Kemble Interiors and Lela Rose hosted a book signing for Celerie Kemble’s new book, Island Whimsy, at The Colony Hotel

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A guest house at Playa Grande in the Dominican Republic. Photo by Karyn Millet.

Kemble Interiors and Lela Rose hosted a book signing for Celerie Kemble’s new book, Island Whimsy, in the Solarium of The Colony Hotel. Celerie was on hand to sign books while Amy Birdsong Golden introduced the new Pearl by Lela Rose line to hotel guests and fashionable Palm Beachers who popped by including Dolly Moorhead, Whitney Schott and Frank and Fes Smurlo.

Celerie Kemble in the Solarium of The Colony Hotel.
Amy Birdsong Golden introducing the Pearl by Lela Rose line to Dolly Moorhead and Whitney Schott.
Fes and Frank Smurlo looking “very PB” at The Colony Hotel.

Spending childhood days on the beach and in the magical, romantic chaos of her family’s rambling house, internationally renowned interior designer Celerie Kemble has a deep-rooted connection to the sun and surf. However, in the summer of 2004, Kemble laid eyes on a wild swath of jungle in the Dominican Republic next to minty-blue water and an endless stretch of golden sand, she fell madly in love. Over many years, she designed a home away from home there, an island retreat—a clubhouse and a grouping of family homes and guesthouses—suffused with light and air, full of indoor and outdoor rooms for relaxation. In her latest book, ISLAND WHIMSY, Kemble recounts the deeply personal and creative journey of designing Playa Grande and bringing this labor of love to life.

The chapters of this book are organized around the different ways Kemble sought to braid her family’s story into the larger landscape of Playa Grande and to provide inspiration, joy, and respite to all who come. “Fantasy” looks at the way she used whimsical, dreamlike elements—from the latticework cabanas by the pool to the lamb statues on the property who “mow” the lawns—throughout the property to create a sense of play and possibility.

Inspired by Celerie’s childhood bed in Florida, and created by Puerto Plata’s master metalworker, Neno, the bed in the master bedroom of her family’s bungalow, Casa Guava. Photo by Karyn Millet.

“Light, Salt, Air” describes how she went about bringing the most precious elements of the beach into the homes themselves, creating a feeling of flow and permeability, and reminding visitors constantly of where they are.

“In the Jungle” looks at the design cues she took from the flora and fauna of the tropical rainforest surrounding Playa Grande to create an alluring tension between chaos and refinement.

“Sweet & Dark” examines the surprising color combinations that tango into life in the tropics—whether in the form of tribal prints in hot Gauguin colors mixed with Jordan-almond pastels or handmade objects like a papier-mâché lobster mask that brings a shout of spirit to a room.

Finally, “Texture” focuses on the powerful impact that thoughtfully layered materials—from rough, local coquina stone and painted antique wicker to the smooth polished cotton of Dutch wax prints—have on a space.

A side entrance to Playa Grande as viewed from one of several pathways around the property that lead into the jungle. Photo by Karyn Millet.

Throughout this lovingly crafted book, ideas abound for anyone decorating a sunny home or fantasizing about spending time in one. Kemble shares inspiration for creating a sense of openness to the sea, sand, and sky; offering places to wash sandy feet or perfect viewing spots for a sunset-saturated drink; and infusing spaces with invitation, welcome, and magic.

What looks like a living room wall is actually a series of hinged plantation shutters that fold back and transform the space into an airy open porch. The light vintage rattan Paul Frankl seats are convertible too and can be pushed together into love seats or broken-up into a circle if friends drop by for cocktails. Photo by Karyn Millet.
The Bahia – an open, welcoming place where people can come and go throughout the day for meals and talk and laughter and cocktails. Photo by Douglas Friedman.

Mimi McMakin

As most Palm Beachers know, Celerie is a partner in the firm Kemble Interiors, the decorating firm founded in 1982 by her mother Mimi Maddock McMakin whose family has been in Palm Beach for 120 years. The firm is synonymous with the Palm Beach look and style. Mimi has been recognized for her distinctive fusion of whimsy with respectful restoration in many a storied Mizner, Volk, and Urban designed estates and clubs around the globe. The firm has a wonderful little shop and office on Hibiscus Avenue in Palm Beach.

Celerie Kemble.

Celerie has been featured in Architectural Digest (including as an AD100 Designer), Elle Décor (where she is a perennial member of the A-List), House Beautiful, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, The Wall Street Journal, Town & Country, Veranda, and more. Her previous design books include To Your Taste and Black & White (and a Bit in Between). She lives between Palm Beach and New York with her three children.

Phoebe Kemble.

Celerie’s sister, Phoebe Kemble, is director and Head Chef of Kemble Kitchens, which provides gourmet comfort food for events large and small, happily sharing culinary secrets from her life-long passion for memorable meals and travel. Based in London, Phoebe can also be found in Paris, New York, The Hamptons and Palm Beach. She is not only a lifelong foodie and graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, but also holds a B.A. from Brown University.

“A house by the sea should be a house of dreams. Where windows and doors are thrown open to the ocean, and gusts of cool, salty air turn us all into kids again—buoyant and joyful.” Click to order.

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