Tory Burch Restores Bunny Mellon’s Antigua Retreat

A Note from Paloma: Today, I hope you’ll help me welcome one of our newest team members, Jeanne Lyons Davis who will be helping with marketing at Paloma Contreras Design, La Dolce Vita, my book launch, and the newest venture we are currently working on! Jeanne comes from the editorial world having worked at Southern Living and Country Living and we are thrilled to have her on the team! You’ll see Jeanne here on LDV from time to time as she helps with new content as I gear up for my book tour. Welcome, Jeanne!

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In this month’s Vogue—the magazine’s legendary September issue acclaimed for its size (646 pages!) and cover star (Beyoncé!)—International Editor-at-Large Hamish Bowles had design enthusiasts abuzz about someone other than the Queen B.

Featured in the revered issue, Bowles shared a glimpse at the impeccable restoration of Bunny Mellon’s estate in Antigua. The fabled gardener, style icon, and philanthropist became a cultural fixture of the 1960s, most notably for redesigning the White House Rose Garden for her close friends, Jacqueline and President John F. Kennedy. But Mellon’s legacy extends past her horticulture prowess and A-list calling card, which included Truman Capote and Hubert de Givenchy.

Her flair for entertaining in well-appointed spaces became a hallmark of the Virginia-born heiress, who died in 2014 at the age of 103. Known for her nonchalant elegance, discerning eye, and old-money sensibility, Bowles noted that when Mellon designed her Antigua retreat with architect H. Page Cross and decorator Billy Baldwin, she instructed her team to make interior selections that looked as though they had been brought “down from the attic.” But her perfectly imperfect style of living and entertaining was most definitely intentional, most famously exemplified when she instructed staff to remove broken potato chips from serving bowls before guests arrived. (Socialites—they’re just like us!)

When Mellon’s vacation home on Antigua’s Half Moon Bay was put on the market in 2012 after being unoccupied for decades, fears arose: Would the prized property be absorbed by commercial developers? Would luxury condos replace the bygone estate? Would her prized veranda and vegetable garden become a parking lot for—gasp—a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company? After visiting the property with a friend who lives nearby, fashion powerhouse and America’s design sweetheart Tory Burch purchased the palatial grounds, saving the estate from calamity (and fried calamari) with a daunting but exciting restoration.

Burch, who became a household name after launching her successful clothing line in 2004, made a splash in interior design circles with the release of a home line in 2013, as well as impressive home features in national publications, including her lavishly appointed Manhattan residence in British Vogue and storybook Georgian-style Southampton mansion in Architectural Digest.

During renovations on the Antigua property, Bowles quotes Burch saying, “I wanted to pay homage to [Bunny], but make it our own as well.” Burch teamed up with longtime collaborator, architect and decorator Daniel Romualdez, who has worked on her homes and showrooms across the globe, to undertake the challenge. “He understands about that restraint and shabbiness,” Burch told Bowles in Vogue. “The idea of imperfection—like washing out fabrics to make them look old.” Together, the duo made thoughtful, 21st-century alterations, but kept the spirit of Mellon’s original vision alive. “Our goal,” Romualdez shared, “was that you can’t tell what the interventions are.”

Below, see why we’re smitten with this revived retreat. It’s true—somethings get better with age.   By Jeanne Lyons Davis

Gerard B. Lambert Foundation
(left) Vanity Fair/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum  (right) Vanity Fair/The Gerald B. Lambert Foundation
François Halard for Vogue
François Halard for Vogue
François Halard for Vogue
François Halard for Vogue
François Halard for Vogue
François Halard for Vogue
François Halard for Vogue
François Halard for Vogue
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  1. Welcome, Jeanne! I really enjoyed reading your “voice” and look forward to your perspective in a lot of future LDV posts!