Bursting with art, creativity and authenticity, the seaside home of Kay and Carl Smith is the kind of place where everyone is made to feel welcome.
Originally from the UK, the couple bought the property in 2007, after becoming enchanted with Grand Cayman during a family holiday.
The building was one of four cedar houses brought to the island some 50 years previously and stood elevated on four telegraph poles.
It had been partially destroyed in Hurricane Ivan in 2004 but the couple undertook a labour of love to rehabilitate the structure, which they dubbed ‘the stick house’ in reference to its stilts.
“We fell in love with it and decided not to knock it down but to keep the bones and make her beautiful,” says Kay.
“We did almost all of the work ourselves, over several years, and we have lived here as full-time residents since 2013,” says Kay. “We wanted the heart of the house to stay intact as so many happy memories had been made within her.”
Examples of Carl’s ingenuity include building a secret door, longed-for by Kay, to connect the living room and the bedroom, as well as a floating staircase, and rustic pieces outside.
“When he finds a washed-up tree on the beach and says he’s turning it into a shower, I don’t ask how, because he will find a way,” says Kay.
The house features a lot of art, some of it being Kay’s own work, but other pieces include a collection of original film posters from the 1940s and 1950s.
“Our love of old movies made the collection irresistible,” says Kay.
“Our style is definitely eclectic, not curated,” she says.
The kitchen, as described by Kay, is seaside kitsch with just enough off-the-wall taste to be fun.
“I love my kitchen; we designed and built it, and also upcycled and painted old furniture,” she says. “It has an old British/Caymanian seaside feel, with bunting, old pots, and flying ducks on the wall. It’s fun and light-hearted, full of warmth and charm; visitors love it. Having a cuppa overlooking the sea is a treat.”
“Being an artist, I’m very tactile and love to own and use objects that have ‘lived’,” she says. “I have collected, and use, pottery and china that is very old, including some early-1800s Staffordshire pottery. I love to think of others who have held them before me.
Situated on the ocean’s edge by Breakers, the house has a two-bed apartment downstairs for guests, and Kay and Carl live upstairs.
“It’s extremely peaceful living,” says Kay. “We look over the sea – it feels like you wake up on a ship, being elevated over the water. It’s a good feeling seeing creation every day, and we are truly grateful.”
When they finished renovating the house and completed their garden, the couple decided they wanted to open their home to others. Therefore, they built a beach house that doubles as an Airbnb property, and an art studio which is open to the public every afternoon from Monday to Saturday.
“We were quite nervous, not knowing how people would react or what they might expect,” says Kay. “So, we decorated and furnished it as if we would live there ourselves and put in my artwork and every extra we could think of.”
“We love our home; it’s not high-tech or posh but it oozes love,” she says. “If you were to describe the house as a person, she would be the friend that wraps her arms around you and makes you feel happy.”
Originally published in InsideOut magazine, Issue 38, Fall Winter 2020.