“We spoke the same language,” architect
Scott Lee, a principal at SB, says.
For inspiration, they toured must-see places
on the island such as lighthouses, a historic wattle and daub cottage that belonged to Caymanian artist Miss Lassie (surviving the hurricanes
because of its sheltered location next to a coral
reef), and Pedro St. James, a restored 1780s
building that was home to one of Cayman’s
founding Colonial families and, ironically, also
where slavery was publicly decried in 1835.
“It was interesting but we did not see anything to emulate,” Lee says.
Even resorts restored only a decade ago had
“hat-like roofs on Caribbean-style structures
that were the antithesis of what we envisioned,”
he adds. “We were thinking of an ocean-side
development with views of the sea but we
wanted something for the 21st century.”
Because the relatively flat, 12-acre lot was
deep, it made sense to build a tall L-shaped
building in the foreground, angled to form
a sheltered garden between it, a twin condo-
minium structure and the sea. Thus, although
the finished reinforced concrete buildings do
not face the ocean directly, their high-ceilinged
rooms and staggered verandas with elegant con-
crete pilotis all have spectacular ocean views.
Washable wood-pattern ceramic tile floors
inside and outside the rooms are equipped
with storm drainage; the foam insulated stucco
walls stay cool in the summer; and large operable windows and doors have hurricane-rated
“In the middle of the grounds, EDSA created
a parklike setting with pools and water spaces,
which we punctuated with colorful bungalows
with inverted butterfly roofs that also do not
block views,” Lee says.
The new, mounded topography they created
for the once-featureless site allowed the Seafire
hotel to have a ground floor 22 feet above grade.
“When guests walk out of their car and into
the glass-walled lobby they immediately have a
commanding view of the sea,” Lee says.
Another advantage of the higher ground
floor: designers were able to tuck in a spa with
natural light, back-of-house facilities, and a
garage under the lobby and link it all seamlessly
to the condominium tower next door.
Powerstrip Studio founders Dayna Lee
and her husband, Ted Berne — both former
set designers who became interior designers
Above: The view from a Seafire residence. Opposite,
clockwise from top left: A blue Caymanian fishing
boat, suspended in Seafire’s library lounge, is just off
the main lobby; Seafire bungalows with butterfly-wing
roofs have easy access to the beach; Cocoloba “sea
grape” leaves; Seafire’s superb Cocoloba restaurant
has a seaside setting; artist Miss Lassie’s century-old
house; Seafire buildings viewed from the pool.
for Barry Sternlicht’s then-new W hotels —
brought theatrical pizzazz to the enterprise.
“Kimpton does not take itself super seriously
and they wanted something playful and not just
monastic tone on tone,” Dayna Lee says. “So we
tried to express the community of the Grand
Cayman, which is a British colony infused with
hybrid cultures from Jamaica to America.”
References to shutters, porches, basketry and
nautical traditions from Caribbean islands are
interwoven, sometimes overtly, into patterns
and motifs throughout the hotel. For instance,
sailcloth covers the long lobby ceiling; as a
nod to traditional wattle and daub buildings,
Powerstrip brought in a bare wood-strip wattle
wall as art; they also copied Caribbean lace
and had the pattern routed out of teak to form
screens for the hotel’s in-house coffee shop and
store. Nearby Bodden Town used to be home
to pirates who made marine rope out of palm
thatch for a living, “so we suspended staircases
using thick rope,” Dayna Lee adds.
To tell the story of immigrants and slave families, Powerstrip encouraged locals to donate family photographs for the hotel’s “library” lounge,
which is now a de facto museum where Grand
Cayman residents from the 1920s to the present day are celebrated in vintage photo frames.
Suspended from the library ceiling is an iconic
single-mast fishing boat, which, per Caymanian
tradition, is painted blue to fool the fish.