Before you even walk into Rene and Leif Ristimaki’s North West Point home it’s clear this isn’t your standard house.
While the modern, clean lines of the architecture are obvious, black aluminium ‘dragon skin’ siding spanning the northern façade betrays a certain uniqueness which is continued within the white contemporary walls.
Designed by J Stace McGee E.D.I Architecture and built by Core Construction, the Ristimaki’s home occupies prime oceanfront land, utilising floor-to-ceiling windows to take advantage of the setting.
“It was important to me to bring the outdoors in, and we have achieved this through our walls of floor-to-ceiling glazing,” says Rene.
“Our landscaping is a tropical paradise and I appreciate it every day from the comfort of our living areas…From the kitchen island I have unobstructed views of the Caribbean Sea.”
Rene designed many aspects of the home, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience from previously working with some of Cayman’s top designers, and creating what she refers to as a ‘rock ‘n’ roll bohemian’ vibe throughout, which led to the home’s name of Soulshine – a song made famous by The Allman Brothers Band.
“Rene knew that she wanted to create a much more casual living environment that better suited our family,” says Leif. “One where the ocean views and tropical landscape took centre stage while the house was left in the most natural state possible so it can age and develop a patina with time.”
This idea is in line with Japanese wabi-sabi design, which embraces weathered and lived-in aesthetics, and is evident throughout the home.
“Our understanding is that wabi-sabi is the appreciation of imperfections and the appreciation of products that show marks or signs of their use and ageing,” explains Leif.
In their home, unlacquered faucets will patina with the touch of a hand, “so our guests will always leave their mark,” Leif says, while exposed aggregate floors in the main living space lack stress lines, enabling the concrete to naturally crack over time.
“We wanted a rough natural look, and we were more than willing to accept faults in the material,” says Leif.
The exterior features unsealed wooden furniture and untreated Brazilian ipe wood decking which will change colour after prolonged exposure to the elements. Exposed concrete sections on the exterior walls were also not ‘perfected’ once the forms were removed during construction.
Offsetting these beautiful imperfections are pops of carefully orchestrated perfection, such as the intricate cactus tile on the pool siding that was painstakingly designed by Rene and manufactured in Hong Kong.
“It’s all about our family personality,” says Leif, of the home’s design, which drew inspiration from the family’s travelling experiences, and followed the relaxed rock ‘n’ roll vibe which fits the family perfectly.
“My dad was a band musician for 40 years (his latest gig was his 80th birthday) and music was always in the air…before a coffee gets brewed the music gets turned on.”
The kitchen, designed and made by Art McConville of Work of Art Woodworking, showcases a heart oak kitchen island in matte black thermofoil with Blum interior drawers and hardware, while a Shou Sugi Ban wall also features. This Japanese burnt cedar technique was also utilised behind the outdoor kitchen on the pool deck.
As well as prioritising casual comfort, the family has been pursuing the idea of living more simply, and the interior design ties into their ideal.
“For us, living with less things helps keep our minds clear and free of ‘clutter’,” says Leif. “It helps reduce stress and anxieties that we deal with daily.…it’s super easy to get caught up in owning things for the sake of accumulating possessions and we continuously try to keep only the things that we absolutely love and make us happy.”
In keeping with this idea, the Ristimakis pared down the design of their master bedroom, leaving only enough room for bed and side tables, positioning the bed closest to the ocean and the walk-in closet, dressing area, and bathroom vanities all behind the headboard wall, out of sight.
“I also love the serenity that we achieved…with flowing white linen drapery and endless ocean views at the foot of our bed,” Rene says. “It’s a fantastic thing to wake up to every day.”
From the kitchen, to the pool tiling, to the large light installation descending from the stairway ceiling, and solid-oak veneer pocket doors designed by Rene and custom made in Hong Kong, there is hardly a space in the home which does not have a unique touch.
Of note even, are the walls. The Ristimakis employed the talents of Carlos V Garcia in the kitchen backsplash, the downstairs bathroom, their son Daxton’s room, and the guest bedroom, where he employed beautiful brush strokes to complement existing design.
The home’s unique, yet liveable design, and personalised touches that make it unlike any other home, are perfect for the Ristimakis.
“A lot of Cayman’s luxury market is high-gloss, beautiful, delicate material, but it just doesn’t suit our family personality,” says Leif. “We wanted a space that wasn’t too precious and where casual comfort was priority.
“Basically, we were blessed with the opportunity to create a space that we love.”
Originally published in InsideOut magazine issue Spring/Summer 2021.