Breath of Fresh Air: Historic property is reimagined as a stylish and bright family home

By Benevides and Associates

When a house has statues of lions to greet you on arrival and secret doors into bedrooms, you know you’re in for a fun tour. But that’s not the only surprise in store when you arrive at Villa Mont Clare, an historic Grade 2 listed family home overlooking Harrington Sound in Smith’s.

Meticulously renovated by the team at Benevides, Villa Mont Clare was enhanced by the addition of a pool and pool house, the design of which is purposely in keeping with the traditional style of the main house. The entire project was managed by the owner, an artist, who had a very hands-on approach to the design. She actually crafted a lot of the woodwork herself, including shelving, panelling, doors and even a clock, in the newly restored workshop at the back of the property.

Part of the renovation included the construction of a pool and pool house which was designed to be a miniature version of the main house.

A miniature version of the main house, the pool house is mostly open onto the raised rectangular pool, which because it is north facing has a dark finish to match the colour of the sea beyond. A large fireplace and wooden ceiling beams give the pool house a cosy, homely feel and allow for it to be used regardless of the temperature.

The owners and their children lived in the home for six years before the renovation began, which gave them a lot of time to develop a clear vision of how they wanted their home to look.

The owners, a family with two children, had lived in the house for six years before the renovations started and that gave them a very clear vision of how they wanted their home to look. They wanted it to be opened up and bring the light in, and they wanted all the additions to be in keeping with the existing style of the home, particularly the pool house and, says the owner, in reference to architect David Benevides: “He got it completely right!”

On the outside, they restored the expansive front porch, redoing all the shutters and, where necessary, the windows, too. Statues, which belonged to the house but had been in storage, were brought back out and put on display in the extensive garden. Inside the house, everything new is either reclaimed or designed to look as if it has always been there. The existing wooden floors all had different surfaces, so they were stripped back down to the original and then added to with reclaimed wooden flooring from a house in Somerset. Made from old English pine, they display all the knots and nail marks consistent with high-quality antique flooring.

For other floors, the owner chose striking tile with a variety of different patterns and textures, depending on the room. Down a spiral wooden staircase, you land on a black and white patterned tile from Roca, brought in by Pembroke Tile & Stone. In the laundry room, it’s a softer, but no less interesting pattern that works well with the unique light taupe colour of the cabinets and woodwork, mixed by Karolina De Costa at Rowe Spurling Paint.

“Karolina is amazing with colour,” says the owner. “The kitchen, the laundry room, she came up with the colours. I didn’t want white. White is too harsh and too modern for an old house. I was trying to find something in between.” Unique to this laundry room is the marble sink. Designed by the owner it can be used for soaking dirty laundry or bathing dirty dogs. It will easily fit both and has the flexible hardware to suit these needs. “This is probably the finest laundry room on the island,” says Benevides.

Before the renovation, the house had seven bathrooms, many more than needed even for a busy family home, so the owners brought it down to three and a powder room. One of the bathrooms was turned into a library, the striking turquoise shelves of which can be seen through a “poke hole” as you walk up the stairs. If you don’t want to clamber through this way, you can walk through a large study into this bright but cosy space, and here lies the secret door, blended into the shelving, that leads through a small space like something out of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or Harry Potter. “We love secret doors. It was a challenge to do, but it was fun,” laughs the owner. The bathrooms that remained all had a complete makeover and like the rest of the house, each has its own personality. Porcelain bowl wash basins, wooden panelling, traditional bronze hardware, and farmhouse-style vanities that look like stand-alone furniture.

Our judges agree that the way the owner’s art and carpentry fit the spaces showed how carefully both parties had listened to each other, describing it as “a rare collaboration between designer and owner,” where the passion really shone through.

“It is full of character,” declare our judges. “Being an historical property, it’s hard to strike the balance between honouring history and being present,” but with details like the traditional hexagonal tile on the bathroom floor alongside frameless glass showers and the wooden panelling on some walls and light colourful wallpaper on others, they nailed it!