Perched at the top of a hill, with stunning views that encompass turquoise seas, high rugged mountains, and Saint Barth’s picturesque salt flats, La Nomade is a villa with a clear conscience when it comes to sustainable energy. A large home with separate units on multiple levels, La Nomade was in dire need of updates when purchased by Daniela and Guerrino De Luca a few years ago. As they embarked on a major renovation project, the new owners also found that the house had some unacceptable features, such as an oil burner for heating hot water.
“We are quite often in residence, and our two daughters come frequently as well,” says Daniela, adding that the couple also spends time in San Francisco and Paris. She worked with a local architect, who did the basic plans based on ideas developed in conjunction with an American architect who is a friend. “She helped with all the details,” notes Daniela, pointing out that the new shape of the house is like a cruise ship, coming to a point like the prow. “We kept the original structures, but added all the decks and terraces open to the breezes where we can enjoy the view, and circulate around the house as if on a boat,” she adds. “The view is one of the real assets of this house.”
La Nomade now has an interesting blend of older elements—such as rough-hewn stone walls—and contemporary additions, including an infinity pool lined with small, multi-toned green tiles on the stone-tiled deck in front of the house. A large veranda with glass walls was added and as Daniela indicates “this is the most lived-in room in the house. The glass walls protect us from the wind yet allow us to enjoy the view.”
Dark wood floors inside blend nicely with teak decks and stainless-steel railings as the rooms flow effortlessly from inside to out. A Balinese day bed with bright yellow mosquito netting and a cane-seated planter’s chair add traditional accents, while more contemporary furniture in beige and brown, as well as bright green, blue and orange faux wicker, can be found on the decks. Red bougainvillea adds touches of tropical colour.
One bedroom features a four-poster bed with a handsome slatted wood bench at its foot, and another has a headboard covered with fanciful embroidered and sequinned fabric from India. The master bedroom has a private deck with chairs to take advantage of the views. “Sometimes you want to get away to a small, private spot,” Daniela says, indicating that the terrace provides such a getaway. White towels with multi-colour fringe are from the Mia Zia boutique, while a bamboo ladder serves as a towel rack in the master bath, which features a double concrete sink.
But the most interesting improvements are in the form of energy efficiency, which is still a fairly new concept in Saint Barth, where many houses consume enormous amounts of electricity for everything from central air-conditioning to large heated swimming pools (and that electricity is produced by burning tons of fossil fuel). “We found that the oil burner was too old-style and not in keeping with the needs of the West Indies,” says Daniela. To move toward a more sustainable solution, she called upon Philippe Hochart (who also photographed the house for this article).
The large living room/dining room has a peaked roof of natural wood with white beams for contrast; the white is picked up in the upholstery for the sofa and the modern chairs surrounding a large dining table. Colourful dishes sit on open shelves in the kitchen, adding a familial touch, while red and orange sculpted fish—and the occasional straw hat—sit playfully on the floor or tables.
Artwork of various styles adorns the walls. “I like unique ideas and unusual things,” says Daniela, who has drilled drain holes in salad bowls and garden pots—including an old carved stone one—to use as sinks. Décor in the bedrooms features Mexican painted concrete tiles on the floors, with pale grey louvred closet doors and antique wood furniture side by side with more modern pieces. Coverlets on the beds add brightred and blue stripes.
As a result, at La Nomade, solar panels on the hill just behind the house now heat all of the hot water, including a jacuzzi on the upper deck. In addition, a small vertical wind turbine was added in July 2008 to provide electricity via storage batteries. “The installation of this windmill is historic,” says Hochart. “It is the only one of its type in the entire Caribbean.” Just 15 feet tall, it is almost completely silent, resistant to winds up to 100 kph and can be put away in less than an hour in case of a hurricane warning.
Future projects for the house comprise a new roof with built-in solar captors to make the most of the hot tropical sun. “The house is currently 30 per cent autonomous in terms of energy, and the goal is to make it even more,” notes Daniela, who even plans on purchasing an electric car.
While La Nomade is a model for setting new standards in energy solutions in Saint Barth, it is also a wonderful place to live, truly in keeping with its environment. “When the pool is gleaming under a full moon,” says Daniela, “it is truly a magical sight.”