We’ve been keeping one of the local carpenters busy building storage pieces for Tonic Waters, here on Virgin Gorda, in the British Virgin Islands.
There aren’t many choices for furniture shopping in the BVI – or the US Virgin Islands, either. While the USVI doesn’t ban chain stores like the BVI, the market isn’t big enough for the malls, department stores and specialty stores we get used to in Texas.
Most people furnish their island homes by shopping in Florida, then have things shipped to the island in a “container.” There are re-shippers that will accept merchandise at locations in Miami or Fort Lauderdale. If you have a large enough shipment, you might rent your own container from the shipping company or they will bundle up with other customers’ shipping.
This can take more than a month, and then there’s the wait for your stuff to clear customs.
Mail-order and Amazon can take even longer, if you’re lucky enough to find a vender who will ship “over seas.” Even then, you will need a shipping company and a broker to deal with Customs.
BTW, not only do we pay customs duty (taxes) on the sales price, but on the shipping costs, too. The duty varies according to the type of merchandise.(There’s no sales tax in the BVI.)
When I first furnished the house, I thought I had figured out an island-proof dinner table: stained rock maple instead of glass, on a base of steel, ordered from Room and Board. Somewhere in shipping, it was placed upside down on a broken shipping pallet, gouging the wooden top. But that was nothing compared to the corrosion caused by Hurricane Irma’s deposit of salt water on the steel. We eventually had the whole thing painted black, along with the once-chromed chairs, by a man who paints cars on the island, as you see in the pictures.
Dining room with new consoles
So, if you’re lucky, you can save a little time (and unexpected adventure) if someone points you to a craftsman who can build from sketches and pictures you find on the Internet.
For years, I’ve loved the “bibliothecas” designed by Charlotte Perriand in the 1950’s. Her ‘Nuage,” is still sold by Cassina. The configuration can be customised in your favorite colors and components. The price tag starts around $20,000, though. I’ve seen vintage pieces listed much, much higher.
And who doesn’t like the colorful works by Mondrian?
In tribute, not copying, I designed and drew up a sketch for two console cabinets, then spent a few days painting the drawer fronts after our carpenter, Micah, delivered the piece.
I bought the paint in Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and locally. I was relieved to be able to find the colors I wanted by going to different stores (on several trips, originally planned for various other reasons).
Even with a skilled craftsman, the Island presents a few problems that we spoiled Americans have to get used to. This time, Micah was able to locate the right kind of wood, and we had some leftover stain for the wood finished parts – but not quite enough of the latter. There was no matching stain in the Country. Somehow, Micah made the color we found work.
3 years ago I didn’t have the luxury of going off Island when I painted the”Tonic Waters” in that grouping of canvases on the dining room wall and there was no Navy blue paint available and I was told that I couldn’t even order it! I mixed some black paint into the darkest blue I could find to get as close as I could.
Micah also built this desk that Larry sketched from mahogany bought at one of the local suppliers and recycled wood left over from our kitchen and closets to build two storage cabinets.
You can see more of Charlotte Perriand’s work and read about her life an the current exhibit of her works at Architectural Digest, here. She designed along with Le Corbusier and I think you’ll recognize h chaise lounge and other pieces. If you’re in Manhattan this week, hurry to Venus Over Manhattan, the exhibition is scheduled to close on January 12, 2019.
I love a challenge. And island life offers plenty of that!
One Reply to “Making a Home in the BVI”