Turning a run-down Bermuda stone building into a modern, attractive, accessible, multi-use, world-class medical facility, including full surgical suite to rival some of the best hospitals around the world, is not a project for the fainthearted.

Dr Ramon Arscott, who is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, and his wife, Christie Hunter Arscott, are certainly not fainthearted, so they turned to the inimitable Michele Smith, managing director and interior designer at OBMI, in order to make this ambitious project happen.

In spite of pandemic-related complexities, in the space of three years, this Bermuda stone house became offices, consulting rooms, a studio apartment, surgical space, retail area and reception room. Separately, through the use of attractive planting and permeable pavers, the outside of the building was transformed into a tranquil haven by OBMI’s landscape architect, Jennifer Davidson. What greets patients, clients and visitors on arrival, therefore, is not an intimidating hospital-like facility, but a warm, welcoming and stylish home atmosphere.

There have been very few, if any, projects of this exact nature in the history of Bermudian renovations, so how much did Smith have to learn to successfully complete this development? “Pretty much everything,” she laughs. She has experience designing doctors’ offices, but she had never done a surgical suite before. In addition to relying on Dr Arscott’s expertise, she turned to a number of local and international experts who did have the relevant medical facility experience, a process that turned her into a project manager as well as interior designer. “I had 10 to 12 consultants and vendors to deal with at any given time,” she says. “General contractor, engineers, medical consultants, gas, internal design consultants for the medical facility.”

While Smith had to research and source the international vendors, at the top of the project was the Arscott husband-and-wife team: He with his medical knowledge and vision and she with the design sense and vision for a patient-centred, boutique-style facility. The successful way in which all the teams worked together is what Smith is most proud of. “Every single person we had on board was the right person,” she says emphatically. “Donald’s knowledge of electrical equipment, Air Care separating the main house with the medical facility, the guys in Ireland who made the medical doors. Everybody’s expertise. I’m so proud of how it came together and the care and attention that everyone took to make it right.”

The whole building had to be gutted to a shell of Bermuda stone. The basement floor had to be excavated by two feet to create the necessary ceiling height for the surgical suite, and further excavation was needed for a staff and IT room around the side. All the interior floors were removed and replaced with new concrete slabs and, where necessary, walls were furred-out with non-paper products. “We’ve reinsulated the side of the building with foam to deter the heat gain inside as much as possible,” Smith explains. “We used non-mould paint on the back of the wall and we used a mould repellent paint before we even built out so it’s very, very clean.” All the electricals were put underground and there is a separate generator and air-conditioning system just for the surgical room, which has large medical operating lights anchored into the ceiling. This area is also a positive-pressure room as well as being an antimicrobial space. The medical flooring is vinyl with heat-welded seams and covered base boards, and Smith used ultra-white rock on the walls which is an antimicrobial wall finish. Next to the surgical suite is a negative pressure “dirty room” for cleaning the medical gear.

The layout of the various rooms on the ground floor has been carefully thought through, with a pre-operation area, patient bathroom, post-operation area, separate staff bathroom and doors that open at the touch of a button. While certain rooms had to look (and be!) sterile, that did not need to be the case throughout. To make the other areas more welcoming and warmer, Smith used natural-looking furnishings, fittings and fixtures. As well as being warm, metals such as brass, copper and bronze are also naturally antimicrobial. “We wanted a warm feeling, so stainless steel for the lower operating area but warm materials everywhere else—handrails, doorknobs and bathroom fittings,” she explains. Wooden furniture and fittings in the reception, retail areas and bathroom and the Bermuda cedar front door also create a warm, welcoming feel. And although vinyl flooring was used for hygiene purposes, the flooring on the upper levels has a “wood plank” appearance. Even in the sterile areas, Smith managed to create some warmth by using a tile backsplash.

Before the renovation, the reception area was a living room, and that calm feeling remains. The fireplace has been kept as a design feature, with wall lights on either side. Wooden ceiling beams and comfortable furniture help to make patients feel relaxed and “at home.” The top floor not only houses the Arscotts’ offices but also the studio apartment for visiting locums or occasions when Dr Arscott must work late. As well as a bedroom, a kitchen, bathroom and seating area have all been neatly squeezed into this efficient space.

Hunter Arscott, who is a leadership advisor and researcher specialising in gender and generational strategies, has her own, separate business. Her office has its own entrance for her clients, and her bright and refreshing workspace is an inspiring gallery of Bermudian artists and creations by local carpenters.

When reflecting on the amount of skill involved in the renovation of Homestead, our judges heap praise on Smith for the way she handled all the technical and medical aspects of the renovation, as well as her ability to manage such a diverse team of contractors and vendors.

“So much work went into that,” they say. “It was all about the project management and the technology and that’s impressive.”

Click here to see the rest of our 2022 winners representing the best in Bermuda’s architecture and interior design!