Liv­ing

Villa Kali, on Lebanon’s north­ern coast, is an ar­chi­tec­tural won­der float­ing above the Mediter­ranean.

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Villa Kali p. 34, Dsquared2 Gym p. 42, Fran­cis Sul­tana p.44

Not all houses were cre­ated equal. In the pretty town of Mon­sef, on a par­tic­u­larly scenic stretch of Mediter­ranean coast­line a few min­utes’ drive north of By­b­los, Villa Kali at­tests to that adage. Com­pleted just last year, and of­ten re­ferred to as the El Khalil Beach House (af­ter the fam­ily who owns it), Villa Kali comes cour­tesy of Blankpage Ar­chi­tects (Pa­trick Mezher and Walid Ghan­tous’ firm) and Karim Nader who left in June 2016, to form his own stu­dio. To­gether, the three men en­vi­sioned a four-story sea­side home that would at once be open to the spec­tac­u­lar beauty of the Mediter­ranean, while pro­vid­ing stylish shel­ter from its el­e­ments – bru­tal sun in sum­mer, rain­storms in win­ter and strong winds in springtime. Prior to build­ing their home, Faisal and May El Khalil bought the seafront par­cel of land with the idea to cre­ate a con­tem­po­rary ho­tel par­ti­c­ulier for the en­tire fam­ily – in­clud­ing their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren. To ac­com­mo­date the ex­tended fam­ily, the ar­chi­tects cre­ated four dis­tinct liv­ing quar­ters, on the sec­ond and third lev­els, all joined to­gether by a vast com­mon space at the lower level. The fourth level is an open-air rooftop ter­race. “We cre­ated two sep­a­rate vol­umes that open up to­ward the sea,” says Karim Nader. “They’re not par­al­lel to each other but form a V shape.” On the one hand, the V shape re­flects the ac­tual lay­out of the land, yet it also serves a sec­ond pur­pose. “It al­lowed us to open up the per­spec­tive of the home to the hori­zon,” says Nader, adding that the sin­gu­lar V shape was es­sen­tial to achieve rav­ish­ing sea views from vir­tu­ally any­where in the house. When you en­ter Villa Kali from the Mon­sef beach road, you don’t im­me­di­ately see the wa­ter. You have to turn 90 de­grees, past the aqua-blue-tiled cas­cad­ing foun­tains, and sud­denly you have an un­ob­structed view of the Mediter­ranean. The liv­ing quar­ters are on ei­ther side of the dou­ble-vol­ume home, and you have to go down an out­door flight of stairs, with foun­tains on ei­ther side, to reach the cen­tral court­yard. “It’s a Ja­panese process of space ar­range­ment,” says Nader. “The wa­ter el­e­ment leads to the sea via fall­ing cas­cades.” The com­mu­nal cen­tral court­yard, in­spired by those found in tra­di­tional Le­banese homes yet up­dated to re­flect con­tem­po­rary mores, is one of the most un­usual fea­tures of the beach house. “The fam­ily wanted a place to re­ceive peo­ple,” says Nader, point­ing to the var­i­ous fea­tures that con­sti­tute the space: a din­ing room and bar on one side, and then a TV room on the other. In the cen­tre of it all, there’s a liv­ing room that’s roofed-in but open to the gar­den and the sea on one side, and to the stair­case with its run­ning foun­tains on the other. Be­yond the liv­ing room, the ar­chi­tects cre­ated a gar­den with a pool, an ex­te­rior bar and even a cook­ing area, all on the edge of the sea, al­low­ing the home­own­ers max­i­mum us­age of the out­doors. And with the Mediter­ranean right along the edge of the gar­den, at the res­i­dents’ fin­ger­tips, the sea is lit­er­ally in the home’s back­yard.

While the cen­tral liv­ing room is an open-air space, it can also be closed off dur­ing win­ter thanks to slid­ing glass doors. These doors, which are in­vis­i­ble when open, en­sure that the liv­ing area is pro­tected from storms or cold weather, while en­abling full us­age of the space dur­ing the colder months. “If there’s a storm, you can en­joy it as you would a paint­ing,” says Nader. “The idea is to cre­ate max­i­mum trans­parency to frame the view,” adding that the liv­ing room also has floor heat­ing for to­tal com­fort. The pool, which lies in the gar­den be­tween the house and the sea, is the last layer of the man­made wa­ter fea­tures, ac­cord­ing to Nader. While the pool shows clean lines and pu­rity in its de­sign, the rock for­ma­tions in the sea are wilder, more baroque, jagged and rough in their nat­u­ral forms. “These rocks in the sea in­spired the con­struc­tion of the house,” says Nader, draw­ing par­al­lels be­tween the strata of the sea rocks and the way the var­i­ous lay­ers of

