A Residence Apart
Who lives in a house like this? William Cash is sure that there are billionaires out there ready to be seduced by One Sandy Lane’s infinite charms
IF I WAS looking unseasonably tanned while introducing the Spear’s Wealth Management Awards at Phillips de Pury on 1 November, there was good reason. Just the day before, I had returned from spending three days on Sandy Lane on the Platinum Coast in Barbados.
That’s the west coast if you don’t speak the parlance of the world’s jet-setting demi-monde billionaire set — especially the British and Irish contingent from the financial, showbiz and racing worlds. For the last twenty five years or so, to get full club family membership of this nomadic UHNW tribe (eg the Bamford, Sangster, Rausing and Magnier families) involves owning a house or tropical compound on Sandy Lane, or at least close to the rolling fairways of the Old Nine golf course behind it.
For those who don’t own such a beach property, there is of course always the option of simply checking into the Sandy Lane Hotel which, at £3,000 a night for a decent room or suite over the high season, is hardly slumming it.
But for those who are wealthy enough and value privacy and the ultimate in designer luxury apartment living, there is now a new and very tempting option: buying an apartment at One Sandy Lane, which is just a short ten minute walk along the beach from the Sandy Lane Hotel and is now being feted as one of the most exclusive, desirable private addresses in the world.
As I said in my opening remarks at the Spear’s Awards, which were attended by over 600 of London’s top financiers, bankers and property experts, as well as dozens of ultra high net worths, and which were sponsored by One Sandy Lane: ‘If any of you have had a particularly good year and are looking for a five-bedroom Caribbean winter holiday pad for you and your billionaire pals, I must recommend a visit to One Sandy Lane, where the attention to detail is so acute that door handles are inspired by Giacometti sculptures, the golf buggies are fitted with sat nav and obligatory caddy butlers, and no less than Spear’s very own Adam Dant is soon to become the house artist.’
Adam, winner of the Jerwood Prize, whose works are in MOMA and the Tate collection in London, was indeed dispatched to One Sandy Lane to draw the cover of this issue. Dant is no slouch when it comes to architectural interest or beauty and has been commissioned by the likes of Bulgari and hedge fund managers to draw their offices, hotels or estate compounds as well as maps of their private mansions, villas, estates and trophy homes — in short, Adam has seen it all architecturally, from the imperial follies of Las Vegas to the penthouses of New York and Monaco.
Dant arrived in Barbados with his Panama hat like a modern day Charles Ryder or Piranesi and spent several days studying and sketching every detail of the classically inspired One Sandy Lane building — from the chalky white Barbados coral stone to the polished silver nickel of the door handles to the white pewter and iron balustrades of the grand staircase that sweeps down into the entrance lobby.
The other aspect of One Sandy Lane that impressed Dant were the landscaped gardens, which are already mature and need no ‘drawings’ or models to show potential residents what they might look like. One great appeal of the entire project, indeed, is that the owners and management behind the project have decided that everything is to be finished and operating perfectly before they show the property off to the world’s most discerning super-wealthy.
‘It’s a turn-key property,’ says Jessica Dee Rohm, the stylish New York-based head of marketing who has moved to Barbados for the winter in order to show the property to properly ‘qualified’ would-be buyers who may be passing through either the Sandy Lane Hotel or staying over the high season with friends on the west coast.
For his One Sandy Lane commission, Dant originally thought of seeking inspiration from the Piranesian tradition of seeing nature as a form of natural ruin (‘Great architecture makes the best ruins,’ said Piranesi). But as he lay awake in the Sandy Lane Hotel at night thinking how to best celebrate such a contemporary architectural triumph, he decided that to capture the aesthetic sensibility of One Sandy Lane’s architect, he would depict the building in a celebratory fashion amid the fireworks of a grand occasion akin to those of European courts or Imperial Roman celebrations like those at Hadrian’s villa in Tivoli. Spear’s cover is the precursor to this grand design with the new owners of each extraordinary apartment being given the opportunity to have a print of Dant’s work hanging in their 10,0000 square feet apartments.
THE SANDY LANE Hotel, put simply, may have been where Princess Margaret set up her pre-Mustique Caribbean court, where Tiger Woods got married, where Hugh Grant and Jemima Khan used to be pictured in the tabloids on holiday, and where the likes of Sir Philip Green, Simon Cowell and Gwyneth Paltrow still all book themselves in for an extravagantly priced annual pilgrimage. But it is not the sort of place for a billionaire Global Citizen who wants close proximity to the very best golf, the very best food and a spa but does not necessarily want to be queuing up behind an Essex footballer for an English breakfast with baked beans and sausages.
