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Indigo House

Indigo House
On the Beach in Cane Garden Bay

by Traci O'Dea

In the November issue of Property Guide, I reviewed a home in my neighbourhood of Cane Garden Bay that I’d never seen before because it was tucked away on Cannon Point. For this month’s feature, though, I had the opportunity to spend some time exploring a house that I’ve passed almost every day on my morning walk or swim in Cane Garden Bay.    

Indigo House, located Cane Garden Bay beach, has a history that begins with James Havard—an American artist who is one of the pioneers of the Abstract Illusionism movement. In the book James Havard, Julie Sasse refers to the artist escaping his cold New York studio “by paying visits to the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands…eventually purchasing his own piece of land and building a home there.” The book then mentions paintings’ titles from that period which “allude to the islands, such as BVI (1973) and Tortola (1973).” The artist had the house built in 1977 by BVI architect Alan Smith.
Smith Arneborg Architects are known in the BVI for incorporating the Caribbean vernacular into their contemporary projects. Their most recognizable commercial project is probably Soper’s Hole Wharf—where white wooden balconies complement bright Caribbean exteriors. With its cobalt blue shutters and doors and red tin roof, Indigo House fits right in with the firm’s aesthetic. I spoke with architect Alan Smith who said that his firm tries “to reflect the Caribbean rather than Tuscany or sunny Spain.” He pointed out Indigo House’s walled courtyard area, something he cited as a signature of Caribbean urban living which allows guests to “retire and escape the fact that it’s in a very public place.” He added that the internal floor being two feet above road level and even higher above beach level ensured additional privacy. “We were aware that we were right on the high-water mark, so we built a very, very solid wall that goes down very deep,” he said. The beach wall and foundations have lasted thirty-three years, so the structure is definitely sturdy.

Just over the beach wall, the Saltillo-tiled patio wraps around the house. A wooden deck extends off the patio, over the sand, offering the perfect spot for watching the famous Cane Garden Bay sunsets. Two sets of double doors open to the living room—a bright, colourful space decorated in the kaleidoscopic Caribbean style. A spiral staircase leads up to the second floor which houses the master bedroom and bathroom. Both rooms host oversized windows that open to the sea. Back downstairs, a fully equipped kitchen features custom-built, solid wood cabinets and tiled countertops. Off the kitchen and living room, the courtyard provides a large dining and entertaining area amongst upside-down hibiscus, young almond trees and palms. The spacious second bedroom and bathroom can be accessed from the courtyard. A third room, which originally served as James Havard’s studio but could be used as an office, storage or third bedroom, sits farthest from the beach, with access off the gallery entrance that leads to the stone drive.
Aside from the structure itself, Indigo House boasts one thing that most other BVI properties cannot—it sits directly on the beach at Cane Garden Bay. Not “steps to the beach” or “a short walk to the beach” or “beach access.” You couldn’t get any closer to the sea unless you were on a boat. As I sat on the wooden deck, beneath the shade of the almond trees, listening to the sound of the ankle-high waves, a translucent crab peeked out of its hole, ventured a few feet on the sand then retreated to its subterranean home. Dozens of pelicans floated on the water while others dove to catch their prey. Between them, tarpons flashed their triangular dorsal fins. The aforementioned almond trees provide shade and privacy, along with one of the tallest coconut palm trees in Cane Garden Bay, a stand of sandbox trees and a purple bougainvillea vine, so even though the house is on the beach, it remains cool and comfortable. Current owner Valerie Rhymer credits the shady spaces to her husband Kareem’s preference of letting plants and trees grow wild.

In addition to its ideal location on the beach, there’s the Cane Garden Bay factor. The seaside village is like no other on the Islands. Yacht Shots BVI photographer Brynley Rathbun was late to the shoot because she had to “stop and give a hug” to a visiting friend she hadn’t seen in years. The Dove’s chef Travis Phillips strolled along the beach while we were shooting the sunset. On the way home, I paused to say hi to two ladies who were walking the Bay and shook hands with one of my neighbours hanging out by Big Banana Paradise Club.
Indigo House is a home on the beach of Cane Garden Bay that initially offered inspiration to artist James Havard and continues to be inspiring. Guests of Indigo House can sip cocktails on the sunny sand or in the shade of the many flowering trees or at any of the nearby bars and restaurants. They can relax or socialize in the courtyard while listening to the percussion of the waves.

For more information, contact Val Rhymer at (284) 495-9649 or visit www.indigohouse.org.


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