Out on the rough-and-tumble north side of Grand Cayman Island in the Western Caribbean stands an uber modern vacation home that’s been designed and built to endure the test of time and hurricanes alike.
Perched on one of the island’s most sought-after shorelines, Camden House at Rum Point is the winner of an international competition as well as a successful collaboration between clients and architect, both hailing from the United Kingdom.
First, the competition: husband and wife clients Vidal Brewer and Lisa Munday drew up a detailed design brief for a vacation home and sent it off to three architects – one in Spain, one in America and one to Nicolas Tye, an award-winning and highly regarded designer of bespoke homes in England.
The clients wanted to make a bold statement and create an eye-catching architectural landmark. “Initially, we didn’t think Nic would be bold enough, but once he got started, he was,” Munday says. “When weighing whom to go with, it was apparent that he would be a very positive person to work with, and he took the design well beyond our expectations.”
Photos by Monika Wojikiewicz
Clean, angular lines create a bold design statement in this landmark home, and deliver panoramic beach and water views from its rooftop terrace and lower pool deck.
The architect did that in a number of ways. At the concept stage, he initiated a visit to the island, to the site and to local government officials for discussions about the building and its construction.
He had already developed a killer design for the chalk-white and very contemporary structure – one that not only complements the vibrant sand on the beach but that seems to grow straight up out of it. His determination and design won the day.
“We were lucky,” says Tye. “Because we had the drive to go out and see it, the client wanted us to take it up to construction, and they obviously loved it because it remains the same concept.”
The strikingly modern home is inspired not by the island’s traditional Colonial vernacular nor by the Miami modernism that’s taken hold there lately. Instead, his clients wanted a design that looked east – to Spain.
“We were influenced by Spanish architecture because we lived there before moving here,” Munday says. “We liked the very modern architecture there and we didn’t want to be constrained by what was here already.”
Photos courtesy of Nicolas Tye Architects and Real Life Magazine
She’s specifically referencing the beach houses that are essentially whitewashed rectangles near Palamós in northern Spain, about an hour north of Barcelona. “They’re simple,” she says. “There’s blue sky, blue sea and a white box – the architecture is quite bold.”
Tye designed Camden House by taking 25 percent of his architectural cues from the Spanish precedents his clients love and 75 percent from its site on the beach. The Caribbean weather, too, played an integral role.
“The key was siting it for hurricanes and storms related to the structure, and creating a storm surge break,” the architect says. “There’s a coral bank 200 meters away that creates shallow water and a still base that’s a protective mechanism.”
Tye also designed a stylish L-shaped swimming pool along the width of the building’s waterfront side, creating a concrete protective barrier as well as an inviting place to relax in the sun.
He added hurricane-rated windows to protect the home from flying coral debris in the event of a storm, and the ground floor is intentionally designed to be lost in a storm surge, while the upper level is saved. “It’s a sacrificial floor,” he says.
The almost 7,500-square-foot beach home relates to its sea view on the north with transparency, created by expansive floor-to-ceiling windows on every level; on the south, it’s angled to the street with no openings or glazing – an opaque gesture to prevent overheating.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF NICOLAS TYE ARCHITECTS AND REAL LIFE Magazine?
The home’s interiors take their design cues from the sleek exterior, with custom furnishings in a cool coastal palette of white, sand and blue; streamlined cabinets; and floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors that frame the sublime sea views.
Outside, landscaping is kept to a minimum, so that it doesn’t compete with the architecture. The four-bedroom, six-bath residence is perched on only .69 of an acre and just 15 feet above sea level.
Preferring a naturally sited beach house, Munday and Brewer eschewed hedges and tropical flowers in favor of a natural look, though the street-side landscape is a little more formal.
Oceanside, the area immediately in front of the house features a handful of palm
s trees. More indigenous plants and boulders line the banks of a ridge that slopes gently down to the beach.
“You don’t even notice the stairway until you walk out to it,” Munday says. “Then, from the beach, you can’t see much of the ground floor of the house because of the elevation.”
Perhaps the most interesting part of the clients’ architectural brief for the home is its ultimate destiny. It was not designed just to make a statement and become a Cayman landmark; it was also designed to sell.
PHOTOS BY MONIKA WOJIKIEWICZ
When the sun dips below the Caribbean Sea, Camden House becomes and alluring entertaining space for poolside sundowner cocktails, a relaxed dinner on the beach or a rooftop barbecue under the stars.
“It’s a commercial project – it’s on the market now,” says Munday, who works in finance and whose husband is a developer. “We came out to build a beach house and enjoy the lifestyle, and hopefully make a little money.”
It’s the first piece in their joint portfolio, says Tye, as the couple sought to create interest in themselves as a development team. “It was brave of them – and the market was not particularly buoyant – to create something so unique and special,” he adds.
And so they’ll sell it – it’s currently listed with Sotheby International Realty at $6.5 million – and head back to Great Britain. “We’ll use Nic for our next project in the U.K., a new building,” Munday says. “It’s very exciting.”
Their challenge, of course, will be to create a design that’s as bold and beautiful as Rum Point House.
Image Credits: Photo by Monika Wojtkiewicz.