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Prelude to Paradise, Anguilla

Photography by Christian Gomez and Michael Wilson.

How else to explain the unfathomable beauty of their cascading plumage? Invoking similar celestial associations, the spacious 5,575 square foot home – which doubles as a luxury rental when the owners are not in residence – sits nestled high in the hillside overlooking the achingly perfect crescent of Sandy Hill Bay.

Located on one of the most northerly of the Leeward Islands, the Bird of Paradise is quintessentially Caribbean with its island scene of aquamarine seas, pure skies, golden sands and unobstructedbridgeviews to St Barth’s, St Maartin and beyond. Designed by award-winning international hotel and resort architects, Wilson & Associates, and spearheaded by lead architect, Guy Courtney of Watermark Design Studio, the villa comprises a village-like collection of four separate, ensuite pavilions topped with traditional wallaba shingles that create a relaxed, sun-washed patina. Interconnected by ingenious walkways, an ipe bridge and sumptuous lagoon-style pools that weave beguilingly between the buildings, dramatic, tropical foliage frames every view. From towering date palms to the intricate curls of exotic orchids, the property revels in intense contrasts of light and colour that cut to the core of Caribbean living. Bursts of brilliance from bougainvillea and frangipani blooms echo in the hand-carved stone planters, brimful of sun jewels, which adorn the estate’s many sun decks, shady terraces and private verandahs. This is a place of escape… where comfort and serenity rule supreme.

Integrated into the terraced terrain, the lofty hideaway works in sympathy with natural topography and climate, displaying simple architectural forms enhanced only by stained wood columns and trellises. The challenge of a trapezoid-shaped site results in unusual angles and levels, with no views parallel to any of the property lines. “Who wants to design on flat, square pieces of land when there are sites like this?” quips Guy Courtney.

livinroomOriented to take advantage of cooling tradewinds and magnificent south easterly views where, at night, the lights of neighbouring islands combine with the stars to illuminate the bay in fairytale splendor, the design triumphs in eliminating the division between inside and out. A whimsical outdoor living room, complete with cosy fireplace and a ceiling full of stars, acts as the perfect counterpoint to the expansive, corner-less interior living room featuring vast customised Purple Heart mahogany and glass doors that fold back to allow unfettered views. This, coupled with the lowering of the verandah floor to avoid obstructions, creates seamless space and motion.

The fluidity is underscored by an eclectic medley of decorative artefacts adorning interior and garden settings.carving Avid travellers, the owners’ passion is reflected in the fusion of intriguing collectibles: primitive masks from the Solomon Islands, rare basket weavings from the Sepik River and ornate Balinese wall carvings. Like a curious charm bracelet, each of the Oceanic and African treasures harbours a memory: a distant land, the smile of a stranger....

Like intricately layered interludes in a brilliant concerto, these fine and rustic recurring motifs punctuate the perfect harmony of natural elements – wood, stone, pebbles, woven seagrass and raffia – signatures of the design scheme. Eliciting the expertise of interior designers, Tonya Burke of Watermark Design Studio and Donna Sweet of Haven Interiors, the neutral palette plays out in the ivorything sheer drapes, canvas slipcovers, hand-textured wall finish and tropical hardwood furniture – custom-designed to the owners’ exact specifications and hand-oiled to give the suggestion of antiquity. “We were extraordinarily concerned about attention to details,” explains owner Jon Dill, who personally sat in every chair prior to placing an order. Decorated in an Asian-Tropical style with vaulted, stained cumara wood ceilings, granite counter tops and Kohler fixtures, furniture is oriented towards the bay, monopolising every vantage point. Concealed ambient lighting, hurricane lanterns and candles combine with atmospheric pool lighting to create the romance that pervades every aspect of the property – most notably, the beautifully appointed bedroom suites.

Replete with sumptuous Frette linens and Bulgari amenities, each individualised suite offers private verandah views to make your heart soar. Nevertheless, it is the design of the master suite that really ‘claims the skies’. Cross the bridge over the lagoon to a fantasy sanctuary, complete with bar, celandon and pewter ceramics, outdoor shower and plunge pool and a candle-rimmed whirlpool tub framed by two giant windows of palms pool-and-chairsstrung with fanciful fairylights. As Jon explains, “Our goal is to have each guest experience the wonders and delights of the Caribbean… to lose themselves in the easy ambience and intimacy of the surroundings.”

Like the carved storyboards that adorn the walls, the Bird of Paradise tells its story, inviting guests to travel vicariously on voyages of discovery far beyond its inky horizon. Dancing to the beat of its own drum, this expressive interpretation of the Caribbean dream sings out its leading note on luxury with a design that succeeds unequivocally in fulfilling the promise of such a special place.

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