So who is the perfect buyer for One Sandy Lane? Who will a $20-26 million apartment in Barbados appeal to in today’s volatile economic climate? Who has that sort of cash floating around to buy a winter holiday pad that they may only get to a few weeks or months a year?
The answer, of course, is thousands of people. And the majority of the world’s truly super-wealthy today do not want to be creating their own little private enclosures from the mere super-affluent masses on the beach by the Sandy Lane Hotel. They would prefer to enjoy their own beach, and have their own vast pool with their own chef on standby and their own boutique poolside dining room with their own Dom Perignon in the fridge and their own bar-man making them their favourite cocktails.
The idea behind One Sandy Lane is that just eight families will be living together. Various Russians have already approached Jessica Dee Rohm about the feasibility of knocking through two apartments into one — which would be a vast 20,000 square feet in size.
Or as Keith Rubenstein, the New York based property mogul whose company Somerset Partners is behind the discreet global marketing of the eight apartments, admitted to me when I went to interview him in his Upper East Side offices on Park Avenue that look out across the New York skyline, he and his partners would be more than happy if a global plutocrat or Russian oligarch came along and decided they wanted to buy the entire remaining seven apartments of the $200 million property as a private Barbados compound for them and their family.
I asked Rubenstein what sort of ultra high net worths would be paying over $20 million in today’s market for a winter Caribbean pad? Would it be billionaire Americans, who have tended in the past to colonise Harbour Island, the Bahamas or St Bart’s, or did he think that Barbados could be made to appeal to the sort of American — a Hollywood denizen, perhaps — who might not even have ever been to Barbados?
Rubenstein was of the view that it was more likely to be somebody who knew Barbados, knew that it had such an incredible climate (much longer summer than Bahamas further south) and such a well established infrastructure as well as some of the finest golden beaches and food in the Caribbean. Once they knew about all these things, added Rubenstein, then they had to decide whether they could be comfortable living in a super luxury environment with seven other families versus the option of finding a single family house elsewhere.
The trouble is that finding a 10,000 square foot property with the sort of level of service, amenities and facilities that are offered by One Sandy Lane is just not going to happen. One Sandy Lane has all the benefits of a super luxury boutique hotel with the added security, technology and private amenities of a private fortress — with staff in mind — that has been specifically designed to cater for the needs and demands of today’s nomadic global citizen — and entourage.
Keith first became aware of this opportunity when he was staying at the Sandy Lane Hotel and went for a walk along the beach close to the hotel with his business partner Michael Tabor — a billionaire businessman with multiple interests including being a partner in the Sandy Lane Hotel — and Michael pointed out a large empty plot of land near the hotel. ‘I didn’t think anything of it at the time other than it was a fantastic and very interesting piece of land and then a while later Michael called me to say that he had bought it and was going to turn it into this amazing property.’
The décor and design of the villa complex are clearly European, in the great tradition of hotels like the Hotel du Cap. The marble in the lobby, which shines like the floor at Claridge’s, was hand selected at the renowned quarry of Bufalini Marmi in Italy and pre-assembled in Italy to ensure that there was not a break in colour or vein.
Everything is bespoke and handmade; even the floor of the car-park is polished and clean enough to eat a picnic on. The feel of the cabling, power generators and general behind-the-wall electrics and plumbing is such that the entire building is like a vast superyacht, not so much a floating palace but a beachside mansion with all the security, radar, satellite and mobile phone mast that you would expect of a superyacht.
Other unusual features of the building include the fact that all the eight apartments are lateral — not a stair in sight. ‘The horizontal layout was conducive to this piece of land. The wealthy like lateral — whether it is New York or London. You don’t have to deal with stairs which people don’t like — especially in a vacation environment.’
The other aspect of the property which is even more unusual is that there is no bank debt on the property. It has all been privately financed by Tabor so there is no ticking timebomb going off meaning that the apartments need to be sold immediately.
One Sandy Lane is unique. My favourite moment on my tour came when I was led into the main lift and Richard, the manager, winced as he noticed that the lift’s TV screen was tuned into a 24-hour news network where a story was running about some terrorist bomb going off in Afghanistan or the like. He quickly switched it off, saying that it was ‘house policy’ to keep TV screens tuned into sports channels. This seems a clever idea. When you are paying over $20 million for a winter getaway, the last thing today’s billionaire wants is to be reminded of the real world as they get into the lift to head out towards the golf course or beach.
William Cash is editor-in-chief of Spear’s