When artists Renate and Mikael Seffer began renovating their seaside properties in Breakers, it was like starting with blank canvas.

Colourful artworks hang in the living room.

Both properties – a main house and a bungalow next door – needed a top-to-bottom makeover.

“When we first bought the property, we knew it all needed to be gutted as it was in pretty bad shape,” says Renate.

“The plan was to use the main house as our studio because we needed a bigger space at the time to make a mess, and then start the renovation on the bungalow so we could live in that,” she says.

The owners of White Dog Art bought the properties about eight years ago, moving to Breakers when they sold their West Bay home.

They started with the bungalow, converting the main building into their art studio and temporary home.

“For the first year we needed somewhere to live so we set up camp on one side of the main house,” says Renate.

Photos: Stephen Clarke

“We hung curtains for privacy and then built a make-shift kitchen in the laundry – we barbecued a lot – and showered outside. It was an adventure, but we were totally up for it.”

They recently completed renovations on the main house, which took around two years. They added two new wings to the home: a master bedroom and bath and new art studio, now located on the main roadside.

They also added another bedroom and bath, turned the laundry room into a mud room and transformed the back patio into a separate laundry and powder room.

The remodel turned the main house from a 2-bedroom, 2-bath to a 3-bedroom, 3.5-bath, with a larger living space and kitchen.

The dining area.

Working together

To save money, the couple tackled the renovations themselves, subcontracting out the structural work.

To work within budget, they used local materials which included zinc for the siding, which gives the exterior a sleek, contemporary look.

They were hands-on when it came to the final finishes as well, from the concrete floors and cabinetry to tiling and wood trim throughout the home.

“It was a lot of blood, sweat and tears and, as expected, some things went wrong so were constantly re-engineered to make it work,” says Renate.

“Stress levels were high at times but when it got too much, we’d stop work, put down the tools, go for a surf or grab a beer and then regroup.”

The sometimes-challenging remodel had a rewarding payoff – a contemporary but casual home that gives off an urban-island vibe.

A guest bedroom shines with personality.
The Seffers renovated their bungalow from top to bottom, and now rent it out on Airbnb.

Personality plus

The bedroom in the bungalow connects to the outdoor living space.

Both open-concept residences are full of colour and personality, with the owner’s artwork and other local pieces featured prominently throughout.

The bungalow, which they rent through Airbnb, is bright and airy, with the white interior highlighted with island-inspired accents and splashes of colour.

The main house also features a white interior, which the couple was initially hesitant about.

“But it ended up becoming the perfect blank canvas to work off and looked amazing against the polished concrete floors,” says Renate.

She says the kitchen and master bath were the most important rooms in terms of design. The bathroom is bright and spacious and includes a walk-in shower and soaking tub.

“I wanted to create a spa-like vibe, somewhere to escape at the end of the day so a soaking tub was a must,” says Renate.

The kitchen – Mikael’s domain as he is the chef in the family – is both functional and comfortable, with plenty of room for friends and family to gather.

“Mikael built the white concrete countertops which I’m absolutely in love with,” says Renate.

An eye-catching element is a dramatic palm-inspired mural on the back wall, influenced by a feature article on musician Lenny Kravitz’s remodelled 18th century Brazilian home.

“One of his rooms was painted in this theme and I thought it was really dynamic,” she says.

Eclectic accents add interest and character throughout the homes.

“I scored quite a few things from my favourite store on island, Cayman Consignment. Pieces that I saw had potential and a little character but just needed some love,” says Renate. “I like things that have meaning and a little history.”

Among them: a worn surfboard that Mikael shaped some 20 years ago when the couple first married.

“I think each room has slowly taken on a personality of its own,” says Renate.

“In terms of design I would say it is very eclectic. I prefer harmony over matchy-matchy, so there’s a lot of very different pieces that I think work well together.”

A soothing outdoor retreat by the sea.

Seaside living

Renate is originally from Australia and has lived in Grand Cayman for more than 20 years. Mikael is from South Carolina and moved here with his family in the late 1980s.

A self-taught painter, Renate is known for her stylised whimsical figures along with intuitive works. Mikael is known for his concrete works and large mixed media and resin pieces.

Their studio is named after their first rescue dog, Gidget, which they adopted while living in West Bay.

The family dog Bindi.

“We would often find her in a neighbour’s pool, down the beach hanging out with the kids or on the dock with the fishermen,” says Renate. “One day I decided to start adding her to a series of paintings and friends would call them white dog art, so the name stuck and now we are officially White Dog Art.”

While Gidget has passed on, another white island mix came into their life, named Bindi.

Renate and Mikael are happy with their seaside retreat and the quaint community they live in.

“We love Breakers,” she says. “It’s a small friendly community with some pretty colourful characters that I could write about. Being away from the hustle and closer to the ocean and island’s interior is such a bonus – there’s a very different vibe out this side. And the other bonus is we get to surf by ourselves out the back when there are waves. All of this continues to inspire me.”

A worn surfboard ago stands in the corner next to the bookshelf.