Our Mahogany Bay Village showhouse, on a quiet canal in Belize, is everything an authentic tropical hide-away ought to be—dreamy sleeping porch included.
1 of 7Photo by Tria Giovan; Styling by Liz Strong
The beauty of a house that’s just a single room wide is that the breeze can blow right through it. “The windows and doors turn into an air conditioner—you throw them open and enjoy the natural light and ventilation,” says New Urbanist designer Eric Moser. Moser worked with fellow designer Julia Starr Sanford to create this three-bedroom, 1,440-square-foot showhouse in the resort community of Mahogany Bay Village in Belize. It’s on a narrow island off the Central American mainland in the Caribbean Sea, part of a diverse landscape of sand and mountains, palm trees and forest. “Flying in, you realize that you’re in the most extraordinary place,” says interior designer Amanda Lindroth, who put the wild natural environs at the forefront of her design. “I knew I wanted to bring all of that beauty inside.”
This was more than an abstract ideal; it was a plan shared by the entire team, who built the home—and much of the furniture in it—using native trees harvested in Belizean forests. “Woods like Caribbean pine and cabbage bark last forever in this environment. It’s their home,” says Moser. “We chose not to fight with the elements, but to embrace them.” Here’s more on how a singular locale like this one can serve as a stroke of design genius.
“Porches and decks make up half the square footage of the house,” says Moser, noting that screens and louvered shutters give the porches flexibility to function like interior rooms, while staying open to the fresh air. The side yard is a privacy win, with the pool and courtyard serving as a buffer between neighbors.
2 of 7Photo by Tria Giovan; Styling by Liz Strong
Include Geography Lessons
“Belize has a British colonial history, but it’s in Central America, so I wanted to be sure the textiles reflected this and had a bit of ethnicity to them,” says Lindroth. She bypassed British florals on the living room throw pillows in favor of more indigenous batik-style prints. The celery-colored seat cushions help play up the light coming in from the canal, which is on the other side of the trio of doors. The campaign-style coffee table is crafted of locally harvested mahogany and the étagères of tiger bamboo, all made by Belizean craftsmen from sketches Lindroth drew.
Horizontal V-groove paneling and British Colonial–style railings wrap the breezy outdoor living space, which functions as a primary living room. “This is where you end up spending your time, out in the fresh air,” says Lindroth, who furnished the porch with natural teak furniture, an aluminum peacock chair, and a thatched coffee table she dreamed up herself. “We wallpapered grasscloth to the top of a block table, and then attached a grass skirt. Belize has a good bit of beachy thatch in its landscape, so this suits the house well.” The decking is crafted of Santa Maria hardwood, a local material similar to îpe.
Authentic Belizean style is less about sparkle and shine, more about the materials that are local, moisture-resistant, and naturally beautiful. Moser used native Tzalam wood (as opposed to the mahogany used for windows, doors, and furniture) to panel the cabinet and island fronts. “It’s lighter, with more striations in the grain, giving it an artistic quality,” he says. Casement windows emphasize the height of a room better than double-hung windows, as do the exposed rafters. “Anytime you enclose spaces in a humid climate, you invite mold,” notes Moser. “The open rafters dry out regularly, and are a beautiful design element.” The kitchen adjoins an open dining room that steps out to the porch.
The cabinets and island are crafted of mahogany with Tzalam wood, and the counters in the kitchen are Caesarstone.
5 of 7Photo by Tria Giovan; Styling by Liz Strong
Bring in the Bamboo
“This room feels like a Belizean forest to me,” says Lindroth. This was the idea behind the bamboo wallpaper in the small downstairs powder room. A wall-mounted sink saves space and keeps the wallpaper visible from floor to ceiling. The 1950s island-girl hand towel is an eBay find.
Extending the living areas to the outdoors was a key priority for Moser and Starr Sanford, so they enclosed half of the upstairs porch for use as a third bedroom. With its corrugated metal roof and operable louvered windows, “it feels a little like a summer-camp bedroom to me,” says Lindroth, who outfitted the space with Mission-style twin beds and simple cotton blankets. “I envisioned listening to rain overhead and playing cards on the bed.” Deep overhangs, says Moser, allow the shutters to remain open when it’s raining.
The twin beds and nightstand on the sleeping porch (as well as those in the master bedroom) are custom-designed by Caribbean Homes & Export. The herringbone throws are by Brahms Mount.
7 of 7Photo by Tria Giovan; Styling by Liz Strong
Keep It Real
The four-poster, campaign-style bed (a copy of an antique) was the starting point for the master bedroom. Batik prints, a pink quilt, and sheer mosquito netting “doll the room up a bit,” says Lindroth, “but the rooms here don’t need to be too fancy, or they will feel out of place.” With this in mind, she stuck to the basics, like a pair of flat-front nightstands and “the whitest, plainest linens I could find,” she adds. She also used colonial campaign stools with natural leather seats, rather than hotel-quality luggage racks.
The table lamps in the master bedroom are hand-rubbed antique brass from Visual Comfort, and the blanket at the end of the bed is by Donghia. The denim area rug is by Dash & Albert.