On the Greek island of Rhodes, the largest and best known of the Dodecanese islands, English design magnate Jasper Conran has transformed two ancient sea captains' abodes into one heavenly retreat.
Born in London in 1959, Jasper Alexander Thirlby Conran OBE is an English designer and chairman of Jasper Conran Holdings Ltd and a household name in Great Britain.
Conran has remained one of the most respected British designers throughout his career, dressing everyone from royalty to the Royal Ballet whilst stylishly clothing the British public. His design talent has extended beyond fashion into performing arts, interiors and most recently into travel with the opening of his first hotel in Medina, Marrakech.
Conran studied at Parsons School of Art Design New York before launching his first collection for Henri Bendel in New York City and designing his first womenswear collection under his own name by the tender age of 19.
In 1989 Conran collaborated with Land Rover Ltd on the interior of the then-new Land Rover Discovery. In 1999, he began designing a signature range of stemware for Stuart Crystal as well as for Waterford Crystal and created a fine bone china tableware collection for Wedgwood in 2001.
In 1996, Conran launched a womenswear range for the Debenhams chain of department stores in the UK, subsequently designing women's accessories, lingerie, hosiery, menswear, men's accessories, children's wear, and a homewares collection for the company.
Conran has released furnishing, fabric and wallpaper collections for Designers Guild, as well as a range of signature fragrances and luggage.
Upon opening ‘L'Hotel Marrakech’ in 2016, Conrad’s first hotel received accolades, placing as number 1 of 75 in the ‘Hot List 2017: Best New Hotels in the World’, Condé Nast Traveler USA and 1 of 55 'Best New Hotels in the World’ by Condé Nast Traveller UK. In addition, in 2018 and 2019, both Condé Nast Traveler USA and Condé Nast Traveler UK listed L'Hôtel Marrakech as one of their editors’ all-time favourite hotels on their respective Gold Lists.
In 2008, Conran was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for his lifelong services to retail. He is the recipient of many awards, including British Fashion Council Designer of the Year and two honorary doctorates - Professor at the University of Arts London and The Laurence Olivier Award for Costume Design. Jasper Conran has created a brand that continues to build long-lasting connections.
Jasper Conran’s Greek Holiday Home
In 2013, the 61-year-old London-based designer purchased a gorgeous rustic Greek vacation spot in the village of Lindos, Rhodes and now spends a month or two there each year with his partner, the Irish artist Oisin Byrne.
Although legend has it that the village of Lindos was created by one of the divine sons of Zeus, it was in fact established by Dorians around 1000BC. The tiny, whitewashed houses of Lindos pepper the hillside beautifully, making it one of the most stunning places on the island.
Conrad’s property consists of two residences that were joined together in the 1960s. A majestic, 16th-century dwelling serves as the main house, whilst the other 18th-century building accommodates guests, featuring traditional architecture with carved stone facades, vaulted doorways, painted ceilings and elaborate ‘krokalia’, the traditional pebble mosaic floor.
High whitewashed limestone walls provide the oasis with privacy from the narrow street that leads up to the village’s famous tourist attractions; the Temple of Athena and the ancient Acropolis of Lindos.
From the windows of his medieval house, Conran can take in spectacular views of Lindos harbour and Rhodes's eastern coast.
“I wake up at 6, and it’s enchanting,” Conrad said at the time of purchasing his holiday home. “All is silent except for the birds, and then there is the view out to sea. The level of contentment I have gotten here is magic—unlike in any other place.”
“I sit outside, pour myself a cup of tea – several cups are very important for my levée – pick a fig and read.”
Surrounded by a beautiful garden of olive, fig, lemon and orange trees, the dwellings originally belonged to the wealthy sea captains of Lindos, who dominated the eastern Mediterranean shipping trade in Ottoman times.
“Finally I have the best of both worlds,” said Conran. “An ancient house in a village, lovely neighbours, a huge garden, my boat down there - and that’s it.
“Donkeys, no cars,” he added, referring to the fact that the only modes of transport permitted in Lindos are donkeys and mopeds.
Before it belonged to Conran, the house was owned by pioneering art dealer Baronessa Beatrice Monti della Corte von Rezzori, the wife of the late novelist Gregor von Rezzori.
“It had such a powerful aura of people coming and going,” said Conran, remembering his first impressions of the house. “I walked into the tiny kitchen and I fell in love. I loved the tiles, the taps—Beatrice made beautiful choices over the years. I hope that what I’ll do is simply carry on nurturing it in the same way she did.”
With the onslaught of tourism on the island, the number of the historic Captain’s houses that are still serving as private residences has dwindled since the 1950s, leaving Conran with a sense of responsibility to restore and maintain the authenticity of the place.
“An ancient house is an ancient house,” he says simply. “I have other houses to change.”
Photos: @wsj Instagram page