My favorite time of day is sitting on my wrap-around veranda in the early evening, sipping mint tea as I watch the sun set and listen to the rogue parrots as they chat and argue before settling down for the night. That’s when the predictable trade winds visit the eastern shores of the island and rise from the Caribbean Sea to caress my little haven in the hilly hamlet of Fairy Hill, 8 miles east of Port Antonio, Jamaica. The veranda is where I spend the better part of the day. My office, where I spend my mornings, opens to the back and I take tea on the front in the evenings.
The house is 2,500 square feet of well-thought-out space. There is a great room at the front, which you enter after leaving your shoes in the foyer. Guests don a pair of slides from the closet, before traipsing on the resplendent mahogany floors that grace the house. They sparkle from regular buffing, thanks to Mona, my trustworthy compadre and housekeeper, who is also responsible for the dazzling copper chandeliers in the great room and over the dining table and the spiff and polish of everything in the house.
My furnishings are eclectic. They include a mixture of locally crafted lignum vitae pieces, including the bedroom sets, the dining room table and my desk in the nook in my bedroom. The lignum vitae (Latin for “tree of life”) is a dense wood, well-suited for making hardy furniture. The tree bears the national flower of Jamaica, so it is fitting that it is strongly represented in my home. My favorite Gabriel García Márquez novel, Love in the Time of Cholera, includes a bathtub made of this wood in one of the main characters’ homes. The color plays off the dark mahogany floors, part of the playful contrasts throughout the house—light- and dark-colored wood furniture on dark floors, copper chandeliers, colorful artwork in primary hues, and beautiful metal and wood carvings.
The mahogany furniture in the great room was made by local craftsmen, Lloyd and Louis Williams. An oversize sectional seats 12 people comfortably and the dining table seats just as many. Family photographs adorn one corner wall in the great room. The walls radiate a warm, mustardy gold, a great canvas for the furniture and art, which extend to include the sculptures of wood and stone in the garden.
The kitchen is the heart of this home. It opens to the great room and boasts a six-burner stove and a double wall oven for cooking and baking, with Mona’s help. There is a substantial island in the middle, with bar seating and enough prep space for cooking to feed a large group. A huge picture window frames the herb garden, and under it are a breakfast nook and a love seat, where you can get lost in a good book. My grandchildren love this part of the kitchen. They hover around to sample Mona’s sorrel and coconut biscuits, which she makes in batches when they come to visit.
There are two bedrooms and a master suite at the end of a hallway off the great room. The bedrooms are connected by a full bathroom, with a foam green theme. The master suite comprises a spacious bedroom with a king-size bed; a small study nook; a roomy walk-in closet, with organizers for clothes and shoes; and an aqua bathroom with a soaking tub, shower and a bidet (most bathrooms on the island would be incomplete without one of those).
The house is a cornucopia of rich colors and art that somehow retains a warm harmony, which keeps it from overwhelming your senses. And the garden is a source of great joy to me. It supplies us with herbs and flowers for cutting. Six Royal Poinciana trees, with their fiery vermilion blooms, light the way down the hilly driveway to the road that leads to Winnifred Beach.