As sixth-generation Jamaicans, Danny and Peggy O’Hara had long dreamt of building their very own great house in Cayman.
And it so it was that they commissioned Design Cayman, an architectural firm founded and owned by their daughter Cindy O’Hara, to interpret that vision.
It turned out that the house not only became the O’Haras’ pride and joy, but last year it scooped two awards.
The property won accolades at the Americas regional stage of the prestigious International Property Awards 2014-2105, collecting the Five Star Award in the category of Best Architecture Single Residence, Cayman Islands, along with Best Architecture Single Residence Caribbean region. The awards are run by the International Property Media Group.
“We were able to introduce some contemporary elements while maintaining a true Caribbean aesthetic and form,” says chartered architect Brian Macdonald, managing principal of Design Cayman. “Simply defined facades created a contemporary feel while custom wooden accents maintained the traditional appearance of this beautiful Jamaican-style great house.”
The exterior of the home is finished in bone white, fine grain stucco, which provides a contrast with the rustic wooden louvers and doors that merge the contemporary with the traditional.
The interior design of the house reflects more of the traditional great house elements, such as antique wooden furniture, stone and wooden floors, vaulted ceilings and light and fan fixtures that create the ambiance of times past.
“We are extremely happy and proud for our home to have won,” says Danny, who is the managing director of Prestige Motors.
He and Peggy moved to Cayman in 1974, settling permanently in 1982 after an interim stint in Canada where the cold climate soon saw them heading back to the Caribbean.
Danny started the car dealership company with fellow-Jamaican Larry Hunter in 1984, building a life that has seen triumph over adversity.
In 2004, Hurricane Ivan wiped out almost their entire fleet of vehicles and obliterated the parts department building.
They recovered, however, and went on to construct a new, hurricane-resistant showroom just as Danny and Peggy’s house has also been built to withstand such storms.
Located in Patrick’s Island, the 11,000 square foot, two-story home has its main living quarters elevated 20 feet above sea level.
In addition to giving protection against flooding, the height gives the house a sweeping driveway reminiscent of a West Indian estate.
Inspired by the style of Jamaican great houses, the property exudes a grandeur and sophistication similar to these opulent old-time residences.
However, the O’Haras’ residence has all the benefits of modern-day building materials and technology, including a standing seam roof with lots of insulation, bamboo and travertine flooring, as well as an eight-zone high-efficiency air conditioning system, elevator and generator.
Traditional great house features are represented by the central great room, around which all the other interior spaces are arranged; a long veranda; shutters; and a large country kitchen with pantry and lots of open, airy spaces.
Perhaps the most significant link between past and present becomes apparent when the 18 foot-wide glass sliding doors in the great room are stacked into the wall pocket.
Once open, the great room comes into its own as a large open area, naturally ventilated and cool despite the outside temperatures.
Antique furnishings adorn the rooms, many of which were handed down through several generations of the O’Hara family from various great houses in Jamaica.
Some pieces have been specially adapted for the new house, which Danny and Peggy moved into in August 2013.
“Our antique mahogany dining table was originally a 5 foot diameter, round dining table,” says Danny. “We had it cut in half and added 6 feet in the middle, making it 11 feet long to accommodate 12 people in comfort. We also had six additional chairs made to match the original six chairs.”
The pineapple – a Jamaican symbol of welcome – is evident on doors and furniture throughout the property and they even had the fruit hand-carved on both sides of all 12 dining chairs.
The interior design of the house, which has three bedrooms and a guest suite, was undertaken by Peggy whom Danny says has a natural flair for decorating.
The majority of the extensive woodwork in the house, including the wooden railings, shutters and louvers was also crafted onsite and made with pressure-treaded lumber from A. L. Thompson’s.
The bathroom towel racks, tissue holders and mirror frames were made on location from rosewood, while all the doors – 8 foot high – were hand-carved in Honduras from rosewood.
The property encloses a courtyard garden, a centerpiece of the home, which features a waterfall that Danny designed with his wife’s green fingers in mind.
“The interior garden was designed specially to accommodate Peggy’s vast collection of orchids and various other plants,” explains Danny. “In our previous home, her orchids were in a garden separate from the house so this is much more convenient.”
As well as Peggy’s garden, the ground level hosts the entertainment area at the rear of the property, a swimming pool and a boat dock.
“We are Jamaican, so of course we love to entertain,” says Danny. “We spend most of our time out here with friends, even if it’s raining.”
The downstairs area has its own kitchen, guest bathroom, bar and an elevator up to the main living area, to make it convenient for parties. There is also a gym downstairs.
“We love to have friends over so the downstairs entertainment area with the adjacent outdoor commercial kitchen is great for cookouts and barbecues,” says Danny.
At the very top of the house is a 360-degree viewing tower where Danny and Peggy can survey the whole of Grand Cayman, while gently swinging in a hammock in the ever-present breeze.
“Our new home was worth waiting for,” says Danny. “It’s truly a dream come true.”
Great house history
“The Great House was the seat of authority on an estate. It was the home of planters, or attorneys who acted for the absentee owner. The size and profitability of the property and the wealth of the owner determined the size of the house.
These houses were usually two storey buildings with a base of brick, cut stone and mortar. The top floor was usually made of wood. Variations of this archetype included one-storey buildings constructed of wood, cut stone or Spanish walling or wattle and daub; or two-storey building made of brick, wood or cut stone.”
– Jamaica National Heritage Trust
Design Cayman Ltd.
Rapid Construction Ltd.
Williams Electrical (electrical)
Paul’s Metal Roofing (standing seam roof)
Cayman Climate Control (air conditioning)
Pools By Us (swimming pool)
Papie’s Construction (insulation)
Ricco Boat Lift
Cayman Glass Ltd.
A. L. Thompson’s
Kirk Home Centre
C.L. Flowers & Sons
Scotts Equipment Ltd.
Home Gas Ltd.