Golden Rock Inn
About 7 years ago we wrote about the owners of this hotel and their charming Upstate New York Hotel Tivoli. That piece was to be aptly entitled “Sleeping with artists.” Don’t be discombobulated as we reprint that feature, below, before getting you to the heart of their Caribbean creation.
From Nevis to New York
Sleeping With Artists
Let me clarify, before things get out of hand. You’ll not really be sleeping with Helen or Brice Marden but rather among their art and curated designs of their charming hotels. It’s about as close as one can decently get without receiving a slap.
Brice Marden, known mainly as a minimalist, has works on display in such esteemed places as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He received his Bachelor of Fine Art from Boston University and a Master of Fine Art from Yale’s School of Art and Architecture. Although those names and titles being dropped may lead one to believe that his hotels are for those who turn their noses up at things and raise a pinky as they sip tea, nothing could be farther from the truth. My experience at both The Hotel Tivoli in New York’s Hudson Valley and Golden Rock Inn in Nevis were rather far-flung from such snooty and cold perceptions. Brice has a background that many artists, and non-artists, would envy. Inspired by meeting folks like Bob Dylan and such things as Chinese calligraphy and Taoist philosophy, he is a man whose work is hard to categorize. Helen Marden, his wife, an artist in her own right, whose works reflect fluidity in her strokes, can also not easily be placed in a particular grouping. It seems the couple’s eclectic style and a leaning toward minimalism spilled over into their hotels.
Having homes in New York and Greece and being obviously well traveled, St. Barths had been a regular haunt of theirs when it came to things Caribbean. St. Barths being, well, St. Barths…Helen eventually wanted out of the scene and thought of exploring other islands in the stream. That’s when the pair discovered Golden Rock Inn. The 200-year-old former sugar plantation is located halfway up the southeastern slope of Mount Nevis. Dramatic enough? The island was quiet and the hotel was less like a blank canvas than it was a piece that needed serious restoration and attention to its details. Not having thought too long and hard about it, the Marden’s bought the place and with Helen’s knowledge of light and color, it’s a completely different place. I refer to it as understated fabulousness.
The painted shutters that aren’t quite red, but won’t allow you to call them orange, open up the stone walls where whimsical meets functional at every turn. Golden Rock has not looked this sexy in years. It’s now the kind of spot you escape to with your hippest friends and sip cocktails by the pool or under the giant tree. I know the tree has a name but the General Manager, Francois and I called it that. If nothing else strikes your fancy about this hotel, let me tell you…Francois will. I could go on and on about his charming personality housed in his tall and slender frame, but that’s a special treat for you to discover. Promise he’s worth the visit and you’ll get to see the lush foliage installations spring to life as he tours you around the place. It really makes for a great afternoon. If it weren’t for his eccentric, yet understated personality, I may not have taken such a keen interest in checking out the New York property that the Marden’s nurtured back to life.
Hotel Tivoli it was! If they use the light as they had in Nevis, this should be a treat for a weekend slightly upstate. Never having been to the Hudson River Valley, I didn’t know what to expect, so at that point, I was the blank canvas hoping not to be splattered with disappointment when I arrived. From the train station to the charming town of Tivoli, I actually passed Annie Leibovitz’s house. I couldn’t see it, but the brick column marking the entrance was pointed out to me. Among the tall trees broken only by a few low-slung apple orchards and a pasture or two were quaint homes and views of the river. The drive felt as though I could have been in one of the movies where the music plays softly as the girl looks out the window of her taxi while the light and shadows dance across her face, leaving the big city hundreds of miles behind her, just knowing she was going to discover something new in the country. As we pulled up to the hotel’s plain beige brick exterior, I wondered if this was all there was. It certainly wasn’t. The Marden’s had done it again: they took a hard look at the light and wove in just the right amounts of color.
