British architect Barbara Hill designed the elegant mansion in the 1960s, under commission by US Ambassador Robert M. Scotten as his private residence. Inspired by a novel about life in the Winward Islands, Hill moved to Barbados in 1958, where she was a founding member of the local Institute of Architects and an active member of the Barbados National Trust. Nelson Gay, designed in the West Indian Colonial style, is considered one of Hill’s best works, ranking among one of Barbados’ finest homes.
Most recently renovated under the direction of architect Brian Surfleet, Nelson Gay has maintained a timeless quality difficult to find in more recently built properties, expertly mixing classic Palladian architecture with modern amenities to create the ideal family holiday setting. The home provides elegant accommodation for a couple desiring generous space for entertaining, and is also spacious enough for a large group or family.
After approaching the house by a circular drive, the main entrance hall sets the tone for the home’s refined tropical elegance; it features a marble floor with a compass rose design, breezy latticework, tropical plants and impressive sculptures. The hall opens to the living room, featuring a 14’ ceiling with an intricate wrought iron chandelier and most impressively, an unobstructed view of the gardens, pool and Caribbean Sea just beyond.
Situated on one level, the house has a central living area flanked by two wings; the rooms are spacious, airy and decorated with a sense of relaxed elegance. The design palette of white with accents of green compliment the tropical environs as well as the vibrant art collection, which includes several antiques and notable works of art, including a stunning Erté mural and a fine collection of Haitian paintings.
The South Wing of the home includes the kitchen, laundry room and formal dining room, a masterpiece within itself. Lit by candlelight only, the dining room provides a dramatic, intimate setting for evening parties. Featuring a glass-topped table designed by renowned designer Oliver Messel, complimented by French antique chairs and a selection of five different place settings, including Wedgewood, Rosenthal and Mikasa, the dining room accommodates up to 12 guests.
There are five bedrooms in the main house, each decorated in a soothing palette of green and white, with high quality linens, chandelier lighting, billowing curtains and tiled flooring also designed by Messel. The bedrooms are each individually air-conditioned and feature plasma televisions, cable and DVD players for entertainment; some have a small fridge and mini bar for added convenience. These five bedrooms, combined with the one bedroom cottage, have seven bathrooms in total (including a ‘His and Hers’), as well as a guest cloakroom.
One bedroom is located in the South Wing; featuring his and hers en suite bathrooms with showers. The bedroom’s external doors fold back to reveal a charming private patio with sitting area and verdant foliage, ideal for a morning cup of tea or private relaxation.
The North Wing houses the other four bedrooms, two of which comprise an impressively spacious Master Suite connected by a large en suite bathroom with shower; there is a second en suite bathroom in the suite as well.
The Erté Mural Room features a queen-sized bed, en suite bathroom with bath/shower and access to a covered terrace opening on to the pool and gardens. The room has been aptly named due to the unique mermaid mural painted by the artist on the bedroom’s wall, where he stayed during his frequent visits to Nelson Gay. Born in St. Petersburg in 1892, Erté established himself in Paris as a fashion illustrator for Harper’s Bazaar magazine, for which he produced 250 covers over 22 years. Best remembered for the extravagant costumes and stage sets he designed for the Folles-Bergère, he is considered one of the foremost fashion and stage designers of the twentieth century.
The fourth and final bedroom in the North Wing, the Green Room, features two single beds (which can be combined as a large king), en suite bath with shower, pool terrace access as well as a private patio opening on to the gardens.
The North Wing also has a media room with a range of entertainment amenities, including a 55” flat screen television with surround sound, cable television and a library of over 400 DVD titles. There is also a day bed that can be used for additional single accommodation if necessary.
As impressive as the interior living space is, Nelson Gay’s outdoor space is the true gem of the property. Complimented with lush green foliage and tropical flowers, residents will surely spend much of their time on the 60 ft. wide terrace, enjoying the environs. Running adjacent to the central living room, the terrace provides three separate areas for lounging or dining poolside. The shaded lounge area has a light, airy and inviting appeal, with ceiling fans, white cushioned furniture, vibrant accessories and a clear view of the gardens and pool to keep an eye on the children or just to enjoy the surroundings. There are two dining areas; the first features a large table with seating for up to 20 people under a canopy with fans, and a smaller table located poolside in the center of the terrace enjoys full sun or moonlight. The terrace is complimented by beautiful flora and fauna, as well as lighting designed by Bruce Munro.
The focal point of the gardens is the stunning 50 ft. pool that extends from the terrace toward the sea at the far end of the lawn; finished with Italian green tiling with inlaid mosaics of turtles and tropical fish, its stunning beauty is further enhanced by dramatic underwater lighting, creating an ideal setting for poolside evening cocktails. The pool is bordered by a verdant lawn with inviting green cushioned loungers, where residents can enjoy both full sun and shade throughout the course of the day. The pool can be fenced for young children’s safety, as well as heated on request.
An octagonal ‘Chinese’ dining gazebo, designed by architect Larry Warren, is a charming addition to the garden; it seats up to 14 and has a wet bar and fridge for easy entertaining, providing an excellent setting for relaxing on the comfortable sofas or enjoying al fresco dining.
At the far end of the garden, there is direct access to the coral sand beach, with seating just before the private beach gate. There is a roped area for safe swimming and a nearby coral reef provides excellent snorkeling. Cobblers Cove Hotel is just a short walk up the beach, where guests of Nelson Gay can enjoy tennis, a gym and spa services for a small fee. Additional concierge services can be arranged through the house manager and West Coast Villas Sotheby’s International Realty, ensuring your stay is customized to your group’s interests.
In addition to the main house’s accommodation for up to 11 persons, Nelson Gay offers additional guest quarters within the grounds that can accommodate up to four additional guests. A self-contained guest cottage with private patio and en suite bathroom sleeps two additional guests. There are also two traditional Barbadian wooden Chattel Houses, charming cottages featuring porches, gingerbread trim and white shuttered windows. Each cottage provides accommodation for two people and an en suite bathroom; one also has a small kitchenette. Perfect for teens or young adult guests, the Chattel Houses can be used by special arrangement.
With such a range of accommodation, Nelson Gay is an ideal holiday retreat for groups of friends as well as families with children of all ages. Several measures have been taken to ensure Nelson Gay provides a stress-free, safe environment for families with small children to enjoy their holiday. The pool can be fenced on request, and all outdoor and indoor furniture is covered in durable, washable and ‘childproof’ Sunbrella fabric. The beach is an excellent play area, and the sea is normally calm and safe for supervised swimming. A crib with mosquito netting is available for babies up to nine months, and additional equipment can be arranged through concierge services.
To ensure your holiday exceeds your expectations, Nelson Gay is staffed by an experienced, well-trained and friendly team including a butler, cook, housekeeper, maid / laundress, two gardeners and a night watchman. The staff will tend to your every need, including planning meals, shopping, cooking, serving, cleaning, laundry and everything else, ensuring you receive a stress-free five-star experience during your stay, while providing complete privacy.
Overall Nelson Gay is just perfect for a totally relaxing and unforgettable villa holiday in Barbados.