Where ocean views go on forever...

The south coast of Barbados is home to a teeming tourist strip of hotels, restaurants, clubs and shops. It’s not where you’d expect to find a stunning villa, but convenient access to action and amenities (not to mention the airport) is part of Infinity Villa’s appeal. The surprise is that once you enter, you feel totally private, on the edge of the world.

These aspects, plus beachfront, were exactly what Don and Wendy Low had been seeking. For them, the west coast is too breezeless and remote. Their previous house on a golf course was nice but “you can live on a golf course anywhere.”

When their real estate agent showed them a casual, mid-century beach house tucked between hotels on a back road in Dover Beach, their hearts leapt when they saw how “unique and magical” this spot was. The house would need work, but—oh, the view! From that little peninsula of boulders, it was ever changing hues of blue where whitecaps cantered to a coastline scalloped with bays.

The old house was nice but lacked drama; it was more about shelter than sightlines. This had to change, and for both Don and Wendy it was a happy, creative challenge.

Don, a construction man turned industrialist, confesses to being “a frustrated engineer.” He had already renovated several homes in other locations.
Here in Barbados, he could apply his abundant good sense to a design that would protect the house from any intrusion, whether visual, water, weather, or human. Here, Wendy could apply the ideas she had gleaned from the design books she loves. It’s ongoing: “I’m constantly finding art and fabrics.”

Using the existing footprint, a complete renovation was in store. With Barbadians Peter Burke as their architect and Cameron Jones as builder, down came the whole wall that blocked the view from the kitchen and living area out to sea. Up went another, to conceal the pocket garden from the driveway and the road. Out came the homely clay tile floor and down went travertine marble. Out came small windows and up went tall arches with smoked glass looking into the Zen garden. Because the property is too narrow for vehicles, cement was produced in those cute little mixers and debris was hauled out in wheelbarrows.  “I lived with construction workers for two years!” said Wendy, but not in a complaining tone. “Every Friday we’d all have a little party.”

 

The splinters and protruding nail heads of the corroded wooden deck made it both a hazard and a maintenance nightmare. So it came out, too. The deck was replaced by a stroke of genius: an ankle-deep ‘water deck’ that stretches across the entire width of the property on the ocean side.  It holds two chaise lounges and a seating platform reached by stepping stones, an excellent place for watching the sunset.  And sea spray can’t hurt it. In fact, according to Don, “It’s our protection from the ocean.”

Don also found a creative solution for the sightlines in the open plan living/dining/kitchen space. A bar at proper height for the person serving would interrupt the ocean view from the couches, so he sank the floor of the bar.

The Lows wanted the entire travertine marble floor to flow seamlessly to the outdoor tiles of the same stone, so they chose a polished finish for inside and rough for outside. For the stone, Don went to Turkey, and chose a block of travertine directly from the mountain! All of it was pre-cut to specifications, including special pieces that required one rounded lip and other edges squared. Was it miraculous or meticulous? In either case, it all fit. Their tiler, Stephen Rollock, “made it look better than anything we’ve seen in the world,” said Don. Everything’s perfectly level and matched, which isn’t easy with the 24 inch floor tiles that Wendy chose because they make the space look larger.

Stone is an element that recurs in the house, with marble kitchen countertops plus a fabulous blue/grey granite bar top and an agate bathroom vanity top both sourced in Brazil. All the walls were created with quarried Barbados coralstone.

The result of all this thought, labour and choices is a home that exudes both welcome and wow factors. With an entire wall that folds open to the sea view, the whole open-plan living area feels outdoors. “We wanted this to be more of a gazebo than a house,” said Wendy.

The outdoor feeling continues inside the open-plan living area, helped by Wendy’s choices of colours that echo the marine environment. In lighting, fabrics and even the cabinetry, blue accents play off each other. Pendant lights over the dining table recall the sky. Seating cushions wear shoreline tones. At night, the under-lips of countertops glow with the same sky blue that appears just before the stars do. Most spectacular are the inner-illuminated cabinet fronts that face the social areas. Done in glass by a lady named Sandy Lane, they make you feel you’re night diving out on the reef. “Lighting is everything,” said Don. Outdoor spotlights are even reflected in the upsurging and falling beads of sea spray as the waves crash onto the retaining boulders. The effect is like a fireworks display, only liquid and rhythmic.

There are so many places to relax here, each with its own ambience. Backed by a seemingly old coralstone wall, which is actually new and antiqued, the Zen garden is a peaceful green embrace. By day, the water deck’s chaises let you recline in the sunny unity of sea and sky, while at night the platform at the end lets you feel you’ve ascended. Adirondack chairs in jelly bean colours reminiscent of Bajan chattel houses surround a Barbados-shaped fire pit in a stony nook near the jungle path.

Shaded by tall heliconia, the path leads first to beach access and then meanders to a comfy, self-contained, two-bedroom guest cottage. From here, the Lows or their guests can pop into Ocean 2 Resort’s restaurant if they don’t feel like cooking.

Bedrooms in the main house are still in progress, according to Wendy. Tastefully appointed and containing generous storage space, they are meant for total comfort. The master bedroom has its own little walled garden with a bathtub—another place to relax in an indoor/outdoor space. The choices seem infinite.

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