x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Home of the Week: Eastern influence in a stunning Caribbean hideaway

Asian-influenced architecture and accessories combine with natural materials to create a luxurious interior in this Caribbean hideaway with stunning ocean views.

The open-plan living room is housed in a large central pavilion surrounded by a series of other buildings. Photos courtesy of Jon and Melody Dill
The open-plan living room is housed in a large central pavilion surrounded by a series of other buildings. Photos courtesy of Jon and Melody Dill

Asian-influenced architecture and accessories combine with natural materials to create a luxurious interior in this Caribbean hideaway with stunning ocean views.

Jon and Melody Dill first holidayed on the Caribbean island of Anguilla in 1981, and have been returning regularly ever since. "The people were friendly and outgoing, the beaches so spectacular and the level of overall development so restrained and appropriate for such a small island that we have been coming back ever since," says Melody.

"The 30-square-mile island has been able to retain its old-world charm by not allowing jumbo jets, Club Meds and mega cruise ships. Our son has been coming to Anguilla since he was six months old and he never tires of the excitement of being in a part of paradise."

Almost 20 years after that initial visit, the American couple secured an acre of land on a hillside spot overlooking the turquoise waters of Anguilla's Sandy Hill Bay and began construction of a stunning four-bedroom holiday home.

Choosing the right spot for their island getaway was a complicated business. Sea surges and hurricanes ruled out a plot directly on the beach, which, in any case, would not offer the level of privacy that the couple desired. "Also, on Anguilla if you're on the beach, you're required to build a commercial property. We wanted to be as close as possible, but we wanted a private home," Jon says.

The couple was adamant that their new home should be within walking distance of the beach and should offer expansive sea views. "While many villas in Anguilla have a view of the sea, it's usually a view into the black hole at night; we wanted to see lights. It took us a year to find a site that fit these requirements. We're on the side of a hill with panoramic views of a perfect crescent beach, which is a three-minute walk down a path. The plot in front of us is below sea level and we were told it could never be built on, so we have unobstructed views of the Caribbean. We see the twinkling lights of St Barths and St Maarten at night," Jon says.

When it came to the interior of their new house, comfort was key. The Dills wanted a home that allowed them to enjoy both interior and exterior living, with plenty of relaxed sitting and living areas and "a tropical ambience". They used the Fregate Island resort in the Seychelles as a reference point.

"We loved it and found out that it was designed by international interior architectural design firm, Wilson Associates. I called the designer, who had lived abroad for years designing resorts for Wilson Associates. He wanted a change and thought designing a house would be something new and different for him.

"We wanted an Asian tropical style, in particular Balinese, which is usually a compound of buildings and not a home under one roof. We had travelled with a group of eight to 10 friends for years and Jon and I always seemed to get the short straw and end up with the worst bedroom in the house, usually with a view of the driveway. This Balinese concept worked well for us. Each of our four master suites has a private, exterior entrance and patio, and an equal view of the Caribbean," says Melody.

The property's open-plan living room is housed in a large central pavilion. There are several other areas for entertaining, including a terrace that extends along the length of the ocean-facing side of the house and can accommodate 12 people for outdoor dining. A wind-protected courtyard area houses a series of seats arranged around an outdoor fireplace and barbecue grill, and a lagoon-style swimming pool winds its way between the living and bedroom pavilions, reinforcing the interplay between the interior and exterior.

"Anguilla is a desert island," says Melody. "We wanted to create an oasis with a lush landscape. We asked the architect for an inner courtyard where we could have irrigation and an abundance of foliage. Our hand-chiselled stone walls that create the outer perimeter of the compound took two years to build."

Interior furniture and finishings were also heavily influenced by the East. The design team opted for neutral-coloured floor tiles and a hand-textured wall finish, which contrasts with the dark mahogany wood of the doors and window frames. Ipe wood was used for the vaulted ceilings, which were gently illuminated with concealed cove lighting.

When it came to furniture, the team opted for pieces in teak, mahogany and woven seagrass, which are complemented with natural fabrics such as linen sheers, canvas upholstery and cotton throws.

Because of the locale, most of the interior elements for this project had to be shipped in from abroad, explains Trisha Wilson, the president and chief executive officer of Wilson Associates. "Construction on an island is always challenging. Months of planning were required for construction and the installation of the interior furnishings. With the exception of local stone and concrete blocks, everything else was imported."

Much of the artwork came from Papua New Guinea, but there are also pieces from Ethiopia, Borneo and the Solomon Islands. Accessories came from the couple's own extensive travels. Having met while working for an arm of the US State Department that focuses on developing nations, the Dills had spent years travelling the globe and had ample opportunity to collect unique items that they could showcase in their new holiday home.

While the design was heavily influenced by the East, it also had to adapt to the unique demands of an island in the British West Indies. "Anguilla is in a hurricane zone, so designing a home with roll-down hurricane shutters that you don't see or look at was one of our biggest challenges. Ours roll up into the roof, and, prior to a storm, come down like a garage door," says Melody.

"On an island where there is no fresh water, we also needed cisterns and a roof design to collect rain water. Water is expensive, so water that is used from our showers and so on goes to a grey-water cistern and is reused for irrigation," she adds.

The cost of electricity also came as a surprise. To counter the fact that they pay almost 100 times more for electricity in Anguilla than they do in the US, the couple is always looking for increasingly energy-efficient products to introduce into their home. "New pool pumps and LED pool lights are two areas where we've replaced equipment," says Jon.

Apart from that, very few changes have been made to the original design. "We took a great deal of time in our concept phase and conferred with many people who had built previously on Anguilla in order to learn from their mistakes," says Jon. "We were fortunate to have an excellent builder and feel we have one of the best constructed homes on the island."