“I just knew that I would know it when I saw it,” says John Zillmer of his quest for a perfect getaway home for his rural Pennsylvania-based family. He and his wife, Carol, already had decided where they wanted their vacation hideaway. They’d had a love affair with St. John, the small and unspoiled U.S. Virgin Island for years, and often rented properties on the pristine island in order to pursue their collective family passion, diving.
“From the first time Carol and I saw St. John, we fell in love with the privacy,” he says. “St. John isn’t overrun with tourists,” he says of the island that is sixty percent national park. So, John and Carol were determined to find just the right home. And they did.
“Seacove” in Peter Bay seemed as if it was just waiting for the couple when they drove up the steep driveway to the house, almost hidden by fan palms and clusters of tumbling red and purple hibiscus and bougainvillea. John remembers pushing open the solid mahogany door with its brass handle and walking into the house for the first time. “You could see right through the living room out to the patio,” he says with a smile in his voice and an audible intake of breath as if reliving the moment in the retelling. “And the sweeping expanse of the blues of the water. There were at least twenty-five shades of blue. It was breathtaking!” He knew immediately that the house was special.
Seacove was constructed by a builder for himself so everything was well crafted and charming, from the stone and stucco walls to the polished coral floors. The Zillmers bought the house as is. There was a lot to love about the house. They loved the massive bamboo furniture with its cozy big pillows. The pops of tropical colors on a calming neutral palette were perfect. But it was (and still is) the expansive view of all of Cinnamon Bay and beyond to Maho Bay that captivated them.
There was, however, one big change the Zillmers did make, John says. With four children, John and Carol knew the one thing they absolutely needed was a media room so they converted the garage into a family gathering place with bamboo floors, handcrafted cabinetry and state-of-the-art technology. It is, says John, the perfect space for the family to congregate to enjoy movies and music.
They also personalized the home with art specifically chosen for villa. For the Zillmers no home is complete without art. They are collectors, John says and each of their three homes displays art that reflects its particular area. For their Pennsylvania home in Amish country, they have collected paintings with historic farming subjects and motifs. Their ski home in Montana, John explains, has Native American and old western themed works by artists such as Robert Addison, a twentieth century painter whose fascination with light and shadow and American landscape made him one of the last century’s most lauded Realists. For Seacove, John and Carol chose the bronze sculptures of dolphins and turtles and the work of Jonna White whose embossed color etchings feature the tropics and sea life.
When John and Carol, both diving fanatics, aren’t exploring the underwater world of St. John or sitting on lounge chairs on their deck gazing out at the sea, they might be hiking on one of St. John’s many trails or settling in at one of their favorite nearby restaurants. Zozo’s, a fine dining restaurant on top of an eighteenth century sugar mill with panoramic ocean views and sunsets is, John says, “The best on the island.” Another more casual go-to restaurant for the Zillmer family is The Lime Inn. “Great seafood and even greater key lime pie,” John says laughing.
With all that ocean to explore and all that daydreaming to do, one would think John and Carol would pull up stakes in the snowy north and run away to their island paradise. John sighs when asked how much time he spends at Seacove. “No matter how much time we are there, it just is never nearly enough.”
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