Written By Delta Willis.
On the east coast of Kenya there is a home near Malindi that sparkles with fossils of ancient life. The walls are blocks of coral. In Africa where humankind began, these tiny sea creatures long dead are given a second life with every rising sun that emerges from the Indian Ocean. The house glows from within, as does its owner.
Yolanda McIntyre, a designer whose interior renovations included a London flat for royalty, created this shimmering home by following one of nature’s best examples: Less is More and nude even better. Instead of plastering walls, she left the limestone exposed.
The pink hue is pleasing to the eye, as soft as the sandy beach seen from the master bedroom upstairs. On the horizon one can see wooden dhow boats, and in the sky, colorful kites that dip and swirl as surfers speed across this beautiful bay called Shale.
Twenty minutes from Kenya’s Malindi Airport, the romantic retreat is rented privately to families, honeymooners or friends with friends. In 2015, I found this elegant castle, called Coco Loco, the perfect escape from a brutal winter in New York
Solar panels hidden on the roof collect energy from the equatorial sun. Inspired by designs in Morocco and South America, the salt water pool in the center of the house has its own solar-powered pump; with open skies above, it sparkles continuously as if to compete with the fossils. At night you can swim on your back and commune with the moon and stars.
Guests at Coco Loco can snorkel living coral gardens in the Indian Ocean, or take kite sailing lessons on the bay. Two beach restaurants are within walking distance, but fishermen will deliver to your backdoor. Deep sea fishing can be chartered at The Driftwood Beach Club. (There is WiFi if you insist.)
The master bedroom upstairs has magnificent ocean views to the east, so you catch the rising sun and moon. There is a long table for dining al fresco, plus a sitting area where you can sleep beneath the stars. Donwstairs surrounding the pool, there are three large double bedrooms each with private bath en suite, plus an open kitchen dining area, and assistant cook, who serves breakfast.
Many of the decorative touches in Coco Loco are produced by locals based on Yolanda’s Indian Ocean Design company. These include lovely white pillows with colorful beaded centers, mirrors and photo frames made from old chair backs, and colorful cotton sarongs used as curtains. Known as kikoys, these sarongs can also be fashioned into shawls, table cloths, a head wrap, and a tote bag. They soften with age, pack flat and make for easy gifts to friends back home, especially those needing a wrap for their swimsuit. But the best use of all is to mimic the fossil coral walls of this wonderful palace, Less is More & Nude Even Better.
While this popular retreat is already booked for the holidays and New Year’s Eve, I found February conditions perfect for swimming.