Next door to Bermuda’s very own jungle and overlooking Walsingham Bay sits a newly renovated home which not only blends in beautifully with its rocky surroundings but stands out for its distinctive, modern take on indoor-outdoor living.
The owners, who have two children, both grew up travelling and love being outdoors surrounded by nature. This is reflected in every aspect of their house. Every door, window, room and corridor has been designed with a view to the outside. The fixtures and features complement the natural surroundings, and every piece of furniture has a meaningful purpose.
In addition to working with Cooper Gardner’s principal architect, Jonathan Castro, and senior interior designer, Eimeir Johnston, the owners turned to Aurora Porter and Douglas McClellan of US-based interior design company RAD Studio to achieve their goal. Porter had previously lived in Bermuda so knew the environment well. Together with the owners, the team created a house with a unique aesthetic that is colourful, bold and contemporary. And while Castro has brought elements of traditional Bermudian architecture into the structure of the house, it is the distinctive and contemporary aesthetic created by RAD that greets you on arrival.
To reach the front door, you walk through a courtyard created from circular-patterned breeze block, which allows light and interesting shadows in and gives those enjoying the space, views out. At the same time, it is a private area that feels very much a part of the house. The Bermuda equivalent to a UK-style conservatory. The courtyard is softened by a mixture of greenery, rock and a solid wooden trellis from which hang strikingly coloured swing chairs. All along the house side of the courtyard are floor-to-ceiling glass windows, one of which is actually a frameless pivot front door. “We wanted to create a very subtle, very serene aesthetic here, hence the pivot door which is very unusual for Bermuda,” explains Castro. “It’s a sheltered area but the AstroTurf means it’s maintenance free.”
As you approach the front door, you can see through to the ocean on the far side, and the corridors and entryways have been designed not just to connect the whole house but to draw you into the living areas, which take you straight through to the outside via large picture windows and sliding doors. In spite of the cleverly designed flow, however, you need to journey through the house slowly, otherwise you miss the artistic contemporary creation that is the kitchen, dining and living area, which is open-plan, bright and fascinating.
The downside of open-plan kitchen, dining and living areas is not just kitchen clutter but having your back to your family and guests when preparing meals. This is not the case here. Made by Italian company Boffi, the nuts and bolts of this custom kitchen are hidden behind doors which fold back and away. The cooking area is in the centre, with a charcoal filter extractor that pops up and can be put away when not in use. If the washing-up hasn’t been done by the time guests arrive, you simply close the doors and worry about it later…or the next morning!
Having spaces that were “hardworking and cosy” was a priority for the owner and everywhere is therefore flexible. The kitchen is also a dining room. It’s a place for the children to do their homework and when they are done, the chairs swivel around and a television can be found hiding behind a wall unit. “I didn’t want anything in the house that didn’t have an everyday reason to be there,” says the owner. “Even the blue sofa in the formal lounge—we chose a sofa that if you had friends over and having a few drinks, you could sit on the back of the sofa. We wanted all the furniture to work hard.” Separating the kitchen area from the formal lounge is a double-sided, wide, modern fireplace above a built-in bench. The large outside patio at the back has Armor Screen hurricane blinds so it can be enjoyed whatever the weather. The downstairs room can be a games and television hub for the children, an office or, because it has its own bathroom, efficiency-style kitchen and pull-out sofa, it can double as a guest bedroom as well.
The natural surroundings of Walsingham Rock are a nature-lover’s dream but when the owners bought the property it was littered with invasive Mexican pepper and the natural Walsingham rock was hidden. The invasive species have now been removed and replaced with endemic and native plants and trees. The rock has been unearthed and is now a prominent feature around the outside of the house, even giving it its new name. Wooden decking was added close to the pool area and new tiles change the water colour to that of the cove beyond.
While the interior of the house has been connected to the outdoors through the huge windows and frameless doors, anyone expecting the usual coastal colours, will get a sensational surprise. The owners love bright colours and they pop up everywhere, but with care and consideration. “The grey was our canvas, the grey-blue and green of the surrounds, then we started throwing in purple, even yellow,” laughs the owner. Around the swimming pool, in the courtyard and throughout the house is a grey, concrete-looking tile which is a nod to the volcanic rock outside and, continues the owner, is “forgiving for a family home. It’s bomb proof!”
“Colour grew from a minimal palette of materials,” explains McClellan. “Flooring, walls, all chosen to pull in the nature around the site. Tile is natural in its feeling and is contrasted with the warmth of wood throughout the home.
“Upon passing through the expanse of glass at the front of the house, you immediately catch the view of the water and the landscape beyond. This is framed in a faceted passageway of walnut, again bringing in a contrast of materials and textures.” Then came the colours. Subdued green on a wall, but a vibrant emerald in some of the furniture. Purple chairs indoors and out with pops of yellow furniture thrown in, too. All the colours are cleverly connected through the house.
As well as creative colours, Walsingham Rock is also full of fabulous fixtures and fittings, especially the lighting and bathrooms. An upstairs powder room has circular wall lights above a cylindrical wash basin. The master bathroom tiling, while natural in appearance, is full of interesting textures, and light floods in through two huge, deep skylights. A chandelier going down the stairs complements the trees on the other side of a long window—each little hand-formed ceramicpendant is the shape of a calla lily. In the kitchen, minimaltrack heads have been installed in the ceiling which means the cooking areas can be highlighted, but this can be adjusted as needed. The outdoor lighting is all set in the ground creating a very different look at night. “All the lighting is soft and warm,” says the owner. “Some focuses on lighting up the rock and circular breeze block. I love it lit up at night, it looks magical.”
Travis Lewis was the contractor and his father, Frank, the foreman, and the owner can’t speak highly enough about their work. Not only are they a “wealth of knowledge,” she says, but they were also prepared to take on “a more contemporary approach.” The frameless doors, bathroom skylights, drainage and courtyard tiles added some challenges, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome. “We had a lot of fun, a lot of laughs,” she adds.
Walsingham Rock is Castro’s first project since taking over as principal at Cooper Gardner and the judges enjoy the way he managed to combine traditional Bermudian architecture with the more contemporary features, especially the “simple book ends,” “horizontal design” and “really deep porch.” They also love the unique nature of the kitchen, the wonderful flow throughout the house, the “interesting façade” created by the front courtyard, and generally praise all the amazing detail in the interior design work.
While the owner loves every aspect of her new home, the views are her clear favourite. “Through every single wall is a view. Every time I look out, I can see what’s going on and there’s something happening in nature,” she says. “It’s also about celebrating Bermuda’s beauty. We’ve been hiding from hurricanes and building our houses to protect us from them, but technology has moved on. We have glass that can protect us now.”