She had an idea to buy a small hotel. He needed to be near the sea so he could surf. And they both agreed that when the time came to start their family, they could not imagine leaving the house early in the morning and not seeing their child until six in the evening. So Steve and Danielle Walsh quit their steady L.A. jobs and the 9-5-er mentality and headed out to build a life of adventure and tranquility. They found it in the Costa Rican beach town, Santa Teresa.
Danielle’s idea of buying and rebranding an old hotel quickly faded, she says, when she first stepped foot on the densely forested land where the couple would later build the four-bedroom starkly modern, Casa Bri Bri. “I knew the second I walked onto the property that this was it,” she says. “The land was just so alive. A light went on!” That light went on for Steve too when he saw the view of jungle and sea, and most of all, he adds, the waves. There were banana, cashew and star fruit trees. Iguanas scurried underfoot and monkeys leapt and cackled in the treetops of the dense jungle canopy.
The location was perfect. The couple, champions of simplicity, decided they would build a high end, minimalist villa that would be an ideal rental for multi-generation families and groups of friends…and of course, for surfers. Danielle and Steve settled in a small, modest home on the beach nearby and mapped out their project. “The whole thing was very scary,” they said almost in unison. Stephen had worked construction jobs on and off since high school so he wasn’t unprepared for the challenge. He knew, however, that he needed professional help to translate the couple’s vision into a villa that would honor both the culture and the landscape. That meant finding a local architect and not resorting to the generic Balinese trope, which while seductively attractive, Steve says, was just not right for Costa Rica.
Enter Costa Rican architectural wunderkind Benjamin Garcia Saxe. He was acclaimed for his Containers of Hope concept that recycles shipping containers for low cost housing. But it was his design for the groundbreaking private home Casa Flotanta (The Floating House) that first caught Steve and Danielle’s eye. Casa Flotanta was a modular home raised so high on concrete pillars that it seems to hover above the verdant jungle floor below.
Steve and Danielle knew they too wanted an architecturally driven project and one that would be harmonious with and respectful of the environment. Working closely with Saxe, they strategically placed their villa on the hillside to maximize the views and the breezes. The poured concrete and steel framed minimalist home would rise two stories and offer views of both jungle and sea, and an open walled concept would make the definition of indoors and outdoors almost meaningless.
Inside the home the exposed black metal framework and stark white interior walls are juxtaposed with warm sustainable teak for floors and floating stairs. Indoor and outdoor furnishings, such as the almost 10-foot long live edge, slab table and hand crafted outdoor chairs, are fashioned of Guanacaste wood, Costa Rica’s national tree.
In addition to wanting the house to be as least intrusive in the landscape as possible, the couple was determined to be sensitive to the environment. To that end, the villa boasts a salt-water infinity pool eliminating the need for chemicals, uses a solar water heater and recycles the home’s entire output of gray water. The couple makes their own garden mulch and they never use pesticides in the gardens. Even the bathroom amenities are planet-friendly.
Both guests and owners agree that one of the major highlights of a Casa Bri Bri visit are the Costa Rican family-style meals prepared by the mother-daughter chef team, Giovanna and Yendry Morilla. For those guests who want to dine out in Santa Teresa, Steve suggests the nearby mom and pop eatery, Soda Tiquicia, for a rice, black bean and plantain breakfast. For dinner and sunset watching the couple recommends the casual dining and loungey feel of Rocamar Beach Bar just steps from Casa Bri Bri.
The villa’s beach, a short walk away from the house, has two aspects. On one side there is consistently good surf. On the other side of the beach the tides form natural pools full of starfish, tiny crabs and phosphorescent little blue fish. It is there you will often find the Walsh family playing with their baby Findlay. It is in those moments they realize they’ve made their dream – of living life untethered from the clock – come true. And, in the process, created a sanctuary for anyone who would just like to llevarla suave – take it easy.