Starting with a blank slate

Sugar Ridge AntiguaThe beauty of a self-built Sugar Ridge home

Every year, more and more people choose to bypass conventional house-hunting in favour of designing and creating their own home. Starting from scratch comes with a wealth of advantages: a bespoke design that meets your needs - rather than those of a developer - and the potential to reduce costs, are just two. When complete, most self-built homes are worth considerably more than the building expenses. And the extra effort poured into overseeing the project and making the crucial decisions that accompany each step of the process, is offset by an incredible sense of pride and achievement.

With its idyllic location, overlooking the charming township of Jolly Harbour and a magnificent expanse of aquamarine sea, the Sugar Ridge resort ticks most boxes in the ‘dream holiday home checklist’ on positioning alone. And with a plethora of luxurious amenities, the uber-chic complex on Antigua’s fashionable south-west coast has forged a firm status as one of the country’s most acclaimed vacation spots. Those who wish to extend the holiday indefinitely by purchasing one of its 54 fully-serviced home sites, all with stunning sea views, can buy a pre-designed property or draw up their own.

For one Pennsylvanian couple, the option to create without compromise and retain control over everything from the structure to the finishes was cardinal. Yves, 54, and Jenn, 48, first visited the island in 2012 to enjoy a few days’ relaxation after a strenuous sailing trip through the Grenadines. Antigua was an obvious choice for a sojourn thanks to its central location in the Caribbean archipelago making it easily accessible and convenient for island hopping. A search for accommodation started with a perusal of travel website TripAdvisor.

“Sugar Ridge is highly rated and was just what I was looking for as our group wanted to wind down and be pampered after our very active sail. It certainly lived up to its reviews,” Jenn recalls. “While we were there we noticed a building project above the resort. We made some inquiries and that’s when we found out about the Sugar Ridge housing development.” The couple arranged a tour of the first completed house, Villa Seaglass, with Luxury Locations’ Nadia Dyson. Jenn says: “We were stunned by the view and the house design.”

Sugar Ridge CaribbeanWhen the couple, who work in the retail industry and have two teenage children, learned the villa was available for rent, holiday plans for the upcoming year were set without hesitation.That next fateful vacation set the wheels in motion to planting some permanent roots. “During our stay at Seaglass we had meetings with Sugar Ridge developer Aidan McCauley, and Nadia,” Jenn continues. “Those meetings kickstarted the dream becoming a reality.”

Research into market prices around the region revealed Antigua to be excellent value for money. Work is now well underway on the couple’s three-bedroom single-storey villa, with pool and Jacuzzi, and detached one-bedroom guest cottage. Completion is due next spring. “There’s something to be said about starting with a blank slate. You end up with a house that reflects your personality, not your builder’s,” Jenn says. “The view from our new home is indescribable so the most important factor for us was how best to ‘bring the outside in’.”

Sugar Ridge’s specially made Italian sliding glass walls ensure not a millimetre of the spectacular sweeping vistas from its hillside vantage point is forfeited. Doors and windows will be thoughtfully placed to allow the gentle trade winds to flow through from all directions. The interior will be a vision of natural elements complemented by a beach-inspired palette, while rich tones in the furniture will lend tasteful splashes of colour. With a carte blanche to design their home free of restrictions, and professional assistance from Sugar Ridge’s development team every step of the way, the process to date has been largely headache-free.   

“The initial stress is the learning curve of building a home as a non-citizen. And you need to master patience and diligence. ‘The devil’s in the details’ is the quote to live by. But the final reward makes it all worth it,” Jenn says. “To anyone else looking to self-build, I would suggest talking to others who have done the same; their opinions and advice are invaluable. Ask this magic question: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were building your home? “Research in depth the entire building process whether you are an Antiguan citizen or not. Keep asking questions and getting answers from start to finish. Building a home in Antigua has the same intricate system of licences, fees, legalities and contracts as any other developed country.”  

Two years since their first auspicious trip to the island, Jenn and Yves are staunch advocates of the country’s unique qualities. “Antigua is breathtaking, welcoming and therapeutic,” Jenn says. “Most of all we love the views of the ocean, the weather, the beaches, the interesting topography and its lushness. I love the island’s tagline: one beach for every day of the year. The people are warm, friendly, quick to offer a helpful hand and generous in their information and advice. And the taxi rides are always exhilarating!” she continues with a laugh, “The drivers can dodge anything and still get you there safely.”

Sugar Ridge’s stylish boutique hotel is complemented by a high-tech gym, a luxuriant spa offering various avant-garde massages and treatments, a pool and vast sundeck against a verdant backdrop of emerald hills, and two restaurants including the esteemed fine dining establishment Carmichael’s. Once complete, the couple’s elegant new holiday home will be available for rent - as well as providing an exclusive retreat for their Stateside loved ones. “Our friends back home are very excited for us and are hoping to be on the ‘A’ list of initial invites to experience Antiguan island life.”

Jenn continues with a smile: “But our children still have no idea. We plan to pretend to rent a house for a family vacation. We’ll walk in the front door and I will have their names on two of the bedroom doors. The reaction should be priceless. “As for us, Antigua will give us what we don’t have in Pennsylvania. It will complete us.”

by Gemma Handy