Bird of Paradise

The Bird and the Breeze


Calling Jon & Melody Dill “avid travellers” is akin to saying that Anguilla gets “a bit hot” in August. This couple are unabashed globetrotters who have visited such places as the Turks and Caicos, West Africa, Hawaii and Tahiti. On one of these many adventures they discovered Anguilla.

“It was about 1981,” Melody recalls. “Our friends had a client [who] had recently travelled to Anguilla, who raved about the ‘greatest beaches’. On that recommendation [we] chose Anguilla as our vacation spot that year.” They fell in love with the beaches and, two years later, bought a condo at Meads Bay. However, the desire to share their island getaway with friends and family necessitated larger accommodations, and the Dills started a property search that had some very specific parameters. “We wanted to be within walking distance of, but not right on, the beach because we had seen the damage [caused by] hurricanes, as well as the corrosive environment,” Melody explains. “Also, Jon wanted to see the lights of St. Martin and St. Barth’s at night, so we looked for a lot with that view.”

The Dills found the perfect lot and demolished the existing structure on it to build a uniquely-styled home that would suit their needs. They wanted the Bird of Paradise to be architecturally interesting as well as warm and liveable. On a trip to the Seychelles’ Frégate Island, they were intrigued by their resort’s design and contacted the architect, Guy Courtney of Wilson & Associates in Dallas, who agreed to do the project. “After designing resorts all over the world, he thought it would be fun to design a house, so we got lucky in that regard,” Melody said.

Drawing heavily on Asian influences, the architect created a relaxed, elegant home that aimed to be in harmony with its natural surroundings. The villa was conceived in the manner of a Balinese compound: distinct pavilions connected by a series of gardens, pools and outdoor living spaces all planned around a wind-protected courtyard. The living room pavilion, which also houses the kitchen and dining room, stands as the focal point and draws the eye across the courtyard on entry.

The sleeping areas are contained in smaller pavilions flanking the living spaces. The courtyard features group seating around an outdoor fireplace and a large barbeque grill. An Ipe (Brazilian hardwood) bridge across a very unique, lagoon-style swimming pool links the master bedroom pavilion, which has its own private plunge pool, to the courtyard. The other sleeping pavilion, just past the outdoor fireplace, houses a bedroom with office at the upper level and a smaller bedroom suite below.

Such discrete buildings have smaller interior volumes that are easier to keep cool. This, coupled with careful orientation on the site to maximise the natural breezes, means that only the bedroom pavilions need the option of air-conditioning.

As anyone who has built in Anguilla can attest, there are always challenges. Getting the materials they wanted proved to be a problem. The interior finishes and furnishings were designed with Eastern influences. With the exception of stone and concrete blocks, the couple and their team imported everything. The doors and windows are made of Purple Heart (mahagony) wood to create a contrast with the neutral hand-textured walls and tile floors. The vaulted ceilings are made of Ipe wood (cumaru). The bridge, exterior railings and gates also are made of Ipe wood, and the roof is composed of wallaba shingles. Unsurprisingly, material-sourcing hiccups ensued. In one particularly bizarre example, a scam artist took payment from the couple’s contractor for Guyanese timber but never delivered. After a few months, they called it a loss, and sourced the timber elsewhere.

Spending a lot of time to ensure that each space is comfortable and functions the way it was designed has left Melody with a hard time deciding on which space is her favourite. “I can’t pick one, but I would say I really love my tub in the master suite. It has windows looking [onto] a private garden. I love the late afternoon sun before getting ready for dinner, taking a soak in that tub and looking out in the garden at the hummingbirds.” She adds, “We’ve also created hideaways at the Bird that I love. Under a grove of palm trees we have a bale, as it’s called in Indonesia, which is an open hut with a big square daybed with mattress and pillows. It’s great to go there and read a book.”

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  1. Beautiful project and Wilson & Associates is known worldwide for some of the best hotel designs. Who was the contractor on the project? As the article says well, it is very difficult to build in the Caribbean and having reliable experienced suppliers, particularly in the luxury architectural products is key to a good experience. We have worked with clients throughout the islands on similar projects since 1985 and have heard so many sad stories of stolen deposits by unreputable people. I’m glad they were able to carry it off in the end.

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