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So, you want to live on a tropical island? This French couple have done just that.

The Property Addict / Distinct Dwellings

Dec 06 2016

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EDITORIAL: Maggie Kelly PHOTOGRAPHY: Camille Lequatre     Louise Breguet and her husband Jean-Maxime Carrier live on a tropical island. No, really. Bring to mind that shimmering vision from your 3pm daydream: white sand, clear water, palm trees swaying in the warm breeze...and you've nailed it. Louise and Jean-Maxime live in a two story wooden and stone house perched the shoreline of the aptly named "Ë?Paradise Bay', a postcard-perfect beach that sits within the region of Labadee, Haiti. The tropical island of our wildest dreams is, for this lucky couple, home. [caption id="attachment_4797" align="alignnone" width="810"]Louise and Jean-Maxime's stunning home in Haiti. (Image: Camille Lequatre) Louise and Jean-Maxime's stunning home in Haiti. (Image: Camille Lequatre)[/caption]   Well, home for part of the time. Paris still serves as their primary residence, but as often as they can escape their busy work lives  they jump on a plane and dig their heels in at their sandy Haitian paradise. Both run their own companies, so escaping to Haiti is a rare but delicious privilege served only once a year. Louise is a furniture editor at her luxury label "Ë?La Chance', whilst Jean-Maxime runs both a creative collective called "Ë?The Slashers Agency' and a modern dating agency wonderfully named "Ë?La Brigade de L'Amour', or, "Ë?The Love Brigade'. (More on that later.) So, how did these young Parisian creatives end up in Haiti? [caption id="attachment_4798" align="alignnone" width="472"]Louise and Jean-Maxime take in their stunning view. (Image: Camille Lequatre) Louise and Jean-Maxime take in their stunning view. (Image: Camille Lequatre)[/caption]   For this they have Louise's father to thank. Twenty years ago he set sail on a "Ë?round the world' adventure on his boat, with Louise and her family flying to meet him when he stopped over. One of these stops was to be Haiti. "18 years ago in Haà ¯ti my family and I discovered Paradise Bay," remembers Louise.  "It was one of the most beautiful places we had ever seen, with tropical green mountains falling into turquoise water surrounded by coral reef and a iceberg white sand beach with a small freshwater river. The area was untouched and wild and the Haà ¯tian culture very authentic."   [caption id="attachment_4800" align="alignnone" width="474"]The long wooden veranda provides the perfect outdoor space to take in the ocean breeze. (Image: Camille Lequatre) The long wooden veranda provides the perfect outdoor space to take in the ocean breeze. (Image: Camille Lequatre)[/caption]   Upon their arrival, the family was invited to a Vaudou celebration followed by a dinner party hosted by an American living in a nearby village. The American then proceeded to sell the French family a small block of land in Paradise Bay, which Louise's father accepted without hesitation. Smart man. "My father accepted immediately," remembers Louise, "even though he knew there were no roads to access the terrain, no electricity and no water. The decision was taken to construct our first house and the whole Haitian part of our family story began."   [caption id="attachment_4801" align="alignnone" width="810"]The raw, pared-back simplicity of the home honours it's incredible surrounds. (Image: Camille Lequatre) The raw, pared-back simplicity of the home honours it's incredible surrounds. (Image: Camille Lequatre)[/caption]   But for Jean-Maxime, his experience of Haiti begun only when he met Louise in Paris. "I knew nothing of Haiti. I have to admit that I had a hard time placing the island on a map before meeting my wife!" laughs Jean-Maxime. "But one day I met this charming woman in the streets of Paris who, in addition to conquering my heart, made me discover her island." A deserted island might just be the complete opposite to Jean-Maxime's day job: this man is a professional networker. His creative agency, The Slashers, which connects clients with the ultimate slashies: writers-slash-designers-slash-entrepreneurs. The movers and shakers of Paris, in other words. [caption id="attachment_4802" align="alignnone" width="810"]The interior of the home has maintained an earthy palette and open-plan living. (Image: Camille Lequatre) The interior of the home has maintained an earthy palette and open-plan living. (Image: Camille Lequatre)[/caption]   But perhaps his most interesting project is The Love Brigade - a modern day dating service that ditches the "Ë?supermarket' quality of online dating and instead focusing on, well, love. (So French.) Has he always loved connecting people? "The essence of life is made of encounters. We look for ourselves, find ourselves, accomplish ourselves through others. For me there is no greater intelligence than that of social intelligence," says Jean-Maxime. "To be able to adapt yourself to any given environment, to be able to exchange and to enrich yourself with the stories, culture and intelligence of any given person. Every person encountered from his or her origins, past, combats, challenges and realisations is a source of richness." His love of connection clearly helped immensely when it came to calling a remote tropical beach home. The locals have taken on Louise and Jean-Maxime as their own - also, perhaps, because of the understated and innovating home they chose to build. How tempting it would have been to want to swallow the beach whole with a luxury development.   [caption id="attachment_4815" align="alignnone" width="473"]The stunning ochre walls is made from a centuries-old pigment sourced from the locals. (Image: Camille Lequatre) The stunning ochre walls is made from a centuries-old pigment sourced from the locals. (Image: Camille Lequatre)[/caption]   And yet, the house that now stands on Paradise Bay beach is anything but. It was designed by Louise with the help of fellow Parisian architect Felicie Chardon, with the ultimate goal of creating a sustainable and natural home that would blend seamlessly in with it's lush natural surrounds. Due to its isolated location, the house is fully autonomous from its surroundings with solar electricity, rainwater tanks, and natural, locally-sourced materials which can be seen in the wood detailing on the roof, floor pebbles, and solid mahogany, "...cut only a few kilometers from our house." Even the ochre paint on the walls is made from local pigments in a recipe that dates back generations on the island. This is sustainable building at it's finest. [caption id="attachment_4805" align="alignnone" width="810"]'That' view: stretched out into infinity. (Image: Camille Lequatre) 'That' view: stretched out into infinity. (Image: Camille Lequatre)[/caption]   Louise's keen interest in the finer details of the house design are unsurprising: she studied architecture in Paris before moving across to furniture design. Why the change? "My studies did not predestine me to create a furniture brand, but from the start I have been intrigued by this world. What interested me the most was setting up a real business which involved all of the aspects - from creation, to production, to commercialisation." La Chance specialises in high-quality furniture that rails against the modern ideals of cheap and disposable design. It is Louise's vision to create items that will one day be passed on as antiques through the family, as it is her greatest joy to see her designs living and breathing in the home environment. So much so, in fact, she's made a return to her first love, architecture.   [caption id="attachment_4804" align="alignnone" width="810"]The colourful locals of Paradise Bay, Haiti. (Image: Camille Lequatre) The colourful locals of Paradise Bay, Haiti. (Image: Camille Lequatre)[/caption] "Today, I like seeing how the furniture I've created takes position in people's interiors," explains Louise. "So I have recently started designing interiors again with La Chance Architecture." Louise's concept of "Ë?home' is a quirky one: before her current apartment and her home in Haiti, she lived on a houseboat. Taking advantage of the beautiful Paris weather (and the local's affinity for an outdoors aperift!), Louise set up shop in a small but cosy home along the Seine. "I chose to live on a boat a few years ago when I had to change my life, it was an old dream of mine and probably one of the best choices i've made," she says. "The boat wasn't very big, but completely furnished to my personal liking, so it was like living in a cocoon!" [caption id="attachment_4806" align="alignnone" width="396"]Traditional fare in Paradise Bay. (Image: Camille Lequatre) Traditional fare in Paradise Bay. (Image: Camille Lequatre)[/caption] Back in Haiti, the house is wonderfully empty. Simple stone floors feature woven mats, and little else; the reddish ochre pigments on the wall bouncing off the few but beautiful items of wooden furniture that dot the rooms. Here, in Paradise Bay, it's nature that does the talking - and oh boy, does it chat a good game. The water is crystalline in its quality, a blue that's cartoonish in its quality. The sand is fine, white, soft; and is tickled by the most lush greenery you've ever seen. Explosions of wild tropical flowers dot the shoreline, in bright colourful bursts that twist and wind over the house. So picturesque is the setting that Jean-Maxime and Louise didn't have to think twice when it came for a venue for their nuptials earlier this year. [caption id="attachment_4807" align="alignnone" width="473"]The lush jungle surrounds of Louise and Jean-Maxime's Haitian home. (Image: Camille Lequatre) The lush jungle surrounds of Louise and Jean-Maxime's Haitian home. (Image: Camille Lequatre)[/caption] Well, it was actually the tiny island of Amiga (only 100m in diameter!) that hosted their wedding, with the small party of barefoot guests enjoying the luxury of owning their personal island for the day. "We were married this summer on Amiga island, which is in front of our house," says Louise. "It is a desert island of just 100m in diameter, which is simply magic." But the best anecdote from their wedding has to be this: "Christopher Columbus stayed there a few days when he discovered the New World, as he arrived in Haà ¯ti before going to the U.S.A. Did you know he spent Christmas night of 1492 in front of our house, isn't it incredible?!" [caption id="attachment_4808" align="alignnone" width="810"]The aptly named 'Paradise Bay' remains untouched by the tourist trade. (Image: Camille Lequatre) The aptly named 'Paradise Bay' remains untouched by the tourist trade. (Image: Camille Lequatre)[/caption] Incredible indeed - but nothing seems out of the realm of possibility in this untouched corner of the earth. But it is Jean-Maxime who perhaps best describes the experience of island life. "It is said about Haiti that you "Ë?love it or leave it'...but it any case it does not leave one indifferent. I was completely seduced by this country and discovered what the other end of the world must mean when I arrived to Labadee." You and Columbus alike, Jean-Maxime. And as for the rest of us? Well, we'll only see it in our daydreams of tropical islands once 3pm hits.

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