From vacation retreats to full-time homes, these sun-soaked residences provide an equal balance of lavishness and relaxation. Infinity pools, island views, and exotic locations differentiate these past Architectural Digestfeatures as properties that boast extraordinary feats of opulent island architecture and design. From the island of Lamu—off the coast of Kenya—to a sun-exposed retreat in Mykonos, Greece, these stunning houses will outlast the sands of time in tropical inspiration. Views of the Isla of Taboga from the outside dining area of designer Diane Burn’s Panama residence, the bungalow and Mediterranean elements of a Joel Barkley–designed Maui house, the U.S. Virgin Islands getaway of designers Tony Ingrao and Randy Kemper, and many more provide a taste of sumptuous island living. Private areas for sunbathing and swimming offer solace for owners craving a luxurious island escape rich in high-design.
Photo: Dan Forer
To create their house on Saint John, Karl-Erivan and Katrin Haub called on architect Mike de Haas and interior designer Twila Wilson. From the pool, which features a compass rose, an infinity edge, limestone coping, and a coral-stone deck, the island of Tortola can be seen. A teak-and-aluminum railing skirts the deck's edge. De Haas situated a covered veranda right outside the gallery, extending the living space. Visible between the columns is Little Tobago island.
Photo: Tim Beddow
Netting envelops a bed in this E. Claudio Modola–designed vacation home on the island of Lamu, off the coast of Kenya.
Photo: Scott Frances
The dining room of architect Steven Harris and interior designer Lucien Rees Roberts’s 15th-century home is situated at the center of the house, with a terrace and island views on one side and a citrus court on the other.
Photo: Bruce Buck
A rattan sofa, chairs, and tables from McGuire compose a seating area on the covered porch of this Carleton Varney and Dorothy Draper–designed home in the Caribbean. “It's great for entertaining,” Varney notes.
Photo: Amanda Vaill
While allowing maximum exposure to the sun, “it was essential to protect the house from the Meltemi,” architect Javier Barba says of the north wind that buffets this Mykonos retreat. The featured master bedroom includes a low table made from antique carriage wheels. The sofa is Ralph Lauren Home.
Photo: Michael Calderwood
The outside dining area of interior designer Diane Burn’s Isla Taboga villa has views of the village, an uninhabited island, and the mainland of Panama beyond. The chairs, which were made in Panama City, were modeled after a set of 19th-century French wrought-iron garden chairs Burn acquired while living in Paris.
Photo: Barbara Kraft
The Balinese-inspired dwelling of this Philip Pourrat–designed Bora Bora home, which is constructed mostly of teak, “is not typical of island houses,” notes homeowner Karen Brown Despert. A few recent paintings by Karen’s husband, Alain Despert, hang in the main room, which functions less as a living space than as a gallery for the collectors and dealers who come to see Despert's work.
Photo: Matthew Millman
For Jim and Michelle Falk's Maui house, “we tried a synthesis of island, bungalow, and Mediterranean elements,” says architect Joel Barkley, of Ike Kligerman Barkley. The rear façade features Janus et Cie chaises and tables, and Michael Taylor fabrics.
Photo: Susan Sheehan
The residence is “far from the island's nervous energy,” says Liz Claiborne of her Pierre Monsaingeon–designed Caribbean residence. The east terrace is used for sunbathing. A curved ocher wall formed from polished concrete screens the outdoor shower, and the area is dotted with various French pottery pieces.
Photo: Björn Wallander
The pool at designers Tony Ingrao and Randy Kemper's retreat in the U.S. Virgin Islands overlooks the Azure Sea.
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