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Masters of Design: OBMI Architects Create Tomorrow's Homes Today


Climate change might be making its impact felt in the Caribbean’s increasingly sweltering summers and severe hurricanes. But there’s no reason global warming should put your dreams of a tropical island home out in the cold. A well-conceived design will take everything from wind direction to optimum roof pitch into account, helping you keep your cool no matter what the weather throws your way. And it starts by enlisting the services of a professional architect.


Environmental sensitivities are all in a day’s work for the highly creative team at the Antigua branch of OBM International. With some of the country’s most impressive properties in its portfolio, the company describes itself as a “designer of dreams”, creating spaces that transform those who inhabit them.


“I’ve been doing that green stuff forever,” says OBMI’s straight-talking senior architect Mitch Stuart. “Now it seems to be in vogue.”


You would be forgiven for thinking a comfortable temperature mid-summer means sky-high AC bills, dealing a hefty blow to both your wallet and your carbon conscience. Not so, says Mitch, who with 35 years’ experience conceptualising buildings in the Caribbean, knows a thing or two about working in harmony with the elements.


“Natural ventilation is fundamental,” he tells Luxury Locations Magazine. “It’s vital to make sure as much air as possible is moving through the building. Get that movement of air right, and everything else flows.


“Keeping homes green reduces running costs too.”


On an island blessed with picture postcard scenery, an astute design also means making the most of the exterior views.


“My style incorporates the use of pavilions, where the outside becomes part of the main living space, rather than a big lump of house,” Mitch continues.


That theme is evidenced in the three luxurious – and arguably the island’s most stylish – resorts OBMI created in Antigua. Sugar Ridge, Carlisle Bay, and Hermitage Bay all exude an ineffable elegance, understatedly so and characterised by open sides, flat roofs, monochromatic tones and a contemporary, organic vibe. Recycled materials, such as the steel and shingles used in roofs, feature heavily in OBMI’s eco-friendly ethos.


Construction costs in the Caribbean are high, due largely to labour challenges and expensive materials. While using an architect may seem like an additional outlay, investing in a quality design can add significant value to your home and your quality of life, while saving money on inefficient use of space and maintenance further down the road.


Architects can also guide you through the complex procedures of planning permission and building regulations, and monitor the builders’ work through to completion.


“It’s short-sighted to think you don’t need an architect,” Mitch says. “The point is to get the right architect. It’s about experience, being able to show what you’ve done before, but being open to suggestions and ideas.”


Interpreting a client’s brief is pivotal, he explains. “Many people don’t know what they want until they see something.


It’s not about saying you can or can’t do this; it’s about interpretation and working together in an atmosphere of understanding and trust.”


One of the biggest misconceptions about architecture, smiles managing director Carina Harney-Rogerson, is that “we press a few buttons and the design comes out of a computer”.


“In fact clients are paying for our ideas, our creativity,” she says. “And it also lessens the risk of nasty shocks during the building process. When they see the end product, they find they have actually saved money by using an architect.”


An OBMI client is a satisfied one, Carina continues. “Feedback is usually that they are happy that it all came together and also that you can see consistency throughout.


“It’s great when a client goes the route of letting us take care of the whole package, including interior design and landscaping. That’s when you end up with something beautifully cohesive.”


She adds: “Our clients always get far more than they paid for. Because we love what we do, we always go above and beyond.”


Mitch agrees. “Most of our work is from word of mouth recommendations. Architecture is a constant challenge and hard work, but very satisfying.”


Mitch, who undertook his professional training in his native Scotland, adds: “Hiring an architect gives your project a much better chance of success than, say, an engineer as the design is absolutely fundamental.


“For most people, their home is the single biggest expenditure they will ever make and they will live with it for the rest of their life. That’s why it’s so important to get it right.”

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