Waterline, Grand Cayman
Sleek, white and symmetrical against a backdrop of rugged ironshore, Waterline gives expression to the owners' passion for modern design, down to the last detail.
Words by Natasha Were. Photography by Heather Holt.
Occupying the highest point on Beach Bay bluff with endless ocean vistas, the name is inspired by the parallel lines created where pool meets ocean, and ocean meets sky. Sharp lines, right angles and an absence of curves are dominant features of Waterline’s design. Each element, viewed separately, is simple and unembellished, yet the sum of its parts is undeniably dramatic.
The owners, long term residents of the Cayman Islands, are no strangers to property development, having purchased, remodelled and sold various homes over the years. It is perhaps no surprise therefore that with Waterline they chose to take the lead on the design – from concept to completion.
Aficionados of modern design, they visited some of the most iconic examples of modern architecture in the world, including the Glass House in New Canaan, Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois and the Barcelona Pavilion, Spain, seeking inspiration for their own home.
The intention was never to replicate these virtually-all-glass edifices – it would be far from practical in Cayman’s climate and besides, the couple needed wall space to hang their extensive art collection – but they were able to take certain elements they admired and recreate them.
“I wanted to be able to look through the house, across the pool and out to the ocean, but that meant keeping the whole structure on a single level,” the owner explains. The land, however, sloped down towards the ocean. The solution he came up with, borrowed from the Barcelona Pavilion, was to build the land up to the level of its highest point – 45 feet – forming a huge platform or plinth, on which the entire footprint of the house, terraces and pool would sit.
The owner’s daughter, an interior designer, introduced him to SketchUp, a form of 3D modelling software. Using that he was able to design the exact house he wanted, down to the landscaping and the position of each light fitting and socket.
He then handed the models over to local architect Robert Towell who translated them into architectural drawings and took care of the detailed engineering aspects of constructing the plinth
In building the level of the land up, a drop-off was created on the seaward side. This had two distinct advantages. First, it ensured that the infinity edge pool – an absolute must for the owner – worked visually (the 150 feet of ironshore that lie between the edge of the pool and the ocean are not visible from within the property); and second, it allowed a large cistern to be incorporated under the pool deck without the need for significant excavation.
Blocks of lawn, strips of coloured pebbles and precisely clipped topiaries frame the structure itself, a series of interlocking white rectangles and an equally geometric pool and terrace at the front. Inside, airy spaces and white walls and floors embrace the views, and the simplicity of the architecture has created an ideal blank canvas against which they have arranged bold statement pieces and personal keepsakes.
“The idea of hiring an interior designer never occurred to us,” the owner says. “That is the really fun bit, so my wife and I turned the design process into a series of trips abroad.”
They travelled to the Miami Design District, New York, Spain, Italy, Greece and more, visiting everything from factories to furniture stores. In Turkey they ordered the white limestone floor slabs direct from the quarry, in Milan they had doors custom made, and in Valencia they found the tiles they wanted.
Some of the furniture and decorative items were brought from their previous home, the rest was carefully researched: it took a year to locate a set of ten Wink chairs – made from five different types of wood with dramatically different grains – that surround the glossy white dining table. The tube lights that hang above the table without obstructing the cook’s view from the kitchen, were one of the final pieces of the jigsaw.
For the owners, consistency of style was key. Finding bathtubs, bathroom vanities and beds that fitted with the very contemporary aesthetic proved far less challenging, they found, than locating modern light switches, fans and smoke detectors.
It is their eclectic mix of paintings, sculptures, masks and other curiosities, gathered over the course of a lifetime, that give the interior its unique colour and character. The fact that the interior décor was not planned with a unified vision in mind, but rather came together organically, makes it all the more authentic.
“The only thing all these pieces have in common is that at the time we bought each piece, we liked it,” the owner says simply.
Creating Waterline has been an all-consuming project, entailing international travel and hours of painstaking research, but the input has paid off: it’s a home that has its owners’ style and personality stamped on every inch of it, inside and out.
“Not everyone likes this style,” the owner reflects, “but love it or hate it, praise it or ridicule it, at the end of the day, the house is all us.”
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