FROM SEA-TO-SEA VIEWS AND ‘FLIP-FLOP CHIC’ TO BALINESE DESIGN CUES AND NAUTICAL IDYLLS, THESE THREE NEW DEVELOPMENTS RAISE THE BAR FOR ISLAND RESIDENTIAL DESIGN.
The Residences at Seafire
Cayman’s most coveted new spot for a sundowner isn’t on the beach; it is 10 stories up, atop The Residences at Seafire. Dubbed “The Nest,” this 3,500-square-foot private owners’ terrace is now the highest point on Grand Cayman and offers lofty sea-to-sea views – with a turn of the head one can look from Seven Mile’s powdery sands to North Sound’s waterways.
No one had any doubt that Dart Real Estate’s first foray into resort-residential development was going to be impressive. The Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa (with which The Residences shares an expansive 12-acre site and luxury amenities) set a whole new standard for hospitality design when it opened in fall 2016. A year on, The Residences at Seafire is doing the same for domestic interiors, enlisting the talents of internationally renowned SB Architects and interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard.
With a star-studded resume that includes decorating the homes of Cher, Eva Mendes and Tommy Hilfiger, as well as California’s Colony Palms Hotel and two Jimmy Choo boutiques, British-born Bullard has infused his signature relaxed, eclectic style with quintessentially Cayman elements for Seafire.
The lobby, for example, features large rope chandeliers that hark back to the island’s first industry, as well as stunning bookmarked stone walls that resemble sliced agate. The Nest’s focal point is a woven driftwood bar – another nod to locality – surrounded by lounging pits, cabanas and an outdoor kitchen. Throughout the 62 residences, a palette of crisp whites, pale timber and a myriad of blues seamlessly echo the beach beyond.
Buttery soft, caramel-colored leather sofas in the lobby set the tone for what Bullard calls “flip-flop chic”, a thoroughly modern, low-key take on luxury that is all about kicking back in comfort and nestling in natural textures. This is Cayman, after all, not the Upper East Side.
Catering to homeowners’ desire for indoor-outdoor living, each residence has at least one spacious terrace (or four, in some cases) for entertaining and relaxing in the sea air. Some also have convertible Nana Wall© folding doors to open the walls to the sky.
“The Residences have been designed so you never forget where you are,” says Jackie Doak, president of Dart Real Estate. “While surrounded by world-class amenities and luxury design, the view from your home is a constant reminder that you live in a Caribbean paradise… A space in which you have the best of the both worlds – the serenity of your private home and resort services at your fingertips.”
Sustainability is another growing priority in high-end design and, following the standard for previous Dart developments, Seafire comes up trumps. It joins the ranks of fewer than 200 resort-residential properties worldwide to achieve LEED Silver certification, a building designation that celebrates best-in-class sustainable design, building practices and operations. Practically, this means rainwater is collected and used to water the lush grounds; electricity is generated via a 143,000-watt solar array (one of the largest in the Cayman Islands); and air conditioning is powered by a highly efficient ground-source geothermal system. Recycled glass from Dart’s crushing facility was used as a component in the pavers, and electric car charging ports can be found in the underground parking. Everything from the outdoor lighting (angled to be turtle-friendly) to the building’s positioning (behind the natural vegetation line to help prevent beach erosion) works in harmony with the natural surroundings.
This eco-ethos also drove Dart’s choice of collaborators in this project; namely, Guerin Glass, known for harnessing the natural environment to create site-specific work, and landscape architecture by EDSA, in consultation with the Dart Nursery for the supply of local flora.
There is also scope for owners to carve distinct, personalized living spaces. Floorplans range from ultra-chic studios to stately five-bedroom residences, with a selection of finishes and furniture packages. Something they all have in common is a parade of sea views along Seven Mile Beach, as even the ground is floor elevated 25 feet above sea level. Entry is directly into an open living area, so ocean views greet the eye the moment one steps inside.
Like The Nest, many of the residences also look onto the North Sound, which means it is possible to watch sunrise and sunset from the same apartment – a rarity in Grand Cayman real estate and, when the sun meets the watery horizon, a daily reminder of why ‘Seafire’ is such an apt name.
Cayman Kai may be where many go to “get away from it all,” but it is also the site of some of the island’s most anticipated residential developments.
The latest project from the team behind the Caribbean Club is two-pronged: The Residences at Rum Point Club, an amenity-packed, five-story boutique condominium-hotel; and the neighboring gated community of Kembali Kai, which comprises five ultra-private homes.
Listed at US$3 million, each of these four-bedroom properties has its own swimming pool, deck and 30-foot dock – clearly created with the boating lifestyle in mind.
Kembali Kai’s ‘Balinese Island-style’ design ethos introduces something refreshingly different to typical Caribbean décor. The traditional architecture of Bali is underpinned by sacred Hindu and Javan beliefs, using natural indigenous materials and incorporating the handcrafted artistry for which its people are known, especially ornate wood carvings and stone sculpting.
At Kembali Kai, this rich inspiration is applied subtly and with a contemporary slant, discernible in the pagoda-like outbuildings, steeped rooves and use of dark, glossy hardwood – a striking detail across the sundecks, doorways and staircases, set against the architecture’s clean white planes. Surfaces of polished concrete and stone, with mosaic inlays of glass tile, continue the tactile, organic textures.
