Viva la Vida


For Eduardo Bernal, building a
home is like a marriage.  

“Once you have made a decision,
you have to commit to it until the end,” he says. “You have to marry your
ideas. You cannot divorce your ideas in the middle of a project. You have to

It is the perfect analogy for the
home Eduardo shares with his wife, Monica Guzman, and their son, Juan-Camilo
Bernal. Eduardo and Monica, both architects, spent months meticulously
designing their dream home, Cali Bay, on the canals of North Sound. It was
marriage in every sense, combining the couple’s passion for architecture and
their shared vision for the home. And, astonishingly enough, they never  disagreed.  

“When we were building the house,
we had lots of conversations about how we wanted the house to be,” Eduardo
says. “But we had no arguments. We wanted the same things.” 

Eduardo and Monica approached
their own home with the same dedication with which they approach their  work. That passion has created a house that
is deceptively simple at first glance, but soon reveals many intricate layers
and details.

The couple, who both studied architecture at Pontificia University
Javeriana in Bogota, Colombia, wanted to create a space where they could grow
as a family and connect with the islands’ surrounding waters.  The first step, however, was finding the
perfect block of land.  

“We spent almost a year looking
for the right plot,” Eduardo says. “We didn’t know what kind of house we were
going to build until we found the right plot. We had certain conditions that we
wanted in the house. We wanted to be on a canal, to have access to North Sound
and to be close to the sailing club. And there needed to be a strong connection
between the land and the sea.” 

“We were going to build to the
conditions of the site. We wanted something very specific,” Monica agrees.
“Most clients have preconceptions when they are designing a house, but as
architects we are trained not to have preconceptions.”  

When Eduardo and Monica found the
ideal parcel of land, they had to familiarise themselves with the area before
they could put pencil to paper. So they went camping.  

“We camped on the plot for a
weekend so we could get an idea of the breeze, the sun, the views, the wind,
the noises in the neighbourhood,” Eduardo says.

“We discovered that from the
second floor, we had a nice view of North Sound, so we decided to put the
bedrooms on the first floor. With the living room and the kitchen on the second
floor, we could capture that view and be able to have cathedral ceilings.” 

The process reveals the commitment
Eduardo and Monica have for their profession. Every detail of the L-shaped
house works in rhythm with its surrounds, a hallmark of South American
architecture. To this end, Eduardo and Monica, who both grew up in Colombia,
implemented many features that are considered eco-friendly, but to them simply
made sense.  

To minimise the effect of Cayman’s
scorching heat, the house is orientated towards the east, with large windows
that capture the rising sun. Conversely, the western façade of the house has
only three small windows to diminish the afternoon sun without compromising on

These measures almost negate the need for air conditioning, resulting in
economical electricity bills for the family. Further, a solar panel, located on
the roof of the master bedroom, is used to heat the swimming pool.  

“When we designed the house, we
weren’t worried about the morning sun because it’s not too hot, but we were
more concerned about the afternoon sun,” Eduardo says of the house, which takes
its name from Calima, a world-renowned lake in Colombia. “The orientation
worked with the plot. From December to March, we barely use air-conditioning.” 

“These were features that were
common sense to us,” Monica agrees. “The house doesn’t use much energy because
of the way it was designed.” 

The second floor of the home is
the family’s living space, with an open-plan kitchen that overlooks the canal
and a relaxed, yet elegant living room that functions as the home theatre. It
is clear the kitchen is the centre of the home, where the family comes together
to eat, talk, cook and laugh. 

kitchen is the most important room in the home,” says Monica. “It is the place
where people spend most of their time.” 

 “I am the cook of the house and I love to have
my family around me in the kitchen,” Eduardo continues. “We gave the kitchen
the best view in the house. I watch the sunrise from the kitchen every morning
and it’s beautiful.” 

second floor captures Eduardo and Monica’s minimalist approach to interior design,
with a predominantly white palette, sophisticated lines and few decorative
pieces. The one indulgence is artwork, for which Eduardo and Monica share a

interiors are a result of the space. Because we have lived all over the world,
we have never accumulated much stuff,” says Monica, referring to the family’s
moves from Colombia, to Canada, to Cayman. “We have things with sentimental
value or from places we’ve been that are special to us.” 

 “We have a lot of artwork, from my mother and
Monica’s mother, who both painted as a hobby, and lots of originals from
prominent Latin American artists, such as Luis Alberto Solari, David Manzur and
Omar Rayo,” explains Eduardo.  

floors are divided by a wide, transparent staircase that seems to float in mid

It is one of the most unique aspects of the home, with stainless steel
wires, aluminum posts and wood railings that match the teak of the hardwood
floors. One of Eduardo and Monica’s most treasured heirlooms is an 18th century
antique, French, hand-woven tapestry that hangs over the staircase.

The wall
was designed especially to showcase the tapestry, which has been in the family
for generations.  

first floor features three bedrooms and a relaxed cabana that faces the
swimming pool and canal. The use of ceiling to roof windows in the entrance
hall emphasises the connection to the water and the family’s love of sailing.  

bedroom is not large, yet the space has been brilliantly used to create a
welcoming space fit for a teenager. 

master bedroom further reflects the house’s relationship with the canal. It is
the only one storey part of the home, with a pitched roof that gives the
illusion of a cube. The space features a recessed window that provides stunning
views of North Sound.  

recessed window was like taking a cube out of a cube, which has given us views
of the water,” Monica says. “It was something we really wanted to do. We can
see the curve of the canal from the bedroom and that creates movement. It is
the view we wake up to.” 

and Monica’s passion for architecture is encapsulated in every detail of the
home. Indeed, architecture is at the heart of this family, as Monica and
Eduardo are quick to acknowledge. 

hobby is architecture,” Monica says. “We enjoy talking about it very much. With
architecture, everything is related.” 

his part, Eduardo says that if he had to design the house all over again, he
would not change a thing. He has committed to his marriage to the home.  

“The house is a pleasure in every way,” he enthuses. “It is a dream come


“Our hobby is architecture,” Monica says. “We enjoy talking
about it very much. With architecture, everything is related”


Viva La Vida 1

Stephen Clarke