Doing it Pueblo Style
The thought of not having any air-conditioning is one that, paradoxically, might send shivers down the spine of anyone who has ever lived or built a house in Anguilla. This, however, is precisely what artist Lynne Bernbaum and Michel Faligant did when they decided to build their South-western-style house in Little Harbour.
A combination of outgrowing their rental home and rapidly rising property prices during the early part of the last decade spurred them into finding somewhere to build a home. Michel explains, “We looked at lots in the Shoal Bay area, but I’d worked there for about 9 years, and I was tired of looking at that horizon. I felt I needed to be able to look at St. Martin. A real estate friend suggested this lot, and it was the last one available in the area. Within two days, it was a done deal.”
Lynne’s brother Bruce, of Bernbaum-Magadini Architects in Dallas, was called upon to create a low-maintenance, contemporary home suited to Anguilla. The siblings had studied for a number of years in Arizona, where Lynne had trained as a landscape architect. “We are sensitive to that South-west architectural mind-set: the idea of heat gain, orientation and solar angles, which applies very well to Anguilla,” Bruce pointed out.
The spatial relationships evidence this thought process with the bedrooms in the east to receive the cooling winds and, conversely, the kitchen on the western side to allow for heat to be drawn out when the breeze flows through. The addition of a suspended ceiling simultaneously made electrical installation easier while reducing heat gain from the concrete roof.
“My main focus was getting the orientation right to get the view lines to St. Martin,” Bruce recalls, “that view was important to both Lynne and Michel.” Lynne adds, “We enjoy the view to St. Martin; with the different layers of elements…the colours are always changing.”
The floor plan called for a spacious entertainment area and, in deference to Lynne’s wishes, an even more capacious kitchen. Michel explains, “I wanted a small kitchen. In France, people gather around the table, but in America everyone hangs out in the kitchen. We had a bit of a debate, but ended up going with a bigger kitchen.”
To complement the larger kitchen, Michel installed a commercial stove. “You need that intense heat to cook meats and seal in the flavour. We can boil a pot of water in about 2 minutes.” Heat from the stove is drawn out through the natural breezeway. Lynne and Michel put considerable thought into building their house in a manner that would reduce their impact on the environment and help local businesses.
High-efficiency showers and dual flush toilets regulate water usage while power-sipping LED lights keep their electricity usage in check. “Except the stove, which we got in St. Martin, all our appliances were bought here. We spent less time, it’s good for the local economy and, in my opinion, it doesn’t cost more,” Michel explains.
Although the couple wanted a contemporary home, they instructed their builder to create unevenness in the wall finish to give it a rustic look. Michel admits that it was hard at first to convince the builders to do this. “They didn’t want to mess up their neat work, but by the end, they were whistling while they were doing it,” he says with a laugh.
“We liked the rough finish to the walls, the rounded corners,” Lynne adds, “sometimes the light hits it and it reveals little details that you never saw before.” In addition to the unusual wall finish, most window openings lack glass, and open arch ways replace solid doors. Saltillo tiles throughout the home maintain the rustic look and feel. On the outside, scrub and rocks were deliberately left in a mostly natural state. The home aptly reflects the couple’s approach to living.
After more than a year spent designing and planning, complete with a scale model built by Lynne, all three are happy with the end product. “Our biggest challenge was the clients,” Bruce chuckles. “It was difficult communicating as the architect, instead of little brother. They were happy with how it turned out, and it’s always good to have a happy client.”
Michel concludes, “Once we moved in, it just felt right; there were no surprises. Maintenance is a no-brainer. I think we checked all the boxes we wanted at the beginning: breeze, light, space. We really enjoy our house.”
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