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Cultural Influence in VI Design [Photo Gallery]

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Necker Island


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St. Bernard's Hill House

West Indian Colonial

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Steele Point


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Golden Pavilion

Bali / Oriental

For centuries, VI design has been a sponge for varied cultural influences—some sailed in from an era of privateers and others from trending demands for modernism and far East inspiration. Through the years, the only constant, it seems, lies within the unchanging natural beauty that has continued to be an influencing force for any architect or interior designer attempting to compliment the wondrous terrain.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the Caribbean islands acted as a paradisaical playground and wealthy resource for European expeditionists and pirates who rivaled for their ownership.

Intoxicated over the land’s rousing and harmonious beauty, they saw the territory as a paradise, uninhibited by continental convention, leisurely and lucid – a graced epiphany that enticed visions of new freedom and prosperity.

Denmark, England, France, Holland and Spain all sought affluence in the islands’ infinite luxury, relishing the Caribbean’s agricultural abundance and mystical, romantic allure.

With settlement in the Caribbean, Europeans influenced interior and exterior property design, unveiling epic aesthetics worthy of legend and thoroughly enjoyed by vacationers today.

Indonesia, which was previously part of the Dutch Empire, produced a heavily dominant architectural theme witnessed in all the plentiful retreats currently employing Balinese design. With a similar climate, Indonesia inspired villa owners seeking something different from the usual West Indian architecture to incorporate into the design of their properties.


Across the Caribbean, the Colonial great houses of the past also swayed construction aesthetics, with many properties emulating the stunning extravagance that these buildings emanated.

Incorporated in the BVI’s architectural diversity, some estates opt for a contemporary approach, maintaining melodic modernism and harnessing a connection, pairing exterior design with the striking natural environment.

Today, the BVI celebrates a multitude of cultural influences. In this piece, we’ll take a look at four of the territory’s most distinguishable properties and delve into their structural and interior designs that help to catalogue them as some of the most exclusive on the planet.

A Billionaire’s Bali: Necker Island

The celebrated Necker Island – famous for being the preferential hideaway of billionaire philanthropist Sir Richard Branson – hosts one of the most renowned retreats on Earth, along with the rich and famous that prefer its seclusion and exclusivity.

Surrounding a Great House, six villas decorate the property in an auspiciously green environment. Neighbouring Virgin Gorda’s pristine North Sound, Necker’s security and privacy supersede anticipations.

Guests are able to enjoy a fully catered island paradise, whether choosing an extreme watersports activity or opting for relaxation, Necker delivers to the highest of expectations.

Exterior and interior renovations on the six Bali Houses took place over the summer 2011 and were completed by a team comprising of local project managers, architects and interior designers from Roger Downing & Partner, furniture supplies from Arawak Interiors, and Poolworks’ specialists; all who have sustained the supreme standard that the island flaunts.

Maintaining the Balinese style that is distinctly popular across the Caribbean, Necker is steeped in deep Bali cultural influence. The villas bucolic allure possesses contemporary design entwined with the Indonesian theme that exudes leisurely lounging.

With the refurbishment, Roy Keegan, director of Arawak Interiors, was tasked with supplying the interior packages for the Bali House, using reclaimed materials—supplies that are unavailable on the island and require shipping thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean, delivered by container to the BVI.

Arawak’s eco-friendly and indomitable approach saw Keegan’s journey to Bali to work with specifically selected suppliers, artisans and crafters with whom he has shared a relationship for over 15 years.

Keegan sought out reclaimed timber to use as the framework for the interior furnishings, allowing the traditional and contemporary blend the property observes.

The tropical hardwood reclaimed teak, which is termite resistant, was recycled by sanding, cleaning and diligent construction into functional resources. Fittings and equipment ranging from wardrobes, bathroom amenities, bar units, beds and mirrors benefitted from the vigilant manufacture of the specialised wood.

Durable by design, these treasured room pieces are perfect for indoor-outdoor living and lounging.

Contact details:

Arawak Interiors – (284) 494-5240 http://www.arawakvi.com 

History High on the Hill: St. Bernard’s Hill House, Tortola

Residents have marveled at the incredible wonders manifested by villas and resorts dispersed across the BVI; however, St. Bernard’s Hill House above Tortola’s Soper’s Hole stands as a visual feast only privy to a few fortunate viewers.

Veteran architect Jon Osman was called upon to construct the hill-house over the ruins of a former great house, borrowing design influences from the British Empire.

Due to the antiquity, physical location and the desires of the owners, the property was conceived as a contemporary West Indian colonial-style mansion, incorporating the use of wrap-around verandahs, archways and columns.

Reaching 675ft, St. Bernard’s hill situates the property at 610ft, providing unequaled serenity, privacy and views that would inspire the embodiment of a Greek Mythological Deity on Olympus.

With a 290-degree perspective around the beautiful West End of Tortola, from Jost Van Dyke, St. John, Norman and Peter Island, guests envisage their stay as an oasis of calm, described by estate managers Chris and Joanne Plowman as “an island within an island.”

The five-bedroom exclusive villa consists of the main house and three other pavilions set in the ample, vibrant flora encompassing the property.

The interior design predominantly incorporates British colonial-style furniture and uses wide arched or colonnaded terraces, providing reliable protection from the sun’s heat. Simultaneously hosting comfortable living and entertainment spaces, the site benefits from the open-air prevailing breezes.

