Style & Design

When Aubrey Carew, the principal designer of interior design firm, Designer’s Choice, and his senior staff designer, Stephen Jackman, first walked into this 3,000 square foot penthouse apartment at Coral Cove on Paynes Bay in Barbados, they found a stark white apartment. The stunning view of the Caribbean Sea just beyond, with myriad shades of blue and turquoise, made it seem all the more sterile.

“The space itself was static and cold, and this is often the consequence of a stark-white background,” says Carew. “Sometimes an all-white house can be a nightmare.”

The owners of the penthouse, who had travelled extensively and were tired of staying in hotels, had purchased the property because they wanted a residence of their own on the island. To help themmake it habitable, they chose Designers Choice because of the firm’s international as well as local experience.

Like Carew and Jackman, they didn’t much care for the all-white look either. Having agreed on that, they had only one specific requirement: they wanted a European-style residence with a touch of Caribbean flavour–crisp, clean and colourful.

“We were sent lots of photos of the client’s country home in North America, and fromthere we got a feel for what they liked and wanted,” says Jackman. “After that, they left us with a free hand to do our work.They had some input, but didn’t put too many restrictions on us.”

Back in their design studio, Carew and Jackman’s creative energy began to flow. 

 The outdoor ocean views were such an undeniable presence that it was clear it would have to be factored into any interior design scheme.

As a result, the team set about developing a palette of colours that would do just that. The vibrant exteriors have been brought inside: the blue and turquoise of the sea; the coral-creamof the beach; the greens and gold of the landscape; and the marvellous blend of the sunset.

Step one was to transform the stark white background into something softer and more neutral. Carew and Jackman chose a pale gray. Then they introduced other colours on the walls to complement the fabrics and rugs. A lighter tone was used on the ceilings.

“We call this process cooling it down and holding it together,” says Carew.

Carina Gold was chosen for the hallway, Madagascar Raffia (a shade of yellow) was themain colour in the living room, and a tone of avocado-green, called Bamboo Groove, was selected especially for the master bedroom.Wasaga Beach and Beach Party–both shades of sand –were used on the walls of the other two rooms.

The doors and frames are all made of a dark wood, and the designers decided to keep the custom-made furniture in the dark wood as well. However, they used exotic woods that would impart depth and texture and provoke a measure of curiosity.



These woods were carefully chosen: the exotic Wengé wood was selected for the doors of the sideboard as well as for the circular dining table, while a zebra wood was chosen for the desk in the master bedroom.

“We started by creating a frame, so to speak, keeping all the woodwork and furniture dark,” explains Carew. “Once that was in place, then we could represent in the colours from outside through our choice of fabrics and the paints for the walls.”

Most of the main furniture pieces–sofas, beds and headboards –were custom built in order to perfectly complement the space and design. They were produced according to the firm’s own designs, reflecting clean lines in order to capture the European feel.

Crisp, luxurious fabrics of linens and cottons were customized to include the colours represented in the overall design palette. The rugs in the living room and master bedroom were also designed and custom made.

“Fabrics can be changed over time to give a different feel to the penthouse,” says Carew.

In addition, the art throughout was carefully selected to pick up the colour scheme in each room. Contemporary and art deco pieces also complement the design of this penthouse.

Carew and Jackman are particularly pleased with their treatment of the master bedroom. The king-sized bed was custom-made, with an upholstered headboard made of ivory-coloured ostrich skin. Since the client also intended to use this room as an office, it was designed to accommodate an art deco desk. An “arty” acrylic chair was chosen to balance the mirrored side table on the opposite side of the bed.

“As guests will discover, no evening is alike at Coral Cove,” says Carew. “Every sunset is different, and we have tried–in a subtlemanner – to capture that sense of shifting colour as you move around this penthouse.”