When it’s hot and hectic outside, more than ever hotels need to be a welcoming place of respite. These hotels in Sri Lanka achieve that by combining locally inspired craft with a contemporary design sensibility.
Fort Bazaar, Galle
A restored 17th-century townhouse built around a courtyard is the setting for Fort Bazaar. The hotel was designed by Simone Grace, creative director of interior studio and Galle shop, Souk 58, who took her overall inspiration from tiles. “Texture was important and the tiles gave me the freedom to play with geometric designs”, says Grace. “We sourced the ceramic floor tiles from Vietnam and some furniture from Bali. A lot of what we wanted couldn’t be made here, so there was a definite divide on what could be done locally versus what had to be made abroad.” Items from Sri Lanka include bespoke, laser-cut wall lights made by Avikans and contemporary furniture by Only and Co. Her favourite part of the design? “The upper terrace, which is meant for relaxing, with oversized throw cushions and built-in teak tables.”
KK Beach, Habaraduwa
A four-suite beachfront hideaway 12 kilometres from Galle, this is the new sister property to Kahanda Kanda, owned by interior designer George Cooper (he is also behind homeware boutiques KK The Collection and KK by George, in Galle Fort). “The overall concept is quite simple, linear and uncluttered. The blue and white theme is fresh, almost Mediterranean; but timeless and clearly reinforcing the aqua ocean outside”, says Cooper. “The furniture in the rooms all comes from Sri Lanka, with an emphasis on comfort over form. We had everything made locally by craftsman, plus there are a few Sri Lankan antiques.” In keeping with the local theme, the artwork, which is for sale, is by local artists.
Owl and the Pussycat, Galle
The four colonial towers at Owl and the Pussycat – which is named after the Edward Lear poem of the same name – each reflect the shades of the surrounding landscape. “I wanted to reflect the colours of Sri Lanka: sky blue against sun drenched ochre; orchid pink against sea foam green”, says New York-based architect, Uday K.Dhar. “The colours create individual identities for the buildings, which wrap around the pool.” The rooms themselves feature a combination of patterned-tile floors, vibrant textiles and shabby-chic wooden furniture. Property developer and co-owner Reita Gadkari has described the social spaces as “cool and inviting, with art objects, colourful plates and glasses, and sea shells on display. It’s a sort of grown-up play area to relax.”
Chena Huts, Yala National Park
Right on the edge of Yala National Park, on the south-east of the island, Chena Huts consists of 14 thatched, dome-like ‘huts’ modelled on the traditional structures historically lived in by local farmers. “We have taken the basic architectural features but added a modern twist”, says Uga Escapes Managing Director, Priyanjith Weerasooria, of the huts, which were designed by architect Darnie Rajapaksa. “The dome ceiling exaggerates the space and the low eaves at the edges protect the buildings from adverse weather.” Rough, textured plaster has been used to replicate a mud finish; hardwood timber floors, floor-to-ceiling windows, custom-designed, handcrafted furniture and textiles in a palette of green add the finishing touches.
London-based freelance journalist Emma Love specialises in writing about interiors, design and travel for titles such as Elle Decoration and Condé Nast Traveller, where she is a contributing editor. She also writes for publications such as the Financial Times and the Guardian.