When my partner and I drove into the gated Ocean Park community, we had to circle the block a couple of times before we found The Dreamcatcher guesthouse, where we were staying during our trip to Puerto Rico. Aside from a bold red fence, its plant-covered facade is non-descript, showcasing only small black letters on a white wall. But perhaps, that was owners Sylvia and Stephan's intention: to make their guests feel like they enter a private oasis each time.
Upon entering the gate, guests walk past lush gardens to the courtyard, where the soothing fountain creates the feeling of an oasis on an island that already feels like a retreat. Guests may be partaking in an afternoon yoga class, enjoying a cocktail in the communal kitchen, or sampling a full-course vegetarian meal.
The Dreamcatcher features nine rooms and three suites, each with a distinct style that embodies Caribbean, bohemian and mid-century style all at once. Designer and co-owner Sylvia incorporated personal heirlooms that tell stories of her family, as well as art and furniture she found at thrift stores, garage sales, and shops around town. Each room also features a modern take on the dreamcatcher by Tropical Depression, a local Puerto Rican artist and friend of Sylvia and Stephan.
Most inspiring is the functionality of each space. Sylvia says one of the biggest challenges was converting the space to a hotel (The Dreamcatcher was her previous house), but that's where Stephan came in. "Stephan is an amazing problem solver," she says. "He implemented the right strategies to respect the work I had done and bring further comfort and growth to the house and our guests." Together, they had to work with the spaces and maintain its essence — a delicate balance between functionality, comfort and design.
She and co-owner Stephan wanted guests to feel like locals — that is, a place where they can easily hop to the beach or explore the bars and shops on nearby Loiza Street. They've achieved that with a creative eye and strong collaboration. Together, they've made The Dreamcatcher a space where guests can recharge, rest, and explore the beauty of Puerto Rico.
Note: Sylvia and Stephan were kind enough to let me photograph the space after I booked my stay at The Dreamcatcher. There was no exchange of services for this feature.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Eclectic, vintage, mid-century modern, antique
Inspiration: Our inspiration started with family furniture, but along the way it has changed and we have welcomed other styles, which has further created an even more magical and intricate space.
Favorite Element: The wall art, chairs, lamps, wood, cement, and garden. It is hard to say since there is so much around the house. It is like a labyrinth of eras and every corner has special pieces and themes move around the house.
Biggest Challenge: One of the biggest challenges has been to harmonize all the styles, but really, that came very easy and natural. I think that the biggest challenge has been to have all this different furniture in the house and still make everything functional and not just merely decorative and beautiful. This challenge has been conquered in huge part by Stephan. He respected the emotion I put into the decor, and yet by rearranging and adding essential pieces, he has maximized the potential of every room and every communal area.
What Friends Say: As guests walk into the space, the first comment they have is about the energy in the space. As soon as they walk in, they feel a special presence and they are moved and hugged by it. It is a combination of the gardens and also the familiar feeling the house has. By that, I mean that everyone has a grandmother or a family member that had similar furniture, maybe even the house they grew up in. Or the neighbor's house back when they were young. So by entering The Dreamcatcher, a memory is awakened, one of maybe nostalgia.
Proudest DIY: Neither Stephan or I ever had a hotel or a restaurant. We are very proud of how we have created a space that is so communal and special for people to come together and share. We did it all ourselves. No one taught us how to put together this house or how to run the business part of it. We figured it out on the way. It has been an amazing growing experience filled with a lot of hard work and a lot of satisfaction too. I can say I am very happy to have been able to share this process of so many mixed emotions with him. We help each other remember how this whole thing was put together. And no one else but us know what an amazing journey it has been.
Biggest Indulgence: Furniture for the spaces.
Best Advice: 1. Make your space personal and practical. 2. When you feel something is missing it needs a plant. 3. When you feel your colors are flat, try to add a detail of turquoise. Don't ask why, but it always helps.
Hammocks — hammocks.com
Hanging chairs — from a market in costa rica
Wall art — abey charron.
Woven Dreamcatchers made by Sylvia
Original mid century sofa from second hand store 'cosas de ayer y hoy'
Vintage sofa found in street and reworked by our fabulous upholster Wilfredo Aponte.
Large mid-century chandelier lamp from a vintage store in Los Angeles
Sculptural chair from the '60s — from a movie, brought from Los Angeles
Arabic style lanterns — different vintage stores and Marshalls
All of the art work in the living room is a mix of found pieces and from local artist pernoctar.
The dining room is set in what use to be the balconies of the house, that is why it is surrounded by arches and it has a beautiful view to the garden and the yoga deck.
There is one 1940s communal marble table from my grandmother
The other one is wood with layers of old paint that use to be my grandfather's working station, he was a carpenter.
Both tables I grew up with and they have a great sentimental value. To see how day in and day out our guests eat and enjoy Jerome's delicious food in them gives me great pleasure. I wish my grandparents could see how many people have enjoyed sitting in them...
The extra large lamp that hangs on top of the marble table was custom made by one of our workers, Luis Agosto. This one in particular creates a beautiful effect of patterns in the walls.
The artwork in this area is all contemporary art from local artists. The pieces were put together and curated by artist Rogelio Baez. Alana Iturralde with her sentimental poncho; Efren Candelaria with his oversize minimalist horizon landcape; Amanda Carmona Boch with her warrior collage; Grimaldi Baez with his serigraphy's and woodcuts and Amanda Sanfiorenzo with her delicate linoleum cuts.
There are three kitchens in the house. Two of them are communal for our guests to use. Both of these kitchens were not kitchens before. They are both put together with bedroom dressers, chemistry lab cabinets, hurricane stoves, old family tables, 1950s stove, old patio furniture. They are a great expression of the house. The pieces in the kitchen are a great example on taking the original use of a piece and reusing it for something else. Everyone has a blast in our communal kitchens, not to mention this is one of the spaces guest come together and meet as they cook their meals or make their cocktails.
All the bedrooms have a great mix of found objects, vintage stores, antique stores, furniture from movies and special family pieces. For a place called the dreamcatcher, it is important that every room has one. In the early stages of the house I made woven dreamcatchers to protect the space. As the house grew we handed in this very important theme to our local designer Roy Delgado. Every room has one, to symbolize protection, restful sleep and to entice beautiful dreams. Roy Delgado also has in the bedrooms and around the house small and large scale macramé pieces