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Living the dream

A holiday home in Phuket is spectacular proof that perseverance pays off


Text Adele Brunner / Photography John Butlin / Styling Noel Fruitcake


Dreaming about an ideal home is one thing; turning that dream into reality is another. For Frenchman Hugo Sanoner, it took unwavering vision, perseverance and three years of construction to reach his goal – a stunning villa in Phuket, Thailand.

“I wanted a convenient getaway from a stressful life in Hong Kong,” says Sanoner, who has lived here since 1987. “A property agent showed me places in the west and centre of Phuket but there were always flaws: too close to the road, too small a plot, obstructed or no views. When I saw the plot I eventually bought, it was love at first sight.”

Part of a small boutique development off the beaten track on the east side of the island, Sanoner’s plot has uninterrupted views of Phang Nga Bay. Four houses had been built when he bought his plot. Now, there are seven.

“I’m from Brittany and I live in Discovery Bay. I need to be close to the sea,” says Sanoner. “I felt good about the fung shui of the plot and one of my priorities for my villa, which I built from scratch, was to maximise the views.

I made sure that you could look out to sea from every room.”

Sanoner approached architect and friend Bruce Harwood, of Hong Kongbased BHI Group, to look over the building designs he had received from the developer. Although Harwood’s brief was to work on the interior, he also suggested some fairly radical changes to the structure itself.

“The developer had commissioned an international architectural firm, wellknown for office interiors, to design some villa options,” says Harwood. “I found that the cookie-cutter approach resulted in interiors that had low false ceilings and downlights more common in offices and it seemed they had not realised the building was in a wonderful location with fabulous views.

“Hugo agreed that if we had an influence on the main building design, we would be able to optimise the interior’s relationship with the surroundings.”

After negotiating with the developer, Harwood redesigned the pitch, height and overhang of the roofs, creating full-height, glass gable ends oriented to the main views. By opening up the roof space, he made the interior spaces higher, more elegant and reminiscent of a typical Thai house.

“Another spin-off was slightly relocating the study to make the most of the views and opening up the front of the kitchen to create an open bar, which looks out across the swimming pool to the islands in the distance,” says Harwood.

For the most part, the 10,000 sq ft villa is laid out in a “U” shape, with rooms on different levels. The kitchen, entrance lobby and first guest room sit several steps up from the living and dining areas and the master bedroom, all of which lie off the main deck. A spectacular, three-sided infinity pool runs down the centre of the “U” and wraps around the outside of the living area, parallel to the sea. A second guest bedroom is housed in a separate bungalow with a private garden and private access to the main pool. The home also features six bathrooms and a helper’s room. Granite steps – under and around which water cascades, giving the impression that the stairs are floating – lead down to another deck and a gym, built beneath the house.

“The main challenge was telling the contractor to destroy the original, rectangular pool, which was the first thing to have been built,” says Sanoner. “They had to break down the infinity wall to extend the pool towards the sea and make it ‘turn’ left. It was a big job and a big challenge. It cost a lot of money to change and caused a year’s delay but I don’t regret doing it for a single minute.”

Furniture is minimal to give a clean, uncluttered feel and was chosen by Sanoner primarily for comfort. He also came up with the interior palette. Fabrics in shades of blue are used throughout the villa to echo the colour of the sea and to give the space a fresh, calming appeal.

Most of the building materials were sourced locally, in Phuket. Smaller, more portable items (such as light fittings, wash basins and shower fittings) were purchased in Hong Kong and lugged over during site visits.

Sanoner was hands-on from start to finish, travelling to Phuket once a month to liaise with the contractor and project manager.

“I was kind of a micro-manager,” he says. “I can’t sketch or draw but I can visualise how I want something to be.

I’m an electronic products manufacturer but I love to do house renovations.”

Looking at the results, he could probably give up his day job.



Living room The rounded blue chairs (26,800 baht/HK$6,400 each) and sofa (190,000 baht, including the white cushions) were from DRD Interior Designers, in Phuket ( The chevron-striped cushion was 600 baht from a shop in the Gaysorn shopping mall, in Bangkok ( The coffee table (20,000 baht) and rug (4,800 baht) were both from Index Living Mall (, in Phuket. The Maiori hammock (HK$8,800) came from Tropical Outdoor (10/F, Westley Square, 48 Hoi Yuen Road, Kwun Tong, tel: 2330 1674).

