Sun | Mar 29, 2020

Dream House | Discovering a hillside hideaway

Published:Sunday | February 17, 2019 | 12:10 AMBarry Rattray/Contributor
An eye-catching home, hidden deep in Jamaica's seemingly endless sugar cane interior.
The natural, therapeutic, mineral spring pool.
Jennifer and Dennis Chatenain, owners of this seductive garden sanctuary.
A natural, therapeutic mineral spring pool, overlooked by a gazebo.
Barry Rattray

From 1992 to 2002, I wrote a weekly column called 'Dream House' that showcased our most unusual and unforgettable homes, because I felt Jamaicans did not appreciate or were even aware of the fantastic residential architecture on the island. That column was 16 years ago. I believe that’s still the case, and I am committed, once again, to search and find these homes, wherever they may hide, bringing them to the fore for us to be inspired and entertained. Let the discoveries continue!

In the shadows of encircling majestic mountain ranges, the never-ending lonely road leads deeper and deeper into Jamaica’s seemingly endless sugar-cane interior. The final part of the journey up the hill, introduces you to a secluded village called ‘Coco Top’, near Petersfield, Westmoreland.

Meet Jennifer (a trained sculptor, painter and portraitist) and her husband, Dennis Chatelain (a psychoanalyst specialising in the treatment of very violent men), from Geneva, Switzerland. They eventually purchased this hidden 11-acre property, six years ago, along with a ramshackle structure on it, after painstakingly looking, unsucessfully, right across Jamaica, for the perfect home. They just could not find it anywhere, then they stumbled upon 'Blue Hole Garden', a place to live out their dreams.

Their vision was to create a seductive garden sanctuary that would express their untold love for each other … consummating a marriage of Mother Nature’s finest works with man’s skilful hands. It is no exaggeration, and without challenge, to say that what they have achieved is one of the most distinctively unique residential front yards eyes have ever beheld – this is the nucleus of the dream.

But how so? This property is blessed with a bottomless 'blue hole'- your own swimming pool, a sizeable, therapeutic natural mineral spring with bluish hues emanating from subterrainean caves. The cascading Turtle River flows through the site embracing the Roaring River, teeming with mullet fish and crab, a sight blissfully enjoyed by the aquatic flora and fauna.

Landscaping makes a statement – Guava, Cashew, Malay Apple, Lemon Grass, Night Jasmine, Ginger Torches, and so many more, complement, even as they compete for your attention. Cut-stone steps, pathways and walls dominate, while wooden bridges daringly span water, and a gazebo adds charm.

The eyecatching white split-level timber-constructed cedar-shingled home was designed by its owners not to overpower the land but to be modest in its interpretation of an old-time Jamaican/English-style cottage.

Interiors impress in dramatic whites – pure and clean – on ceilings, walls, furniture, bedspreads, towels, and more, all enhanced by cherrywood floors, and fretwork over doors reminiscent of a bygone era.

Walk with me through the three bedrooms with bathrooms ensuite, spread between both floors of the home. Living/dining areas do not exist. Well, not within. Try the balcony and the verandah below overlooking landscape/waterscape. Melodic sounds of water play throughout, tranquilising the interior.

All in all, a residence that befits the Dream House series, so much so, that even one of the world’s most prestigious newspapers, The New York Times, has already carried a story on this home.


Barry Rattray is a dream designer and builder.