared. The mood is slightly grander at Oscar's place, at least in terms of scale and detail, but not at all "grandiose." There are many lessons to be learned from looking at those houses in the Dominican Republic. This has got to be the best Beach House post yet! Oscar, Annette, Bunny, John~they're all patron saints of good design.

  12. joni, oscar's home is one of my all-time favorites and i love john's library!

  13. Joni - Great post! I think Oscar looks so much more chic in the all-black or all-white linen, untucked, barefoot look. All great houses, but unfortunately none of these were on the house tour I went on in Punta Cana a couple years ago!


  14. love the bunny william's photos- such dramtic and beautiful accessories- a woman after my own heart!

    and the stone walls at mr. de la renta's? perfect!

  15. Gorgeous post, makes me want to hop on a plane to the Dominican Republic ASAP.

  16. Joni - I am totally laughing at your " best endorsement of this bog ever!!"

    Hugs bug

    And I'm sure readers of my blog would totally love yours :-)


  17. wow - incredible. That was just worth 2 cups of coffee!

  18. Another fabulous post! I can almost hear the sea! What soothing,comfortable tres elegant interiors!

  19. Great post, all the pics were so inspirational. Love coming to your blog for ideas.

  20. Rainy afternoon here! Great to see sunny warm pictures. They're all gorgeous.

  21. Oh, no!!! I can't believe you are not going to SPI. We're not taking our usual Port A trip either, too much going on and I was looking forward to living vicariously through your trip. I'm so dissappointed for you; summer is just the same w/out beach trip. I hadn't realized Dolly was that destructive.

  22. Umm can I be Oscar's adopted daughter?!!!

  23. I always have to prepare myself - when I click on cote de texas, to sit back and take at least 15 minutes to ooh and ahh. Then I say, Oh, I really have to get some work done.... but then I pretend to have moved in to one of these grand spots, and start giving orders to staff while I luxuriate. Your posts always give me moments of grandeur and take me away.
    Ahem, now back to reality!

  24. My new webmail program finally lets me load your posts with some speed, so I can read them. The architecture(except for the Med) is highly attractive, elegant and casual. And I love all the wicker and blue. Very atractive rooms, in lovely homes. I think the fact that they are not sitting plop in the sand adds to the sense of grace and fitting into the landscape.

  25. O de la R has such incredible style!

  26. Fabulous post as always!! I LOVE seeing pictures of De La Renta's house -it's my dream beach house and I'm so glad you love it too!!! He must be one of the most fascinating people to have dinner with -such great style!

  27. Lovely. Noticed the french doors opening outwards. How do you determine whether they should open out or in?

  28. I so loved this post Joni. I really 'felt' the scene when you talked about the candles being lit every night on the high table with all the art books. Oh, I would love to be there now. Also loved the black doors. Yummy chic.

  29. Both are luxurious, like movie sets. One could imagine seeing James Bond entering at any moment, tuxedo clad with drink in hand.

    Somehow, to me at least, everyday island life should be a bit more casual. That's not to say, however, that I wouldn't love to visit!

  30. 6 pairs of topsiders, no socks. My daily uniform.

    Joni, I think that being at table with John Rosselli, Bunny Williams, Oscar de la Renta and Annette de la Renta, would be the most stimulating conversation ever. I agree wholeheartedly with Albert Hadley that she is the chicest and most sophisticated woman of her time. Her taste is perfect.

    We discovered the Dominican Republic in 1984, and lived like royalty in our mahogany shuttered villa and fell in love with the Dominican Beaches. You can still rent a villa there for a song! My coworker's wife's family work for the government and know where the best places are. Most come with servants. (I can do without that).

    Oscar has been through hell with the Leukemia, but I think he is doing well now. (As you know, we've been through that) so my heart goes out to him. He's a great designer. Their house is of course, perfect!

  31. Joni - sometimes it takes me two sittings to absorb your posts. This is amazing. Thanks.

  32. Wow!! All of this is amazing!! I don't know whether to be in awe or depressed by seeing all this my little house is nothing by comparison. I love the coral stone - the texture is gorgeous!!
    I love the older wicker vs. the new - but I like the new too. I'm just drawn to things with character. For instance, the guest room at his house is so inviting with the peach stucco walls... the hotel room looks a little sterile with the walls being so white! (But it's still beautiful!)

    Okay, and THANKS A LOT.... we thought we had our honeymoon decided on - Cabo San Lucas. Now I'm going to have to check out Punta Cana and Club Med..... ;-) I wish I could walk right through this computer screen!!
    Any suggestions?? Cabo or Punta Cana??

  33. What an interesting post. You are a delight. And I want to thank you for your words of comfort on the post about my deceased Sister. I was having a tough day and went back to read what I had written about her, and to see her smiling face with her big lobster. And there was your pic and your smile, to make me feel better. Love from the Prairie ...

  34. I stumbled upon your blog a few days ago and am just awestruck by your your eye for detail. I'm very much enjoying your posts.

  35. Great Post Joni
    I can almost feel the warm tropical breezes blowing through some of these beautiful rooms.

  36. One can dream right? It's always a nice little escape from reality when visiting your site!!!
    Lovely homes! Thanks for sharing!

  37. My sister stayed at Tortuga Bay last year, and said it was heavenly. Great pictures - I love that bedroom with the wonderful architecture.

  38. I should always set aside a good hour when I visit your blog. Thanks for showing us the gorgeous Oscar and his house - it was a fabulous escape.

  39. Oh Oscar. You are just a tan piece of heaven on earth!

  40. Wow, this was quite a post! The Round Hill property is absolutely gorgeous, and I love that photo of Babe Paley. So chic! I'm with you...I could spend quite a bit of time, even live in, any of these villas. What more do you need than a good book, the ocean in front of you, and maybe some ice tea!? Love it!

  41. Love this post Joni and I looove Oscar's house. We stayed at Tortuga Bay for our honey moon and if I'm not mistaking it was exactly in that room with the wicker canopy bed. The service is as superb as its decor.

    Thank you for bringing back to me so many great memories.

  42. Sometimes I am in awe myself of the beauty of dominican coralstone, it really adds to the design and accentuates the sophisticated styles of classic and contemporary designs, love your work, and love the use of handmade stone art made by Miguel Pena from the company Dominican Coralstone, they are the best company in the caribbean just love their stone.

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  51. Good blog. Great coverage of Punta Cana, Oscar's house and Bunny's house.

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