Michelle: We fell in love with it on our first visit in 2005. Since then it has become much more chic and each time we come back we are seduced all over again by its beauty and charm.
Paul: We learnt to sail in the West Indies which is a fabulous way to explore the islands and happily discovered that Antigua is something of a yachting mecca. We have fond memories of seeing dolphins whilst moored up in Jolly Harbour during our ‘day skipper’ exams.
Paul: The beaches and water in Antigua are second to none, so naturally our favourite things incorporate the beauty of the outdoors. We love water sports in general; launching a kayak into the sea from the bottom of your garden is literally a dream come true for us. We’ve even seen turtles there!
Michelle: We also love to eat out and Antigua has so many world-class lingering lunch-with-a-view type places. It’s so beautiful, we just love to relax, unwind and luxuriate in the tranquillity How did you find the right location/ property?
Michelle: We were never looking for a house to buy; we wanted the challenge of a house build. It was our sailing instructor that pointed out there were plots for sale on Harbour Island. We couldn’t believe that there were still waterside plots available – and sunset-facing! We snapped one up and then started thinking about what we might build there. How did you come up with the design brief?
Paul: We wanted something that brought together features we’ve enjoyed over the years at various locations around the world. These included a good-sized outdoor pool, huge waterfront lounging area on the boat dock with in-laid trampoline hammock, outdoor shower, well-equipped outdoor kitchen and entertaining space, waterside fire pit to while away the warm evenings with friends and a glass of wine, and a huge covered terrace with ceiling fans and comfy sofas for outdoor lounging in the shade. Also, smart TVs in all the bedrooms, lamps with built-in USB charging ports, lots of outdoor power sockets, broadband and remote control AC.
Michelle: We wanted a good inside/ outside relationship; all on a single level, using one floor tile design and consistent colour palette, lighting, and décor touches like over-sized mirrors and matte paint finish throughout, so that the outdoor space is just as inviting and comfortable as the inside. We wanted to include vaulted ceilings and exposed beams but with a modern look and feel, like bi-fold doors, wet rooms with walk-in rain showers, WiFi-enabled coffee machine, touch panel appliances and hidden cooker extractor hood. All the conveniences of modern living, sitting happily by the water in the tropics.How did you decide on the interior?
Michelle: We wanted modern styling, selecting a cool and contemporary grey coastal palette – it’s forgiving and versatile and matches up with virtually anything. Using a variety of shades helps to create depth and we found it paired well with on-trend industrial chic flourishes like exposed filament light bulbs, iron and glass cage lanterns and oversized mirrored clock. We felt that going for a matt nonslip finish on the flooring and eggshell woodwork meant we could apply glamour with high gloss finish on kitchen cabinets and tables, chrome accents, generous lighting and lots of mirrors. The property is airy and spacious, so we could go to town on over-sized items like huge chunky beds and I’m always on the lookout for big pieces of art on canvas. We also felt we could have a bit of fun with a gentle nod to the tropical surroundings with retro chic pineapple lamps, and switching out boring drawer handles with fun pineapple drawer pulls.
Paul: It was important to give the bedrooms a relaxed, restful feel. We used natural materials like walnut bed frames, soft rugs and sumptuous bedding. Talk us through how you decided on your fittings and fixtures – and got them here.
Michelle: We sat with a kitchen designer, a bathroom designer and a tile specialist who all produced digital 3D images of each room. We gave them basic room measurements then let them position everything, gauge quantities and advise on suitability of materials. They were able to calculate the weight and space needed in the freight container.
Paul: We took our time shopping around from the UK, using a virtual private network (VPN) to allow access onto American websites without being redirected back to the UK. This allowed us to purchase goods from American sites to be sent to an American delivery address. We set up an account with an import specialist in Antigua which meant we could have items delivered to an address in Miami and forwarded by sea or air by the importers, who calculate the appropriate tax and transportation fees.What’s your favourite part of the house and why?
Paul: Outdoors! We chose Antigua largely because of the climate and the outdoor lifestyle it enables. I was very keen on creating an outdoor kitchen with outdoor dining and oversized mooring lounging areas to allow guests to fully enjoy and benefit from the wonderful climate and sunsets. I can’t imagine a better place to grill your food while enjoying a cold beer with friends than from behind the counter of our outdoor kitchen. Dining under the covered terrace is a beautiful place to enjoy sunset dinner before retiring to the mooring for waterside drinks by the fire; it’s wonderfully tranquil.
Michelle: Nothing beats a candle-lit night swim in your own pool, but I’d have to say I love the Great Room the most. It was a bit daunting to furnish as it’s a huge space but I love get-togethers so was keen to create a place where everyone could comfortably hang out. It’s definitely the hub of the house and leads onto the bedrooms and outdoor terrace.What advice would you give to people thinking about building in Antigua?
Michelle: No language barrier is a definite plus and we’ve been very positively surprised with the quality and care our construction team have shown. We built at a distance of 4,000 miles with a four/five-hour time difference, in the wake of the Brexit referendum when the value of Sterling collapsed. So we’ve had our fair share of bad luck but it’s not much use fretting about things you can’t control. It’s torturous watching the weather reports while your container ship makes its way across the Atlantic but we’ve done it twice now and even mirrors, glasses and tiles arrive intact. You also need to make informed decisions quickly and move on – there are far too many to procrastinate.
Paul: Beware that the total cost of your build doesn’t bear too much resemblance to the quoted cost of the build. There are numerous costs that are not apparent in the quotation for build. These include a lot of US dollars to pay the contractor, plus customs duties, Antiguan sales tax, environmental taxes, freight transport, the cost of receiving the freight on-site (you need a lorry, a crane, possibly a forklift truck!) and items that are not included in the quotation such as appliances, fixtures and fittings that are all necessary to finish it off. Then obviously the ongoing costs such as gardening, pool maintenance etc.
Would we do it again? The house was the first deliverable from our Caribbean dream wish list. A boat is next. Ask us again when you see a yacht moored on the dockTo find out more about building in Antigua and desiging your dream Caribbean property, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.