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Tropical, charismatic and rich in colonial heritage, Sri Lanka, is fast pacing its way toward becoming one of the most favoured travel destinations.

 But for the interior designer and creative director of Xceptional Interiors, Raymond Lee, a trip to Sri Lanka is more than just another holiday.

Read also: Doorman marks half a century at Sri Lankan heritage hotel

On a recent trip to Sri Lanka, the sought-after designer devoted much of his time exploring properties, local markets, unique cafes and going on an estate trail to admire the work of the renowned architect, the late Geoffrey Bawa.

In a candid chat with Malaysia Tatler, he talks about the properties that fascinate him and the landscapes he never wishes to leave behind as he makes his way through Galle, Bentota and Colombo, adding snippets of stories behind each memory.

The courtyard

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“Simple at first glance, this is the courtyard of Fort Bazaar Hotel, where I was staying during my recent trip to Galle. The sunlight pouring in through the uncluttered courtyard, the marble top tables, potted plants and red metal chairs all complement the white and brown facade of the property so well, you soon realise that true beauty does lie in simplicity.”

 An original Geoffrey Bawa creation


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“What you are seeing here is a part of Paradise Road The Villa, Bentota. The original structure of the main house was given by legendary architect Geoffrey Bawa for a private client.Today, having worked with many of Bawa's protégés, several structures have been sensitively designed and added to the property by the current owner, Shanth Fernando.”

Now that is a landscape!

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“This was a shot taken in the Lunuganga Estate, which is the country home of Bawa. I often take inspiration from Bawa’s landscaping projects. Here, for example, the frangipani trees bordering the house add a dramatic look and feel to the otherwise well-manicured lawn.”

Bawa's country home 

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"A few of the suites and cottages at Lunuganga Estate that Bawa designed himself, are today converted into guest houses for visitors. This picture is the elegant library and work space of Bawa at Lunuganga and till today is filled with his prized furniture and antiques ."

Finally got one of us

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“Exploring the Lunuganga Estate, we came across a sundial positioned artfully in front of a pond. The pavilion was perfect to catch a breath and to practice some photography. I finally took the opportunity to get a picture snapped with my travel buddies Leonard Tee and Johnni Wong.”

 The Ena De Silva house

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“Once again a fine specimen of Bawa’s creative genius, this house which was originally built in Colombo, was reconstructed brick-by-brick along the fringes of Lunuganga Estate by the Bawa Trust. Toward the far right of the house, you can even see a piece of batik created by Ena herself, who is a known Sri Lankan batik artist.”

Welcome to my house

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"Only Bawa can put together wooden columns, colourful mosaics, eclectic sculptures, and still make it look elegant all in one shot! This corridor, as you can guess, is inside his house in Colombo and overlooks a man-made pond in his courtyard. The colourful wooden door was presented to Bawa by the Australian artist Donald Friend, who was visiting from Bali."

 Inside Bawa’s quarters

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“The living area of his house, like all other spaces he designs, is a mix of antique, contemporary and modern pieces. The overall look and feel of the space is quite chic and yet he adds his touch by decorating a wall with Ramayana murals painted on fabric, that he collected from Bali and assembled together in Sri Lanka."

A horse in the lobby

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“Do you know what art does? It adds character and life to a room. This is the contemporary-classic lobby of Paradise Road, The Tintagel in Colombo and what adds to its appeal is the wooden statue of the horse from Jaffna that lends the space a sense of connection to Sri Lanka.”

 (Photos: Raymond Lee)

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Tags: Travel, Hotels In Sri Lanka, Xceptional Interiors, Raymond Lee, Bentota, Lunuganga Estate, Colombo, Geoffrey Bawa