With 46,000 square feet of land, this commissioned house in East Trinidad could have been a daunting task for most. But for renowned architect Nigel Ali and established interior designers Glen Wihby and Jennifer Scott, it was a dream project.
With 18 years of experience between them, Scott and Wihby work easily together and their compatibility is evident in our interview, as they often finish each other’s sentences. Together, they run a design firm (Wihby Interiors) and have recently embarked on a new project, The Hideaway Design Warehouse. They discussed their design process and stressed how important it is for them to sit down with the client beforehand, and let the client describe his lifestyle, his home hopes, and the functionality of the rooms. The house should “reflect the client’s desires and personality.”
The exterior of the 17,250-square-foot house is distinctly Mediterranean, with a clay tile roof, multilevel roofline, coral stone walls, balconies, detailed wrought iron and interior and exterior arcades. The impressive home took roughly four years, from design to completion. It is unapologetically monumental, starting with two separate front entries, one featuring a majestic 18-foot door, custom made in California.
The house sits adjacent to a lake, and boasts a pool, jacuzzi and deck, private cinema, home office, saltwater aquarium, home gym, elevator and dumbwaiter, fountain and courtyard in the driveway, two four-car garages and two carports. Custom mahogany woodwork abounds throughout, and the detailed carvings on columns, archways, mouldings and trim were all created by local artisans. It is flooded with natural light from 125 windows and the flooring is engineered hardwood and marble, giving the house a bright and natural elemental look, a luxurious canvas for design.
For Wihby and Scott, the main challenge to the house design was actually the sheer space of it, and achieving a cohesive feel, with a coordinating flow from room to room. “It was almost like doing four houses in one,” says Wihby, and getting it to “gel” was formidable, but impassioned them as designers. On an early trip abroad to source furniture with the owner, the designers returned to Trinidad and realised they had “hardly dented” the house.
They advised the owner to not rush to buy everything at once, to “live in the house and let it evolve, be open to changes along the way.”
Another early challenge was in the foyer/entrance area, where the wall behind the stairway was an “expanse of concrete” leading to the ceiling. The solution: to create definitions in the space by dividing the floors with a railing and a textured wall treatment, giving direction to the eye.
The staircase is truly a feast for the eyes, with seamless marble treaders and custom wrought iron snaking its way up to a domed stained-glass canopy designed by Dalton Williams. The dome is a work of art and the outstanding feature in the grand entryway, with an intricate design in ochres, umbers, oranges and yellows.
The colour palette remains universal throughout the house, a neutral unifying element, with taupes, beiges and golds, which Wihby and Scott enjoy using as a backdrop, with accents of colour in accessories and art. Red is a favourite hue for a pop of interest in a few of the rooms.
The plan was initially for one large main living area, but the owners decided to create separate wings, essentially for living and for entertaining joined by a decorative hallway, that is accessed by another matching “front” door entry. One wing houses the entertainment room, with coffered ceilings and a custom-stained glass bar, also designed by Williams, but with a more geometric, slightly more masculine design. The fittings are brass from foot rail to glass holders, and the back wall displays liquor bottles like an art installation.
There are Moroccan influences here, found in the carved console table, and rich gold touches. The accordion doors pull back completely to offer an unobstructed view of the pool and deck area, with the intention of blurring the lines between inside and outside. This wing is also home to the cinema, and gym.
The inclusion of a private cinema is a rare addition in the Caribbean and Whiby enjoyed the opportunity to design one. No detail was overlooked, with wood panelling and gold wainscoting, a 120-foot movie screen, state-of-the-art movie theatre sound system, full bar, popcorn machine and oversized leather recliners with brass cup holders. There is also a domed feature in here, this time with nebular fibre optics that send shooting stars across the ceiling. An episode of Game of Thrones in here would no doubt be a memorable experience.
The living areas were created with special attention to the individual style of the family members. For example, though most of the house is traditional in style with soft furnishings that are Moroccan, Turkish and Spanish influenced, the owner’s son wanted something ultramodern, young and masculine. The designers opted for shades of grey in his suite, with touches of chrome and glass, but used transitional furniture so that the suite does not feel disjointed.
Every bedroom is oversized, providing the luxury of space, so much so that there is full sectional sofa in their daughter’s sitting area. All have adjoining balconies with greenheart trellises. The bathroom countertops are custom glass, and there is generous use of marble and granite.
This is clearly a house for entertaining. The covered patio areas are chic and tropical, with sophisticated cream fabrics and rattan furniture from Brazil, with faux beams covered in hardwood. The deck overlooks the fountains in the lake, and is flanked by oversized metal planters from Turkey. There is a full outdoor kitchen and bar.
The pool is the real star of the show, however, with a faux rock centrepiece complete with secret cave, cascading waterfall, footbridge and two fire pits that light up the evening and lend drama to the picturesque area. Again, there is attention to detail and magnificent elements, evident in the slabs of granite used for stepping stones in the garden. Allan Darwent of Talma Mill Studios cultivated alluring and colourful landscaping that complements the style of the house and surroundings.
Everything in and around the house has been carefully curated by Wihby and Scott, and this is especially evident in the collection of art gracing the walls. The selections are all local talent, and include the work of Martin Superville, Lisa O’Connor, Joanna Aldred, Ramon Navarro, John Otway and Glen Roopchand.
The dream project was a collaborative effort, combining the owner’s desires, traditional influences and a targeted approach at creating a distinct harmony and flow between individual spaces. In this way, bigger became so much better.