Water, Water, Everywhere
“The Nantucket of the Caribbean”. That was how a friend of Villa Kishti’s owner, Suresh Bhalla, described Anguilla – drawing parallels to the luxurious island off the coast of Massachusetts. Intrigued, he, and his wife Nutan, took a short trip to the island that ended with them purchasing the Black Garden Bay property which the villa now occupies.
Having worked with him on a number of occasions dating back about 15 years, Suresh and Nutan again called on Toronto architect Frank Hamilton to provide design direction for their pied-a-tierre. “Your architect is only as good as your client,” Suresh remarked, “[Frank] knows our family quite well, so he understood the requirements we had for the property.” These requirements are easily summed up in three words: water, water, water.
The retired banker, who moved to Canada from India when he was 28, explained his obsession with water, “I want to be able to see the water when I’m having a shower, when I’m in the tub, anytime I’m in the bathroom – I want to be able to see the water.” To his credit, Frank was able to fulfil this request in all but the most utilitarian spaces.
“There’s a sense that it is a ship…that it’s floating in the water,” explains Frank, “I thought I’d reinforce that by putting controlled areas of water on the north side [pools and spa] as well as the south side [wading, reflecting pool].” Aptly, the name chosen for the villa was Kishti, an Urdu (a language derived from Arabic and Hindi) word that translates to mean a boat, or ark.
Frank attributes the very white, contemporary look of the villa to a fairly obscure conversation he had with Suresh at the time they first became acquainted. “When Suresh proposed his lake house in Ontario, he had me come over to his house and said ‘Frank, look around this house, look at these mouldings, the patterns, etc…what I want is NOT that!’” That relieved him of the burden of trying to imitate and allowed him to create a house that could maximize the experience of the surroundings.
To satisfy Suresh’s request for views of the water, Frank designed sloping roofs and massive glass openings to face the ocean in all the main spaces. He admits he marvelled at the level of concrete work achieved by local builders. “I felt limited working with concrete, but when I came to Anguilla, I saw all these roofs, made out of concrete, some of them were 45degrees!” The contractor, Audley Carty, set his mind at ease.
“After talking to Audley about it, I had no hesitation about letting the roofs just slope up there”, he explains. And slope they did. To truly let in the views, the main areas of the building have massive glass openings facing the ocean. The lot selection was fortuitous, as Frank explained, “Having the wedge-shaped site open up to the North allowed us to open up that side without having to worry about too much Sun getting in. So I thought maybe the roof could lift up and grab the view of the ocean and the sky”, Frank said.
Meant to accommodate the couple and their three adult sons, the 4-bed villa is split into three 2-storey suites on the west, with the master bedroom suite on the east with common living, dining and kitchen spaces in between. The master bedroom’s volume is pulled forward, protruding towards the sea, allowing for views past the western suites. In the evening, it faces the setting sun, something also of high value to Suresh.
Interior designers Cecconi-Simone, also from Toronto, joined the design team once the structure was completed. Initially brought on to provide kitchen design, they designed the interior, as well as provided some exterior design, including landscaping and lighting. “We tried to honour the forms that the architect had developed,” Anna Simone told us, “We worked very strongly with those forms and the lines and really wanted the house to be one with nature.”
For the interior, the Bhallas chose a relaxing, harmonious blend of contemporary items with an Asian theme and subtle earth tones – providing a warmth that is often absent from contemporary design. “Suresh and Nutan always joked about the ‘three B’s,’” Anna laughed, “beige, brown, and Bhallas.” The interior designers drew from that to put together “a palette and a movement within the home that would always lead the eye to the outside.”
That it did. The stone floors bleed seamlessly into the outdoor living areas, providing continuity. The Bhallas spend most of their time at the villa enjoying the outdoor spaces: morning yoga exercises for Nutan, breakfast in the mild breeze, and a glass of wine at sunset. An intricate system of tiered water features including fresh and saltwater swimming pools, hot tubs, and a waterfall combine to satisfy Suresh’s need to incorporate water in the design.
“I’m thrilled with the result,” Suresh concludes, “We come here as often as we can…[and] aggregate about 3-4 months per year, 2-3 weeks at a time, mostly during the winter.” He continued, “My favourite place,” he commented, “would be between the pool area and sitting in the living room watching the largest television screen in the world.”
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All images copyright Joy von Tiedemann.