Slap bang on the ocean, yet just minutes from the bustle of Antigua’s capital, St. John’s, is the Ocean House, brainchild of one of the UK’s leading designers and Luxury-property developers – a great example of Shoreline Chic. When the chance arose to buy a coastal property a stone’s throw from his childhood home in the northwest of the island, he jumped at it
“I’ve always wanted my very own piece of the island, and my formative years were spent in this area; so this spot—located on the sea and near my family—was perfect. What is truly spectacular about the west-facing location,” he notes, “is watching the sun setting: you can see it literally dropping way down beneath the horizon. It’s mesmerising.”
Despite his meteoric rise to success in his adopted city of London, the UK designer has a strong attachment to the Caribbean: he was born in Jamaica, where his grandfather had been appointed Commissioner of Police by Her Majesty the Queen and led the police force not only in Jamaica, but also in other Caribbean islands—for which he was honoured with an OBE and a CMG
In 1981, the budding designer moved with his family from Jamaica to Antigua, where his father was appointed manager of one of the island’s leading hotels. When planning his very own Antiguan home some 35 years later, he set his sights on a space in which he and his family could unwind from the stresses of urban living. “I wanted to create a tropical getaway,” he explains, “a beach-house vibe that was the antithesis of life in London: simple, fresh, informal, uncluttered, but nevertheless luxurious, and not lacking in creature comforts.”
To achieve this, the original house, built in the early 1990s, was completely gutted and just the interior walls and part of the roof were retained; renovation took around seven months.
Mightily spruced up, the our-bedroom property now oozes a sense of freedom and tranquillity, with features that would lull even the most frenzied cEO into a state of composure, including a magnificent infinity pool; knockout views; state-of-the-art kitchen; and a light, uplifting palette, with sea-themed colours and accents introduced via accessories and glassware.
A double-height roof in the main reception area adds to the sense of space, airiness and luxuriousness; and the side of the house that faces the ocean is given over entirely to huge glass doors that open out to maximize the stunning views. “It’s all about the view,” says the owner, “and the energy you get from watching the ocean move is magical. It’s just the best place to hang out as the breeze comes through and you always have the evermoving sea to entertain you.”
Coastal style is all about carefree living, reflected here in the use of organic and natural materials and fabrics, with an abundance of cotton and linen. White and neutrals predominate, in keeping with the beach-house vibe and all the large furniture pieces in wood and distressed timbers are upholstered in whites of differing shades. The neutral palette allows the spectacular, ever-changing colours of the surrounding tropical environment to flood the interior. Terrific timber-effect exterior and interior ceramic floor tiles continue the rustic theme—perfect for a home in which wet feet, sandy toes and dripping bathing suits are constant features.
The owner and his family were keen to use local craftsmen and local materials in the house wherever possible, including greenheart and purpleheart wood. An Antiguan artisan crafted the wardrobes and much of the wooden furniture; and louvred wooden windows let in a cooling breeze but are nevertheless mosquito-and rain-repellent. Outside, a rustic wattle pergola provides atmospheric dappled shade for cool and leisurely meals overlooking the azure sea. And a gorgeous cut-stone pathway that descends from the pool to the sea—vivid pink, orange and purple bougainvillea tumbling over its edges—was crafted locally from Antiguan stone.
The emphasis on regional talent extends to the use of photographs and paintings by local artists, among them, eye-catching works by the owner’s two young nieces.
Subtlety and restraint underlie the design of The Ocean House—but there are some dramatic statements. The family is, for example, particularly proud of the locally made wooden display cabinet in the living room, a signature piece and a “collaboration of passion.” The carpenter was sent countless images of the concept as well as full architectural drawings: “We wanted him to re-create the feel of a typical Antiguan clapboard house that you see in all the villages, so we used the same kind of timber and fixed it in a similar way, but then added the front details to give it just a touch of flair.”
The undisputed star of the show is, however, the infinity pool—an impressive addition, by any standards. It was also a significant feat of engineering that presented several logistical and technical hurdles. The house is situated on the cliff side, so the assumption was that the rock extended to the very end of the property. The owner wanted to push the pool out as close as possible to the edge to give the impression that it was actually in the ocean. However, they hit nothing but earth when digging began: “It was like dust,” he explains, “completely unsuitable for pools and the weight of water!”
Engineer was commissioned to produce what turned out to be an immensely complicated design that allowed them, in essence, to cantilever the pool to the desired location. This delayed the project and pushed up costs significantly, but the owner refused to compromise his vision of placing the spectacular pool right out over the sea. “It was most definitely worth the effort and expense—it’s the one thing that has really transformed the house.”
He reflects, finally, on his neighbours—three pelicans who live nearby. “They fish every day at sunset. We’re so lucky to have them,” he says. “Just lazing in the pool, a cold beer in hand, watching these majestic, ancient birds swoop and dive and fish so gracefully— completely at one with the ocean and the movement of life—is a humbling and calming experience that I revel in whenever I’m here. It brings my life back into perspective and makes all the stresses and strains of London disappear. It is true happiness.”