Caribbean chic interior design helps create a sense of place, especially when designing a very modern loft style penthouse in the Caribbean.
As any Caribbean interior designer or Caribbean home owner for that matter would know, there’s a lot to consider when designing a luxury vacation home in the Caribbean, especially when it’s also going to be used as a holiday rental.
Having lived in the Caribbean for nearly a decade spanning across three decades, my love for the islands goes beyond the beautiful beaches and sunny weather. It’s about the music, the people and their energy, as well as the Caribbean lifestyle in general. I truly believe that life’s better in flip flops 😉
So, when I received an email from a real estate agent in Saint Martin about designing a swoonworthy ocean front penthouse in Cupecoy, Sint Maarten, I was jumping up and down with excitement. Before I knew it, images of Caribbean chic interior design conjured up in my mind.
This full-service interior design project turned out to be like no other.
Not only because of the scope of the project and the challenges that come with furnishing a home in the Caribbean, but also because half-way into the project the world was turned on its head by you know what (hint: there’s a Mexican beer with the same name).
The Caribbean lifestyle isn’t just white sand beaches and cocktails with little umbrellas.
Thanks to my experience of living and working in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and the British Virgin Islands and having done interior design work in the latter, I’m familiar with the usual challenges of designing a home in the Caribbean.
FURNISHING A HOME IN THE CARIBBEAN
Due to the limited choice of contemporary furniture and home décor in the Caribbean, everything needs to be sourced from the USA and shipped to the islands. This adds a tremendous amount of administrative and logistical workload to an interior design projects.
Having said this, there are an increasing number of contemporary furniture stores in places like Barbados and the French side of Saint Martin for example. I actually found a couple of chairs, poufs and deco elements on island, but couldn’t imagine furnishing an entire home like this. There simply isn’t enough variety and of course I wouldn’t want the home to end up looking like everyone else’s.
However, sourcing isn’t the only challenge when working on a Caribbean renovation or Caribbean interior design project. Just like anywhere in the world, finding competent and reliable trades can be very difficult. Now add a healthy dose of island time to the mix and you’ll definitely need yourself a white sandy beach with one of those cocktails with little umbrellas in hand…
Interior Design Project Description
DUPLEX OCEANFRONT PENTHOUSE
The penthouse is situated at The Cliff Cupecoy in Sint Maarten, on the Dutch side of the island. The Cliff is a luxury condominium complex and a popular St Maarten vacation home rental. It sits right above Cupecoy Beach and offers splendid views across the ocean.
My clients’ oceanfront condo is a duplex penthouse located on the 7th and 8th floor of the building with views of Cupecoy Beach, Mullet Bay Beach, the golf course, the hills and lagoons of Saint Martin and the island of Saba in the distance. The penthouse boasts 538m2 indoor and 93m2 outdoor space.
When I got involved in the project, the building of the Cliff, like so many others in St. Martin, was still undergoing post hurricane Irma renovations.
This means I got to work from an almost clean slate with the exception of the flooring, the bathrooms and the kitchen. The beige marble flooring had remained intact and the bathrooms, although not of the latest standard, only needed some plumbing work and a few cosmetic touch ups to get them up and running. The kitchen on the other hand, had been badly damaged by the hurricane and needed to be replaced.
However, the design of the kitchen had already been confirmed a few months before I started working on the project. As a result, I had to take the flooring and the kitchen design, in particular the kitchen cabinet colour, into consideration when designing the dining and living room areas.
At first glance, the contemporary kitchen is more suited to an urban loft in New York city rather than a Caribbean vacation home.
Greyed oak kitchen cabinets and glossy black glass cabinet fronts would not have been my first choice for a relatively small kitchen when compared to the rest of the penthouse. Admittedly a Caribbean style kitchen décor wouldn’t have worked either in this modern penthouse, yet I initially really struggled with the idea of a black kitchen. However, I knew I had to find a way to tie in the black, in order to create an overall cohesive design.
My clients are a family of four with two young adult kids and they live in Minnesota, USA. They had been vacationing in Sint Maarten for many years and they always dreamt of purchasing a second home on their favourite Caribbean island. They were looking for a place that could accommodate their family and friends, but also serve as an investment property to be put on St. Maarten vacation home rental market.
There are many vacation homes for sale in St. Maarten and luxury vacation rentals are very common. The ocean front penthouse condo at the Cliff ticked all their boxes, because they had spent many happy family vacations there in the past and they loved the beauty and convenience of the location.
During the Discovery Call we found out that I once lived just a couple of miles away from their home, when I was an exchange student in high school! Coincidence or not, with this and our shared love for the Caribbean, we immediately connected.
Feeling a connection and having things in common is a great foundation for a successful interior design project.
Once the budget had been set and the design agreement was signed, we kicked off the project with my in-depth design questionnaire and a video conference call.
