Today we are lucky to have our first design interview!!! Villa M is the most stunning modern colonial villa in Koh Samui, Thailand. Lovingly designed and constructed by Neill and Leslie Macpherson, this stunning villa is the perfect example of understated luxury.
Neill and Leslie have paid special attention to every detail. From Buddhist ceremonies, auspicious dates, to stunning inlaid furniture from Rajasthan in India. There is even a jacuzzi , overlooking the harbour on the top floor balcony, next to the master bedroom!
Oscar and I were fortunate enough to be in Koh Samui for a wedding a couple of years ago, and truly it is the most idyllic setting you can imagine. The little fishing village is just as Leslie describes it, and definitely the Friday night Walking Market is a must!
I would like to say big THANK YOU to Neill and Leslie for their time here at thepeagreenboat! And for their heart-warming answers…!
For more information about Villa M, click here.
Tell us a little about yourselves and how you came across the location for Villa M? What made you decide to build your island home here?
My husband Neill and I were both brought up in South East Asia, and are passionate about travel. In our travels, both for work and for pleasure, we spent a great deal of time together in Asia and so we decided to a look for a permanent residence there.
We chose Thailand for many reasons. It is a central location for our family, who live all over the world. We love the Buddhist culture, King Bumipol and Queen Sirikit, the warm, hospitable, and friendly people and of course the delicious food. Simply put, whenever we visited the Land of Smiles we felt that we were coming home. We specifically chose Koh Samui as it is a magical island, has strict building codes; a maximum three storeys (you cannot build above the palm trees) and we were confident that it would avoid the high rise of Phuket and other popular destinations. Also, being in the Gulf of Siam, it is considered tsunami proof.
We found Fisherman’s Village, Bophut, on the north east coast of the Island, particularly charming as it consists, for the main part, of wooden and original Chinese shop fronts. Neill’s father was Chinese and a descendant of Chinese traders so he felt an instant connection. The Village remains the way many places were in Thailand 50 years ago and is one of the few places in Asia that has managed to retain the Indochine feel. It is also is the dining hub of Samui, with chic boutiques and a large ex-pat French community. And, it is unique in that no “girly bars” are permitted.
The location is fantastic…… only 15 minutes from the airport, 20 minutes from the shopping and night life of Chaweng, close to the golf course and there are boats leaving directly from the village to the popular islands .You can see Koh Phangan from the villa.
Villa M, Villa Macpherson, is the only luxury villa in this location. Although very close to the restaurants, it is in a tranquil setting on a private beach.
What are some of the inspirations you drew upon when developing the concept of Villa M?
In designing the villa we wanted it to be a quintessentially Asian experience for the discerning traveler, but also in harmony with the village architecture and the environment, ensuring that recycled teak was used for the flooring.
In furnishings, we have been inspired by memories of the colonial homes we loved as children growing up in Asia .We were also influenced by cherished stays at The Oriental Hotel in Bangkok as well as the Strand, Yangon, and Raffles, Singapore. We paid particular attention to detail and sourced some wonderful furniture and antiques from all over Thailand and the East. We also added special pieces and memorabilia from our private collection.
How long did it take for Villa M to come to fruition? What obstacles, if any, did you encounter? And how did you overcome them?
We were lucky to find the last double block of absolute beachfront land in the quiet part of Fisherman’s Village. Villa M took 10 months to build, a record in Koh Samui. We were very keen to have it completed by the New Year and were fortunate in having a great team and employed the maximum number of workers on site. Also, and importantly, the construction engineer is a friend. Of course there were many hiccups as always with building anywhere, but in Thailand there were additional challenges, with a lot of “lost in translation” moments, and, with Samui, particularly, being an island where everything has to be imported except for the coconuts. But, somehow we managed to keep our sense of humor. (e.g. when we requested plantation shutters for the ground floor windows, the window supplier ordered all the villa doors, including wardrobe, to be louvered. And, as such they were delivered from the mainland. Or, when I arrived to find that in the 8 bathrooms black granite bench tops had been installed, instead of the white specifically ordered! When I enquired as to what had happened, the bathroom tradesmen, looking very pleased, replied that the black granite was a better price aaaaaaaah)…. the list is endless.
