INSIDE VILLA AYAHSOWEDEH
Heralded as one of the Caribbean’s foremost design talents, Harold ‘Moxy’ Morrison is a true Jamaican builder. As a designer of homes, Mr Morrison is no neophyte to the built environment, with more than half a century's work to his credit. Some of his most notable architectural masterpieces include the UWI Mona Archives building, the Bustamante Hospital for Children redevelopment, National Commercial Bank, Half-Way Tree, the Matalon residence, the McConnell residence, Baywest Centre, Montego Bay, and Harrison House, School of Continuing Studies, also at the UWI. He has also designed buildings in Barbados. March marked a year since his passing and this month we visit with his daughter and fellow designer, Mala Morrison, at the family’s vacation home, ‘Ayahsowedeh’.
Portland may be a new romance for millennials, but the eastern Parish has long played home to the World’s rich, famous and highly influential. Now as Port Antonio entertains Jamaica’s party hardy during the Easter weekend, the dramatic, sparsely populated and largely unspoiled coastline of Portland is always a pleasant surprise. Mala lives the real-life beach bum lifestyle; sandy toes, long dives in the lagoon, morning swims out to Monkey Island and tanning seaside on the villa’s carefully engineered deck; that’s her reality. Between ‘Portie’ and Kingston, Mala and mom, Lourice Morrison, take turns entertaining friends or enjoying some quality #SheTime at villa ‘Ayahsowedeh’.
Though four miles from Port Antonio, ‘Ayahsowedeh’ sits on prime real estate in the San San resort area; a heavily trafficked main road on one side and the clear blue Caribbean sea on the other. The caretaker's quarters are behind a concealed entrance on the main road. On the ground floor and first floor a series of sculptural forms, a spiral staircase reminiscent of a conch shell, as well as the closets and bathrooms form a sonar plenum. This totally protects the bedrooms, living, dining, kitchen and entertainment decks from street noise and vibration allowing these spaces to embrace the ocean as far as the horizon.
Step inside the villa and feast your eyes on a delightful collection of designer furnishings from Le Corbusier to Piero Lissoni, precisely fitting for an Architect. Villa ‘Ayahsowedeh’ was designed and built by Harold Morrison + Robert Woodstock Associates Ltd. Among many civilian praises, ‘Ayahsowedeh’ has been awarded the Jamaican Institute of Architects People’s Choice Award and Award of Merit in the Residential/Resort Category.
Kingston Belle: What’s your favorite thing about ‘Ayahsowedeh?’
Mala Morrison: I have two things. First, waking up and opening the bedrooms doors to view Monkey Island at sunrise. Second, the lower deck, affectionately known as the "Sea Egg" - a cocoon like structure right on the water, I could sit there for hours on end.
KB: As a designer, is there anything you would change in the villa?
MM: The villa was designed on a very small lot. It only has three bedrooms because it is a family villa, not initially intended for rental purposes. I sometimes wish there was another bedroom to share my favourite place with more family and friends.
KB: Are there plans of improvement (maintenance or design) in the works?
MM: Everyday is maintenance when you have a villa on the ocean, the salt air is a force to be reckoned with. Even though all the construction materials and railings are anti-corrosive, the house, windows, doors, hinges, exterior fixtures, etc. still have to be washed with fresh water several times a week. We have plans in the future to replace the furnishings, and upgrade the kitchen, but we have kept up the overall maintenance quite well over the last 15 years.
KB: What’s your fondest memory of your family at the villa?
MM: My dad's birthdays. He was born on January 1st, New Year's Day. He loved to host his friends and family for an open house. He designed ‘Ayahsowedeh’, and it was definitely his favourite place besides going bird hunting. I loved to see how happy he was on that day, with everyone hanging out at the villa together. Sadly he passed away last year, but I will always have those memories.
KB: What’s a typical Portland weekend like for you?
MM: Good food, sun, sea, relaxation and Christopher's rum punch, the house special. I love to kayak to Monkey Island, and take naps when it rains in the afternoon. I also love to watch my mom collect seashells on the reef. ‘Ayahsowedeh’ is a place for friends and family, so a typical weekend involves them. It’s not as nice unless its shared with those you love.
KB: Based on the ‘Ayahsowedeh’ build, what landscape advice do you have for a homeowners second/vacation home? (on the basis of upkeep etc)
MM: The preservation of our environment is VERY important. San San and the surrounding areas has recently been recognised as a Special Fishery Conservation Area. ‘Ayahsowedeh’ is one of the many villas on the strip that sit directly over the water, therefore, it is critical that homeowners do whatever they can to implement proper sewerage systems and help to preserve the reefs the surround these areas as much as possible, so that we are able to enjoy it for many years to come. I would also suggest consulting the relevant agencies, such as NEPA (National Environmental Planning Agency), to see if there are any species of fish or mangroves being disturbed. In general, vacation homes are difficult to upkeep, my best advice is organisation and planning, keep a checklist of what needs to be done each month.
KB: What tips do you have for persons looking to rent a luxury villa?
MM: Research research research ... find one that suits your needs. Some are geared more towards families and some towards adult couples, based on the surrounding landscape and/or interior furnishings. I would also suggest choosing a villa that suits your style. Some people prefer a more rustic and laid back feel, while others prefer modern clean spaces. In Jamaica, there is a luxury villa culture, luckily, we have many to choose from. San San is my favourite area, but renters should also check out Silver Sands, Treasure Beach, Discovery Bay and the Bluefields areas. They have equally as spectacular villas available for rent.
KB: Similarly, what tips do you have for persons looking to buy or build a luxury villa?
MM: Well, there aren't many brand new luxury villa developments for sale on the market right now. If they are buying an older villa and refurbishing it, my advice would be to always hire the right professionals to evaluate the existing building and redesign it to suit your needs. Follow the design process carefully and explore with your architect and interior designer what kind of spaces function for your family's needs. Look for a villa in an area that is sought after, with access to the water, or beach access, so that it can be also used for rental income ... that's always a plus!