My clients wanted their dream condo to feel like a home away from home, while also catering to future vacation rental guests.
They were envisioning a sophisticated, yet relaxing and welcoming space featuring contemporary interior design with a tropical touch. In other words, modern Caribbean interior design that evokes a Sense of Place. They also wanted it to be personal enough to feel like home, yet neutral enough to make future guests feel comfortable. Additionally, the design needed to be functional and easy to maintain.
As with every interior design project, I initially ask a lot of questions to really get to know the client.
Although the penthouse isn’t the clients’ main residence and it also had to cater to visitors of various backgrounds, I wanted to personalise the space. Designing the space to suit their lifestyle and a few subtle design elements did the trick.
With demanding professional and social lives, my clients made it clear that they needed a turnkey solution.
This meant that it wasn’t just a full-service interior design project, where I handled everything from furniture, lighting and soft furnishing to art and décor, but I was also responsible for home textiles, bedding, cookware, kitchenware and household goods.
We agreed that once the design concept is approved, I could just run with it.
The clients were happy to work this way, because they didn’t have time to be involved in the details and they fully trusted my ability to design the Caribbean dream home they’ve always wanted.
Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to get my teeth into the project and turn my clients’ dreams into a reality.
Interior Design Solution
CARIBBEAN CHIC INTERIOR DESIGN CONCEPT
Taking into consideration the client brief, the geographical location and the climate, I opted for contemporary furniture, natural materials, an overall neutral colour scheme with some colour accents, some Caribbean Colonial interior design elements, Caribbean artwork and lots of Caribbean inspired décor to create a Caribbean chic vibe.
However, before diving into styles, colours and materials, I needed to determine the use of each of the 5 bedrooms and most importantly divide the massive living space into different zones.
Since my clients enjoy traveling as a group and also want to accommodate as many guests as possible when renting out the condo, I had to maximise the space of each bedroom by adding a sofa bed wherever possible.
The penthouse consists of 5 ensuite bedrooms, a home office, a powder room and very large indoor and outdoor living spaces.
Bedrooms, Bathrooms, Powder Room and Home Office
While we didn’t make any changes to any of the ensuite bathrooms, other than towels and bathroom accessories, I did redesign the powder room on the first level. Considering it had orange walls and bulky dark brown cabinets, it was screaming for a makeover.
To keep with the Caribbean chic theme, I designed a tropical inspired powder room.
I chose a vintage style tropical wallpaper, a round wooden mirror hung from a rope reminiscent of a sailing boat and some Caribbean artwork featuring tropical fish and palm trees to achieve the effect.
Although the bedrooms are very contemporary, I wanted to give them a distinct Caribbean flair.
Canopy beds being quintessentially Caribbean, I knew I wanted to incorporate at least one in the penthouse. I therefore chose a contemporary style walnut canopy bed for the main bedroom.
The other four guest rooms are designed in the same way featuring modern white furniture and a contemporary rattan bed. Depending on their size there’s a sofa bed, a wardrobe, a built-in cupboard or a walk-in closet, which also needed to be redesigned. The rooms with balconies also have a nice outdoor sitting area.
Just like in a small guest house, however, I wanted to slightly distinguish each room and decided to use colour accents to do so.
Hence the penthouse now features a green room, a blue room, a yellow room and a coral room and of course the main bedroom, which features walnut furniture and turquoise colour accents to match the Caribbean Sea.
Having a quiet area to check some emails or do some work while staying at the penthouse, seemed like a good idea even before WFH (working from home) became the norm.
The gallery above the floating stairs seemed like the perfect spot for a home office.
A walnut secretary desk combined with black rattan seating, some industrial style shelving and a picture gallery of tropical leaves create a somewhat vintage masculine feel with a tropical touch.
Indoor Living Areas
The downstairs indoor living area was divided into 5 zones:
- A dining area with a very large dining table that can accommodate up to 12 people.
- A formal living room, where one would welcome guests, enjoy a glass of wine over a conversation or just sit and read a book.
- A romantic lounge area featuring a round loveseat where one could relax and watch the planes land at Maho Beach in the distance.
- A casual living room featuring lots of comfy seating, an ultra large flat screen TV for people to watch movies or sports together and a serving cart, which is shared with the games area.
- A games area featuring a round table and a cabinet to store cards and board games. Not only do my clients love playing cards as a family, but it’s also a great feature for when the penthouse is rented out to small groups.
Outdoor Living Areas
The downstairs outdoor living area was divided into 4 zones:
- An outdoor dining area, which overlooks the recently built Fourteen Towers Mullet Bay, Mullet Bay Beach, the airport tower, the entire Cupecoy area and all the way into the hills of French Saint Martin.
- An outdoor lounge area with a comfortable outdoor sofa and armchairs providing you a great place for a social gathering with 180 degrees ocean views, where you get to enjoy the sunrise and the sunset.
