Nestled in the lee of the windswept cove of Anse Galet in Cap Estate , Saint Lucia, Villa Xhale is a respite for mind, body and soul that exhorts its guests to surrender to relaxation . A balance of materials including stone, wood and glass conspire to create a cool, casual, modern house along the bay where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea.
Though minutes away from the Saint Lucia Golfand Country Club, the Marina, and the amenities of Rodney Bay, the property is removed enough to offer sanctuary, a feeling further enhanced by the inclusion of on-site chef and massage services, details that theowners, Andre Dhanpaul and Lisa Gardner, felt set the stunning rental property apart. When they were shown the property that would become Villa Xhale, Lisa and Andre realised it needed work, but were enchanted with the view that the house commanded. “Every bedroom opened up to the ocean and as we ventured upstairs, it got even better. The glass sliding doors, which span the front of the villa on the second floor, brought the spectacular ocean views inside the house. We saw it from the kitchen, dining room, landing, sitting area, living room,” says Lisa. After that first viewing, the Jamaican couple, who had moved to Saint Lucia a few years before, decided the villa had to be theirs.
Working with a contractor, they would take a handson approach to improvements, researching, drawing and designing. They especially wanted to create a space that would achieve balance and harmony with its environs while embracing a modern aesthetic. The project became a personal labour of love, and step by step as they worked on the property, they began to see their vision materialise, and to entertain the idea that Villa Xhale would make a good rental property.
One of the first things they addressed about the exterior aesthetic was the roof line. “We wanted the roof line of the house to look complete, as it was only sloping towards the front of the villa, giving it an obviously incomplete look when coming up the driveway,” says Lisa. They raised and continued the roof line towards the back of the property to adjoin the retaining wall. This decision also achieved another design objective: rather than hide the functional stone wall inside the house, the couple turned the masonry into a unique feature. Says Lisa, “This wall spans the entire length of the villa, and stands out as a truly spectacular feature. . . It adds a natural, contemporary feel to the villa and the backdrop of earth-tone stones inside, balance the waters and sloping hills visible through the sliding doors.”
Once they had changed the external profile of the house, the front entrance was brought into focus. But Andre and Lisa realised they wanted to make a statement with the entryway. They decided to extend the sightline upward to balance the imposing wall, and created a mahogany door frame, 13 feet by 5.5 feet, for which they commissioned a locally crafted an 8-by-4 door. The entryway opens to a bright, two-storey atrium, accented by a suspended wood-frame pendant light. The atrium leads, via wood grain tile floors, to a main floor corridor of bedrooms on the left, and to a staircase on the right that takes visitors to the dining and living spaces upstairs.
The main floor hosts the four en suite bedrooms rooms with ocean views, each with private wooden deck. There is an organic harmony between the layout, views and interior design, and though each room is distinct, there is a common theme of cool colour palettes combined with warm wooden furnishings. Parallel to the bedrooms, in the same corridor is a koi pond. The couple were enchanted with the idea of the indoor fish and lily pond and decided that the base of the retaining wall was the perfect location to bring nature inside. They loved that it would be the first thing guests would hear and see from their bedrooms each day. Another consideration was the effect created when looking down from the second floor landing, and that it was visible from the second floor landing. The wall adjacent to the pond features the work of Saint Lucian photographer, Dani Devaux, whose black and white images of everyday life and iconic landmarks celebrate the best of the island.
At the end of the bedroom and pond corridor is a gym and yoga studio with glass panels on the front and far side walls that look out directly onto the bay and the rock garden. “This is why we opted for frameless glass instead of enclosed walls for the gym. All the equipment faces the ocean, and an infinity edge yoga deck to the front of the villa, gives a full view of the landscape and ocean,” says Lisa.
The second floor of Villa Xhale takes luxury to yet another level, framed as it is by a wrap-around veranda that extends from the kitchen, past the pool deck and living room, and around the north end of the house, which was extended to facilitate a balcony living space. “The outdoor dining and fire pit deck on the second floor was a necessity for us. We wanted to create a space where our guests could enjoy the stunning beauty of the outdoors while still inside the house,” says Lisa. On a clear day, Martinique’s south coast is brought into sharp focus, and by night, guests enjoy the expanse of a vibrant night sky undiluted by light pollution.
The kitchen and living space on the second floor are separated by a picture-perfect infinity edge pool. The couple felt that even this structure needed some improvement, and made tweaks to the original pool finish, to do justice to the elegant finish of therest of the villa. Explains Lisa, “We changed the light-blue diamond brite in the pool to onyx, which blended perfectly with the colour of the ocean below. The existing ladder that was in the pool was removed and floating steps and seating were added, giving it a modern feel.”
Impressive, unobstructed views continue in the living space just opposite the pool through sliding glass doors that frame the bay and the channel beyond it. Rustic rattans, a cool, sea foam palette, lots of glass and wood accents characterise this casual space that looks out on the blue-green world beyond. And tucked right behind the main living room is a workspace nook that the couple created, joined by a cutout wall that allows the air, light and views of the veranda to carry through the room, and the masonry of the retaining wall to be visible from the living room.
But perhaps most notable is that while Villa Xhale’s design pays homage to the elements, it is decidedly contemporary. To achieve this look, the couple worked closely with a design team from West Elm in Miami for over six months, creating and selecting modern and mid-twentieth century furnishings. Andre had previously fallen in love with the company’s designs, and when the couple moved forward with the purchase of the villa, he knew exactly the look he wanted. On subsequent visits, Lisa shares, “We would do the setup we wanted for a particular room in the store while we were there. The team was very accommodating and helpful even though we were dismantling their store setup to create our living room setup, just so we could get a feel of how the combination of our selection would look.”
After months of planning and selecting, the couple saw their design choices take shape and form in the villa itself, and some of the West Elm team even travelled to Saint Lucia to help with the unpacking and setup. The project, from close of sale to photo-ready launch, took just over seven months, and the creative and pragmatic hand of the owners is revealed in every detail. Nearly a year later, Andre and Lisa can now savour their guests’ appreciation of the Villa Xhale experience.