The foundations commenced in March, 2008 and completion 31st December, New Years Eve. From the foundation to completion it was important to us, and for the village, that the traditional Buddhist ceremonies and blessings were respected and followed. The final blessing by the monks was conducted on the 1st January 2009.
We did not think of anything as an obstacle. There were challenges but without sounding corny, it was, quite simply, a labor of love.
What kind of materials did you use when building Villa M? What environmental or sociological considerations did you implement?
Our design concept for the villa was for an elegant modern colonial home with teak floors, essentially a white on white canvas, and that the exterior to be a fluid extension of the interior. But our priority was always that the traditional Buddhist ceremonies and blessings were respected and for the construction to be in harmony with the village architecture and the environment, ensuring that recycled teak was used for the flooring.
In Thailand, it is never a light matter when you do anything. Thai people like to consult the astrology charts in order to find a favourable time to do something important. The day and time for starting to build your house is very important and a special ceremony, “Sow Lek”, is arranged for erecting the first pillar and placing a plant in the foundation pillar.
According to Thai astrology, there are three days of the week when you should never start construction of a building. With Villa M, everything was done by the book. The time for the actual laying of the foundation stone was also set for exactly 9.09 p.m. The number “nine” is considered lucky by Thai people as it sounds like the Thai word for “progress”….. nine monks and nine different kinds of food offerings for them. As mentioned the final blessing by the monks was conducted on the 1st January 2009, a very auspicious date.
Which item is your favourite piece of furniture? From where did you source most of your furniture?
This is almost impossible to answer, as we have not furnished Villa M generically, as almost all rental villas do, but thoughtfully to be reminiscent of homes we remembered and loved growing up in Asia in the 50’s. We paid particular attention to detail and sourced some wonderful furniture and antiques from all over Thailand and the East, including Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and India.
Every piece is meaningful to us.
Our guests always comment on the Shanxi door entrance, the mother of pearl faux door on the first floor and the 19th Century painting of a beautiful Chinese woman.
Neill particularly loves the bone inlay furniture sourced in Udaipur and Rajasthan, India, and the Buddhist prayer box from Mandalay. My favorites are our Gujarat chests, Burmese antiques, the Laotian table, vintage photos of old Samui and King Bumipol and Queen Sirikit, and our collection of old books.
We both also love the Australian artwork, particularly the Charles Blackman drawing “The Fisherman”, and Donald Friend’s “Village Chief”.
What do you and Neill love most about Villa M?
Again… a difficult question, because there is nothing about Villa M that isn’t special to us; that we don’t love, except that we are not there often enough.
Admittedly, we are a tad biased!
The location, absolute beachfront in Fisherman’s Village, the design, furnishings, our concierge and maid, Khun Chee and Khun Chon, who love the Villa as well, the village ambience, the variety of restaurants within walking distance of the Villa, the boutiques, the Thai people ….and and and…
Describe some of your favourite things to do when you are in Koh Samui.
R and R under the palm trees on the beach, the sunset from our roof top whilst in the jacuzzi, overlooking the fishing harbour and turquoise waters of the Gulf of Siam, relaxing at home and dining in with friends, walking around the charming village, discovering new restaurants…. over 40 in the strip, the cute boutiques, the Walking Street on Friday nights with the hawkers stalls, island hopping…… everything.
Are there future plans for Villa M that we should know about? Perhaps a second installment in India or Hong Kong?
We are always asked this question…. no immediate future plans, but “never say never”.
5/8 Fisherman’s Village
Moo 1, Bo Phut Beach
Koh Samui, Thailand 84320
ph: +61 418272773 (Australia)
ph: +66 816270373 (Thailand)