Re­turn To Splen­dour

The dis­cov­ery of a ru­ined colo­nial villa while on hol­i­day led four cre­ative friends to carve out their own slice of Sri Lankan par­adise.

Australian House & Garden - - News - STORY Ta­ma­rah Pien­aar | STYLING Jenny Lewis PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Chris Warnes

Re­claimed from the Sri Lankan jun­gle, it’s glory days again for this villa.

Blessed with lush rain­forests, pris­tine beaches, eight World Her­itage sites and wildlife ga­lore, it’s lit­tle won­der Sri Lanka so eas­ily cap­tures the hearts of vis­i­tors. When Jenny Lewis, the New Zealand-born, Sin­ga­pore­based pro­pri­etor of Bode Fab­rics & Fur­nish­ings, and her part­ner Richard Bleas­dale first trav­elled to the coun­try for a friend’s wed­ding in 2009, they were in­stantly en­am­oured.

On a sub­se­quent visit in 2011, Jenny, Richard and their friends Bent­ley de B eye rand Dean Sharpe were tour­ing Sri Lanka’ s south coast when they ‘dis­cov­ered’ Halala Kanda, a sprawl­ing colo­nial villa at Weligama, about 35 min­utes’ drive from Galle. It was in ru­ins, hav­ing been aban­doned to the jun­gle af­ter its orig­i­nal own­ers died in the 1950s. Nev­er­the­less, a ro­mance was born.

Jenny says the four­some “were mad” to buy it, but restor­ing the villa has been a true labour of love. They en­gaged Sin­ga­pore­based ar­chi­tect Ross Logie to lead the project, and lo­cal ar­ti­san builders to en­sure ev­ery de­tail was faith­fully re­pro­duced the Sri Lankan way. Dean, an in­te­rior de­signer, took care of the fit-out and dec­o­rat­ing.

To­day, Halala Kanda stands proud once again, ev­ery bit as mag­nif­i­cent as it was when first built in 1912. And from the mo­ment you en­ter the metic­u­lously re­stored por­tico, the lay­out is such that its riches are dis­cov­ered at a suit­ably leisurely pace.

Vis­i­tors move from the cool of the cov­ered ve­ran­dah into a pala­tial sit­ting area with 20m-high vaulted ceil­ings. Be­yond this ‘hall­way lounge’ is an 8x10m in­ter­nal court­yard, framed by be­d­rooms, the kitchen wing and a grand open-sided din­ing pavil­ion. A lin­ear pond runs along­side the din­ing pavil­ion.

Mul­ti­ple en­ter­tain­ing ar­eas were es­sen­tial, says Jenny. “We wanted both small and large spa­ces for peo­ple to en­joy.” One of Jenny’s favourites is the ‘room of cu­riosi­ties’, just off the lav­ishly fur­nished hall­way lounge. “It’s a won­der­ful spot to read or lis­ten to mu­sic,” says Jenny, “es­pe­cially with the breeze flow­ing in and the sounds of friends in the gar­den.”

The glo­ri­ous trop­i­cal cli­mate means life is largely lived out­doors, where there’s a mix­ture of open spa­ces and cov­ered ar­eas for shade and shel­ter from mon­soon rain. The pool folly, a gazebo with con­ver­sa­tion pit at one end of the 23m pool, is an­other favourite haunt of the own­ers and guests.

Jenny, Richard, Bent­ley and Dean took on the chal­lenge of the gar­den – all 0.8ha (two acres) of it – them­selves. “We wanted to cre­ate a pro­duc­tive gar­den, one in which ev­ery­thing could be used,” says Jenny. On cut­ting back the jun­gle, they dis­cov­ered a cashew grove, mango and man­gos­teen or­chards and care­fully planted rows of co­conut palms and ebony trees. “We have since added pineap­ples and cit­rus, cof­fee and tea, a vegie patch and spice gar­den,” says Jenny. A res­i­dent team of gar­den­ers is in place to keep the gar­den look­ing its best year round.

With busy pro­fes­sional lives keep­ing them tied else­where, Jenny, Richard, Bent­ley and Dean ap­pre­ci­ate their time at Halala Kanda all the more. “We go as of­ten as we can, but it’s never enough,” says Jenny. “Leav­ing is al­ways a wrench.”

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