A deep connection with nature is important to the Balinese tradition, too – mature foliage provides an exotic, verdant backdrop to Kembali Kai, visible even when soaking in the decadent sunken bathtub, and of course there is that cerulean blue of the canal, seemingly melting into the infinity pool. Even the driveways are a simple mix of sand and gravel to blend with the natural surroundings.
Interior designer Paola Vazquez Del Mercado Miller of Casa Cayman continued this inspiration through the décor and furnishings. She sourced vintage batiks and Hmong textiles from Bali, artisan ceramics, and a series of hand of buddha art prints, hand-painted by a monk in Thailand.
“I wanted to reflect that Kembali Kai is surrounded by natural elements… designed with spiritual connection to Earth, Water and Fire to charge your energy,” Paola explains. “The entrance bells [doubling as a key holder] are to welcome guests and scare away the bad spirits, so are the teak candles on the floor. In the master bedroom, the mirror reflects the weaved wheel on the wall, creating an eclipse as you walk by.”
True to eastern beliefs, to bring “perfect symmetry and balanced energy” the interiors contain a balance of ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ elements – the former through circular carvings and lotus chandeliers, the latter from the rectangular sofa shape, concrete tables and jute carpets.
The homes are arranged over two stories. On the main level, a spacious interior lounge, dining room, kitchen, powder room and guest bedroom lead to an outdoor dining area. Upstairs are the three main bedrooms, each with a private wrap-around sun deck, walk-in closet and porcelain-tiled en-suite bathroom.
Belying its low-key style, Kembali Kai is a tough, high-tech construction, thanks to impact-rated glass and doors, reinforced concrete ground beams and raised air conditioning units, the homes can easily withstand hurricane forces. The first story is positioned 10 feet above sea level. Owners will also have the option of adding a generator, electronic roll down shutters and emergency water storage for those times when Mother Nature displays her might.
As for more ‘bells and whistles’ upgrades, these range from an exterior hot tub and boat lift to a smart home electronics package.
While Kembali Kai residents have the luxury of seclusion and space, they are able to take advantage of the Rum Point Club’s exceptional facilities – including a spa, fitness center and serviced pool area – roughly 100 steps away across a sandy, pine needle-strewn lane.
The Club’s property concierge team are also on-hand to organize and oversee renting out the homes – a service that will no doubt appeal to investors or second-homers. For this reason, architect Derek Serpell of Evolving Island calls them, “ideal ‘lock up and leave’ homes… very secure, with very little maintenance.”
Owners can jet off at a moment’s notice, knowing their home is in safe hands. Then again, with such an idyllic backdrop, why would you even want to go away?
The Residences of Stone Island
As anyone who has purchased a property off-plan can attest, architectural drawings and material samples never adequately sum up what your home will look and feel like. This is why the team behind The Residences of Stone Island, a luxurious gated community in the Yacht Club neighborhood, decided to break from the norm and construct three full-scale units for prospective buyers to tour – the first time this has been done in the region.
“Customers are able to walk, touch and breathe their space before purchasing. It was critical for us to provide this tool for our customers,” says developer Fraser Wellon.
The reason for three show homes, meanwhile, is to showcase the variety of furnishing packages available. Designed in collaboration with International Design Group (IDG), the trio of packages allows homeowners to select an interior that best suits their tastes and lifestyle, bringing a refreshing degree of individualization across a community of 44 homes. Then there is the wide choice of upgrades offered, including a private in-residence elevator or built-in barbecue.
“This is not a cookie cutter development,” Fraser says. “We like to differentiate the residences so that every owner has unique options that are tailored to their tastes and desires.”
One of the show homes, for example, takes ‘traditional elegance’ as its theme, filled with a palette of rich browns, warm grays and classic neutrals. In the kitchen, rich dark brown cabinetry is offset by warm gray Caesarstone countertops and ceramic tiled backsplash. IDG selected simple yet sophisticated furniture pieces, featuring either straight or rounded profiles.
There is unlikely to be any neighbor envy when it comes to views, however, as the residences are all positioned around the perimeter of the peninsula, creating panoramas over the placid waters of North Sound and direct access to the wooden boardwalk.
‘Wow’ moments aplenty appear in the interiors, from floating feature staircases to vaulted ceilings in the master bedrooms. Each residence comprises three generous bedrooms – boasting breezy terraces, walk-in closets and en-suite bathrooms – while a private plunge pool awaits in the garden.
Architecturally, the residences have been constructed to the highest specifications and safety standards, incorporating environmentally friendly design.
Much thought has gone into landscaping and layout to ensure each home has the utmost privacy. There are varying elevations, berms and secluded pockets, fringed with mature foliage including many of the site’s original trees. After entering through a secure gateway of hand-carved stone, the driveway winds through this gently undulating terrain, past a large water feature and series of shared amenities. In addition to a 110-foot mosaic tiled, infinity-edge pool, tennis court and barbecue pavilions, the hub of Stone Island is the communal amenity building (also designed by IDG), which brings together a private screening room, professional fitness studio, waterside owners’ conservatory, children’s center, chef’s kitchen and owner’s wine storage.
This $120+ million development, which comes from the team behind The WaterColours, is a tempting prospect to devotees of both the boating and beach lifestyles in Grand Cayman. For nautical pursuits, the community has docking facilities and is located moments away from Cayman Islands Yacht Club; for trips to Seven Mile Beach, soon a mixed-use trail will provide easy access by foot or bicycle.