What is the story behind Anaia, what was your inspiration to create it?
I have been based in Asia for the last 18 years and, for the last 12 years, I have been going to Koh Phangan quite frequently. It became my go-to vacation island to escape the big cities of Singapore and Hong Kong. With its tropical, easy-going lifestyle, it provided a big contrast to the stress of city living.
Over the years, I developed this idea to create a space where I could meet with friends and family once a year and enjoy quality time as a group. As I traveled around Southeast Asia, I always got ideas and inspiration and the villa is the result of these. It combines all of my interests, hobbies and passions in a micro-luxury retreat and wellness space.
Initially, we just wanted to have the villa and offer a few activities. But we have ended up with four full-time staff, two part-time staff and dozens of partners on the island who offer different experiences. It’s like a mini resort. You have all the facilities you would expect from a big, luxury resort but you only have to share them with people you choose in seclusion and privacy. With each group that comes, we try to understand what their intentions are and suggest experiences for their stay that are tailored to their interests and needs.
How would you describe the atmosphere and interior design of the villa?
The villa is designed as a space where you can spend quality time with your friends and family while still being able to easily explore Koh Phangan. Most properties on the island boast sea views but they are often on very steep hills, which means you are largely stuck in the house. With Anaia Villa, we wanted something secluded but with a big garden to bring the nature component in. I wanted to be able to walk around barefoot and be surrounded by plants commonly found on the island.
We decided to work with a French architectural firm, Sicart and Smith (which is based in Saigon) because they had experience working in Southeast Asia and with materials local to the region. While we used local materials and workers, we wanted a tropical, contemporary style, rather than something that was traditionally Thai.
All of the buildings connect indoor and outdoor living spaces and we tried as much as possible to preserve what we had. For example, we positioned the buildings so that the existing boulders and trees were incorporated into the design. We also used many of the stones found on the site to create the stone wall cladding on the buildings. It took six months of manual labour to break down the rocks and make the walls and they ended up being one of the main construction materials.