This gated home in an exclusive St. Martin community effortlessly brings loved ones closer together in a private, serene setting. And while the home is a stunner, expansive and beautifully decorated with thoughtful pieces, the action happens outdoors here — because that’s just how life is in this little slice of paradise.
A Family Home
Casa de la Playa’s owners are the Kopecs — Michael, Kristin, and their three teenage and preteen children — a Canadian family hailing from Whistler, British Columbia. Before their first child was born, they decided to move to St. Martin to start their family on the Caribbean island. They bought land in a private community in Baie Longue, a small beachfront community in Terres Basses on the French side but close to the Dutch border, and built a home: Casa de la Playa. They lived there for 15 years, raising their children in St. Martin before moving back to Whistler in 2017. Shortly after leaving St. Martin, the Kopecs decided to turn Casa de la Playa into a permanent vacation rental. Having been family lived-in for a decade and a half, the home was up to the challenge of hosting families from all over the world.
“There’s not one thing that’s missing with this house,” says Walter Salek, who has traveled to St. Martin for more than 10 years, and who visited Casa de la Playa with his family over Christmas 2018 and will return for the holidays in 2019. “It’s got incredible service, stunning views, a great beach, it’s safe, it’s easy to get around the island. It’s got everything you could possibly want in the house, and everything works. That’s why this house is and should be attractive to anybody looking to stay in a higher-end property.”
The Kopecs are big on privacy and designed their home with this in mind. The layout of Casa de la Playa is such that vacationing guests won’t disturb one another when they’re in different rooms. You could watch a movie with full sound in the great room, they say, and you wouldn’t hear it in any of the bedrooms. Their family tends to gather in the kitchen or around the pool table, or outside around the pool. And of their favorite traditions is Friday night movie night — outdoors. On the grounds of Casa de la Playa, on non-ocean-facing side, the Kopecs have installed a six by 10-foot polyethylene projector screen with a classic HD Bose Surround Sound system. “Because we don’t have any neighbors, we can crank it up as loud as we want,” says Michael. “And it’s a cigar friendly theater.”
The truth is, everything tends to happen alfresco at Casa de la Playa, and in St. Martin for that matter. “Everything becomes a different environment,” says Kristin. “You’ve got your feet in the sand, the tiki torches going, and a beautiful sunset to look at. Everything in St. Martin becomes outdoors.” Whether it’s family dinners on the beach, relaxing on the private rooftop deck, or climbing the 12-foot entrance gate for 360-degree views of the surrounding islands, the stunning scenery at Casa de la Playa is reason enough to never leave the property.
“St. Martin doesn’t have a whole lot of outside commercial distractions like you might find living in a big cosmopolitan city,” says Kristin. “Here, everything naturally slows down, which gives you more time to interact with one another. We’ve created an environment at Casa de la Playa where we always have family dinners where we each talk about our day. Home is where your family is and that’s where you are at Casa de la Playa.”
Laid Back St. Martin Living
“You have no idea what you’re going to see until the gates open,” Kopec says of the 12-foot-high iron gate that encloses Casa de la Playa from the rest of the Baie Longue community. Behind the wall, guests will find three and a half acres of impeccable landscaping, two acres of spotless grass, and Caribbean-style palm, lime, coconut, cashew, and mango trees. The driveway is lined with 30 flamboyant trees that follow the cobblestone driveway to the entrance. When you open the home’s front door you can already see the ocean straight ahead through the glass that comprises the entire backside of the house. “When you walk in and the gates close behind you it’s like you’ve left the hustle and bustle of the island behind,” Kopec adds.
And if you think the Casa de la Playa gates separate you from the beauty of island life on St. Martin, think again. From the home’s Baie Longue location at the western tip of St. Martin, you can see five other islands: Anguilla, Saba, Sint Eustatius, St. Kitts, and, on a clear day, Nevis. With direct beach access, it’s easy to sneak a swim. And while the secluded beach isn’t completely private, Salek says this stretch of sand is as good as it gets. “Everyone says they have a private beach, but the reality is none of the beaches here are private,” says Salek. “It comes down to how many people actually use your portion of the beach — this is the quietest beach we have been on in St. Martin.”