the house were de­signed. “The ar­chi­tec­ture gives a sense of flota­tion,” he adds. “There are no columns, and noth­ing is sup­ported. The house is as light as pos­si­ble.” In ad­di­tion, the stun­ningly beau­ti­ful ter­razzo stone with mar­ble ag­gre­gates cladding the house’s ex­te­rior (and also used for the in­te­rior floor) draws its in­spi­ra­tion from the Mediter­ranean. “The stone is rem­i­nis­cent of the sea peb­bles in its colour, tex­ture and shape,” says Nader. In terms of fur­ni­ture, the liv­ing area boasts an in­ter­est­ing mix of pieces: there’s a cus­tom-de­signed din­ing ta­ble made of cedar wood, rugs by Iwan Mak­tabi, a sofa by Edra, and tables by Nada Debs and Karen Chek­erd­jian. Many home ac­ces­sories – the light fix­tures, the chan­de­liers and more – were de­signed by Blankpage and Karim Nader Stu­dio. There are also two wine cool­ers, the first of which is near the bar in the liv­ing area. “The cooler is cus­tom-de­signed,” says Nader, “with slate rock in its back­ground. The bot­tles are placed on brass rods.” The sec­ond wine cooler is in the sprawl­ing in­dus­trial kitchen in the back – this is the main kitchen for the house, com­plete with a ser­vice en­trance, although there are smaller kitch­enettes in each liv­ing quar­ter on the up­per floors. Also in back, the ar­chi­tects have in­cluded a gym, sauna and Jacuzzi. While there are two sep­a­rate vol­umes to the home, they are con­nected, as stated be­fore, via the cen­tral court­yard on the lower level. The two vol­umes are also con­nected via two ex­te­rior walk­ways, one of which joins the rooftop ter­races, and the other of which bridges the bed­room level. The one that con­nects the bedrooms fea­tures a com­mu­nal din­ing room ta­ble that’s ideal for al­fresco break­fast with a spec­tac­u­lar view of the Mediter­ranean. “The rooftop serves as an ex­ter­nal liv­ing room,” Nader adds. The sec­ond and third lev­els in­clude the bedrooms (there are five bedrooms on each side of the house), dress­ing ar­eas (es­sen­tially walk-in clos­ets), the bath­rooms, sit­ting ar­eas be­tween the bedrooms and the afore­men­tioned kitch­enettes. “The in­den­ta­tion of the house al­lows di­rect views of the sea,” says Nader. “Even the back bedrooms and some bath­rooms have sea views.” Villa Kali, a project that was many years in the mak­ing, also of­fers lux­ury fea­tures like ex­quis­ite land­scap­ing in­te­grated around the project, a sound sys­tem through­out the prop­erty and a par­tic­u­larly graceful out­door cir­cu­lar seat­ing area that fronts the sea – a true de­sign gem. But the ar­chi­tects’ great­est achieve­ment is per­haps the abil­ity to bal­ance their cus­tomers’ life­style needs with ar­chi­tec­tural de­tails that el­e­vate Villa Kali from what could have been a sim­ple beach house to a new Mediter­ranean land­mark – a house whose de­sign will one day re­flect a spe­cific era’s most im­por­tant ar­chi­tec­tural val­ues.

Above: The roof gar­den atop Villa Kali. "Open­ness to the sur­round­ing land­scape was very im­por­tant for the own­ers. They wanted a min­i­mal level of ob­struc­tion be­tween them­selves and the en­vi­ron­ment. We re­sponded to their re­quests with an open­plan ar­range­ment for the house with rooms that cap­i­talise on views, sun­light, and wind ex­po­sure,” says Walid Ghan­tous.

Above and op­po­site: "The most im­por­tant life­style com­po­nents of the villa, which we el­e­vated to the ma­jor or­gan­is­ing fea­tures in the project, are the ter­race pool and the court­yard. One con­tin­u­ous glass wall, span­ning over 10 me­tres, con­nects the re­cep­tion area with the pool, the beach, the shim­mer­ing waters of the Mediter­ranean Sea and be­yond,” says Pa­trick Mezher.

Left: Even the bath­rooms pro­vide views of the Mediter­ranean. Right: The house rein­ter­prets the tra­di­tional ori­en­tal home in a sea­side set­ting – a house with sev­eral bedrooms that sur­round an open court­yard with a wa­ter foun­tain

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