Take a look inside this top-rated international guesthouse that will make you want to book a trip to Puerto Rico, immediately.
The first thing I noticed was the close attention to detail…the light that cast shadows down every corridor, the accenting decor to make each room its own…
The Dreamcatcher Guesthouse is a hideaway nestled amongst the oceanfront houses of Ocean Park, a community 10 minutes east of Old San Juan in Puerto Rico. I first came across it while scrolling through listings on Airbnb. I thought it was too good to be true. Hammocks in the rooms, a 5-minute walk to the beach, gardens surrounding the property…it’s even better IRL.
I was welcomed by Sylvia and Stephan, two like-minded creatives who run the show down in Puerto Rico. Call it a guest house, call it a bed & breakfast or, better yet, call it a dreamland. People from all over the world come to rest their heads at The Dreamcatcher, whether it be for business, pleasure or a soul-searching retreat. With shared kitchen and common spaces, you’re bound to meet at least one new friend during your stay. The rooms itself are all unique, they each tell their own story, not one the same. Sylvia’s eye for interior design and Stephan’s experience in hospitality and furnishing homes helped turn this once-abandoned house into a beautiful, bohemian (and vegetarian!) sanctuary. Step inside and learn how The Dreamcatcher came to be below!
Can you introduce yourselves? Where are you from and how did you meet?
Sylvia is from San Juan, Puerto Rico and I (Stephan) am from Bavaria, Germany. We both lived in NYC at some point and that’s also where we met, at a farewell party of a mutual friend who was about to leave town. At that point Sylvia had just started with The Dreamcatcher, and it was 4 or 5 guest rooms at the time. Sylvia handed me a pamphlet of the project and I was quite impressed and intrigued to visit, which I did a few months later.
What was The Dreamcatcher before it became The Dreamcatcher?
It had been an abandoned house for almost a decade. It was in a very bad shape, properties near the beach get damaged very quickly but Sylvia could look behind all of that. The house spoke to her, she was in love instantly. She did not have the intention of turning this into a guest house, but to fix it up and live in it herself and share it with some friends and travelers. In the beginning, Sylvia would have only her friends stay at the house. She didn’t advertise the rooms anywhere but those friends had friends who then came to visit and so this is how it all started…
How did it land into your hands?
A man sat in front of me (Sylvia) at a cafeteria and told me he had recently read an article in an interior design magazine about my resourcefulness in rescuing used materials and furniture, repurposing them and restoring them. He had this house sitting there and he wanted me to see it. So I walked down the street with him and when I went in the house it was as if I had a filter in
my eyes. As I was looking at the abandoned space, simultaneously I was seeing the magical place it is now. I guess that is called an epiphany?
What was your initial vision of the space?
I (Sylvia) wanted to live in it, restore it slowly and share it with like-minded travelers. I had just gone through a major change in my life, a spiritual awakening, and felt I had to change my job to something that would go along with my lifestyle and all the changes I was going through. I wanted to do yoga in the garden and prepare vegetarian communal dinners, with live music and, most importantly, I wanted to give travelers the opportunity to experience Puerto Rico by staying in a house with a local that could direct them to the right places and show them a more real and authentic neighborhood, like Ocean Park.
Do you come from a background of interior decorating and hospitality? Or is it just something at which you are naturally good?
I (Sylvia) studied photography and, more than taking photos, I loved creating the settings for the photos. I would create narratives and photo books. Eventually this led me into set design for local as well as Hollywood movies, where I acquired a lot of experience in building, construction,
coordination and creating a realistic ambience.While I was making movies, my friends started opening restaurants and asking me to design them, so I eventually got into that, having designed now 20 in Puerto Rico. While living in New York I worked in the service industry, mostly in restaurants.
I (Stephan) come from a Hospitality and Real Estate Background. I studied Hospitality and Hotel Management in Germany when I was 18 years old. Then made a career change into film and TV, where I worked as an AD. I moved to New York in 2008 and got into real estate. This is when I realized I have a thing for creating spaces rather than selling them. I did a lot of staging projects (furnishing apartments for sale or rent), first only for my clients and then soon for other brokers. When I was a little kid I had this dream of having my own hotel and I would imagine what it would look like, and in my head I would give each room a different theme… so meeting Sylvia and co-creating the Dreamcatcher connected all the dots, I would say!
