Green thumb

Emulate, renovate and innovate—three concepts balled into one vision that guided Jim and Debbie Millis’ renovation of their property, The Love Shack in Little Harbour. The North Carolinian couple, who had been visiting Anguilla for well over 30 years, had been eyeing this particular property for almost as long.

“We would come here and look at this house,” says Jim. “We love that it’s close to The Valley, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that we have a nice view of St. Martin.” 2012 saw them acquire the property from previous owner Karen Greenway, who had built it 26 years ago. Construction started late that year with V Architecture’s Raoul Vanterpool at the helm. The couple loved the collaboration.

“I love when an architect can communicate well,” says Jim. Debbie agrees: “[Raoul doesn’t] just tell you how it should be, but works with you.” Together with contractor Edwin Edwards, the Millises began an extensive remodeling of the entire property, which was a single mostly wooden structure at the time. They took care to echo—“emulate”—the spirit of the original home, and essential features were refurbished or, more typically, rebuilt.

“We went to great lengths to preserve certain details,” says Raoul, “but we stripped most of it, to the frame.” The work was unpredictable. “It’s difcult to do renovations,” Raoul explains. “When you remove the envelope, you’re not sure what’s underneath.” “There’s also the fact that it wasn’t built very square 26 years ago,” Jim laughs. “Installing the kitchen took a lot of patience.”

Two years along, progress was less than stellar, and the team had its watershed moment. Gathering the entire crew together, the Millises let each team member to open up about problems.
“We started out by playing Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’,” Jim remembers. “It was interesting to listen to each of them. The interactions between everyone were great to watch. By the end, everyone had brought into the vision of the project.” With a renewed sense of purpose, the rest of the project was nished in March 2015.

The complete property now consists of the entirely rebuilt two-story house and a new one-bedroom pool house to the west. Both wear cedar shingles. To the north is the property’s pièce de résistance—a 50,000-gallon desalination plant and an adjacent 117-panel, ground-installed solar array, which provides all the home’s power and water. Sustainability was a major part of Jim and Debbie’s mindset, as back in their hometown of The Outer Banks—a wind-swept chain of islands just off the coast of North Carolina, they pioneered the adoption of wind turbines for generating power.

“The one thing Anguilla has a lot of is sun,” says Jim. “Though we don’t yet get credits for the excess electricity produced, we are able to offset the cost of having the desalination plant. Together, they make us very grid-light.” On the upper oor of the main building are the cozy living room, TV room, and the property’s only full kitchen, itself fairly compact—but what it lacks in size it makes up for in cleverness and practicality through innovative storage and utility spaces. The open porch, which previously connected the master bath to the bedroom, has been completely enclosed and tted with a wooden soaking tub as its focal point.

“The original idea was romantic,” Jim comments, “but it’s not so great if it’s rainy, windy or when there are mosquitos.” Outside, the existing porches facing St. Maarten were extended, and they became Jim’s favorite spaces. “I love having breakfast outside while I enjoy the view,” he says.

Below, a single-bedroom apartment was remodeled to accommodate an additional bedroom, sacricing the living room and reducing the existing kitchen to ostensibly a coffee-making station.

The all-new wooden guest house takes its design cues from the main building. The all-white bedroom suite with ensuite bath and kitchenette opens to a bright porch that overlooks the innity-edged lap pool and St. Martin beyond.

“We’re committed to sustainability, and love that this is such an amazing island. We want to keep that.” 

Cedar shakes clad the exterior walls, echoing the original design. Inside, Jim and Debbie decided to use T1-11 plywood siding, installed with the grooves running horizontally, as internal wall panels. White gloss paint conjures images of beach cottages along the U.S. northeast coastline.“We love it,” says Jim. “It’s the cheapest thing we could nd, but how we’ve used it, it’s great.”

The low-tech T1-11 panels conceal the home’s sophisticated networking and automation system, which allows the Millises to control and monitor their home from anywhere in the world. Combined with the energy and water system, this satises the nal tenet of their mission statement.

“My hope is to continue to bring innovation into the Love Shack,” says Jim, adding that they’re on the early waiting list for a pair of Elon Musk-owned Tesla Motors’ Powerwall units – 10 kW battery packs ideal for storing renewable energy. “If I install 5 of those, I won’t need a generator.”

“It was a blast to see it grow and come together,” Raoul says. And the couple’s final impressions? “Well, the project is finished and the architect and his clients are still friends,” laughs Debbie.

The owners have donated the waterfront portion of their property to the Anguilla National Trust, ensuring its future preservation, even If they decide to sell.
“We’re committed to sustainability,” Jim explains, “and love that this is such an amazing island. We want to keep that.

About the author