After buying a parcel of canal-front land in late 2005, Antje and Phil Harper set out to design and build their own home.
They cleared the property themselves — which was covered in fallen trees from the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 — and started building in early 2007. It took a little more than a year to complete the 400-square-foot, one-bedroom home in North Sound Estates, which they moved into in February of 2008.
“We did all the work ourselves, and only had a digger for the septic tank and some help from an electrician,” says Antje. “We enjoyed our little house for many years and used the time to save up for our extension.”
They began working on the addition in early 2017, clearing about 70 trees before breaking ground. The 1,400-square-foot extension took around a year and a half to build, with Antje and Phil once again undertaking all the work themselves, from design to construction.
The project was challenging as both have demanding schedules: Phil is a self-employed carpenter and Antje is a flight attendant.
“It was extremely physically demanding to build the house on our own, in our own free time,” says Antje, who spent about five months painting the exterior. “We took it one day at a time.”
While they did everything themselves — including most of the electrical work – they said the Department of Planning was a big help during the process, guiding them on necessary changes of which there were 53 in total.
They moved into the house in August of 2018 and are pleased with the results – a home not only built with their own hands but reflecting their personal taste and lifestyle.
Antje and Phil have lived in Cayman since 2005. Phil is British, but was born in Cayman, and Antje hails from Germany.
Antje’s influence can be seen in many of the design pieces and themes, with decorative touches and artwork reflecting her heritage.
She loves colour, with different shades of green and blue featured throughout the home.
“We don’t have a single white wall in the entire house,” she says.
As they both love a warm and cosy atmosphere, they chose a traditional rustic design for the home.
Dark rustic furniture is complemented by original pieces Phil crafted, including a room divider — which Antje painted —and sideboard under the stairs.
“I designed our faux fireplace, and then Phil and I built it together,” Antje recalls.
The fireplace is a focal point, especially during holidays.
Above the fireplace is a winter scene of a log cabin that was once owned by American actor Burt Reynolds and purchased at a Las Vegas auction.
Phil also built a large bookcase which stands in the living room.
“I am a big reader, so I absolutely love our bookshelves, which I call my library,” says Antje.
Rooms with personality
There are two themed guest rooms. One is dubbed “the fish room” as it has an underwater theme. Three light blue walls are accented by a teal feature wall, with an angel fish picture and other sea-related décor items throughout.
The second guest room is called the “log cabin room”. It has a log-style bed, a shelf crafted from a tree trunk and a Black Forest bear cub lamp from Colorado.
The eat-in kitchen has dark blue walls and a light blue accent wall, white cabinets and a small wooden kitchen table and two benches.
Phil’s favourite spot in the home is the porch. French doors in the living room lead to the outdoors, where the couple can relax with a beautiful canal view and surrounding greenery.
Paintings of nature scenes, indoor plants and book collection add to the welcoming atmosphere.
“We love living in our warm and cosy home,” says Antje.
Originally published in InsideOut magazine, Issue 37, Spring Summer 2020.