Materials used to construct this historical vision were supplied from a variety of resources. Exposed timbers on ceilings, doors, cabinets and windows are hardwoods from either Trinidad or South America; the latter three fixtures utilise a timber called Imbuia. The external terrace columns are made from a Trinidadian hardwood called Mora; floor tiles and cabinet countertops are imported from Italy.

After soaking up the awe-inspiring aesthetics and reveling in the generous benefits of an all-inclusive villa, guests can enjoy one of the multiple dining locations surrounding the property. Whether sipping cocktails by sunset, watching the St Thomas lights flicker in the distance, or enjoying the lazy streetlights rope along Jost Van Dyke from the edge of the infinity view, St. Bernard’s guests are encouraged to soak up all the marvels that the Virgin Islands provide.

Contact details:

St. Bernard’s Hill House – (284) 346-7682 http://www.stbernardshillhouse.com

Golden Pavilion: Transporting to Tranquility  

Golden Pavilion Villa, renowned for its Balinese architecture, is not just a luxurious vacation retreat—it is a journey into a romantic era; through careful attention to detail, the distinguishable cliffside retreat combines Caribbean culture with Balinese ideals.

Owner and architect Valerie Hughes, in conjunction with local architecture firm Osman Associates are responsible for the majestic exterior. Irene Herold Interior Design– a Connecticut based firm – alongside Hughes take credit for the enchanting interior.

Interior flooring and exterior terracing come from Jerusalem Gold Limestone imported from its origin of birth—Jerusalem, Israel. Exterior entry gate doors, decorative roof tiles, statuary, furniture and artwork are from Bali; and mahogany doors, windows and kitchen cabinets are Brazilian mahogany, custom-fabricated on Tortola.

With this blend of decorative elements borrowed from the past, contemporary function and comforts are used to create a mix of old and new. This is exemplified when visitors enter the property through a traditional Balinese entrance gate design (angkul-angkul) smoothly contrasting a modern streamlined infinity edge pool on the exterior of the villa.

Lily ponds, statues of dancing maidens and Buddhas welcome guests upon entry into the meditation garden to communicate a charming composure on arrival. Traditional Balinese statuary, furnishings, artwork and details commingle with sweeping views of the sea and Guana Island to produce a fresh ambiance inside the villa and on its expansive terraces.

Such perspectives invoke humility and remind guests to preserve the delicate splendour of nature.

Estate manager Tony Trappe and chef Kate Purdy tailor services to the requirements of individual groups who possess the great fortune to vacation at the rejuvenating retreat. So whether it’s the beautiful view, reinvigorating walks around the rocky terrains or relaxation on one of the BVI’s best secluded beaches five minutes away, the villa transports its guests to equanimity.

The warm and serene Golden Pavilion patio

With high numbers of returning visitors, the villa’s ability to unite humanity with nature creates an addiction the world should share.

Contact Details:

Golden Pavilion – (284) 541-0185 http://www.goldenpavilionvilla.com

Stealing the Show: Steele Point dominates Tortola’s western point

It’s impossible to pass Tortola’s dramatic western point from sea without marveling at Steele Point, one of the BVI’s most prided architectural creations.

Promoting a grand, geographical location, this exceptional point permits fortunate guests who stand on the West deck of the property to see the Atlantic and Caribbean currents meeting—an epically unique image.

OBM International’s Tebelio Rodriguez, the architect responsible for the recent refit of the property, explained that respect, upgrade and enhancement of the original 1974 design by Michael Helm was the approach.

Maintaining a more modern international influence, all material for the refit of this property was imported from inland US and USVI.

The property utilizes a minimalistic design, enforcing the “less is more” motto, achieved by creating and maximizing clean, open spaces. Subsequently, the architect skillfully used the surrounding natural lighting to amplify the beauty of the property’s exterior and interior by strategically increasing and locating building fenestrations. The stunning panoramic views from Soper’s Hole to Jost Van Dyke are key elements in creating this impressive effect.

Indisputably, the view is always a significant role for any villa and what more than being able to see the twinkling lights of St Thomas on a peaceful night, and the great sunsets around Jost Van Dyke—visages that we hope to remain unchanging with the times.

The refit was made increasingly attractive by the insightful nature of the design. “A profound reflection and understanding of the building and its relation with the surrounding environment, expressed as: an appropriate interaction of natural/durable/low maintenance materials, the selection of state of the art furniture, fixtures and equipment, and the essential relation of the above mentioned with natural light,” said Rodriguez.

Steele Point offers epic, rare sightings of nature at work...

Property owner Irina Wilson Gage and Rodriguez advocate the unfathomable connection of the property to the environment. The villa has an unparalleled clarity that speaks with its “tailor-made” interior and a design in each room responding to orientation of the building, resulting in a soothing spatial experience.

So, whether visitors wish to return to nature and watch the great display the pelicans put on each evening or observe the fleets of fantastic yachts plying the waters, each room affords a dramatic view, accommodating a multitude of preferences.

With the fresh breeze throughout Steele Point, some have even described the villa as a simulation of being on a great ship as they overlook the azure blue waters and grand, flamboyant skies.

The incredible architecture of these properties truly commemorates the diversity of international design. It is no wonder that vacationers repeatedly choose the BVI as a place to enjoy their vacations.

Contact details:

Steele Point – (610) 453-4488 http://www.steelepoint.com/

Below: Arawak Interiors Design, St. Bernard’s Hill House, Golden Pavilion, Steele Point

VI Design – Photography by Dan O’Connor, Don Herbert, Arawak Interiors and respective villa management 

Erin Paviour-Smith

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