Building Kalukanda House the Story

The story

Dee Gibson Kalukanda House

It’s hard to believe that we bought a plot of land with a derelict house on it a mere 24 hours before returning from a family holiday in Sri Lanka. Totally un-expected, un-planned and a hair-brained concept to boot, but fate propelled us and where there is a will there is a way. We took a deep breath and threw ourselves in to find the grit and determination to complete what started out as a building, 4 years on from opening it is so much more than that.

As an Interior designer, I am used to working on complex projects – our build team were incredible, and we could not have done this without them. I highly respect them in their profession and they are now firm friends – THANK YOU to the Kalukanda House team, this post is a tribute to you.

Armfuls of photos taken of house and garden from the same viewpoints throughout the year have been filtered down to just a handful here.

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An auspicious moment to start

A beautiful ground breaking ceremony was held at 8:12am on Thursday 9th February 2017, with foundation stone then being laid at 10:17am. I was expecting to be a spectator, but was blown away to find I was the participant. The auspicious time was chosen to bless the build and the house, the foundation stone was laid and sits beneath where our sofa currently resides.

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I wanted to ensure we maintained the integrity of the original architecture of the house. Sadly we had to raze it to the ground as it was structurally un-sound. The new design extended the original house within the same footprint and we re-used all the original shutters and doors, built new ones to match and even made the new fretwork in the original pattern. Even the roof tiles were kept, and more sourced to match.

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A new yoga shala was built towards the back of the plot – a favourite spot to relax or to work out. These images show how the villa developed from that angle.

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This series of images shows the same angle from the moment the gates open to the villa. A new 8′ front wall and gate have been installed for privacy and replace the original little wooden picket fence.

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Two upper bedrooms have an open balcony looking down onto the main living area which stretches up to the roof and is double height. I designed lights which are 1.8m tall in antique brass, taller than me when I stood next to them. They cast beautiful warm pools of light at night, and hang above the seating area drawing attention to the magnificent room proportions.

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Interior Lounge views

The double height lounge space spectacular- airy and cool, a lovely breeze rocks through the room and incense wafts up high as an early morning wake up call. Whether it’s a pot of Sri Lankan tea or a cooling gin and tonic, this space is just gorgeous to relax in.

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Dining outside, overlooking the pool, listening to endemic birds is heavenly. Choosing a traditional diamond, two tone tile arrangement in modern hues of mustard and pale blue have worked beautifully. The large veranda elephant was found a year before we opened and is one of the first beautiful objects that greets our guests.

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The Pool

The pool was a labour of love – constant discussion with the family who wanted a deep, large swimming pool “big enough to swim in” - this is a pool you can most definately swim in! Floating on your back with palms above and monkeys swinging in the trees is highly recommended.

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Kalukanda Pool 2

Kalukanda Pool

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There was a moment when I wondered whether the double height interior lounge space would work with it’s enormous proportions. The lights had to be big enough, the furniture bold enough to stand up to the room dimensions and of course some personal connection too.

Even as a professional interior designer, I held my breath in January 2018 as everything was put into place. I am really delighted that the exquisite antique pieces look like they belong here, the lights are the perfect size and our amazing artisan craftsmen more than delivered on their stunning handmade pieces.

The 4 poster beds are handmade, the blue skirt belonged to my daughter – a Sri Lankan skirt given to her by her grandmother, and the vintage British Rail artwork is a little nod to our roots in the UK.

More can be seen on the villa gallery pages

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An auspicious moment to open

As with the ground breaking ceremony, the house was blessed the first morning I awoke in the house. I was there with friend and photographerJanie Airey, London Yoga teacher and freind Dylan Ayaloo, the villa builders, landscape gardener and villa team …. two priests, more incense and many prayers for a happy future for everybody who built the villa and stays there in the future.

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We saw the plot on 26th August 2016 and by December 2016 the builders had moved in and set up the site. Building work started properly in February 2017 and 11 months later, on 21st January 2018 we blessed what has become Kalukanda House.

Just 100m from a lovely local beach and with plenty to see and do nearby, we want the villa to be a happy place where great memories can be created for everybody who stays here.

We hope to see you soon!


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