New Haven Quay, Cayman Islands
The bold exterior design of a modern home in Canal Point conceals aprivate oasis of cool, white calm within.
Words by Natasha Were. Photography by Heather Holt.
From the street, the canal-front property appears to be a series of box-like structures of different heights, with few windows – apart from a glass-encased stair tower – giving no indication that inside these walls lies a light and spacious open plan home, with a seamless indoor-outdoor flow and an air of tasteful tranquillity.
The owners, who hail from the UK and Spain respectively, wanted to build something that was rare at the time in Cayman: a Spanish-style ultra modern home, dominated by clean lines, white walls and floors, and acres of glass.
Following an unsuccessful attempt to formulate a design with an architect overseas, the couple began to look closer to home.
Within two days of meeting with award-winning architect, Robert Towell, they had a design they loved.
“There was an existing house on one side and an empty lot on the other. We didn’t know what was going to be built there, or across the canal, so we wanted to make sure that whatever happened they would not be able to see us, or us
them,” the owners explained.
Towell’s U-shaped design accomplished this, with the house wrapping around the central outdoor living space on three sides, leaving the fourth, south-facing side open to the pool, garden and canal beyond. By putting the corridors, a laundry room and the home cinema on the street side, he ensured there was little need for windows on the ‘public’ side.
In contrast to the somewhat forbidding exterior, inside it is bright, airy and open. A series of sliding glass doors stretch 24 feet across the open plan kitchen, dining and living room, filling the space with natural light and creating a smooth transition between indoors and out. Beyond this wall of glass, a deep overhang prevents direct sunlight entering the home; a slatted aluminium entry gate at the eastern end which allows the trade winds to blow through, turns the space into a cool breezeway.
“We wanted bar stools in the pool so we could sit in the water all afternoon if we wanted, and a shelf we could put our sun loungers on. We also asked Robert to create an extension beyond the barbecue area to create a longer section for swimming laps,” the owners say. “Robert drew it and then Pool Patrol refined the design and built the pool.”
Back indoors, a double-aspect home office features floor-to-ceiling glass looking out to the cool white terrace on one side and views of greenery from the Zen garden on the other. Built to give the couple’s Persian cats a safe outdoor space to roam, the organic forms and colours of this lush and leafy corner provide a pleasing balance to the monochrome minimalism elsewhere and, with a wall shielding it from the street, further enhances privacy.
Also on the ground floor is an eight-seat home cinema, complete with a night-sky ceiling: the couple brought in a renowned artisan to hand paint constellations in glow-in-the-dark UV paint on an indigo background.
Upstairs, the same starry skies hang over the bed in the master bedroom suite, this time on a white background, making them invisible by day, but at night, the owners say, it’s like sleeping in the great outdoors.
A further three guest bedrooms all open onto a long, sunny terrace where glass railings ensure uninterrupted views to the canal. Connecting the different floors is a dramatic staircase, composed of a steel spine, quartz steps and glass railings. Winding its way up to the top floor observation deck, with a glass wall overlaid by a series of criss-crossing metal bars that cast geometric shadows, this is, Towell says, 'Ground Zero' of the design.
As striking as the end result is, achieving it was far from simple. “No one company on island wanted to take on the whole project,” the owners recall. “In the end we had to hire three different contractors, one to do the glass, one to do the stone and one to the do the metalwork.”
Although this was the couple’s first experience of building a home – indeed, it was the first time they had lived in a house, having always had apartments before – they took on the project management and decor themselves.
“We used an interior designer to help with heights and placement of fixtures in the bathrooms, but other than that, we chose the furniture, fixtures and finishes ourselves,” they explain. Because it was minimalist in style, they say, furnishing was relatively straightforward, but it was the minutiae of finding the right light switches and electrical sockets, tiles and induction cooktops, that was more complex.
“There are millions of decisions to make and they’re not really decisions you can delegate. That’s something I hadn’t appreciated before,” the owner reflects.
Because of their affinity for European style, they sourced the outdoor furniture, marble flooring and bathroom fixtures from Italy and Spain, and found the white tiles and kitchen worktops they wanted locally with the help of ITC.
In keeping with its ultra modern style, the house incorporates state-of-the-art smart home technology, with security cameras, alarm systems, indoor and outdoor speakers and automated lighting all controlled remotely. As one of the owners has a background in IT, he was able to design the system, and have 345AV install it.
“I also spent a lot of time and effort on the lighting,” he adds. “Every light is LED, indoor and out, and all are dimmable. I actually doubled the initial number of lights, so the whole house lights up at night, in any colour you want, as does the pool and the outdoor furniture.”
Sleek and sophisticated, with an air of simplicity and calm, this spectacular property is a perfectly polished, private retreat – but one that can be transformed into a party house at the touch of a button.
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