Quiet in the Caribbean

Design is, ultimately, about vision: what the designer wants to “say,” expressed in the language of scale and proportion, colour and texture.

As Anna Simone of Toronto-based Cecconi Simone Inc. explains, the vision for Kishti Blackgarden on the Caribbean island of Anguilla was as simple as it gets: stay quiet and let Mother Nature do the talking.

“When you have a landscape like [this], why would you want to visually pollute it — to distract the eye from what is really important, which is the view of the ocean?”

To call this villa a dream home would be an understatement. Perched on a small outcrop of volcanic rock on the north side of the island, the 15,000-square-foot home is situated just a few feet from the blue waters of Blackgarden Bay. The home opens like a fan in three distinct sections that hug the shape of the coast: master suite to the east, guest villas to the west, living area in the centre.

Simone’s firm was involved with nearly all elements of the build, from project management to interior decorating to the purchase of furnishings and finishings. Her work was as much about bringing the building to life — with interior and exterior sight lines, cross-ventilation, entrances and exits, and so on — as it was about picking the right furniture and accessories. “People immediately think of just the cosmetic component of it, [but] interior design is really interior architecture,” she says. “And this [project] is a perfect example.”

The most notable part of Simone’s design is what you don’t see: colour, for one, or visual clutter of any kind. “I’m glad you noticed that,” she says. “Because a lot of what we do is designing the architecture to be the canvas, in order to support everything within it.”

To that end, Simone’s firm worked with a neutral palette of tans, off-whites, and greys, along with simple, natural materials: travertine, weathered wood, large panes of glass. Furniture is modern and unadorned, with simple horizontal lines and a minimum of fuss. Accents and flourishes are few — but their scarcity makes them stand out all the more, lending rooms a distinct visual punch: a pot of vividly-coloured orchids, a hand-carved Balinese sculpture, Tibetan singing bowls.

The result is a quiet, understated elegance where every element present lends a sense of easy, natural calm to the entire space. “The design is very minimal, and very detailed. We wanted a balance of the two.”

While the aesthetic may be minimal, the effort involved to bring it to life was anything but. As Simone explains, situating the home a stone’s throw from the ocean brought distinct design challenges. “The salt water is so close to the house, so your [design] choices, and the durability and maintenance of even equipment… are things that you think about,” she says. “TVs don’t last more than three years once the salt water gets in. You don’t bring veneers — everything has to be done in solid wood, and the woods have to be very conducive to the tropical climate.”

Of course, visitors don’t see any of that. Instead, what they see is the ocean, preferably from the spacious, airy great room in the centre of the house. The room is the showcase for Cecconi Simone’s vision, with 15-foot-high ceilings that vault gently outward to the floor-to-ceiling windows. Open those windows, stroll onto the expansive deck, and you step into a vivid panorama of sea and sky — the kind of vista that belongs in dreams.

“I have seen more people walk through that [room], and have their breath taken away,” Simone says. “It really is magnificent. I just wish I could take that experience and bottle it.”

Written by James Dolan   Translated by Rui Chen   Produced by Brett Price   Photography by Joy von Tiedemann and Shai Gil