Each room is so beautifully curated. It’s like you’re walking into different worlds upon entering each one. Did you have an end goal or vision that you wanted to achieve with each? Do you have a favorite?
At the beginning I (Sylvia) had no plan. I had very little money, so I grouped objects and elements that conversed with each other, giving each room its own identity and I made it happen with what I had. I had inherited a lot of my grandmother’s furniture, and I had also collected a lot of special pieces from the movies I worked on.
My favorite room?
They are all my favorite, as they all have a story and a special time when they were created. I am very passionate about creating an experience for people, more so than creating a space.
I feel that a lot of the beauty that emanates from the rooms is the furniture and space, but there is an energetic vibration that everyone feels, everyone. It comes from the intention and love in the process of making.
I agree with Sylvia, it is hard to pick a favorite. Somehow these rooms are like our kids. They are all beautiful in their own unique way and of course you love them all. :)
Over the years we remodeled many of them, and my biggest influence in this process I would say was in making the rooms more practical and comfortable. When Sylvia first started this project she didn’t think of them as hotel rooms and, though we are not your regular hotel, guests still expect a certain level of comfort.
Where do you source all of the unique décor you have set up around The Dreamcatcher?
So as we grew, we ran out of Grandma’s furniture, but I (Sylvia) have contacts from
the movie days, also just knowing people, some things are from family and family of friends, some others we build. They are all special finds and sometimes I don’t even know how we get so lucky….
What are some of the things that make staying at the Dreamcatcher so special and rewarding to stay at?
It is definitely a unique place!
Our staff is personal and loving, the decor is original and very natural, you can visit or walk by a certain corner a few times and keep on finding new things. There are altars everywhere, neither Sylvia or I (Stephan) would consider ourselves religious but we feel very connected to them (altars). They have protected us through many difficult situations, and we believe our guests can feel that as well. Our services, from exclusive off-the-beaten-track tours, vegetarian breakfast and brunch, outdoor showers, yoga on the beach and under the stars to Sylvia’s hand-drawn map with over 100 local recommendations. We personally have never been to a place like the Dreamcatcher. I (Stephan) think in a way we created this space according to how we would like to travel, and we are very fortunate that we have so many like-minded travelers who are now our guests.
What have you learned since running your own guesthouse?
I think we both learned so much, from the business, from our guests and mostly from each other and we keep on learning day by day. We both had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when we started this project around 3 years ago. I think we always knew that we were creating something special but the feedback that we have received is beyond what we could have ever imagined. One thing I (Stephan) learned in particular is not to look back — once you come to a decision, that’s it. You can’t go back later when something doesn’t work out as you hoped and say: OH I TOLD YOU SO. You are in this together, and even if you don’t agree sometimes, you have to stand with your partner. You just gotta trust that everything will be just fine.
Who’s the most interesting/notable guest or group that’s stayed at The Dreamcatcher?
There have been so many guests. The people in general that come to the Dreamcatcher are very special and interesting — they are travelers looking for a different experience. Meeting all these people has been amazing. I lived at the Dreamcatcher until only a year ago. I shared the kitchens and grounds with everyone, and it has been the most amazing experience, opening up, sharing and just really understanding how different everyone is. Every guest has enriched my life, some lightly with their smiles and others profoundly with their stories.
We encountered so many remarkable people and, trust me, there are so many stories to tell it could fill its own blog. I might do that one day…if I ever have time for it :O)
However there is one particular moment that I want to share:
There was a time when we thought we had to close the Dreamcatcher. We usually didn’t share this information with guests — one night I told a woman who stayed with us for a few nights about everything. She came and gave me a hug, then we both started crying and I think we just sat there for 5 minutes…crying. Until today I am not sure if she was crying because she was sad for me, or she was so sad that she might not be able to come back or because something else that was going on in her life…and it didn’t matter. The connection we had in that moment was amazing, two people who were strangers a couple of hours before can share a moment like this…and that’s The Dreamcatcher :)
What’s next for you guys and The Dreamcatcher?
Do what we want all our guest to do: enjoying what we have created…and, well, there is something in the works…but we can’t really share the details yet..
Thank you Sylvia and Stephan! You guys are doing it right. ;)
To book a stay at The Dreamcatcher, check out the website here!