The Bright Life, Cayman Islands
On the ninth floor of the Residences at Seafire, designer wall treatments, vivid colours, and custom millwork boldly go where no interiors in Cayman have gone before.
Words by Natasha Were. Photography by Willowdale Photography.
In contrast to the prevailing aesthetic commonly seen in Cayman’s residences, where cool white walls are offset by natural materials and occasional pops of blue or green, this five-bedroom penthouse is nothing if not bold. Saturated with vivid colours, intricate patterns and luxurious textures, it pays homage to the owners’ European roots and captures their vibrant, dramatic style.
A well-travelled, design-savvy family who typically move both home and country every four years, the owners were no strangers to interior design projects. Having decorated both homes and boats, they knew the style they wanted and approached the empty shell of their new residence with a clear vision and a list of desired pieces.
Luxurious materials and designer goods were a must – but what they did not want was a show home that felt untouchable. With three children and a rescue dog living at home, and three older children who would come to visit, it had to be a space where they could all live, work and socialise with ease.
Being new to the island, the owners needed the expertise of an interior design firm who could run with their furniture and fabric selections, design custom millwork and find the right people to execute their plan. Justin Szigeti, a senior interior designer at IDG, proved the perfect partner, bringing sensitivity and good sense to the project and overseeing much of the work in their absence.
Unsurprisingly, it was the spectacular views the corner unit offered from 100’ above sea level that had been the selling point for the owners.
“When we first moved in, we took photos of the sunset daily,” they recall. “We used to say it was like having a different painting in your living room every evening.”
Ensuring maximum enjoyment of the vistas informed much of the interior design, which entailed a few structural modifications. This involved removing a wall divider on the sunset side to create one sprawling terrace, installing wooden Trex decking for the flooring, and raising the glass railing to ensure their three-year-old’s safety.
To allow the family and their guests to enjoy meals with a view, IDG designed a long, narrow dining table, commissioned a local metal artisan to make the base, and ITC to craft the porcelain marble top. The shape assures everyone can sit along one side, bar-style, in low-slung seats and look out over the ocean.
“We’re European, so we don’t like to rush a good meal,” the owner explains. “We like to take three or four hours over it. So by making the tabletop and the seats lower than normal, it creates more of a relaxed, lounging experience.”
In the vast open-concept living space, to screen the master bedroom from the living room and create space for bespoke bookshelves and a flatscreen TV to hang, a wall was built. A ceiling feature, designed by IDG, consisting of layered circles of wood with embedded pin lights, mimics the curve of the expansive sectional sofa and is echoed in the round side tables and Minotti ottomans, whose golden-yellow upholstery matches that of the terrace chairs.
Hermès wallpaper, featuring monkeys and birds, adds character to the bare white walls and, together with zebra print cushions, imbues this central gathering space with an elegant jungle theme.
In the kitchen, the original 10-inch breakfast bar – where diners would have had their backs to the view – was removed, and in its place, a custom-designed curved banquette seat and circular table reside. These shapes are echoed in the half-moon cut-out in the ceiling bulkhead above, which frames the gold and silver pendant light. The family can dine indoors while looking out and, should they look the other way towards the kitchen, an arching gold-plated faucet by Waterworks ensures continuity of form and colour down to the last detail.
Plain is not a concept that exists in this unit. Even the hallway leading to the bedrooms has been transformed from a utilitarian space into something extraordinary: a series of dark walnut slats and embedded LED lights, designed by IDG, run along the ceiling and down the far wall, adding drama and drawing the eye through the space.
The bedrooms have all been thoughtfully created for each occupant, with the fifth bedroom transformed into a home office. This workspace exudes calm and is less embellished, but a series of curving, back-lit panels on the rear wall create visual interest and prevent it from being bland.
In the master bedroom suite, Gucci wallpaper bearing a striking palm motif – green on white in the bedroom, white on black in the bathroom – and exotic bird-print cushions bring the tropics indoors. Subtle gold accents throughout and an antiqued mirror in a gold frame hung from the ceiling add a layer of luxurious decadence.
The owner’s daughter created a mood board for her bedroom: a fairy-tale space of soft pinks and greens, where a double bed with a studded leather headboard stands under an organic pendant light and a blush-toned Baker sofa is angled to take in the easterly views. Sophisticated, feminine, and filled with soft, fluffy textures, it’s become the venue of choice for girls’ slumber parties.
The older son’s room is any teenage boy’s dream, with a large screen TV and two gaming chairs, a custom-built double bunk bed and a wall-to-wall sofa. In contrast, the youngest’s embodies childhood fantasies, with a miniature teepee, mounds of toys and a turquoise-toned wall treatment that picks out the colours of the sea and sky.
However, amidst opulence and designer features, the owners have incorporated a sense of fun and vitality into their home. From the daring tiger wallpaper in the powder room to the Einstein caricature in the office and the Cayman-style Mona Lisa, wearing a face mask and holding a blue iguana, that hangs above a porcelain greyhound (a ‘friend’ for their real-life canine), they have injected their playful spirit into the interiors.
What was once a blank canvas has been transformed into a distinctive home with definite European glamour. Whether inspired by the decor or by the family’s gregarious, friendly nature, the home is often filled with people. Classmates, friends and neighbours are drawn to the penthouse residence where overnight guests, dance parties and dinners are a regular occurrence.
For a family that typically prefers detached homes with sprawling grounds, apartment living has turned out to have some unexpected benefits. The stellar amenities of the Residences at Seafire have cushioned the discomfort of closed borders and the family has bonded with neighbours. They have shared barbecues on the rooftop lounge, lingered over lunches and joined pool parties. They’ve admired sunrises and sunsets and taken the dog for moonlit beach walks. When the time comes to depart, they will have left a vibrant footprint on the shores of Cayman.
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