Villa Mango, Clipper Bay, Cayman Islands
Simple but sophisticated on the outside, spacious and light-filled on the inside, and packed with playful design items picked up on their travels, Maya and Rich Lewis' majestic home at Clipper Bay is all them – from the overall design down to the smallest detail. Maya shares the journey from concept to completion.
Words by Maya Lewis. Photography by www.heatherholt.com
When we put down a deposit on a piece of land back in 2014, I never would have believed that just four years later we’d be living in our dream home. Growing up in a family of architects (Mum, Dad, grandparents, aunt and godparents) I suppose design was somehow in my blood. Much of my childhood was spent repainting and reconfiguring my bedroom, designing furniture for my dad to build and helping my mum with DIY projects, so building a home was always an aspiration - but I never expected it to happen in my early 30s.
My Dad’s professional motto is that “a good architect should never make you compromise” so when it came to designing our dream house, there was no question who our lead designers would be. Armed with pages of inspiration from Pinterest, Rich and I sat down with my parents to list our must-haves. We wanted contemporary, open plan spaces that flowed from one to another, designed for entertaining and easy living. We each wanted a place to work without being separated from the rest of the house and we wanted storage without creating tight or cluttered rooms.
As outdoorsy people, we definitely wanted lots of glass and patio doors to create a seamless connection between the interior and exterior of the house, all while keeping the prevailing northerly breeze and sunlight in mind for a sustainable and efficient home. The layout is in its essence a simple square cube with a cantilevered pop out on one side, set over three floors, each offering a different function – open plan living on the ground floor, four spacious bedrooms on the second, a home gym and roof terrace offering sweeping 360˚ views of the island from Seven Mile Beach to the North Sound on the third. The roof terrace is also home to 42 solar panels, which should eventually lead to a net neutral power bill.
It took months to refine our designs before we engaged Peter Plunkett from Core Construction to project manage the build, alongside Stace McGee and a team of local engineers and electricians to ensure my parents’ vision met Cayman’s building regulations.
That’s when the real fun began in finalising the building’s interior and exterior specifications and finishes for planning approval.
Rich dreamt of having a “secret room” masked from the rest of the house with a custom-made bookcase door on one side, and a zebra poster frame door on the other, while I had set my sights on a show-stopping staircase and signature light fittings.
Entering through the imposing front door, framed by elegant cladding above, the handmade, wooden staircase greets you with its fun and contemporary design, light dancing through the stainless steel rods suspended from the roof – a feat of engineering and perhaps a reflection of our stubbornness combined with Core Construction’s knowledge and experience in bringing the seemingly impossible to life. It was a labour of love – especially for Jacob, the carpenter who made the treads, and Karl from J&E Welding, who made the steel rods - and is the centrepiece of the house, linking the central corridor of the ground floor with the sunlight beaming in from the floor to ceiling windows three floors above.
If the stairs are the centrepiece, the kitchen is the heart of the home. Designed with input from the talented team at Pooley Cabinets to maximize storage space and hide the extractor hood to maintain clean lines, the sleek and simple layout and finish was chosen to serve as a bright and functional backdrop for socialising and entertaining. A series of island lights that I fell in love with on a trip back to my native home, London, add the perfect pop of colour, which is echoed in the luxurious velvet bar stools, colourful kitchen accents and accessories we’ve collected on our travels around the world. The work surfaces are topped with stunning slabs of Caesar Stone, skilfully cut and installed by ITC, concealing pop up power sockets to give the 12ft wide island a durable and sophisticated finish.
Each of the four bedrooms has its own identity and style. The master is a spacious, Zen-like place to relax and unwind at the end of the day, while the other rooms are bright and fun, designed with guests in mind. We chose a neutral, cement-look grey tile and used it through the whole house to give us a clean, blank canvas for styling, with vibrant furnishings and textiles from Guatemala, Mexico and Morocco adding character and colour.
The 'hotel' room is our favourite – a mature space where adults can feel like they’re in a five-star hotel. The sophisticated bathroom features double sinks that stand atop a custom made wooden vanity and a rain shower with a floor to ceiling opaque window. We had so much fun picking out every tap, sink and accessory ourselves, shopping both locally at A.L. Thompson's and off island at Ferguson and Wayfair, to create the exact look we wanted for a price we could afford. The whole house is a reflection of our personalities and lifestyle.
We knew that we were building a house that we wanted to live in for some time, so what others might see as a waste of space, such as the double height ceiling above the living room, we see as a design feature that delights us every time we step into it. Suspended above the living room is the “brain” of the home – my mezzanine office is the perfect place to indulge my creative side while remaining in direct contact with the whole house. The 20ft tall space opens up to the garden and boat dock below, while the dining room leads straight out to the outdoor kitchen, perfect for alfresco dining by the pool. The entire house was wired for sound and linked to a home automation system by The Security Centre so we can blast our favourite music through the property and out onto the patio, as soon as we step over the threshold.
Perhaps the most obvious expression of our playful approach to design is in the powder room. I scoured the globe to source the hand-painted Moroccan sink, which sits atop a simple, Lusso Stone vanity shelf against dramatic peacock blue walls. I curated and hung an Instagram wall of over 100 photos from our travels in individual frames, an idea that is repeated in other picture galleries around the house. These galleries display memories that would otherwise be lying dormant on a computer hard drive and are often a talking point among guests.
The rooftop is an oasis away from the rest of the world. When we were designing the house, people told us that we wouldn’t use our balconies – but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Whether it’s coffee on our bedroom terrace in the morning, lunch by the pool or sunset cocktails on the rooftop, we regularly use them all and I can’t imagine the house without any of them. A few times we’ve had dinner under the stars up on the roof and it’s the best restaurant in Cayman.
The sense of satisfaction when we’re pulling up in the boat after a morning wakeboard, or watching the sun set over the horizon from the rooftop, is almost overwhelming. The house is an inspiring place to wake up and a joy to come home to.
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