Making the most of the Great Outdoors – Though these are beautiful Islands, perhaps the reason to move here is the climate.  With tropical temperatures relieved by constant trade winds, the refugee from Europe or North America finds that his idea of the perfect summer’s day can be enjoyed here all year round.  This means that, once he has found his patch of paradise, the Island-dweller’s first priority will be to enhance his property’s potential for out-door living.   We asked the experts how to go about creating a truly great outdoor living room. Design Deliberation First, we asked renowned BVI Designer Tim Peck of OBM International what he thought were pertinent pointers to ensure a practical, well-sited outdoor area.

“The key to the successful design of your Caribbean home is the blurring of the boundaries between the inside and outside space,” he explains.  “When establishing a design brief for our clients, we have a checklist of issues which focus on their potential lifestyle.  We use our experience in designing for tropical environments to ask key questions.  These serve as catalysts for provoking thoughts and comments, allowing us to interpret their future lifestyle into built form.  

“When locating the external elements of the house, consideration is given to the rising and the setting of the sun.  Is one terrace to be facing the rising sun as a breakfast terrace? Will the covered terrace protect the living room from the penetrating afternoon sun?

“The spectacular BVI views are key drivers for locating external elements of the house.  Take, for example, the location of a pool terrace affording a vista over the Channel, permitting the inclusion of a classic infinity edge and merging your pool with the sea beyond.  For a family with young children, safety factors may come into play.  In addition, each external terrace must address the prevailing winds, which generally offer the benefits of the cooling trade winds, but in some instances can be over exposed.

“Circulation is also a major factor in the location of the various external elements of the home, whether that be as terraces linking pavilions or simply a barbeque terrace positioned to service the dining room and the pool deck.”

Material Matters
Your design will influence your choice of materials.  In exposed areas, tiles or stone flags may become very hot to walk on after a few hours in the sun.  Decking can be more forgiving to the feet and tropical hardwoods can look amazing.  They can also look expensive (think up-keep), which helps explain the increasing use of man-made decking materials.  We asked Stephen Cooper of EuroCarib to explain why plastic is fantastic.

“Composite decking is a practical alternative to timber. A combination of natural wood fibre surrounded by polymer, it is virtually maintenance free, resistant to insects, moisture, mildew and rot, won’t warp, check or split,” says Stephen.  “It’s available in a variety of colours and finishes.  Although a little more costly than timber, the savings in use easily outweigh the initial investment. Care in selecting a material that will withstand the hot Caribbean sun is essential; we recommend whose range retains its colour.”

For shade and shelter you will need some form of canopy.  Traditional verandahs are roofed with corrugated iron over wood planks, supported by wooden posts and beams.  What really gives these verandahs their defining beauty are the distinctive patterns of the railings and the ornamental gingerbread edging.  For those with less space and budget, retractable awnings and patio umbrellas are the obvious answer.

For permanent screening against the elements, lattice work creates dappled shade without denying cooling breezes.  Greater privacy and protection from rain can be achieved by the traditional louvered panels, and Plexiglas is a great way of keeping the view whilst keeping your pets and toddlers the right side of the railings.   
Entertaining Without Restraint
One thing you will notice is that our needle-nosed friends will want to share your outdoor living room.  Your household defences do not, however, have to stop at mosquito screens.  In addition to the traditional remedies of bug repelling candles and plants, spray defence systems form a cordon sanitaire around your outdoor living space. Stephen Cooper would recommend such a system.

“The Bug DeFence outdoor insect misting system provides a discreet barrier around your home, deck and pool. Using all natural and non toxic organic solution, it provides effective protection from feeding mosquitoes, no see-ums and sand flies.” (

The other thing you might have noticed is that it gets dark in the tropics relatively early and relatively quickly.  So, maximum enjoyment of the great outdoors involves planning adequate, yet subtle, lighting.  Brighten key activity areas and, for safety, consider lights set low to the ground to illuminate pathways.   

Finally, for superlative entertaining, you will doubtless require an ample sufficiency of elegant and durable outdoor furniture.  Mike Masters, of Nautool, has devised some stunning, inexpensive alternatives to traditional wooden furnishings.  

“Our stainless steel furniture is long lasting and its unique look fits with today’s modern thinking, yet blends with traditional surroundings.  The chairs are comfortable to lounge in, yet can double as a chair for dining.  They’re light and stackable, which is an important feature for large and small gatherings,” says Mike.  “The perforated seat and table tops also stay cool in the hot sun and allow wet swimwear to dry, and rain showers or spilled cocktails won’t ruin them.”

Your time spent outside with your guests is increased if you cook outside, whether on a state-of-the-art portable barbeque or a masonry fire place.  Our culinary must-have?  Outdoor Pizza oven. Mama Mia!