Although completed in late 2016, the penthouse suite of the SB Ventures commercial centre had remained vacant as it awaited the perfect tenant. The suite featured the clean slate of a new build (i.e., minimal demolition required), the unique geometries of a large hip roof and ample interior space—nearly 300 square meters or 3,100 square feet—as well as an exterior terrace.
And of course, the most important feature in real estate remains...location, location and location. In addition to the premium retail neighbors within the building, the penthouse suite benefits from the pass through traffic of Gustavia pedestrians parking up the hill above and using the generously wide and publicly available staircase to reach street level. Whereas upper floor tenants in most buildings suffer from a lack of foot traffic, the design conception of the SB Ventures commercial centre as a "vertical street" at a strategic point within town helps to overcome this obstacle. Lastly, the location includes a stunning sunset view of the Gustavia harbor and ocean beyond.
Then in the summer of 2021—like a ship coming in from the horizon—a potential tenant arrived with a vision ideally suited to utilize all the features of the unique site. The Ocean Club concept slips perfectly into the harbor side location with a dining room terrace that can—from certain perspectives at least—feel as if it were the upper deck of a boat floating above the harbor except, of course, without the risk of seasickness. Even the attic character of the dining room’s exposed hip roof rafters evokes a nautical feel as the wood frame construction is very similar to traditional wood boat designs. In other words, imagine the hull of a wood ship turned upside down and used as a roof.
Naturally, one of the first challenges for any commercial project is to complete the design and construction as efficiently as possible so that the business can open and begin to achieve profitability. Delays can become very costly to the investment of the business owners and on St Barts the peak of the season—the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s Day—can be especially lucrative. From initial discussions in the summer of 2021, the schedule was set and closely followed. Design began immediately with the collaboration of the renowned design firm HBA from Miami, Florida. Applications for Building Permits were submitted in November of 2021 and shortly thereafter pre-construction preparation began in anticipation of approval. Approximately 90 days later, with a Building Permit granted by the local Collectivité government, on-site construction began at full speed.
Although communicating with an international design team has become streamlined in the digital age, the logistical challenges of coordinating materials, equipment and furnishings from remote locations remains rooted in the physical limitations of the real world. St Barts, in particular, faces additional challenges such as shipping disruptions during hurricane season and also limited storage available because of the small size of the island. Nonetheless, stone flooring from Turkey, professional kitchen equipment from France and furniture imported from Bali were all carefully planned to arrive as needed within the framework of meeting critical goals and the Ocean Club opened successfully in November 2022 just as the tourist season began before the annual Thanksgiving holiday.
Although primarily an interior renovation, the small exterior terrace of the original vacant suite was not congruent with the interior design concept’s nautical theme. In addition to obvious design touches such as details in naval brass or sailing canvas, the idea was to create a restaurant and lounge that evoked the feel of a ship’s deck—open, light and airy—and derive the full advantage of the harbor side location.
Thus, the redesign not only enlarged the exterior terrace for additional alfresco dining but also drastically opened up the overall interiors of the restaurant and club. Combined with the building’s existing internal courtyard, a cooling cross breeze fills the internal spaces with ample natural ventilation mitigating the need for extensive mechanical air conditioning. The resulting terraces and lounges of the completed Ocean Club embody all of the ambiance & elegance of an evening on the deck of a large yacht.
|Architect of Record||Bureau Xavier David|
|Structural Engineer||Bureau Xavier David|
|MEP Engineer||Bureau Xavier David|
|Construction Manager||Bureau Xavier David|
|Interior Designer||HBA Miami|
|Lighting Consultant||HBA Miami|
|Photographer||Bureau Xavier David|
|Project Location||Gustavia, Saint-Barthélemy|
|Project Area||290 square meters (3100 square feet)|