Chill out in Bowie's quirky retreat

A dining pavilion (far left), a drawing room (above) and a bedroom (left) in the Mustique home of David Bowie.
A dining pavilion (above), a drawing room and a bedroom in the Mustique home of David Bowie.PHOTO: THE MUSTIQUE CO
A dining pavilion (far left), a drawing room (above) and a bedroom (left) in the Mustique home of David Bowie.
A dining pavilion, a drawing room (above) and a bedroom in the Mustique home of David Bowie.PHOTO: THE MUSTIQUE CO
A dining pavilion (far left), a drawing room (above) and a bedroom (left) in the Mustique home of David Bowie.
A dining pavilion, a drawing room and a bedroom (above) in the Mustique home of David Bowie.PHOTO: THE MUSTIQUE CO

Late singer David Bowie's Balinese-style estate in Mustique is up for rent, starting at $55,400 a week

NEW YORK • There was always something otherworldly about Ziggy Stardust. The same can be said about his seven-bedroom, Balinese- style estate, an eccentric but alluring retreat on a hilltop overlooking Mustique's Britannia Bay.

Here, a tangle of outdoor pavilions, bedrooms, ponds, studios and salons feel individually cherry-picked from the most colourful corners of the late singer's imagination.

There is the parlour whose walls have the patina of an ancient Roman fortress and whose ceiling is done up in palm frond prints. There is the game room with a stunning, inlaid- wood checkers table and abstract, textured "wallpaper" made from hand-picked seashells.

There are Balinese carvings from Indonesian temples and dragon-like "protector gods", wooden serpents for stair railings and an 18th-century Murano crystal chandelier so old, it is meant to be lit with oil.

And yet, the home - which is now available for rent through Mustique Company and Red Savannah - is far from a space oddity. Koi ponds and stunning landscaping, along with incredible ocean-front views, give the villa a tropical vibe that is both transporting and singular.

None of that was any accident. Bowie reportedly instructed one of the island's most unconventional architects, Arne Hasselqvist, to build a home that would be decidedly "un-Caribbean" and "a folly of follies". Hasselqvist nailed it.

"I love a good cliche," Bowie told Architectural Digest in 1992, "and this house for me is just the most delightful cliche". According to Red Savannah villa specialist Nick Westwood, Bowie found the place so peaceful, "he found it hard to get any work done there".

So how did his old landing pad become an option for Caribbean beachgoers? The story is a bit of a mystery.

Twelve years before his death, in 1994, he sold the home to English poet Felix Dennis, who respected the home's integrity and left it vastly intact. He added a writer's cottage, which later became the house's seventh bedroom, and rechristened it, changing its name from Britannia Bay House to the exotic, if geographically confused, "Mandalay".

Then, in 2014, Dennis died and the home was listed for US$20 million and sold to undisclosed owners earlier this year.

"Everyone is super-discreet on Mustique and generally unwilling to talk about individual villa owners," said Mr Westwood. It is this privacy that draws sometime residents such as The Rolling Stones' singer Mick Jagger and the British royals to the island.

Mandalay quietly landed on the rental market during the low summer season this year, commanding a US$40,000 (S$55,400) a week price tag for 14 guests and a household staff of eight. Come high season, from Dec 15 to April 30, it will cost US$60,000 a week.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2016, with the headline 'Chill out in Bowie's quirky retreat'. Print Edition | Subscribe