Island Exotica

Inspired by their adventures, a couple from England designed a dramatic Caribbean getaway

Island Exotica
Photo: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn
Just two months before their wedding, Jennifer Bogdany and Tim Johnston were smitten—with the British Virgin Islands. Determined to find a tropical home away from home, the couple set their sights on Virgin Gorda because of its extraordinary topography and welcoming residents. At first, their house hunting proved futile. “Then we stumbled upon a sign that led to the land, that led to the dream, that led to the adventure of creating Baraka Point,” Jennifer says. The scrubby property jutted into the Caribbean, giving it sweeping sea views and a built-in sense of privacy. “Perhaps the insanity of love was to blame,” she continues, “but we just knew it was the island and the plot for us.” At sunset that same day, they celebrated their discovery on site with a Champagne toast.

Jennifer and Tim, who live most of the year in England, set out to build a self-contained refuge, incorporating favorite features from places they’d stayed in the Caribbean, Tanzania, the Seychelles, Morocco, Mauritius, and other dreamy spots. They called the retreat Baraka Point, from the Swahili expression “Haraka haraka ha ina baraka,” meaning “Hurry hurry is no blessing.” “We didn’t want the conventional chintz-and-gingerbread Caribbean style, but something more expressive,” Jennifer says. They decided on a design consisting of five pavilions set in a jungle of greenery. The largest structure houses the kitchen and living and dining rooms, while the smaller ones hold bedrooms and baths. “We often have family and friends visit,” Jennifer says. “The entire villa sleeps 14, but when it’s just the two of us we use only one suite and the main pavilion. The layout lets it feel expansive for a large group or intimate for a party of two.”

The site plan also provides each pavilion with sea views and a feeling of seclusion. The buildings occupy less than 10 percent of the 2.2-acre property; the rest is either landscaped or left in its natural state. “We decided early on that the garden had to work with the elements—tolerating salt, wind, and drought—and that it should be as much of a living space as the interiors,” Jennifer says. Today, five old loblolly trees tower over more than 120 palms, flame trees, bromeliads, succulents, heliconia, crotons, and other tropical plants. “We also grow mangoes, papayas, bananas, and avocados, as well as vegetables and herbs,” she says. Drip irrigation and ample sunshine keep the gardens lush.

When it came time to decorate, Jennifer’s travels provided inspiration. Her eclectic style pairs colorful walls and fabrics with pieces from Indonesia and Morocco, evoking the romance of exotic cultures in balmy climes. “The furnishings give the villa a welcoming feel—a sort of rustic charm that invites you to appreciate the environment,” she adds.

“We want guests to find sensory surprises at every turn—the smell of jasmine, the wind rustling the palm fronds, the turtle doves cooing, the peeping of the tree frogs at night,” Jennifer says. “Everyone who comes here calls it a happy house. You can feel the passion in it. This is where Tim and I always feel just right.”

ALSO: View a slide show of the interiors.

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