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Everything in Its Place

A homeowner, innkeeper, and father dreams about the fabulous home that awaits his family

It's bitterly cold in New York—seven degrees, to be exact—threatening snow yet again, and Delaey Robinson is out on the roof. Fortunately for Delaey, his roof is in Bermuda, where the temperature is a bit more moderate and a snowstorm is no threat at all.

What is a threat in Bermuda, although not this time of year, is the kind of hurricane that can knock out your windows and lift the roof right off your house. Hurricane Fabian, which blasted Bermuda in September 2003, was the worst such storm in more than 50 years, and it took its toll in lives and homes. Harbour View, the vacant house next to Aunt Nea's Inn, took a bit of a beating, and it was that pummeling that prompted owners Delaey Robinson and Andrea Dismont to finally begin their renovation project.

Delaey is on the roof today to scope out a second-story patio recently added to the plan. The patio will extend off the west side of the house, where the original plan showed a two-story guest apartment adjoining the main house.

"We did some number crunching, and a second floor there would just have been too much," says Delaey, sounding philosophical about the budget. "It's one of the changes people will see—the new plan gives us a patio on the roof of the guest quarters instead of a second floor."

If he's disappointed about the change, it doesn't show. In fact, Delaey is positively enthralled by the new home he and Andrea are creating for themselves and their two young sons, Kelsey, 4, and Myles, 2. Harbour View will be more than a home—it will represent the last stage in a conscious turnaround Delaey and Andrea made in their lives. Andrea, a former VP-level underwriter for a reinsurance company, and Delaey, a former Member of Parliament who once worked in the budget office of the Ministry of Finance, are now the owner-operators of Aunt Nea's Inn. After years of work getting Aunt Nea's renovated while the family lived in a cramped apartment, it's time to build what Delaey calls "our final resting place in Bermuda."

Not that it sounds like he has much rest in mind as he rhapsodizes about the cooking they'll be able to do in their new kitchen. With the old floor plan completely erased, the footprint of the house became a blank slate for Delaey and Andrea and their architect, Colin Campbell. Designing your home from the bare walls is something of a luxury, but it requires careful thinking about how you live and what you want. Settling on the location of the kitchen, in the north room formerly occupied by the living room, was job one. Not only was there enough room on that side of the house for a combined kitchen and family room, it also had one unbeatable thing in its favor: access to the large garden planned for that side of the house.

"Growing my own veggies is the pinnacle of living," says Delaey. "It's wonderful to step out to the garden and cut off exactly what you need. And there's nothing sweeter than the taste of fresh tomatoes; they're nothing like those wet cardboard things you buy."

Delaey's former life took him on a lot of international travel, and he waxes poetic about the chance to replicate some of the cuisines he loves in his own home. "The kitchen is going to be incredible," he exclaims. "The traveling I did put me in touch with lots of different cuisines, which I love. You can't get them here, but I can cook them. Maybe in New York you can get all different cuisines, but not here. And now I'll be able to cook with minimal hassle. I live for food — and to be able to have the gear to turn out meals...." he drifts off, no doubt contemplating the great meals in his future.

In talking to Delaey, one can easily imagine the kind of exuberant family dinners that await them once the project is finished. Family matters are obviously the main priorities, and chief among them will be creating the sense of order that's been missing while the inn business was getting on its feet. The family made the best of the situation, but now it's time for a different way of life.

"The boys' lives are chaotic," Delaey admits. "They live at an inn! And now while the renovation is under way we have all the junk from Harbour View in our place. When we have the house they'll have healthier routines. The beautiful thing is that everything will have a place. I'm going to have a rule, any new acquisition has to have a place — if you don't have a place for it, you have to get rid of something else. So if you want it, you'd better be prepared to give up something else."

That may turn out to be the kind of order you can only dream about before you move a two-year-old and a four-year-old into a new home. But the entire house was planned around convenience and order. The second floor has a master suite with a terrace on one side of the house; on the other side will be the boys' shared bedroom, a laundry room, and large dressing room/closet.

"In a normal house," says Delaey, "that huge walk-in closet would be a room. It's down the hall from the laundry room, so we shouldn't find clothes anywhere else in the house. If it's not in the laundry or in the closet, it should be on your body."

We wish him a lot of luck with that part. But maybe after Fabian, Kelsey and Myles don't seem quite so chaotic after all.