Nearly 800 feet below, pleasure craft crisscross the Sir Francis Drake channel, cutting tiny stripes of frothy white wake in the deep azure sea. A cargo ship, looking like a child’s toy from this elevation, is piled high with containers and slowly ploughing through the waters on its way to deliver goods to island residents. The tony Peter Bay neighbourhood sprawls down the hillside to the east, and in the distance to the north, the rolling green hills of Jost Van Dyke and Tortola slope upwards out of the shimmering turquoise Atlantic. It’s a scene one might find peering out of the window of one of the prop planes that hop up and down the island chain, carrying passengers to visit family or enjoy a holiday away, but this gloriously panoramic view is what greets the owners of Le Chateau as they rise out of bed each morning.
When the couple purchased Le Chateau in 2011, it wasn’t their first foray into Caribbean real estate. Both lived previously in New York City, and the husband purchased a home on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands in 1999. He then met his wife, who moved to St. John just six months after he did, and the couple were married at Caneel Bay in 2006. Seeking a change, the couple relocated to St. Bart’s, an island whose European vibes called to them. They spent six years on the French Caribbean island, during which time their son was born, before deciding to return to St. John. “St. John just kept pulling us back,” says the wife.
In fact, the Catherineberg area in particular is what called to the couple. A well-established neighbourhood overlooking St. John’s stunning north shore, Catherineberg is known for its lush, jungly landscape, quiet elegance, cooler climate, and unparalleled views of the ocean and nearby British Virgin Islands. The neighbourhood’s entrance is marked simply with the ruin of a Danish sugar mill. Le Chateau looks down on the roof of the first St. John home the husband had purchased at the end of the 20th century.
“When we were debating on where to go after St. Bart’s, having another home in Catherineberg was key,” says the wife. “When you think of living in the Caribbean, you think of smelling the breezes, listening to the frogs, and hearing the waves crash. If you live somewhere where it’s hot and you need air conditioning, you’re not enjoying those kinds of pleasures.” “The climate is perfect, and I love the view up here,” adds her husband. “Every day, you see something different.”
Le Chateau underwent an extensive renovation to add a second bedroom for the couple’s son, and to incorporate the husband’s creative flair. The couple’s love of European culture and design is evident in the home’s clay roof tiles, smooth white plaster, and arches that are prevalent throughout the home. During the renovation, the most frequently-used areas of the home were brought up to one level for seamless living and entertaining, at which the wife excels. “I designed the kitchen as a monument to her cooking abilities,” the husband says, flashing an adoring smile toward his wife.
The kitchen flows to the outdoor dining and pool area via expansive sliding glass doors, allowing the wife to prepare meals while simultaneously mingling with her guests. The kitchen’s white cabinets, Wolf appliances, and dark granite countertops evoke a clean, modern feel, yet it’s a comfortable space to stay and chat with the homeowner as she expertly executes a delicious meal. “I love that I can spend so much time in the kitchen but still be with everyone when we have dinner parties,” she says. “It’s so lovely that it makes me want to cook. I just love to be in there.”
Despite her effusive adoration of the kitchen, the homeowner doesn’t outrightly declare it her favourite room in the house. “I love looking out at that view from our big comfy bed,” she says, ranking the second-level bedroom on par with the kitchen. “To see shooting stars from the bed is pretty extraordinary.” The rich angelique wood that’s prevalent throughout the interior is one of the features that first appealed to the couple when they decided to make Le Chateau their home. Noted St. John architect Glen Speer did the original design of the home, which was built in the 1980s and was once owned by film director Frank Darabont of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile fame.
“I felt like the aspects of the Spanish influence here could be modernised to embrace the elements of the beautiful old dark wood,” says the husband, who guided the renovation. “The tile roofs, the poured-in gutters—those are things we embraced.” The couple also embraced the dark wood floors by commissioning a table that sits just off the kitchen and a more sizeable living room table, both built from solid teak by local woodworker Gregory Herche. They kept variations in colour and materials to a minimum so as not to overwhelm the senses.
Careful forethought and planning also went into the grounds, which span two acres across a relatively flat ridgetop. The husband lovingly cares for the bougainvillea and desert roses that add splashes of colour to the lush landscape, and the family enjoys eating and sharing the avocados, mangoes, passionfruit, limes, and papayas that grow on their property. Father and son stay active by swimming in the pool or playing badminton and croquet in the yard. “It’s so beautiful up here, I never want to leave,” says the husband. “I look down at the beach and think, ‘I could go to the beach. But it’s actually kind of nice up here.’”