The Harder You Try

Kantaluk Hongladarom is the epit­ome of a hard-work­ing busi­ness­woman and mother but, as Nicha­ree Phati­tit dis­cov­ers, there is much more to the art-lov­ing real es­tate ex­ec­u­tive than meets the eye

Thailand Tatler - - ASIA TATLER -

Nicha­ree Phati­tit meets art-lov­ing Kan­taluck Hongladarom, the ar­che­typal hard-work­ing busi­ness­woman and mother who has carved out a suc­cess­ful ca­reer for her­self in the male-dom­i­nated in­dus­try of real es­tate

KPN LAND’S FOR­MER CHIEF OP­ER­AT­ING OF­FI­CER ying Kantaluk Hongladarom, the mas­ter­mind be­hind lux­ury con­do­minium The Diplo­mat 39, brings to mind the fa­mous words of Coco Chanel: “A girl should be two things—classy and fab­u­lous.” Well-versed and elo­quent, Kantaluk ex­udes a grace and con­fi­dence that re­flect her up­bring­ing. She at­tended board­ing school in Aus­tralia from the age of seven be­fore head­ing to a Swiss fin­ish­ing school and later the United States, earn­ing a de­gree in eco­nom­ics at Bos­ton Univer­sity be­fore a sec­ond de­gree in busi­ness at Sasin Grad­u­ate In­sti­tute of Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion. From a young age she has trav­elled the world—ex­pe­ri­ences that have helped to form her per­spec­tives on aes­thet­ics and style and her sense of in­de­pen­dence. Here she muses on her philoso­phies and the life jour­ney she has taken to be­come the per­son she is to­day.

Kantaluk showed her in­de­pen­dent na­ture by fol­low­ing her own path into high fi­nance. “Af­ter grad­u­at­ing, I be­gan my ca­reer at Gold­man Sachs and later moved to SGV-Arthur An­der­sen in Bangkok as a con­sul­tant,” she says. In fact, she spent the best part of a decade hon­ing her man­age­ment skills and ac­quir­ing cor­po­rate ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore re­turn­ing to help with fam­ily busi­ness in­ter­ests, tak­ing care of golf cour­ses and a ho­tel un­der the Siam Mo­tors Group, which is part of the wider fam­ily con­glom­er­ate. It wasn’t un­til four years ago that she fi­nally joined KPN Land. Within a year and a half she was pro­moted to the po­si­tion of chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer.

When talk­ing about her busi­ness phi­los­o­phy and man­age­ment style, Kantaluk’s for­ward­think­ing shows through. “I al­ways en­cour­age my teams to think out­side the box—be­yond sim­ply their in­di­vid­ual roles and scope of work—and I be­lieve it’s okay to make mis­takes. You can’t move for­ward think­ing ‘if only I’d known this, I would have done that’. What is im­por­tant is that you’ve taken into ac­count all the in­for­ma­tion avail­able and you’ve tried to come up with the best so­lu­tion. So for me, with both life and work there should be no re­grets. You make the most in­formed de­ci­sion you can at the time and you move on.”

An avid lover of art and de­sign, the 47-yearold’s pas­sion spans both her work and pri­vate life. Whether it is for her own liv­ing space or real es­tate projects un­der her care, Kantaluk’s eye for taste­ful dé­cor is re­flected in ev­ery de­tail—from or­nate pat­terned wall­pa­per to lush ma­te­ri­als and pieces of art and an­tiques hand-picked by the lady her­self. This is par­tic­u­larly ev­i­dent at The Diplo­mat 39, which ex­udes a clas­sic, time­less style. “When it comes to de­sign, I al­ways aim for some­thing that’s clas­sic but mod­ern enough so that one wouldn’t feel that the de­sign is dated,” she ex­plains. As its name sug­gests, The Diplo­mat 39 oozes un­der­stated charm, es­chew­ing brash­ness for a more ur­bane feel—in­deed, the lux­ury con­do­minium could be a metaphor for Kantaluk her­self.

