It was the perfect chance to “get the band back together”—a common refrain among the parties involved in rebuilding and redesigning this Antigua holiday home. Having collaborated seamlessly on the clients’ Palm Beach primary residence a decade ago, it was only natural for Kemble Interiors, Smith & Moore Architects, and Nievera Williams to join forces again for this one-of-a-kind project. “I think it’s one of the smartest things an owner can do—involve the interior design team, the landscaping team, and the architectural team all at the beginning,” says Kemble Interiors owner and designer Mimi McMakin. “That way everyone knows the product they’re trying for, the look…. There’s a wonderful give and take.”
“They knew us very well, our taste, and the way we like to live,” the wife underscores. “So it was like a big family.” And family, as it turns out, informed the enterprise in more ways than one. Having annually rented various properties at a private club on the Caribbean island since the early 1990s, the clients, who have two children and five grandchildren, long had their eye on this four-acre hilltop plot. When it finally became available, they didn’t waste any time making it their own. While the original house, built in the 1950s, was in disrepair and needed to be razed, the clients were keen to amplify its original spirit by retaining the Caribbean-style architecture and indoor-outdoor livability.
McMakin, who worked alongside fellow Kemble Interiors decorators Cece Bowman and Mackenzie Hodgson, was excited to imbue the rooms with a colorful, whimsical approach, for which the firm is well regarded. The design was all about “a sense of relaxation, gathering spaces where they could all sit around and enjoy reading, board games, cards—very family orientated,” notes the lead design architect, Peter Papadopoulos of Smith & Moore, who worked with local architect-of-record Andrew Goodenough. “But then they also wanted spaces where the different members of the family could retreat.”
That intention led to the concept of six interconnected structures, all of which take advantage of the spectacular ocean views and surround a centrally sited great room, dining room, and kitchen. Entering that main entertaining space—after passing through a coral-stone-clad covered gate house and a small courtyard—one’s gaze is immediately drawn out toward the sea. Although competing with the view was never the goal, the architect and designers knew the interiors had to shine through scale, proportion, and appointments. Custom daybeds and standing wicker parasol lamps, a vintage chaise longue, and a punchy tropical Pierre Frey fabric fill the space without stifling it. Incidentally, the hand-painted murals of palm fronds and a bamboo pergola, by Tom D’Auria and Nick Cordes, which surround the vast doorway leading to the terrace, were the clients’ idea. “We’re so lucky they said that, because it is spectacular,” notes Bowman of the artful addition, which was repeated elsewhere—a fitting alternative to wallpaper in such a humid climate.
Likewise, the other rooms throughout the property are enlivened by the work of craftspeople. As a result, jolly bespoke touches abound: a seahorse chandelier in the dining room, seashell chair-cushion ties around a games table, custom-painted cabinet pulls here and there, a bronze pelican light fixture guarding the entrance, various canopy beds that look—and are, in fact—customized. “We are very fortunate to know artisans who are excited to make a one-off piece,” shares McMakin, “and clients who think this is great that someone is willing to take the time to make what they’re purchasing unique.”
Beyond the interior scheme, the home’s outdoor areas remain an undeniable draw. It’s something landscape architect Keith Williams of Nievera Williams approached with a knowing, sensitive hand. “I didn’t want the new gardens to be in contrast with the existing vegetation—there is something very simple and tranquil about the natural landscape on the island,” he says of his plan for the lush green spaces, which comprise native tree varieties such as cinnamon, loblolly, and calabash, alongside shrubs that include black willow, sugar apple, and sea grape. “The views are breathtaking, and we focused on creating areas that function indoor-outdoor and that took advantage of that.”
As involved as the clients were at every step of the three-year project, they were happy to trust that their cohesive team would keep their best interests top of mind. “I love the sense of playfulness and whimsy, though there were a few things I was questioning along the way,” confides the wife, mentioning the blue-and-white-bubble tiles in the kids’ cottage as an example. “But then when it was all put together, it was perfect. We’ve learned over the years just to put our faith in Mimi and know that, in the end, she’ll do the right thing.”