Heritage Homes Converted to Boutique Hotels
By Shabna Cader
I have a fascination with old manors, and homes that still have a resemblance to what they used to look like when they were originally built. For this reason, homes over or close to 100 years that still exists in some form have been on a personal travel list of mine for years. Of course, I respect homes that have continued to remain as homes, but it is the ones that have been converted into boutique hotels that draw my attention.
Firstly, I think it’s a hard and tiresome task to take over especially if the manor is looking nowhere close to what it did in its heyday and would need a complete renovation. Secondly, the architectural features of these heritage homes are hard to come by in today’s time and have a sense of homey charm and character attached to them that is unmatched by newer more modernised homes. No offence to contemporary even eco-friendly homes! Thirdly, I think the ways in which boutique hotels tie in that homey factor with modern-day comforts and luxury is something worth noticing and highlighting.
I’ve made a list of some homes now boutique hotels that I deem worthy of visiting, and could possibly make your travel list as well this year (I do believe vacating at smaller properties rather than giant hotels are the best and safest way to travel with a pandemic on the rise).
One of the original heritage homes, Tintagel was originally completed in the year 1930, meant as the residence for Dr. Lucien de Zilwa. The house was then passed over to the British military and then sold to the Bandaranaike family, who have currently leased it over to Udayshanth Fernando, who converted it into a boutique hotel. Complete with ten luxuriously decorated suites fit for royalty (and royalty has certainly resided in this residence), a lap pool, a gym, an in-house spa, a well-housed library, and their famous dining room make Tintagel a well sought-after private home. I visited the property on two occasions, one during which I had the opportunity to chat with Fernando and discuss his design aesthetic for the manor.
Originally home to five generations of a family that hailed from Jaffna, Maniumpathy is yet another current boutique abode located in the heart of the city. With a history that spans over a century and has evolved in the hands of its different members of the family, the manor still boasts features and an atmosphere that is reminiscent of its previous owners and their pursuits. Each of the eight rooms has been named after women of the family and boasts a combination of Victorian architecture, family heritage, and culture.
Although Park Street might seem like a busy little hub, then Uga Residence is actually a quiet and blissful boutique hotel. This 19th Century manor was built as the home of a wealthy barrister by the name of Sheik Salehboy Moosajee. It is said that Colombo’s colonial high society walked through its doors many times. I’m not too sure of how much of the old structure remains but I do know that some of the furnishings and awnings are as they were. Today, the manor is home to 11 luxury suites and boasts to house the largest whiskey collection in the city.
Rock Villa by Taru Villas
I do believe this was one of the first properties owned by Nayantara Fonseka to be converted into a boutique hotel in the coastal city of Bentota. The property was a private 170-year-old manor that was then converted into a lush and private boutique hotel.
Having stayed at Rock Villa a little over a year and a half ago, I have to admit, it is reminiscent of a piece of paradise in my opinion. The pool suite continues to showcase its antique furnishings and decorative elements, as well as awnings and eaves that add a charming touch to the architectural aesthetic of the abode. The property is home to four other rooms and a vast 2.5-acre lush garden.
Jetwing Warwick Gardens
Located in the scenic town of Ambewela fondly referred to as Little New Zealand, Jetwing Warwick Gardens was initially an old Scottish tea planter’s mansion that was converted into a boutique hotel. Quite similar in characteristic to old colonial homes sighted even in Nuwara Eliya, the five bedrooms have been lovingly restored to retain their old-world charm. One of the other best features of this property would be the lush surrounding scenery and foliage that offers a cool and calming experience at any time of the year.
This 18th Century manor exudes both style and serenity in perfect harmony. Since being renovated with the addition of a couple of more rooms to the property, The Wallawwa has been often referred to as one of the best places to stay after having just returned to the island, or a day before having to leave the country. On the one time I visited, I stayed at the property for two nights before having to take a flight out. Even though there are additions to the rooms, I still found it to be peaceful, comforting and a place that offered privacy with the utmost care. Architecturally only a few features remained, but the communal spaces were home to some antique furnishings that were reminiscent of its heyday.
The Sun House
Often regarded as the island’s original boutique hotel, The Sun House was the home of a Scottish spice merchant built in the 1860’s. It still exudes a country house atmosphere and is home to seven rooms which are known to be quite individual to one another. Set in the historic city of Galle, with a stunning view of the Galle Fort, this boutique abode still maintains its charm and elegance with open living spaces, canopy beds, lush foliage, and even a cosy library within its walls.