Island Oasis

This Lexington-based interior designer took his skills and southern charm to the Bahamas


By Elizabeth Scinta
Photos by Brie Williams


I believe the best way to know an interior designer is to look at the design of their home, similar to how we want to see the hairstylist’s hair before they lay a finger on our hair. Well, lucky for us, Matthew Carter of Matthew Carter Interiors has allowed us to glimpse into his home, Chanticleer Hill, in Harbour Island, Bahamas. A Lexington-based interior designer, Carter’s projects range from houses on horse farms to a tropical island oasis on Lyford Cay and Harbour Island, Bahamas.

Carter is known for having lots of color throughout his projects, and his home is no different. There are robin egg blue-colored stairs, vibrant green palm leaves and chartreuse beams lining the primary bedroom’s ceiling. “I love saturated colors that almost feel neutral. I think there are certain colors like a chartreuse acidic green and a pale pink (particularly on a ceiling) that work with everything,” says Carter. “I like to use color, but I don’t like to beat people over the head with color. It’s more of an accent to me, and sometimes it’s a strong accent, and sometimes it’s very subtle.” The fuschia sea fan accents the wood bookcase it dangles from in the living room; don’t forget to glance up to see a carved wooden Southeast Asian elephant.

Chanticleer Hill was designed to feel casually elegant and refined. The works of art on display throughout the home grandly evoke these characteristics. Every space features astonishing artwork like a flattened magenta parasol above the plush white sofa in the den and a vividly colorful painting by a mid-20th century French artist above the bar cart — Carter’s favorite piece. “The house was renovated over about a year, and it was a process at times, so we had some time between the purchase of the property, the design and the renovation to collect a lot of really beautiful things,” Carter explained.

Aside from the artwork, Carter’s home is full of furniture that catches your eye as soon as you see them. For example, take the Noguchi paper lantern above the dining room table. “He was a Japanese paper designer that created these amazing light sculptures. It’s a classic, but it’s also kind of an unexpected classic. Of course, you can’t hurt it, so that was certainly a big consideration. But I think more than anything it’s just the impact of having a big circular globe lantern,” explained Carter. The soft glow of the lantern almost mimics the moon’s glimmer on soft white sand (or pale pink sand if you’re on Harbour Island). To the left of the dining room table sits another attention-grabbing piece, what Carter describes as an “island version of a French console table.” The table is crafted out of lacquered driftwood purchased on a trip to Los Angeles.

You’ll detect two elements throughout the home that flow from room to room: rattan furniture and limed pecky cypress walls. Around the dining room table, notice the island-chic rattan chairs, and on the porch, a rattan couch sits sandwiched between blush pink columns begging for someone to curl up with their favorite beach read and enjoy the weather. Rattan is durable, and “it’s one of those materials that feel right in the Bahamas. It’s natural, comfortable and has a very relaxed vibe,” explained Carter.

The limed pecky cypress walls clad the guesthouse walls, a half bath in the main home and the front porch’s ceiling. “Wallpaper fits in a fancier place in the Bahamas like Lyford Cay; it doesn’t fit an island to me. So, we didn’t use any wallpaper,” says Carter. Thus enters pecky cypress, Carter’s favorite tropical material to use because it’s naturally organic and it repels insects. “We had the pecky cypress limed, which is when they paint it all white, sanded all the white paint off, so the paint is left only in the crevices, and then they wax the whole thing. It’s a lot of effort to make it look effortless,” Carter laughed.

His design style can be defined as making the old new by using a mix of objects from different periods and places. Carter didn’t plan this project entirely but spent time purchasing artwork and furniture to make the home look lived in and less like a showroom. “I’m always trying to take something and make it feel a little bit unexpected,” said Carter. For clients, the project needs to reflect the owner’s personality, not his own, so he utilizes clients’ artwork or furniture rather than creating something entirely from scratch. Chanticleer Hill has clear reflections of his personality in the artwork, block print fabrics and relaxed linen; each corner of the home shows off a little bit of Carter’s personality. Whether designing a home in Lexington or the Bahamas, Carter uses his expertise, bubbly personality and keen eye to create a masterpiece.

House Name: Chanticleer Hill
Location: Harbour Island, Bahamas
Interior Designer: Matthew Carter
Architect: Brent Bruner
Photographer: Brie Williams
Styling: Elly Poston Cooper

Matthew Carter Interiors
115 Clay Ave.
Lexington, KY 40502

Matthew Carter.