When Melody and John Dill say that Anguilla has the best beaches in the world, they’re speaking from experience. The couple used to work for the US State Department, traveling all over the world with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. “Instead of flying home on a Friday night,” says Melody, “we’d use the weekend to take mini vacations in search of the perfect beach.”
The couple visited the Great Barrier Reef, Indonesia, West Africa and Mozambique, finding beautiful stretches of sand in every destination, but it was the pristine beaches of Anguilla that really captured their imagination. “For beaches that go on forever, West Africa was quite phenomenal,” says Melody, “but when it comes to having the creature comforts too, then Anguilla is pretty perfect.”
With its old world charm – there are no casinos and few resorts on the island – and an infrastructure that makes visiting easy – Anguilla became a firm favorite with the Dills. “There are fine restaurants here with great wine lists, but there’s also a wonderful ‘Jimmy Buffett’ culture with fun beach bars and local music,” says Melody. The island also uses the US dollar, which makes life easy for visitors. The couple first put down roots on the island with a two-bedroom condo. “As our son grew older and we wanted to share our Anguilla experiences with friends, and our son’s friends, we needed a larger home,” says Jon, “so we set about building a comfortable, island-life home.”
The couple spent almost two years searching every inch of the 30-square-mile island looking for the right spot to build the home that would become Bird of Paradise, and when they found it, they knew right away. “The view!” says Melody, “Oh my gosh, it took our breath away!” The location, on the east side, appealed too. “After 15 years on the west end of the island looking into the Atlantic, Jon was tired of looking into a black hole of darkness at night,” says Melody. “ He wanted to see the twinkling lights of St Barts and St Martin on the Caribbean Sea side of the island. And now we can see the whales migrating too!”
Overlooking the perfect crescent beach of Sandy Hill bay, Bird of Paradise is perfectly positioned for the cooling tradewinds, and perfectly private for its visitors. “The house is three minutes’ walk from the beach, and the land in front of us can’t be built on because it’s below sea level,” says Melody. This sense of seclusion extends to the layout of the house itself. Instead of a single master bedroom and several smaller bedrooms, the house was designed to give every visitor an equal taste of space and luxury. “The inside was designed so that each of the bedrooms would be a ‘master suite’ with great views, privacy and amenities,” says Jon. “We all love our families and friends,” adds Melody, “but it’s nice to be able to get away and sit on your own private veranda, or have a cup of coffee in the morning in your nightgown.”
Along with these private spaces, the home has many welcoming communal areas for family and friends to get together. For the design, Jon and Melody were inspired to create a home in the Balinese style by a hotel in the Seychelles that they saw in a magazine. “I just loved the design,” says Melody. “It had a lot of wood, it was romantic, it was inviting, and it had a casual elegance.” Not content with merely emulating the style, the Dills called up the resort to find out who had designed it, and then tracked down the architect. “We called the owner and were directed to Guy Courtney of architecture firm Wilson Associates. He had lived in South Africa and Asia building resorts, and we just got lucky that he was at a point in his life where he thought it would be fun to design a home instead of another hotel!” laughs Melody.
“We wanted to try and blend in with the environment, using the colors of nature, the greens, the browns, the colors of the sea”
The aim of the design was to create a seamless transition between the interior and exterior spaces, allowing the lush landscape that surrounds the property to become a part of the home. A meandering pool that bisects the house adds to the feeling of a tropical hideaway. “We wanted to try and blend in with the environment, using the colors of nature, the greens, the browns, the colors of the sea.” In this they have succeeded, indeed the outside walls are of the same golden hue as the island’s picture-perfect beaches.
Bird of Paradise also boasts an impressive collection of art and artefacts collected on the Dills’ travels. Most of the pieces are from Oceania – tribal necklaces from trips down the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea, recycled teak mirrors from Indonesia that the couple had made by local artisans – although there are also paintings by Caribbean artists including Roland Richardson, often called the ‘father of Caribbean Impressionism’. Visitors enjoy the art so much that Jon and Melody are thinking of putting together a book with more information about the collection.
And while the house is extremely impressive in its design and decoration, it’s also comfortable. “Bird of Paradise was built as a home, not as a resort or commercial property” says Melody, pointing out the overstuffed chairs in the living area, and outdoor fireplace with relaxed seating areas, “And people seem to feel that. It’s one of the things our guests say over again: ‘I just felt immediately at home’”.
To help their guests get into relaxation mode during their stay, Jon and Melody have created hidden spots throughout the property dedicated to doing nothing at all, from the hilltop deck with a hammock and a traditional Anguillan dominoes table, to the Indonesian day bed set in a grove of palm trees calling you for an afternoon nap. Or, you could just sit and drink in the dazzling view of the Caribbean sea. “One of my favorite pastimes is relaxing in the late afternoons on the veranda overlooking the sea and the islands, having a drink with friends or family,” says Jon.
“One of my favorite pastimes is relaxing in the late afternoons on the veranda overlooking the sea and the islands, having a drink with friends or family”
Having spent so much time on the island over the past 25 years, it’s not surprising that Jon and Melody are full of suggestions on how to spend your time on the island. “Anguilla is a lot more than beaches,” says Melody. “You can learn about the Arawak indians, or hunt for fossils, some of which are 40,000 years old.” Melody also recommends a trip to Dead Mans Cove, on Scrub Island, just off the coast. “Dead Man’s Cove is the last beach before the coast of Africa,” she says, “it’s a place only a couple of boatmen can take you to, and you can find tons of shells and even bottles with notes in them.” You can also harvest your own sea salt from the pools in the island’s interior for the ultimate natural souvenir. Of course, while exploring the island certainly has its charms, you may find the many attractions of Bird of Paradise just too good to leave behind, even for an hour.
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