SmartDwellings on Mahogany Bay

all images in this post by Thomas Hager


The first SmartDwellings are now complete on Mahogany Bay, situated just south of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye in Belize. SmartDwellings were first conceived by the New Urban Guild five years ago as remarkably smaller, smarter, and more sustainable homes that would be counterpoints to the McMansions that preceded the Great Recession. And getting SmartDwellings built was one of the primary reasons we founded studioSky in the beginning. These images illustrate how we implemented SmartDwelling ideals in a tropical setting.

pair of Keeping Suites at Mahogany Bay Village in San Pedro, Belize

When people are home, their surroundings are familiar and quickly become a part of the background of life. But when they go somewhere exotic on vacation, their eyes open wide as they take in the unfamiliar setting in all its detail. That’s why starting a design revolution next door is difficult, but changing things by planting new ideas in exotic settings can be quite effective. Seaside spawned the New Urbanism movement as a resort town, as you may know. Because it was visited by millions over the years, the dream of Seaside went home with most of those millions, planting the seeds of traditional neighborhoods all over the US and abroad. We're hoping a similar thing happens with the SmartDwellings at Mahogany Bay Village.

front porch of Guest Cottage welcomes guests at Mahogany Bay Village

The first SmartDwelling design was published in the Wall Street Journal April 27, 2009… so it’s great to finally see SmartDwellings getting built. That first design illustrated the things that make SmartDwellings smart. First, they’re designed to make people happier in a house half the size of the one they might ordinarily want. To be that much smaller and smarter, the SmartDwelling must do extraordinarily clever space-saving things, so that you can actually store more things from your life in a SmartDwelling than in the sheetrock box houses that normally get built. SmartDwellings use every available cubic inch of space, doing things like transforming interior walls into storage units, building cozy dining booths rather than drafty dining rooms, and storing clothes in cabinetry such as armoires rather than in boring drywall closets.

interior shot of Guest Cottage at Mahogany Bay Village shows louvered Belizian windows and interior hardwood walls that double as storage units

Space-saving ideas don’t end at the front door, because SmartDwellings don’t waste space outdoors, either. Instead of planting lawns all around a house that must forevermore be mowed, poisoned, and fertilized, SmartDwellings surround themselves with interconnected garden rooms designed to cool you at brunch on the Breakfast Terrace on a summer morning or store the warmth of the autumn afternoon sun for Hearth Garden conversations that lean late into the evening. The Dinner Garden is where you entertain your guests; the very private Owners’ Garden is where you entertain each other.

All those garden rooms aren’t just decorative, either. Most (if not all) of the plant material can be edible, from fruit trees and berry bushes to grape vines and vegetables. The key is that all of the edible plants should be designed in a way that is as lovable as an ornamental garden.

I’ll be posting lots more about these SmartDwellings in the coming months, as there are so many stories to tell. In the meantime, what else do you want to know about them? Let me know, and I’ll do my best to tell those specific stories… thanks!

~Steve Mouzon

PS: Here are more Mahogany Bay Village pictures.


© Studio Sky 2014