Home Design Inspiration: Mustique’s Messel

Oliver Messel’s ability to create elegant houses from local materials makes him a paragon for people building homes in the Grenadines. It was Princess Margaret who recommended to Colin Tennant that her husband’s uncle help plan Mustique. With a wartime assignment to a camouflage unit and 30 years experience as a stage designer, Oliver Messel had just the skills needed to create beautiful homes on a remote Caribbean island with little available but wood, stone, concrete, plants and great views. When the St. Vincent government put an embargo on imported goods, Messel also designed furniture to be built locally. He did much of the work himself, handpainting floors, encrusting columns with coral, or making models for molds out of cardboard and sponge.

“The concrete magically became faux-granite, faux-coral, or large, smooth floor tiles.”–Roger Vaughan.

Here’s a list of Messel trademark details that can easily be incorporated into Bequia houses–and often have been. Which of these details appear in your home?

  • Rooms wide open to garden and view
  • A view through the house to the sea from the front door
  • Slender Greek columns
  • Palladian arches (and symmetry)
  • White-on-white interiors highlighted with splashes of color
  • Faux limestone floor tiles from concrete
  • White latticework
  • Intricate railings in wood and wrought iron
  • Bleached wood
  • Furniture made on site from available materials
  • Cast concrete planters
  • Colored concrete floors
  • Stonework exteriors
  • Decorative scrollwork

Below are details of photos of Messel-designed houses from the Cote de Texas blog. You’ll find more inspiration for Bequia building and design projects in the complete Messel “retrospective” on Cote de Texas, as well as in Roger Vaughan’s Mustique, available from www.amazon.com. (Expect to let the retrospective load for half an hour before you try to view it.)

Concrete "Stonework" Quoin

Decorative Ironwork

Dyed Concrete Floors

Decorative Wood Railings

Decorative Scrollwork

Faux Limestone Floors

White Wood Ceiling (with Exposed 2 x 4s)

Indoor-Outdoor Living

Latticework Details

Scored Concrete "Block" Walkway

Questions or Suggestions?