Singing The Bleus
For John and Val Barker, the completion of Le Bleu marks the culmination of a decade and a half of development on Little Harbour. Starting with Turquoise over 15 years ago, since sold, the couple also built the next-door Indigo Villa a few years later. In many ways, it’s a move away from the traditional ideas that shaped the previous two. Le Bleu takes a bolder shape.
“Val was inspired by the villas at Round Hill in Jamaica,” John explains. The wide overhangs of the shingled roofs give credence to that inspiration.
The couple, who split their time between UK and Anguilla, built the house with family in mind. “We have a big family,” John points out, “Four kids and sixteen grandkids.”
The project wasn’t straightforward: the couple found an architect, hired him, and then binned his designs. “It was just difficult to get exactly what we wanted,” John said. Frustrated, John decided to bring their thoughts to graph paper himself.
“I’d never done anything like this before,” he explained, “but there’s never a reason to say ‘can’t do’.”
His previous, hands-on work as a design engineer for sign and retail displays allowed him to “see parts coming together in my mind.”
With the sketches complete, he turned to Ian “Sugar George” Edwards for technical input. “We designed it, but ‘Sugar’ finessed it,” John said.
This kick-started a relationship that continues today. “I still call them Mom and Pops, because they are like family to me,” Sugar George said.
It was a frenzied time to build in Anguilla, which raised different issues. “We built during a time of construction boom on the island, so finding employee talent was tough. I also had to spearhead the construction of two other large homes simultaneously. This presented challenges,” Sugar George explained.
Nevertheless, the group worked tirelessly, and in 2008, they finished. The result is a ten-bedroom estate spread out over 2 acres: a true marriage between indoors and out, with each strengthening the appeal of the other.
Just beyond the entry gates sits “Petit Le Bleu”, a pool house of sorts, with two spacious bedroom pavilions sandwiching two others: a full kitchen and a living area. The bedroom pavilions each open fully onto the pool deck, and each pavilion has the same open feel: natural materials soften the white concrete. Mahogany doors slide away to let in the light and air.
The ensuite baths blend from indoors to out: the shower and tubs, constructed of huge boulders hauled from India, are fully outdoors.
Just beyond the tennis court and gym lies the main house. To enter, traverse a reflecting pool using a bridge flanked by two palm trees. The path leads up to a set of welcoming-arm stairs that recall a traditional Bermuda cottage. At the top of the steps, massive multi-panel doors on either side open the lounge area and frame a picturesque view of St. Martin. John loves to hear the now-familiar “Wow!” from his guests each time they get the “big reveal”.
The lounge, dining and kitchen areas are flexible and can function as enclosed spaces or, using the multi-panel doors, become open passages to the pool deck. John learned from experience after building Turquoise, just a few hundred yards west along the beach: “We had the AC on all the time, and it just wasn’t pleasant,” he said. “Here, we don’t even have AC in the living areas. There’s no need.”
Interestingly, the spaces are separate – an unusual design decision in an age of open-plan layouts. Flanking these spaces are the “Sea” and “Sky” master bedrooms, as they’re called. These, too, rest behind large doors that slide away, reinforcing the connection between internal and external space.
Six bedrooms share the lower level with a home cinema and office. These bedrooms have chromatic monikers: Aquamarine, Azure, Cerulean, Aqua, Indigo & Sapphire. It’s safe to say the Barkers like blue.
The rooms are comfortably designed and finished, and the two men give Val credit. “[She] has an unusual gift in the area of interior design and décor, so her additional talent made the final product even more spectacular,” Sugar George pointed out.
The colours take a bright, refreshing palette, and each room is individually decorated to give it a distinct character. Crisp white walls and white sheets play off contrasting Mahogany doors, wooden windows, side tables and consoles. Each room has its own distinctive furniture pieces, from a glass-top table with a bleached tree-root base to Asian-inspired lamps of wood and stone.
Outside, the manicured lawns gently slope down to the ocean and reveal a surprise – a small beach. Just above, a thatched gazebo surrounded by low Anguilla stone walls is a rustic accompaniment to balance the more buttoned-down feel of the main house.
With stunning views of the ocean along with more opulent creature comforts, the home is truly a collaborative work of art. A still-thrilled John shares Sugar George’s delight with the outcome.
“It’s hard to say where I love the most… swimming in the reef, probably,” John said. “I really don’t get to enjoy it as much as I’d love to, as we’ve been busy trying to make it work.”
For Sugar George, satisfaction lies in the user experience. “At the end of the day, the success of the design is all about how you feel and your special experiences on the property.”