Long Bay Villas, Anguilla
Sometimes, out of adversity comes opportunity. That was certainly the case for one real estate developer and investor, who had long coveted three villas – Sea, Sand and Sky – that perched above the quiet shores of Long Bay, Anguilla.
Words by Natasha Were. Photography by Rickiell Hodge.
Having been a regular visitor to the island for twenty five years and owning property there, Neil Freeman was very familiar with Anguilla’s particular charms. When Hurricane Irma tore through the region in September 2017, causing widespread damage, he didn’t see it as a cue to sell up, but rather a chance to acquire a property he and his wife Wendy had admired for years.
“We toured Sand, Sea and Sky shortly after they were built. At the time, celebrities were frequent guests there,” he recalls. “These three beautiful villas were the prototype for the St. Regis villas that were about to be built with the new golf course (currently Cuisinart).”
They had been particularly impressed by the fact that each villa had a private staircase leading directly to the seldom visited beach. “Many of the luxury villas in Anguilla don’t have beach access or are located on a more crowded beach. Long Bay Villas provide a more private experience for busy people to really unwind.”
Over the intervening years, Freeman invested in several other properties on the island, but kept his eye on Long Bay Villas (the collective name for the trio of villas). “Unfortunately, the villas fell into disrepair as the owners spent less time visiting Anguilla,” he notes. The Category 5 hurricane dealt the final blow, necessitating a complete refurbishment – a blessing in disguise for Freeman.
“A realtor called to tell me that the owner was willing to sell Long Bay Villas and the neighbouring Santosha for a good price and a quick close, as they needed the funds,” Freeman recalls. He swiftly raised the equity and by February 2018 had purchased the estate.
A team of award-winning professionals with invaluable hospitality expertise, including architect/developer Sugar George (Ian) Edwards of Sunset Homes Anguilla, and interior designer, Natalie Sheedy of Chicago-based Sheedy/DeLaRosa Interiors, was quickly assembled to breathe new life into the tired, storm-scarred properties.
The aim was to preserve the distinctive architecture – a blend of Moroccan-style flat roofs, cubic forms and square windows, together with columns, arches and domes typical of Greek design – but to update and upgrade the 15-year-old interiors, turning them into luxurious, yet comfortable, beach retreats.
Whilst the layout remained largely unchanged – each villa had four master bedrooms, an infinity pool and an abundance of outdoor space – the architect focused on lightening and opening up the properties by enlarging the doors and windows to make the most of the views. The original maid’s kitchens walls were knocked through to create open concept living spaces that, in turn, open onto pool decks with views straight out to the horizon. Under-utilised rooms, like offices, were turned into children’s bedrooms, and the spacious indoor/outdoor bathrooms – always a star feature of the villas – were thoroughly modernised.
For Neil and Wendy, it was important that the three villas could be used jointly by large groups, or separately.
“We wanted our guests to have many choices, both indoors and outdoors, of where they could congregate, or where they might be quietly alone,” Wendy says. The estate therefore includes a beach pavilion and a colonnaded outdoor dining area where large groups can eat together. Each villa is peppered with cushioned window seats and private balconies and exteriors include a multitude of seating and dining areas for those needing a little solitude. One of Wendy’s favourite spots is the tower adjacent to the pool at Sky villa which is like a private living room she can escape to and watch the waves.
A cohesive interior aesthetic pairs white walls with creamy Anguilla stone floors and louvered shutters to create a soothing and restful background. Over this, the designer has layered a palette of natural colours, rich textures and artisanal furniture to soften the stark white, and create harmony between the decor and the architecture, whilst also tying it to its location.
The once-cramped, dark kitchens are now bright chef’s kitchens, with high-end appliances, custom-made cabinetry and central cooking islands lit by woven rattan pendants from Serena & Lily. Kitchens adjoin elegant dining areas where tables, built by Amish craftsmen, hold centre stage and an accent wall in natural stone defines the TV area. Wood, wicker and bright, ethnic fabrics and artwork all add an organic element to the white interiors, and a smattering of coral sculptures, conch shells and driftwood bring a beach vibe in.
Elegant living spaces continue outdoors, with sun loungers lined up by infinity pools, covered dining areas and sectional sofas, all of which pick out the aqua and blue tones of sea and sky. Being vacation homes, the designer was careful to ensure that her choice of fabrics and furnishings, inside and out, not only looked and felt beautiful but were also durable enough to withstand wet swimwear, sandy feet on furniture and heavy wear and tear.
Key to the luxury feel of the villas is the fact that the four master bedrooms across all three villas provide equal levels of comfort and space, so that no one has to settle for a lesser room, Natalie notes. Four-poster beds, window seats, walk-in wardrobes and sensational spa-like bathrooms all come as standard, but each peaceful sanctuary is decorated in a distinct colour scheme – one in soft coral and yellow shades, a second featuring sea blues and whites, and a third is dove grey and cream – yet all tie seamlessly into the overall aesthetic.
“The bathrooms are designed to create a private oasis for guests within the larger villa,” Natalie explains. Although they were always generously sized, they were showing their age. The somewhat dated sunken baths were therefore removed and replaced with above ground soaker tubs. Huge mirrors, custom-made vanities and modern lighting were installed and, beyond a glass wall, is a courtyard-like, open-air outdoor shower.
The seamless and effortlessly elegant result belies some of the difficulties in getting to this point. Work began in May 2018 and had to be completed by December of the same year, so the team was working to tight deadlines. Anguilla was in recovery mode at the time, with homes and businesses across the island busy rebuilding. Labour, materials and even accommodation for off-island workers were in short supply, adding to the usual logistical complications of building on a Caribbean island. Because the majority of the furnishings were sourced off-island, returning an order was not an option. Measurements for every detail – from the cushions for the outdoor benches to the decorative pieces chosen to fit into the numerous wall recesses and niches inside – had to be spot on first time around, as there was no margin for error.
Thanks to the vision, hard work and cooperation of a dedicated team, the challenging undertaking became a deeply rewarding experience for all involved. Long Bay Villas have shaken off their hurricane wounds and emerged stronger, better and more beautiful than before.
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