The house that frıends built

In these times of economic woes it is thanks to the spirit of friendship and camaraderie that Tyler and Alison Corbett’s distinctive house was built.

Tyler, who is a plumber by trade, was lucky to have friends, co-workers and contacts within the construction industry rally round to help construct their dream home.

“There were countless hours put into this house by myself and friends, and there is no way I could have done it without them,” he says.

“I am very grateful to every one of them, and now I owe everyone in a big way. The sweat equity in this building is one of the most unique parts of it. I was a very lucky man in that aspect.”


The eco-friendly house is a modern design which was a collaboration between the couple and Tyler’s architect friend Scott Gossen, who drew up the plans.

“We are very into architecture, and Scott was on board with the idea of modern,” says Tyler. “Many people mistake it for contemporary, but contemporary is more the design of the times. Modern is always modern, and in 100 years, this house will still be modern.”

Work began in November 2011, with the Corbetts moving in just nine months later after Tyler’s friends came together to build the house somewhat in the style of raising a barn.

“A good friend of mine, Alex Laing, who is a general contractor, had always been on board with helping out,” says Tyler.

“He specialises in poured concrete structures, and had a little down time between upcoming jobs. I got everything organised, and the house went up very quickly.

“I had a great crew of contractors on board as well. Many of them were colleagues whom I have worked with on-island, on various jobs. One of the biggest helps was a good friend, Trevor Abels, who is known for having way too much energy. He was at the house almost every night with me, helping on everything from plumbing to framing.”

When it came to the finishing details, Tyler was able to rely on another friend, Brandon Cunningham, whom he describes as one of the best carpenters he has ever known.

“Brandon hung all the interior doors, (too expensive for me to experiment on) and built the bathroom vanities,” he says. 


“His final icing on the cake is the front door. It is made of Ipe (pronounced ‘e-pay’), is a full 4×8’ and is mounted on a pivot hinge which means it isn’t hung from hinges as is standard, but pivots off-centre. The whole thing weighs about 350lbs and is by far one of my favourite pieces in the house.”
The interior of the house is minimalist, but functional, with the fixtures and fittings left to speak for themselves, and there is a strong accent on the colour green throughout.

“Sometimes you see minimalism, and wonder how people live with it because it so extreme,” says Tyler. “We personally don’t like ‘stuff’. We have very few accessories and decorations. I want things like the doors, fixtures, or bamboo cabinets to do the talking.

“I am a big guy – 6’5” – so most places, especially in Cayman, are very cramped for me. I knew I wanted a comfortable place for me, but still comfortable for others. The ceilings are very tall, the doors are all eight-foot tall, and every bath in the house is six-foot instead of the standard five-foot.

“We always knew we wanted a two storey, just in case a storm bigger than Ivan ever came, and three bedrooms were fine. We only have one child, and family occasionally come to visit, so we found this suits our needs. With everyday costs in Cayman, going too big can be very expensive, so we didn’t want to overdo the space.”

The house has an open plan living space downstairs, with a seating area, dining spot and kitchen, as well as a private guest room and bathroom.

“The kitchen was sourced from Ikea,” says Tyler. “As with most of the house, we wanted clean and simple, so we went with flat face, high gloss white doors. The countertop is Ceaserstone, the colour is ‘apple martini’ and for the finishing touch, we chose a modern take on a subway tile.”
Tyler also decided to install polished concrete countertops in the bathroom, which are becoming popular in Cayman.

“A lot of labour goes into them, but they are so unique, it’s definitely worth it,” he says. “Another cool new product is the Plyboo that the bathroom vanities are made with. It’s a solid bamboo plywood, which is quite sustainable, and very nice to work with, and the best part is that it looks great.”
One of the most unique features of the house is the type of doors used throughout which are made from Zebrawood with Wenge jambs/casings.

“I consider them to be the artwork of the house,” he says. “You really can’t walk by them with out noticing them.”

When the house was designed, the top two priorities were hurricane resistance and energy efficiency. 

“I am very pleased with how both of those aspects were addressed,” says Tyler.

“The house is built with ICF blocks from Flowers. The cost upfront is quite high compared to (regular) blocks, but pays back very fast in efficiency. The second floor and roof are both poured concrete.

“In the end, we have a fortress for not only us, but friends during a storm, and an extremely efficient home.  I hear horror stories of $800 CUC bills, and not only the monetary aspect of that, but the environmental impact of that is astonishing. Since we moved in, we have an average $225 CUC (monthly) bill.”

With its sleek design, the Corbetts’ house has become something of an eye-catcher in The Highlands development across from Cemetery Beach in West Bay.

“People park out front of our house all the time just staring at it,” says Tyler. “I have, on more than one occasion, come outside to find people taking pictures of it.  Makes me smile inside.” 


Concrete works:
LG Contracting

ICF work:
Vanderbol Costa

Tile works:
Siena Tile and Stone

Landmark Landscapes

Caribbean Impact Windows

Metalworks Cayman

Drywall and Painting:
Capstone Construction