Atelier House, Barbados
Appearing to float above the lush Bajan foliage, Atelier House's sharp white lines frame breathtaking views while providing a blank canvas for the owners to express their creative talents.
Words by Natasha Were. Photography by Mike Toy for West Coast Villas and Sotheby's International Realty.
Perched on a ridge, overlooking a verdant gully filled with mahogany trees and the sparkling Caribbean Sea beyond, Atelier House's clean lines and plain white frame stand in stark contrast to the prevailing architectural style of Barbados.
Located in the desirable parish of St. James, less than half a mile from the white sand beaches of the island's west coast and enjoying an elevated position above a protected wildlife zone, the uncompromisingly contemporary design makes ample use of glass and stone and a simple colour palette, to maximise magnificent views and emphasise the vibrant blues and greens of the Caribbean landscape.
A creative, design conscious couple, London based Sean O'Halloran and Amanda Snow had long admired the tropical modern style of architecture originating from South America and dreamed of building a holiday home of their own. When a prime piece of real estate became available in Barbados, they did not hesitate to act.
Their combined experience (he was raised in a family involved in construction, and has worked as an artist and graphic designer; she is an interior designer) made them ideally qualified to play a central role in the process. Alistair Downie, of Harper Downie Associates, a UK-based architect who had designed other properties on the island, convinced the couple in just a few sketches that he was the man to turn their vision into a reality. Together, the three came up with a layout and framework that would fully exploit the natural advantages of the site's aspect, elevation and vistas.
Siting the villa as close to the ridge as possible, the infinity pool appears to cascade into the gully, while the building's form echoes the shape of the plot. The central living area is angled to catch the setting sun and bedroom views embrace the forested hillsides. Every window and doorway has been precisely positioned to frame a different view – be it a glimpse into another part of the home, the pool or the sea – ensuring "visual treats" at every turn. Floor-to-ceiling glass panes and continuous limestone flooring inside and out all combine to soften the boundaries between indoors and out, creating an open, flowing sense of space. Nowhere is this more dramatically expressed than in the double-height living area where huge picture windows stretch the length of the room directly above sliding glass doors, effectively creating a vast, retractable wall between the kitchen and pool deck.
Sophisticated yet relaxing, the owners enjoy using Atelier House for family vacations with their two children as much as for socialising with friends. The four-bedroom, three bathroom home is both spacious enough to entertain in, yet intimate enough to offer seclusion when it is sought, be it reclining on a shady day bed on the roof terrace, tucked up with a book in the mezzanine study or drinking in the view from one of the comfortable clusters of seating outdoors.
Crisp white interiors and plenty of light answer the owners' desire for a design reminiscent of an art gallery, whilst also providing the ideal space for the couple to showcase their creative talents: O'Halloran's own paintings, alongside the works of other contemporary artists adorn the walls, and Snow's eclectic collection of furniture pieces collated over the years and across continents, is given space to shine.
"The central living area is angled to catch the setting sun and bedroom views embrace the forested hillsides."
New, commissioned and up-cycled pieces fit together seamlessly against a neutral backdrop. "Atelier House gave us the opportunity to mix mid-century modern classics, one-off design pieces and a few bargain finds in the way that we wanted to," says O'Halloran. Intimately involved in every aspect of the design and construction, from custom stonework to garden landscaping, their dream Caribbean retreat has been a true labour of love. A striking landmark on Barbados's west coast, the home's shining white edifice stands as a beacon of modernity, a testament to their unique vision and style.
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