Nandana rises on the far western shore of Old Bahama Bay. You see it the moment you enter the gates and every other building around it seems to fade into the distance. Nandana. It means paradise in Sanskrit and it is.
Vaulted copper roofs nestle into each other, send rivers of green down the limestone walls of the outdoor showers, and make Nandana look like it has been here forever. A towering pair of Balinese doors, intricately carved, opens to the main living area and, once inside, you meet the main character of the house, the teak. The honey-coloured teak-panelled walls rise up to meet exposed beams of the same wood and the eye is drawn across a 40-foot ceiling. Teak is central to Nandana. It is everywhere.
Nandana’s owner, Gigi Gutierrez, petite and soft-spoken talks about the wood in the way you talk about a longtime friend. Gigi had told me the story of Nandana’s teak on the 45-minute drive from Freeport Airport to her home in Old Bahama Bay in West End, Grand Bahama. Purchased in India at Anuradha Timber, Nandana’s 200 massive teak logs were cause for celebration. Upon arriving to check on their shipment of Burmese teak, Gigi and her husband Patrick Salisbury were surprised by a parade in their honour.
Gigi and I are greeted at the front door of Nandana with the house specialty, wonderfully tangy limeade. From the living area, the western view of the Atlantic Ocean is spectacular. Nandana is designed to keep the eye traveling along surfaces, through doorways and always, always, out towards that magnificent view. An infinity pool stretches the full length of the house and creates a delineation between the house and the sea. The pool becomes an extension of the sun-drenched patio.
It is February in the Bahamas and the weather is perfect, sunny but crisp. The sounds of the waves mingle with the subtle music that is piped into all rooms, the melodies complementing each other. We stop to meet Patrick Pierre, Nandana’s chef, busy in his kitchen with its marble countertops veined with purple and reds. Gigi runs her hand across the stone. It is from Turkey and it is stunning. Fresh tomato and fennel soup is already in the works.
Through the kitchen and out to the pool deck, and again the view. Sturdy yet delicate stepping stones through the pool take us to the master bedroom where glass floor-to-ceiling pocket doors disappear into the walls, taking the division between indoors and out with them.
The 10,000-square -foot home never appears too large. Spaces are intimate and instantly familiar. The teak is everywhere, the smoothness and softness combined with fantastic touches of brilliant stones, tiles, and marble. The textures are perfectly balanced, teak gives way to stone and water and silk. Large-scale artwork and artifacts collected from many trips add punches of colour and interest. The detail in the woodwork in unsurpassed. The Burmese logs that eventually made it all the way to the Bahamas were all milled on site and each piece fits precisely within the puzzle of all that teak. And yet, it never seems overwhelming. Gigi tells me more about her home, “We were here in the Bahamas on a fishing trip and Grand Bahama was our last stop. We were boating along a canal and my husband asked me if I would like to own a piece of paradise!” And so they built Nandana together. After almost five years of construction, the result is a work of art designed to bring families together, but also to give them their own personal space.
The main house at Nandana is peaceful. And then there is the tent. Gigi walks me to the eastern side of the property, saying,
Cream-coloured canvas creates a private oasis that is so unexpected. Complete with a luxurious bed, expansive overstuffed couches in possibly the world’s most comfortable sitting area, and views of the canal at Old Bahama Bay and the sound of wind in the coconut palms just outside. Each breath of chilly air makes the walls move ever so slightly and the gentle flap of canvas in the wind is rhythmic.
The fully collapsible tent (and it has been dismantled for hurricanes in the past) has all of the modern conveniences you expect, including plumping and electricity, television, Internet and air-conditioning but these are all well balanced with safari-styled furnishings. It is a secret hideaway. I’m sure this is the room that everyone argues over. After a stay at Aman resorts in Rajasthan, India, they knew that a tent was the perfect fifth bedroom. The tent was an afterthought but such a good one.
Back in the main house, Patrick serves us lunch on the patio between the dining room and the pool deck. It gives us the chance to sit back and really enjoy the feeling of the house. Nandana blurs the line between indoors and out. Each room flows naturally to the outside and the outside laps just as naturally at the threshold of each room. The quiet is staggering: the sounds of wind, waves, materials, and leaves, and nothing else. The artifacts of great travels are everywhere. Nandana captures the spirit of these travels, particularly those to Thailand, where they were inspired after a visit to the Jim Thompson Thai House and Museum. “After we went there, I said to my husband, I know what I want our house to look like,” Gigi recalls. Originally from California, Gigi and Pat have travelled extensively throughout Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Africa, Saudi Arabia and Europe, and their home is filled with reminders of those journeys together. “We picked out every little stitch in the entire house,” Gigi explains. From the impressive carved teak desk in the business centre to the delicate Iranian rugs in hues of silver, blue and rose in the living and dining rooms and the Thai silk dining room chair cushions.
Scale is important in this house. Each space offers its own impact when you enter but they are also comfortable and inviting. The house welcomes you. It does not intimidate. Nandana also balances modern technology with Asian serenity. Intricate lighting and sound systems highlight the house but do not overpower it.
We sit on the main pool deck watching a frigate bird swooping a much smaller tern and discuss the dolphins, turtles and sharks that Gigi has often seen from that same vantage point. The peacefulness is poignant.