- A relax area with a couple of sun loungers to soak up some vitamin D, take in the ocean views and watch the cruise ships and yachts go by.
- An outdoor sitting area with a couple of armchairs to just relax and read a book, enjoy your morning coffee or a Caribbean cocktail watching the sunset.
INTERIOR STYLE, COLOURS AND MATERIALS
Decorating Style – Caribbean Chic
Timeless furniture and contemporary tropical décor can be found throughout the entire penthouse. The style of furniture used in the condo is of casual elegance, creating a welcoming ambiance and providing comfort.
As a vegan interior designer I’m a huge fan of natural materials in general, but in a tropical climate, where there’s lots of humidity and salt in the air, it is crucial to use materials that can withstand the elements over time.
Natural materials such as wood and linen give a space a somewhat earthy feel that oozes relaxation.
Additionally, I’m a true believer that when surrounded by so much natural beauty and such breathtaking views, interiors should complement, not compete with the beauty that surrounds them.
As a compassionate interior designer (although I was vegetarian, not yet vegan at the time of this project), I was very conscious about sourcing cruelty-free, ethical and sustainable materials wherever possible.
I paid close attention to using certified woods (e.g. FSC) and fabrics (e.g. GOTS) as well as other natural materials, such as rattan, natural fabrics made from linen and organic cotton and bedding made from bamboo. There is no leather and there are no down feathers used anywhere in the space. Not only are these materials more sustainable, they also create a healthier home environment.
DÉCOR AND ARTWORK
Decor and artwork play a vital role in such a large space.
In fact, it’s mostly the decorative items, such as the cushions and the artwork that create that unmistakable Caribbean chic vibe.
Although I wanted to maintain a somewhat minimalist feel, it is important to strike the right balance when it comes to home accessories especially when decorating large spaces. When there’s too little it will inevitably look lost and too much, well, is too much.
Decorative elements are a great way to personalise a space in subtle ways.
For example, you’ll find giraffes on a cushion and on the bookshelf in the home office, because the husband is crazy about those gentle giants. The wife’s passion for high fashion and glamour is incorporated in some of the artwork and with coffee table books of Versace and the likes.
CURTAINS AND BLINDS
Curtains are to an interior what lipstick is to make-up. In this case, the curtains and blinds weren’t just for decoration, however, but they also serve to protect from sunlight.
All curtains had to be custom made.
The loose curtains are mostly made from linen and it is very relaxing to watch them dance in the ocean breeze. The image itself conjures a sense of peace; don’t you think?
Much like in a luxury hotel, the bedrooms were fitted out with black out blinds and black out curtains to provide that extra level of comfort.
BEDDING, TOWELS, HOME TEXTILES, KITCHENWARE, COOKWARE, HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES AND HOUSEHOLD GOODS
Turnkey interior design projects include the purchase of any and everything one may need in a home or vacation home. There’s a lot to consider when fitting out a vacation home from scratch, especially if the home is to be rented out as a vacation rental to discerning guests who have certain expectations when renting a luxury condo.
Working from a very extensive checklist for vacation rentals that I’ve created; I make sure these expectations are met.
This list includes everything from cookware, dishes and cutlery to different types of glasses, shakers and bottle opener as well as household appliances.
I made sure that everything down to the very last detail was in line with the overall Caribbean chic interior design concept.
When I first spoke to the clients, they were planning on staying at the condo 2 – 3 times per year. Since their penthouse, which they lovingly named ‘Dreams Come True’, has been completed, they’ve been staying at their Caribbean home at least 3 – 5 times per year!
Having had the opportunity to stay there myself for several nights during the photoshoot, I must say: Who can blame them?
Here’s what my clients said about working with me on their Caribbean dream home:
“When we purchased a vacation home in the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten (Saint Martin), we needed a full-service interior designer to help us furnish it. Global Inspirations Design delivered in every aspect.
The key for us was to find… READ THE FULL TESTIMONIAL.
Despite the many hurdles we had to overcome, this interior design project wasn’t just a dream come true for my clients, but also for me.
When designing vacation homes in the Caribbean, I not only get to spend time in my favourite part of the world, but I get to use my expertise in interior design as well as my experience of working in the luxury hospitality industry.
I hope you enjoyed learning more about the design process of this Caribbean chic ocean front penthouse in Saint Martin.
Do you need help designing your vacation home in the Caribbean (or elsewhere)? If yes, then let’s have a chat!
Allow me to do what I do best so that you have the time to do what you do best and love the most.
Transform your space, transform your life!
P.S. For more images of the penthouse you can visit the project page and should you be interested in spending your next Caribbean vacation at penthouse #dreamscometruesxm then take a look at the luxury amenities The Cliff has got to offer and get in touch with Jennifer’s Vacation Rentals to book your stay.
Photography: Philippe Funkel, Saint Martin | Mark Martelly, Sint Maarten