Peterborg is a craggy peninsula stretching out into the sea like a long tapering finger on the north side of St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. On its western flank it borders Magens Bay, one of the top ten most beautiful stretches of beach in the world, and on its east side, the wilder Atlantic ocean.
Magens Bay has a dedicated 68 acre park with one mile of white sand beach, a six acre arboretum as well as 15 acres of mangroves and wetlands. St Thomas is the lively centre of the US Virgin Islands and has a rich history for its small size. A Danish territory dating from the mid 1600s, it passed back and forth between the British and the Danes until it was purchased by the US in 1917. Only 32 square miles in size, the island boasts glorious white sand beaches, lush green hills and rugged mountains.
It was the childhood home of Impressionist artist Camille Pissarro. Now it’s better known as a popular tourist destination, in fact, the capital, Charlotte Amalie, is home to the most popular cruise ship harbour in the entire West Indies.
Perched on the edge of a steep hillside on the western edge of Peterborg, overlooking the jewel like waters of the bay, Sand Dollar Hideway is a contemporary three-story villa that provides the ultimate in luxury Caribbean vacation living. Its owners, who live on the East Coast of the US, were attracted to St Thomas for many reasons, listing its range of high-end restaurants, enviable year-round 80 to 85 degree weather and pristine water. They will also say that the availability of direct flights from many major cities, the friendliness of the people, and that it is a US territory are all added bonuses. The three-level villa is not their first or only home on the island.
Adjacent to Sand Dollar Hideway is Sand Dollar Estate, a large villa, similar in style with an additional cottage, which they rent out or use for guests and friends who need additional accommodation. The architect for both properties is Kevin Qualls, from the local St Thomas architectural firm of Springline. Qualls and his firm are known for building eco-conscious homes that blend in with the local vegetation, and Sand Dollar Hideaway is no exception. The owners take justifiable pride in this commitment to sustainability, an issue that is dear to their heart. The surface area of the roof was maximised to collect rainwater, most electricity is solar generated, there is LED lighting throughout the house and grey water is recycled for the garden.
The owners wanted visitors entering the 7,000 square foot house to feel immediately welcomed and to experience the full impact of the Caribbean island setting, and they certainly succeeded. Over-sized wood and glass paneled double doors open onto a foyer leading down a flight of stairs to the elegantly appointed double story living room, the heart of the house. A 30 foot high vaulted ceiling and bank of glass doors with two tiers of clerestory windows above, lets in the light, as well as the real star of this house: the show stopper, sweeping views of the sparkling waters of the bay. The owners admit that this is their favourite part of the house. You can certainly imagine arriving, perhaps from an East coast winter, and enjoying the impact of walking into this magnificent vista. The living room flows seamlessly out onto a terrace and rectangular infinity pool with a wet bar and a Jacuzzi. Travertine flooring used throughout the house has been extended to this terrace, enhancing the indoor-outdoor feel. The glass doors leading out from the living room are designed to be stackable for safety and ease.
The infinity pool feels like an extension of the living room. With its decorative mosaic of blue and aqua tiles, it is cantilevered out over the edge of the hillside and seems to merge with the waters of the bay beyond. Its entire length of exposed exterior wall is lined with glass tile that has been painted a light blue with a special epoxy. A shaded open-sided cabana at the southern edge of the pool similarly gives the impression of floating out into the bay below. The warm and inviting open-plan living room includes a dining area and a large, light-filled state-of-the-art kitchen. Again the indoor-outdoor flow is a repeated theme with the kitchen opening out onto a covered terrace and an additional, more casual, eating area plus a deck with a grill and bar. Flanking the living area are two generous bedrooms suites each with a covered balcony.
A further flight of steps leads up from the foyer to the master suite. This private and separate suite of rooms includes a covered balcony, study, office and bathroom with an outside Jacuzzi tub. The bedrooms suites are each relatively minimalistic. Their artwork and soft furnishings are in complimentary warm palettes of rusty reds, deep blues and turquoise. Here, as throughout the house, the terrazzo flooring adds a cool and sleek element. There are three more bedrooms on the lower level, two on the north side and, independently accessible, a further suite designed to be virtually self-sufficient with a sitting room and kitchenette, covered veranda, outdoor dining, plus an open sun deck. For the owners, this allows their guests and family members a degree of independence. All the suites have direct access to the pool and beach. It is easy to imagine splendid sunsets enjoyed in this setting, but the abundance of exterior shaded areas to relax in means that the outdoors can be enjoyed at any time during the day. A final set of stairs leads to the lowermost level and beach. It also features a gym, massage room and a beach deck.
No attention to detail has been spared in both the exterior and interior design of this house. All furnishings and artwork were carefully selected by the owners and, where possible, locally sourced, including the cabinetry and woodwork individually made by local carpenter, Edway Mark, who was also Sand Dollar Hideaway’s builder. Building a custom home in the Caribbean can be a challenge but the owners insist that the whole process was made more enjoyable by the combination of the design skills of architect Qualls and the high quality workmanship of Edway Mark. In the living room, a frieze of large decorative wooden panels on the north wall was fashioned from Honduran mahogany and adds a deliberate touch of warmth echoed by the wooden staircases. On the outside wall of the master suite, 12 by 12 inch acoustic panels to dampen any noise from the living area below have been artfully painted and framed.
Every additional amenity needed for the ultimate in vacation living has been considered at Sand Dollar Hideaway: private chefs, personal trainers, yoga and Pilates instructors, helicopter island tours, golf and tennis at nearby resorts, as well as deep-sea fishing and snorkeling and scuba diving for which St Thomas is famous, are all available. The carefully conceived indoor-outdoor layout, with bedroom suites, affords maximum privacy and allows for the effortless merging of communal as well as individual space, ideal for entertaining. It is not surprising that the owners of Sand Dollar Hideaway, along with their two sons, plan on spending an ever-greater part of the year in their sanctuary home. Who could blame them!