Meet Lia, the Visionary Behind Villa Amalia
Mike and I have been together since we were 17 & 18 year s old when we met in High school in Lorette, Manitoba, Canada. Mike was born in the small norther n town of Gil -lam, MB and moved to Ile Des Chenes with his parents and 2 brother s when he was 8. I was born in the Netherlands and grew up on a small potato far m until we immigrated to Canada in 1980 with my twin sister, older sister, parents and grandparents, to buy a farm and to grow grain. Mike and I married in 1994 and have 3 sons, 22, 20 and 17.
We now live in La Salle, Manitoba, Canada on a farmyard where we run our family business with our sons and our main office remains in our home. We are very hands on owners, very involved with every aspect.
Mike and I have both in love with the Caribbean and the mesmerizing turquoise waters since our first trip together to Cancun, Mexico in 1990. We had always dreamed about owning something in a tropical setting as we both love the heat but we never imagined what has transpired since that first trip.
We bought our first Property in St. Maarten in 2009 after spending some time in Florida looking for an investment property and not finding anything we liked. We decided on a whim to fly to the Dutch island of St. Maarten after my mother encouraged us to not give up. We had wanted to see this tiny Dutch Island that is duty free with no taxes. It seemed very intriguing and had always piqued our interest because of my Dutch heritage and Mike liked the ‘no property taxes’ and cheap beer. My parents were baby-sitting our 3 boys in our home at the time so we thought why not and we quickly drove from Fort Myers across to Miami to catch the last American Airlines flight to St. Maarten.
Upon arrival they asked where we were staying, we had no clue but remembered seeing a bright neon sign with ‘Mary’s Boon’ on it when landing, so we said Mary’s Boon and that is where we stayed our very first night in paradise.
We soon ventured to the other side of the is-land and fell in love. We found the perfect villa for us and we spent many weeks living and enjoying the island and when not, we rented it short term. We realized quickly that St. Maarten is a favorite American holiday destination with the ease of flying into the island with multiple daily flights from Miami, New York, Charlotte, Atlanta and others. Over the years, and as we became more comfortable with the island, we kept looking for a piece of land to purchase to build a vacation home for our family. One winter, when at home in Canada, we saw a listing for the perfect Ocean front property in the upscale neighborhood of Guana Bay, where ministers and government officials and professionals live. We though it was the perfect spot for us. Mike’s parents were on the island at the time and took a look at the property and ag reed with us, and put in an offer to purchase.
We found an architect and had plans drawn up, we found a reputable construction company to build our home. Gisela, the lady whom owns the company was also a Concrete Engineer so we were excited that we had the perfect fit to build our vacation dream home. Villa Amalia, from the time we purchased the property to finalizing the construction took 6 years to build with many challenges or as we say, 2 steps forward, 3 steps back and a common questions we now ask, which ‘Monday of which Month’.
Construction in the Caribbean has been one of the most challenging things we have ever done, however it has brought us many wonderful times and memories and has allowed us to spend more time in paradise than we ever anticipated. We use laughter and fun to get us through the hard times and we were forever grateful that our 3 boys were the least of our worries, had it been different, we would not have had the freedom to be away for longer periods of time.
In 2017 we had a visit from Hurricane Irma and now faced many more months of repairs to fix the damages. In the end, it took over 7 year s to build to completion. My mother and I were at Amalia putting on the final touches such as purchasing local art, installing internet, etc. when Irma came over the islands.
To this day I am grateful I did not realize what was going on outside of our master bathroom, where I had put my mom in the tub and covered her with couch cushions in case a window broke and we would have flying debris. I huddled between the tub and bathroom door also with cushions for protection, hoping the door would not give in and break. I remember taking a peak out the bedroom door when it was quiet, I shut it so quickly, so horrified of what I had just glimpsed. It was all very surreal, like being in a movie, just unbelievable. It looked like an atomic bomb had been set off and finally came to realization, those noises we heard was the furniture, broken glass, railings, fixtures, rocks and other debris, scraping on the tile floors and on the concrete driveway, being dragged by the force of the winds.
We say that Irma had a mean hunger as she stole 3 fridges out of our home, all scattered on the driveway, the main fridge being tossed like a toy, landing poolside. A fridge that took 6 adult men to carry down the stairs into the kitchen. Just a toy for Irma to throw.
We replaced new with new, which is truly a heartbreaking thing to experience. No one ever imagines having to replace brand new with brand new. New Furniture, appliances, windows, a/c units, glass railings, doors, etc. needed replacing and purchased all over again.
On a more positive note, our vision for Amalia is something that grew on us as we were building. We always kept in mind that we would want to share this villa with guests when we were creating and designing the villa. We wanted to offer our family and guests a brand with a certain level of luxury and comfort with spacious rooms while staying modern/contemporary and visually appealing for a relaxing atmosphere.
We did a lot of research on the luxury market and had many meetings with Carimo, a local rental agent that specialized in luxury vacations. Together we discussed what was missing in the market, a missing niche we could improve on, to offer a brand new luxury villa that exceeds expectations. Luxury was new for us to say the least, we have always been very simple people, so it was a learning curve. We want for our guests to walk in, drop their bags, enjoy a warm welcome with a glass of champagne and immediately feel their stress and worries leave.