It’s all in the details. Even the deceptively simple-looking, gently sloping thatched roofs that roll outward to create shade are a modern feat of engineering. “There are no nails,” Lauder says with awe. For the roofs, IM/KM collaborated with VTN Architects, a Vietnam-based firm globally recognized for its bamboo pavilions. “The challenge was, how can we create something primitive in construction but make it air-conditioned?” says Ivan, adding that six engineers from New York and a translator completed the effort. The end result, Lauder points out, “really creates that indoor-outdoor, tropical feeling.”
Considering all the care and attention paid to the natural surroundings, it’s no surprise that sustainability was a driving force—as it turns out, as much by necessity as by intention. “When you see how isolated it is, you realize that just getting the refrigerator there is a huge undertaking,” says Lauder. Once the forest was mature enough, various woods were harvested on-site and a vast number of the furnishings were sourced and crafted locally. “You can’t just buy furniture in Panama,” says Kristin. “So over the years we’ve found people who want to learn and have a special talent, and we’ve trained them. Now they are very much in demand.” So much so that the couple have expanded their practice. Now, Studio Tlalli, the furniture wing, employs eight craftspeople who assemble each piece of furniture by hand on the reserve. Ivan and Kristin hope to eventually commercialize and export the designs. “The house has had a much broader impact than just the architectural result,” says Ivan. “We’re also proud of the positive social and environmental impact in the area.”
The final element was, of course, the decoration. Aerin called on close friend and longtime collaborator AD100 superstar Daniel Romualdez. “She said, ‘Can you help me make this feel bohemian, colorful, and warm?’ ” recalls Romualdez, noting that his own getaway in Ibiza (AD, June 2017) served as a catalyst. “If you look at the architecture, it’s quite masculine. Then Aerin comes in and layers a soft touch.” Many of those “layers” came from travels they’d taken together over the years—a pair of vintage rattan chairs from Italy that Romualdez calls “modernist instead of preppy,” a sculptural Gambone jug in a guest bath, rattan Atelier Vime pendants that crown the dining table and kitchen island, and punchy textiles from Carolina Irving, Creel & Gow, and Pierre Frey. “We identified the elements that were going to be bulletproof to the salt, that would bring the color, texture, and whimsy,” says Romualdez. “We didn’t want to over-accessorize. We were conscious of the setting. It had to be casual, but I felt like it had to be personal too. The last thing you want is for it to look like a resort.” For Lauder, it was also an opportunity to showcase offerings from her highly successful home collection—eye-catching ceramics, raffia placemats, even a new dishware collaboration with Carolina Irving & Daughters.
“It’s a completely different way of living,” Lauder continues, pointing out that there’s not even a front door at Casa Loro. While her husband and sons spend their days adventuring, Lauder goes for leisurely walks along the beach or lounges by the pool with a book. The catch of the day gets sliced into ceviche; fruit is plucked straight from the surrounding trees. There’s no florist to call on. Instead, Lauder styles the rooms with fresh cuttings from around the property. “The vegetation is very inspiring,” she says, noting that landscape designer Titi Hernández helped to curate the selection. Of the perfectly laid-back nature of it all, she adds: “There’s something very peaceful about just having a quiet day. The interesting thing about it is, there’s nowhere to go. There is no town with shops to run into. There’s no one to meet for lunch. It’s all about family time. That’s really what makes it so special.”