Monkey Business, nestled in Sion Hill, St Peter on the West Coast of Barbados, provides a tropical sanctuary with a different philosophy.
While the houses in this area typically face the west into the setting sun, Monkey Business is built facing north, overlooking a lush winding gully, and warmly embracing this lesser-known tropical topography.
Flowing casually from entrance to hanging terrace, the house appears to absorb the view into its blueprint.
Completed in 2009, this traditional 7000-square-foot home is the retreat of Andy and Suzy Sandeman. Designed by renowned Barbadian architect Michael Gomes and built by Guy Whittaker and Mirara Construction, its style is Indonesian but in keeping with the Barbadian vernacular. Indo-Caribbean, Gomes terms it and the fashion, and indeed Gomes himself, is fast becoming the last word in Barbadian design.
The island is known for its rich surplus of the natural coral stone resources and many villas incorporate this distinctly Barbadian element into their design, but Gomes and Mirara have blended it seamlessly with a melange of influences to present a truly unique model for fine living in the Caribbean.
The house includes an Italian-style open courtyard, a Romanesque balcony of the cottage, Palladian columns and the classically Caribbean mahogany woodwork of the windows, doors and paneling.
The grand entryway is flanked by majestic columns and leads directly into the spacious living area, but the view beyond attracts attention instantly. The infinity pool which seems to leap into the wild gully is inspired and wonderfully dramatic.
Monkey Business is a sanctuary built with family in mind. The bungalow style of the main house is intended to bring people together and the personalities of its owners is evident throughout.
A property investor himself, Andy has a keen eye for potential and certainly the half acre upon which Monkey Business nestles has benefited from this awareness.
The main house consists of three bedrooms on one level, with the kitchen, dining, sitting and entertainment rooms flowing into one another, embraced by the large patio and the gully beyond.
The interior of the property features a neoclassic style with gracefully arched windows and doorways, quite traditional but incredibly au courant. The abundance of detailed Doric-style columns provide an elegance that is often incorporated only in exterior work; but architect Michael Gomes was particular about the finer details and this is witnessed in the decorative molding that not only adorns the columns, but the windows and architraves throughout.
With three months to completion, the Sandemans moved into the cottage and oversaw the finishing touches. Suzy decorated the interior herself and describes it as classic and contemporary cobbled together. “I’ve been designing this house for 10 years,” she explains. Much of the furniture was procured from overseas, but many pieces came from their home in England. “It’s a blend of our lives, I suppose. A home is something that evolves doesn’t it? You can’t just buy it in a store.”
Contractor Guy Whittaker highlights the exceptionally close collaboration among the Sandeman family, Michael Gomes and Mirara. “It is quite amazing what intense dedication can yield; the interpretation of an island villa that combines classic architecture with livable materials; exquisite furnishings and an almost obsessive attention to detail can produce fireworks! But we knew we were turning a building into a home and everyone maintained a true passion for the project. We created a relaxed atmosphere and as a result, one of Barbados‘s most stunning family homes.”
Ralph Lauren furniture mingles with 16th-century Renaissance portraits in gilded frames and Caribbean comfort finds itself in bed with the Union Jack.
Suzy explains that while she’s always been fairly classic, minimalism is just impossible for a family home. Bookshelves are lined with literary favourites and while the entertainment room is indeed grand, the ability to leap from couch to pool is an attractive option.
The three bedrooms in the main house are decorated in a relaxed island genre; West Indian flair is in abundance but again with a touch of English countryside. Starfish and green monkeys blend with ancestral sideboards and muted fabrics, and family photographs are plentiful. Walk-in closets feature elegant mahogany panelling. The master bedroom leads to the patio through dolman style drapes (also found through the house) and the infinity pool beckons.The two-bedroom cottage overlooks the courtyard and features an open-plan living, dining and kitchen area, perfect for privacy, but a short corridor and stairwell from the hubbub of the main house. The classic winding staircase and mahogany windows bear the same attention to detail that lends to the enchantment of the property. Decor is somewhat more minimalist here; avant-garde screen icons adorn the walls and the furniture is a little more state-of-the-art.
A separate studio can be found one level below, leading out to a private patio, should guests require a little more solitude. The patio is perhaps the most spectacular feature of the property.
Andy and Suzy both agree that their favourite room in the house isn’t a room at all, but the covered terrace just beyond the sitting room. Whatever the time of day or weather, they find themselves in oversized chairs lounging over coffee or wine, the blue waters rippling softly.
The infinity pool is entirely tiled and its curved edges and seated ledges create a fairy tale atmosphere when lit. The water glistens and captures the vibrant colours, creating a mystical shimmering effect. Pair this with twilight, the gentle sound of the water cascading over the edge and nature’s own orchestra serenading from the depths of the gully and the night itself seems to caress the bather.To the east of the pool is an alluring covered gazebo nestled almost within the ravine itself. A sort of cantilever, that can only be described as a hanging gallery; it suspends 70 feet above the floor within the mature mahoganies. During the rainy season the gully acts as a natural watercourse and a wild river rushes through, racing to the coast below. It feels like something out of an Edgar Rice Burroughs adventure, the lights, the symphony of sound and the sheer wildness of the surrounding milieu.
The landscape is more so spectacular in the light of day.
The philodendrons have spread beyond the property and palm trees; mahoganies and palm trees dot the landscape; a family of monkeys plays among the foliage.
One comes regularly for breakfast. Of course. How else would the house—setting trends and challenging convention—keep its mischievous name.