With sweeping views of the azure waters below, this family home elevates outdoor living to an art form in BVI.
Words by Erin Burke. Photography by Don Hebert.
Imagine panoramic ocean views so broad in scale that the bend in the Earth is the terminus. Surrealism flirting with the ethereal, it is a technicolour dream. Such is Tingalayo, a place as playful and innocent as the donkey from the famed Caribbean children’s song for which it is named. “I wanted a unique name no one had ever used,” explains Simon Ball, owner. “It’s a laugh. And my wife and kids love it.”
Comfortably reposed 300-feet below Sage Mountain, the highest point on Tortola, British Virgin Islands (BVI), this idyllic, seemingly small village is, in fact, a six-bedroom, six-bathroom palatial residence – a labour of love that bespeaks nature as its primary inspiration for being. Resplendent in its simplicity, it is the physical manifestation of an ethos often associated with the Caribbean: to live the good life; to master your own destiny, albeit while enjoying all the comforts life can offer.
Born from the imagination, personality and architectural savvy of its husband-and-wife owners, they enlisted the help of Michael Helm, owner of CAL architects, and interior designer, Matthew Collins, to help create an inimitable domicile divined by their collective heart and soul.
Ten years in the making, the property’s organic evolution resulted in six separate structures, four of which are primary living spaces: the Great House, Guest House, Flamingo Pink Media Room and Master Bedroom Suite. Spanning almost four acres, each villa is unique, but shares the singular outdoor living concept that most closely defines Tingalayo. “You can either seal yourself off or live and participate with nature. We are trying to connect with what is around us,” states Ball.
Both the architecture and interior décor are influenced by a mélange of cultures and the family’s peripatetic lifestyle that has included stints living around the globe. Attitudes from Asia, Europe and the Caribbean meld to create a home replete with functional modern style and luxury, warmth and nuances characteristic of the owners and their children. “There is a sense of freedom in expressing yourself without setting a trend. We did what we felt we wanted as a family,” explains Ball.
While the architecture uses clean, minimalist lines with exposed wooden beam ceilings as high as 40-feet, cement floors and purple heart teak decks and sitting areas, the uncompromising quality lies in the details. Handmade tiles from Morocco, Spain and Italy are used in the kitchens, bathrooms, dining areas and even the outdoor garden faucets, lending the abode a barefoot elegance, while washbasins and hardware, designed by the renowned Philippe Starck, add touches of subtle modern elegance.
Striving for exceptional simple yet sophisticated quality, the aim was absolute kick-up-your-feet comfort without appearing ostentatious. Hence the well-equipped kitchens where no expense was spared incorporating Viking cookers, Italian granite countertops, natural ivory-coloured stone tiles and designer track lighting.
"You can either seal yourself off or live and participate with nature. We are trying to connect with what is around us...”
And while the Great House is considered the grand communal complex, it certainly has a contender for the title of ‘focal point.’ Mere steps below lies a suspended, 45-foot wide, salt-water infinity pool with an undulating design that mimics the curves of a bay. Cleverly incorporated into the overall layout, its presence enraptures the imagination as the precipice merges with the horizon to create an illusion for the senses – a blissful interruption of space and time where the glass tiles lining the edge sparkle like the sea below. Views of Soper’s Hole, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Jost van Dyke, Apple Bay and on a clear day, Puerto Rico, help create a sense of unfettered freedom.
Strolling through the labyrinth of coral stone paths and steps that wind through ambrosial gardens designed to conjoin structure and nature, Tingalayo teems with life. This symbiotic infrastructure is abundant with ginger flowers; pink, purple and white bougainvillea; palm trees; banana, plantain, bread fruit and mango trees – the list of tropical flora goes on.
Marking the culmination of discovery, however, is a wooden staircase leading up and away to the literal and figurative pinnacle of Tingalayo – a six-foot, three-ton Balinese Buddha that required a year to ship, ten men and a military-grade truck to mount. As Ball explains, “It seemed the right thing to do. The stone Buddha is simple, not ornate, like our house and the life we are striving to live.”
To identify all that is special about Tingalayo is like capturing lightning in a bottle. Rather, the experience is a climax of clever details. It is the Caribbean animals etched on sconces; the unexpected accent décor dotted around the dwelling; the brightly painted walls exuding Caribbean warmth; the fuschia flower pots in the courtyard; the outdoor shower with a floor constructed of sea pebbles gathered by the owners’ children from Cappoons Bay. Here, it is the expectation of inevitable new discoveries, where one reconnects with forgotten enthusiasms, enjoyed with a relish for life that is often only summoned in childhood.
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