Caille Blanc reveals itself by measures: first the rose hue of river stone, a flourish of wrought iron, Eastern motifs carved on teak, and finally, the vista that the property offers from every angle. Suspended from the verdant but precipitous hillside overlooking the Pitons and Soufriere Bay, Caille Blanc is a pavilion-style villa that boasts both communal and private spaces that share brisk sea breezes and a vantage of one of the most enthralling sights in the Caribbean.
When Ellen and Owen Coleman came to Saint Lucia on holiday from New York some 30 years ago, their driver, James, recommended an excursion along the steep, cliffside road to Anse Chastanet to see a modest villa with a “drop-dead view.” Says Owen Coleman, “When we saw the Pitons, we thought we had entered the northern Alps of Switzerland.”
He and his wife Ellen could only utter, “Oh my God,” a reaction which would characterise the response of everyone who would visit their property. Within two months, they had closed on the purchase of what was to become for them, their children and grandchildren, not just a house, but a second home.
The original structure was a modest two-bedroom villa, which they quickly envisioned refurbished and extended. Coleman says, “In the early stage of the design, we decided that instead of making a traditional house, we would build separate villas.” The resultant pavilion-style architecture wouldn’t impose itself on the luxuriant landscape, but operate in concert with it, framing views in a 360-degree panorama. The owners later acquired the adjacent land to achieve this vision.
Coleman has a design background, but knew he’d need some engineering advice to negotiate the solid rock face and vertical drop of the land, so he enlisted the assistance of friend and architect, Raymond Gomez. “Raymond said he would help me by touching on key architectural points, while I would develop the architectural exterior façades and interiors. The one major thing that Raymond did, which was brilliant, was to see a drop in the space on the right side where the Temple Suite could go down two storeys. We put in a stone staircase that would take you up to the main terrace.”
When it came to the façade and interior design, the owners knew exactly what they wanted. Coleman says, “Ellen and I love the architecture in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and we wanted to bring a strong influence of that style to our villa, so the basic design was wrapped around that idea.” This mission revival-style façade, roof line and bell niche characterise the stand-alone buildings on the compound. There are other distinctive influences in the design, driven by the owner’s passion for rare antiquities. Coleman explains, “The doors came from Afghanistan, Thailand and palaces in India. All are 200 to 250 years old.”
A large terrace adjoins the new villas to the original structure, and is the main outdoor living space. Says Coleman, “We designed a tree-top pavilion in a 36 foot by 36 foot octagon with a 45 foot thatched roof for maximum shade coverage that is held up by local Saint Lucian redwood pillars that had to be cured for one year.” The patio also houses a barbecue pit and a gourmet Dutch kitchen with serving windows that look onto the infinity pool. Coleman continues, “We also went over the top, literally speaking, by putting in 52 tons of steel, constructing an infinity pool that was 65 feet by 13 feet. The tiles in the pool are glistening blue and white, and create a shining pattern at night when the lights come on. They were imported from China.”
The outdoor living space is a marvel of aesthetics and function. Could anything top it indoors? The bedroom suites, with their rustic elegance and minute attention to detail, take up the ethos of the whole villa: to complement the surrounding views and keep the focus on the arresting sight of the volcanic cones.
The Temple Suite is a two-storey white stucco building. Antique teak doors open onto a sitting room with day beds and a New Mexican-style kiva fireplace. Custom tin tiles create a celestial ceiling through which light comes in via skylights, so that the room is both intimate and bright. An ensuite bath combines repurposed teak cabinetry, marble, and copper light fixtures that continue the celestial motif. The shower is multidirectional and suffused with light through a wooden lattice window reminiscent of Moroccan screens, which also separate the adjacent bedroom from the sitting area. But perhaps the most magical thing in the room is the custom four poster bed, looking out on the majestic Pitons. All the beds in the villa were made locally, and are by no means to be overlooked. ”One of the local craftsmen took me through the woods to his cache of bedposts, many of which he had collected from former settlers of the island, and others which he bought from local people. Our bedposts date back to the 1860s,” Coleman explains. The lower Temple Suite is joined by Gomez’s stone staircase, which opens into a home gym, and an additional bedroom and bathroom suite.
The Pool Suite, so named because it abuts the infinity pool, reflects the taste for New Mexico façades, but is made from locally cut rose stone, a feature to which Coleman was committed, and a project which took almost a year to complete. -Decorative wrought-iron doors open out to another bedroom with sitting area, featuring a four-poster bed and daybed. High ceilings, wood and clay tile fixtures and palm-blade ceiling fans convey both warmth and an easy grandeur, with an added perk: jalousie doors allow the view to be fully seen, bringing the outdoors in. The bathroom, not surprisingly at Caille Blanc, commands the same vista, and the multi-direction shower is separated from the outside only by a decorative wrought-iron screen..
Directly below is another bedroom which serves as a private retreat from the communal layout above. ”One of our biggest adventures was to cut out the stone from the hillside beneath the Pool Suite, the Grotto Suite, accessible by a walkway beside the infinity pool,” says Coleman. The room offers two experiences: the warm, enclosed sanctuary provided by wood-panelled walls, the large four-poster bed, and the dark tile of the spa-like bathroom, and the bright, airy indoor-outdoor experience facilitated by a front wall of jalousie doors, which lead onto a wooden deck cantilevered over a cliff. The deck features a stone Japanese hot tub and a plunge pool fed by a cascade from the infinity pool above, which Coleman created with a recirculation waterfall that drops 20 feet.
Two additional bedroom and bath suites, Bougainvillea and Sunset, comprise the original villa as well as an adjoining TV room and library, which look over a small koi pond.
No one detail of the pavilion-style home overpowers another. Instead, each room, each feature, conspires to create an organic indoor-outdoor living experience. Coleman says, “The beauty of Caille Blanc Villa is that every villa has its own separate patio that has privacy, but one can also enjoy the Treetop Pavilion and share the time conversing, laughing, and eating with company. Both locations allow you to sit outside, adoring the scenery around you and watching the hummingbirds. Even after more than 30 years of ownership, all of our children and grandchildren continue to visit the Villa as their tropical home away from home.”