The hand-blown Morano glass light fixture over the bar was really all I could look at as I sipped my hand-crafted cocktail. Dining on farm-to-table cuisine in this century-old building while surrounded by art was a sublime experience. The locals all gathered at tables and around the bar seemed to be a natural occurrence. The laughter and conversation lifted the dimly lit room’s ambiance to where it appeared the candlelight danced on the ceiling at the pace of inhales and exuberant exhales of bliss as though the room itself were breathing. That scene stayed in my mind as I climbed the one flight of stairs to my room at the top of the landing. This hotel is laid out like a grand home with 11 humongous bedrooms set on two floors, the second and third. The wooden floors are each appointed with unique area rugs befitting the style and color of that room’s décor. The original sashed windows let in copious amounts of light that flood the room with light and allows pops of color on the minimalist furnishings to shine. Very well done, Marden’s. I rather like sleeping with artists, as an invited guest.
To read more about the slap that I reference, pull up Helen Marden and you’ll see why it’s wise to mind your manners. Or click here
But we prefer…Hotel Tivoli
Now, where were we? 2022; the Caribbean, Golden Rock Inn on the charming island of Nevis.
Here the artist’s canvas is an unspoilt jungle on the Isle of Nevis with a Colorful palette of furnishings, installations, artwork and views toward the Caribbean islands of Antigua & Montserrat. I have not been back in a few years, so I am painting this picture for you, to share this story by way of vivid memories from my last trip, as I plan an upcoming stay back on the island to spend a week at this 11-bedroom hotel. I remember landing in Nevis, after flying into St. Kitts, and thinking how quaint the island was and how it reminded me of the soft artwork in the children’s fairytale books I had read to me as a child. Fortunate enough to have bookshelves of those treasures, painted in pastel watercolors for me to look back on as I grew up, however. Like Peter Pan, I never really wanted to grow up. Driving from the airport to the Golden Rock Inn, looking up at Mount Nevis, as a single cloud encircled its peak and a gentle donkey wandered and grazed on the hillside below brought that fairytale feeling of living in a childhood watercolor immediately back to mind.From one idyllic scene to the next, as though turning the pages of one of those books, we wended our way to the hotel. Turning onto the driveway of the property, the scenery changed. The sudden appearance of cacti, prickly aloe, Talipot Palm (Corypha umbracullifera), Yaray Palm (Copernicia fallaensis) and Guano Palm (Coccothrinax borhidiana), native plants and grasses punctuated by lava boulders was a stark contrast, as though Captain Hook had suddenly appeared out of nowhere and my gaze shifted from dreamy to wonderment. Something was afoot.
Making our way towards the thick stone walls that date back to the early 1800’s, i spy the ruins of a sugar mill, and arrive at the arched doorways that are now the focal point of this 100-acre estate. Our sanctuary is within reach and the watercolors brighten as the unthinkably red shutters catapult me into full focus mode. Golden Rock Inn has my full attention at this point. As we saunter to my room, past the bar set inside these stone walls, I begin to drop the notion of never wanting to grow up and to embrace adulting with zest and fervor. My room was massive, as the owners obviously have a thing about the concept of space and using it as art and artistic expression. I draped myself across the bed and planned my days, while being content to do absolutely nothing if I had to, but the Lively. Fresh. Local. Caribbean cuisine at ‘The Rocks’ was not to be missed. Mountain biking, hiking, and island-wide activities could wait.Hamilton’s birthplace was just down the street, but the theatrics of ever leaving this hotel seemed too dramatic for me to contemplate. I mapped out the route from my room to the 50-foot spring-fed pool.I had heard that it was the perfect place to lose track of time, or to take a dip before or after an exploration around the island, so I remembered that and memorized the route. I planned garden tours with the head gardener, and daydreamed about tomorrows that turned into sweet dreams as I bathed under the light of the moon and gazed up at the stars, questioning if I could relive this fairytale year after year, would it mean that I could have my watercolor fantasy brought to life by these artists in living color.
*Francois may no longer be there, but the ‘giant tree’ lives on.