Kristin recalls fond memories of swimming with dolphins — and one family tradition in particular that she recommends to guests if the time is right. “As a family, we got into charting when the turtles were coming to lay their eggs,” Kristin recalls. “We got to know fairly close to what day they would hatch. Then, we’d go onto the beach with a big blanket near where the turtles were. We could see the sand activity begin to happen as the turtles were bubbling up out of the sand. Then we’d take it a step further and swim with them.”
Even on lazy days, when you need a heavy dose of laid back St. Martin living, Casa de la Playa delivers. “The surroundings just make you feel relaxed,” Kristin says. “Some people download apps on their phone to relax, calm down, or sleep — but in St. Martin and at Casa de la Playa we hear those sounds all around us every day, whether sitting in the garden or from your bedroom. It’s the waves crashing on the beach, the wind rustling the palm trees, and the birds chirping.”
An Aesthetic With a Story to Tell
Even if the outdoors is the draw, Casa de la Playa’s interiors are equally stunning. Over 15 years of living there, the Kopecs meticulously designed and decorated their home with thoughtful pieces. On the inside, the home is something to marvel at — and it’s not without a few stories to explain how it came to look and feel the way it does.
Perhaps the most impressive piece of furniture at Casa de la Playa is its dining table, technically outside, but shaded and directly adjacent to its great room. The table can dine 14, and there’s not a bad seat to be had. Michael had a vision for a table where no one had to suffer through the discomfort of sitting next to one of the table’s legs, a reality to which we can all can relate. To execute his idea, the Kopecs commissioned Bulgarian ebonist Ivo Nenov. Using a Brazilian hardwood mahogany called sipo, Nenov built a heavy table with a wide base and a pedestal system that nullifies the need for legs on its corners. The wood he used for the table arrived as a sliced up tree that had to be cured and dried out before he could work with it, and when he wound up with leftovers, Kristin had an idea for what to do with it.
Kristin had seen a picture of the Italian fashion designer Valentino Garavani on the back of a yacht. In the picture, Valentino was sitting in a giant chair with big wood curved arms and stainless steel holes. “I said ‘I want that chair; how can I find it?’,” says Kopec. She showed it to Nenov, and he said he could make it. Now, there are four of those beautiful chairs sitting in Casa de la Playa’s Great Room.
The Kopecs don’t consider themselves to be art experts, so when selecting the pieces to display in their home, they decided to honor their home country. Most of the art hung on the wall are products of Canadian artists, including Graham Gillmore, Angela Grossmann, and Shannon Belkin. They’ve recently rounded out their collection with local St. Martin art, honoring their new and old home of 15 years.
Get Active with a Little Taste of Whistler
The Kopecs made Casa de la Playa their own over the years, and they took the same mentality to their St. Martin surroundings. Michael, a Whistler, BC native accustomed to the Canadian mountain region’s vast trail networks, took it upon himself to expand on the existing mountain biking trails in the St. Martin town of Bellevue, just five miles east of Baie Longue. “Because we lived in Whistler, we knew what good mountain bike trails were. I had the benefit of spending 3 months in Whistler every year and learning how they build their trails. So I created a mini replica here.” In 2009, Bellevue had two kilometers (roughly 1.2 miles) of trail. In the ensuing eight years, over a couple hundred hours a year and with some help from the local community, Michael grew that network to 14 kilometers (roughly 8.7 miles) of trail by the time he and his family left St. Martin in 2017 to move back to Whistler. That same year, Michael’s trails hosted the Caribbean National Mountain Bike Race.
And Michael took the idea of building a mini replica of his hometown to heart, naming one of the trails Little Whistler and decorating it with an “official” sign which he admits he plagiarized from Whistler Mountain. Other trails he built and named include Bullet (after the Kopecs late Rottweiler), Little Schler, Under the Trees, and Summer ‘08 (an homage to the year he kicked off the project). “Of all the communities I’ve lived in, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a community as athletic as St. Martin,” says Kopec. “There is an athletic event 50 weeks of the year, from triathlons to biathlons to running races, trail races, and mountain bike races. I just decided to contribute by building the trails.”
The Kopecs have left quite their mark on St. Martin. From world-class mountain trails in Bellevue to a marvelous family home in Baie Longue, the Kopecs’ work lives on — and it’s available for all visitors to the island to enjoy.
Contact your Luxury Retreats Guest Experience Specialist today to learn how you can stay at Casa de la Playa.