LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Goldsmith's Mexican Masterpiece


Isabel Goldsmith describes her bit of paradise in the Mexican beachfront haven Las Alamandas.

Vibrant and flawlessly appointed, Isabelle Goldsmith's paradisiacal retreat, Las Alamandas, is a sanctuary of serenity and an accomplished refinement of Mexico's pristine natural beauty.

The creation of Las Alamandas was fueled by two geniuses: that of Isabelle Goldsmith and that of nature. Goldsmith used her particularly refined intuitions to highlight the best of an unspoiled natural habitat. Situated between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo along Jalisco Mexico's Pacific coast, Las Alamandas is a crafted place of sanctuary, where it was assured at each stage of its development that it would evolve into a sparkling refuge of health, reflection and harmony.

Working with 1,500 acres of pristine Mexican coastline, the local community and local traditions, Goldsmith constructed an estate of six villas that can accommodate a maximum of 30 guests. Las Alamandas is organically integrated into its natural surroundings, and the result is an exclusive retreat, an elevated escape, a luxurious world apart.

We take a moment with the estate's mastermind to understand more about how the creator immersed herself in its conception – and now delights in its evolution.

Isabel Goldsmith's definition of luxury:

Space, privacy and good service.

A person.

My grandfather Attino Patino was not ostentatious. Today, there is a kind of confusion that thinks luxury is branding, that it is vulgar, that it is loud. For me, luxury is the opposite. It is actually rather quiet. It is a courtesy, and it incorporates beauty.

A place.

A nice, wonderful old palace hotel somewhere.

An object?

A wonderful pink enameled Fabergé frame.

Do you think that the place you've created unifies what you love?

When I first arrived with my grandfather, nothing was there. I spent the day on the most beautiful beach I had ever seen, and it was perfect luxury. Then I thought that it would be wonderful if I could have a little bit of shade and a shower, if somebody could bring me a meal. I was building on the innate luxury of the place. I just added layer upon layer to make it a welcoming place, somewhere one can stay, relax and escape from the noise, the stress and speed of everywhere else.

The baseline of is "Sharing the art of living well." Is that what you did? And your guests, do they simply become addicts of the place?

That is a fantastic line, and it is exactly what I did. I did not know anything about the hotel business, and I thought, "Well, if I do something that I like and I share it, hopefully other people will enjoy it and be grateful to find it." Some people have become addicted. We have lots of return visits. Also, we have lots of honeymoons – it is seen as a very romantic place.

What is your take on certain current trends, such as organic food, ecologically sound practices, being conscious of the environment, etc.?

I have been ecologically minded since the beginning, because the whole idea was to protect the coast. We do organic farming, so there is a choice of salads, which you cannot really eat safely in Mexico – I want to go further, to see how I can make it self-sufficient from an energy point of view.

What are the next projects?

A project to have Las Alamandas villas, houses on the property that you can buy, as opposed to a room or suite, but still get the hotel services. And a spa.

Is the idea to make it like a club?

The first owners would maybe be friends of friends; there would be certain criteria – for instance, they would have to be a client of the hotel and have stayed at the hotel at least three times before being able to buy a house. And that they are buying not for speculation but because they are attached to it. There would be a limit on the period for resale. I would like to create a community of people who consider this their home, not something that changes hands the whole time.

That is clearly very important to you. And the spa?

For the spa, I would like to bring in the French concept of thalassotherapy. I would like to have things that are healing, because I find Las Alamandas itself is a healing place. If you have problems and you want to sort them out, if you are thinking of a project and you want to be able to develop it, walking on the beach is the most inspiring thing you can do. The place in itself just cleanses you of everything trivial and helps you to focus.

You've made it like your house, where people feel they are in a home, your guests.

It is quite funny – I get thank you notes from a lot of people, as if from people who have been staying at my house. It has the personal touch of a home. The New York Times said that it was like having the run of a very rich friend's private estate, and it really is the case, but without having to do whatever the rich friends want to do! You have your own agenda, the staff are very nice, many have been there for years, a few since the beginning, so it is not a transitory place.

How did the architecture come about?

It started when my grandfather was doing a project for condominiums. He was a wonderful man, but he passed away soon after starting. There were just a few cement skeletons, and two of them were quite advanced, so I started finishing the two, and I found a Mexican architect who helped me. There were the first two, one where I lived and a villa for rent. That is how it started the first year, and people liked it.

For the new villas, are you going to keep the same type of architecture?

There are lots of Mexican details that are part of the place's architectural vocabulary, like polished cement floors, but I definitely want to make the villas more 21st century. A purer, cleaner look – but without being harsh. And I am going to keep the colors. Of course, with the villas, I want to do it on the hills so you can have infinity pools.

Is water a problem with the pools?

I have access to a lot of water because I am next to a main river, the St. Nicolas, but I feel very responsible to the area, to the people that live around me and to the agricultural villages.

How would you describe a typical day in your paradise?

I wake up, I start the day with about 45 minutes to an hour of walking, jogging, which is lovely because I get to see the condition of the property. It's a very peaceful start to the day. I come back and have breakfast, deal with office things, then have a swim and a very light lunch, relax a bit, a bit of beach in the afternoon and usually another evening walk. I meet the guests. I always have projects. I have just built an art gallery.

What are your projects like?

I built a gallery where I show different Mexican arts and crafts. In the art gallery, there is a library, so I add art books so that people can discover Mexican art, towns or architecture. I am also reading a lot of Mexican cookbooks. There are some Mexican chefs, such as Patricia Quintana, who are absolutely brilliant, so I arrive with her books and I show my chef so that he might produce something like that.

It is all Mexican food?

It is a mixture. I wanted it to be very light – you are by the beach, you do not want things that are full of oil, butter and cheese, so it is a bit nouvelle Mexican. I was also brought up in Europe. I like Italian food, I like Moroccan food. So I tell them to use mint; I like them to use spices that are a bit different. I encourage them to use more traditional Mexican fare, even home cooking.

There is no stress in Mexico?

There is always plenty of stress, always some sort of problem to fix. There are 94 staff members.

But in the afternoon, I will read a book for two hours and can focus on the book, whereas if I am in Paris or London or wherever, it is very rare that you can spend two hours actually reading, unless you are ill. Thank god sometimes one is ill!

I take photographs. I see the change of the light, sometimes I see just a wonderful flight of birds, and there are the most beautiful sunsets. I like the different seasons, and it is not just so much the change in temperature as the different flowers by which you measure the seasons. I find that fascinating.

How do you find the artists for your gallery? Do you travel to find them?

The artist who does terracotta sculptures I found in a small village outside Oaxaca, in the south. Yes, I travel a lot, and every area in Mexico has different specialties. There is an area where they do copper, an area where they do the tree of life – "de arbol de la vida" – and another where they do nothing but silver, of course.

Are you passing on their traditions?

That is why I buy and commission things. There is a tradition, but they are losing quality in order to have a fast turnover. I find if you commission pieces, people can take their time and not try to please a different culture. It helps them, so I try to do that.

In fact, you're always doing something. Your work is never finished, everything is in flux. That's marvelous. Then why do you come to Europe? For other things?

By habit, and sometimes I really wonder why, but one does not need an explanation to be in Paris, one does not need excuses, it is just so beautiful.

You come here because it was your home, and now you go back to Mexico because it is your new home?

Yes, it is home over there.

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