A per­fec­tion­ist who em­braces the im­per­fec­tions in life, Kantaluk be­lieves that in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tion is a per­sonal and or­ganic process. “It’s like cre­at­ing a pri­vate col­lec­tion of the things one loves. Whether you are dec­o­rat­ing your own home or a project like The Diplo­mat 39, it is never a fin­ished prod­uct—it’s or­ganic and ever-grow­ing, with things al­ways be­ing added or re­moved as tastes and prac­ti­cal­i­ties change. A home, af­ter all, should be lived in. It’s very per­sonal,” she smiles. “The same ap­plies to the art that I’ve bought. I buy pieces be­cause they are beau­ti­ful, rather than be­cause I need them for a par­tic­u­lar space.” In terms of ap­proach she adds, “I don’t have a par­tic­u­lar style. In fact, I used to think of my­self as a mixed salad—when you pick all the veg­eta­bles that you like and mix them up. I be­lieve in meta­mor­pho­sis and the syn­chronic­ity of dif­fer­ent de­signs. Be­cause I’ve trav­elled quite a lot, I tend to draw in­spi­ra­tion from what I’ve seen—from my own mem­o­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences.”

Cer­tainly some­thing of a glo­be­trot­ter, Kantaluk loves to visit art fairs to se­lect pieces both for her­self and her projects. “My cousin and I visit the Euro­pean Fine Art Fair in Maas­tricht al­most ev­ery year. Then I take

some time to travel around Eu­rope, vis­it­ing dif­fer­ent art cen­tres and my favourite an­tique stores. I love art and ar­chi­tec­ture. Peo­ple who cre­ate things in­spire me. The abil­ity of hu­man be­ings to cre­ate is a won­der to me. I’m a firm be­liever in ex­press­ing one­self and with art and ar­chi­tec­ture, one feels like they are shar­ing part of their ex­pe­ri­ence and life with you through their work.” When speak­ing about art, her eyes seem to light up. “I can re­call ex­actly how I felt when I pur­chased a par­tic­u­lar piece of art, so in a way col­lect­ing has be­come like a photo al­bum for me. What I love about art is that it sparks dis­cus­sion, and it’s such a great way to en­gage and in­ter­act with peo­ple. Art can be so sub­jec­tive and the di­ver­sity of opin­ions is what makes it so beau­ti­ful. I also love to visit mu­se­ums and gal­leries, es­pe­cially the smaller ones.” Some of her favourites in­clude The Frick Col­lec­tion in New York and the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.

Her ca­reer aside, Kantaluk is a dot­ing mother to her 17-year-old daugh­ter Kaye and the two have a close re­la­tion­ship. “I ad­mit I can be a worka­holic at times but I do try to bal­ance it with my per­sonal life. My daugh­ter and I have an agree­ment that I take her to school my­self. That means ev­ery day I drive her across town, which gives us time to talk. In ad­di­tion we try to have din­ner to­gether ev­ery evening, which is why I don’t at­tend that many so­cial gath­er­ings and evening events.” The pair also make ideal travel com­pan­ions. “I of­ten take Kaye with me when I go over­seas. She loves look­ing round mu­se­ums and gal­leries too. The first time I took her to Paris, she ended up vis­it­ing the Lou­vre for five days in a row,” Kantaluk laughs.

As a mother and a busy fe­male ex­ec­u­tive, one won­ders what her per­spec­tive is on gen­der equal­ity. “I think it is more rel­e­vant now than it has ever been. De­spite the fact that we’ve moved for­ward and the fem­i­nist move­ment is in­creas­ingly ac­tive, the chal­lenges of gen­der in­equal­ity still re­main and I see this in my work ev­ery day. I think it has to do with the in­dus­try it­self be­cause real es­tate is such a male­dom­i­nated field—es­pe­cially the con­struc­tion and en­gi­neer­ing sides of it.” Add to this Kantaluk’s back­ground and she points out that the chal­lenge dou­bles. “What I’ve dis­cov­ered, es­pe­cially here in Asia, is that when you come from a more priv­i­leged back­ground there will al­ways be the no­tion that you have suc­ceeded pri­mar­ily be­cause of your fam­ily name—your cred­i­bil­ity is called into ques­tion. And so you end up hav­ing to work harder to prove your­self, much more so than other peo­ple. It is a con­stant theme in what I do…say­ing ‘no, ac­tu­ally I know what I’m do­ing’. It does make life more chal­leng­ing, but it’s a chal­lenge that I’m happy to take on.”

pic­ture per­fect Kantaluk is sleek and el­e­gant in a Dior flo­ral dress matched with Chanel ear­rings; (op­po­site) the red dress by Cal­ista brings out the shine of Kantaluk's com­plex­ion com­pleted with a jew­ellery set by Jas­min

power dress­ing In a Ralph Lau­ren top and skirt paired with Chanel neck­laces; (op­po­site) our cover lady looks el­e­gant in a navy Fer­rag­amo dress and belt with Jimmy Choo stilet­tos to com­plete the look

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