Outdoor steps (right) Two-inch-thick black granite steps “float” on black terrazzo ponds and lead down to a terrace and gym.

Dining room Adjacent to the swimming pool, the dining area has soaring, wood-panelled ceilings that echo the flooring (all supplied by Hugo Sanoner’s main contractor, Phuket-based Leefong; The Beat Light Fat pendant lights, by Tom Dixon (HK$4,500 each), were bought at Ovo (16 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2526 7226). The Mandalay-style, alabaster Buddha statues were from Chan’s Antique (, in Phuket. The painting, by Suthirak Chantragun, came from the Phuket Modern Art gallery (, at BYD Lofts. The dining table (150,000 baht) and chairs (18,200 baht each, including the Jim Thompson fabric) were from DRD Interior Designers.

Bathroom The American Standard sinks (HK$800 each) were from Acme Sanitary Ware (233 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2507 2107). The American Standard ( bath was bought in Phuket for 60,000 baht. The mirrored cabinets above the sinks and the unit beneath them were all designed by BHI Group (9/F, Fu Fai Commercial Centre, 27 Hillier Street, Sheung Wan, tel: 2787 7863). The cabinets were built for 50,000 baht (with built-in tube lighting) by DRD Interior Designers and the unit by Leefong. The painting, by Suthirak, came from the Phuket Modern Art gallery. The modern altar table was 12,000 baht from Cozy Company, (1/1 Lagoon Road, Cherngtalay, Thalang, tel: 66 76 270 847), in Phuket. The Spanish vases (US$10 each) were purchased from American store Home Goods ( The oil burners were 150 baht each from the Chatuchak Market in Phuket. The Buddha statues were from Chan’s Antique.

Kitchen A Buddha statue bought in Phuket looks out to sea from a black granite breakfast bar, designed by BHI Group and built by Leefong. The high-backed stools (3,000 baht each) and the lime/ white stool (2,000 baht) were all from Index Living Mall. The kitchen, including the Corian island, cabinets and equipment, cost about HK$300,000. It was made in Hong Kong by Palladio Kitchen (3/F, Wah Hing Commercial Building, 283 Lockhart Road, tel: 2802 3900) and shipped to Phuket, where it was installed by the Palladio team. (The cost for the workers to go to Phuket was HK$30,000.)

Master bedroom The room can be opened on three sides to let in light and fresh air and enjoy the views. The Roman blinds and sheer curtains throughout the house came from Mr Curtain (, in Phuket, and cost 72,000 baht, including fabric, accessories and installation. The bed and bedside tables cost 72,000 baht in total from DRD Interior Designers. The One Stone bedside lamps were 7,500 baht each from Ango (, in Bangkok. The blue silk cushions (1,200 baht), bed runner (3,000 baht) and checked cushion (800 baht) were all from Jim Thompson (, in Phuket. The desk (15,000 baht) and armchair (28,000 baht) were from Cozy Company. The desk chair (2,800 baht) came from Panta in the Siam Paragon mall (, in Bangkok.

Swimming pool The L-shaped infinity swimming pool is the central feature of the villa. The tiles were from Cotto (, in Phuket. The Maiori loungers (HK$5,299 each) and coffee table (HK$3,089, including a built-in champagne bucket and oyster tray, and a parasol) came from Tropical Outdoor. The elephant statues were from The Palace of Art (, in Phuket.

Study Sanoner converted one bedroom into a study. The painting, by Suthirak, was from the Phuket Modern Art gallery. The desk, built by local carpenter Nui Padej, cost 80,000 baht. On it are a bronze statue from Chan’s Antique, a One Stone lamp (7,500 baht) from Ango and a Spanish vase (US$10) from Home Goods. The desk chair (24,000 baht) was from Index Living Mall. The rug was 4,500 baht from Central Festival (, in Phuket. The armchair and checked cushion are the same as those in the master bedroom.



A shade too cool Hugo Sanoner came up with the idea for a yoga sala in the garden but felt a traditional design would clash with the villa's contemporary style. He designed a sail-like structure, which was lighter and more modern than authentic salas. Phuket-based Shades Thailand ( made it for 340,000 baht, including the Serge Ferrari architectural PVC fabric for the shade; the redwood columns and rafters; polished 316 marine-grade stainless-steel fittings; and installation. The white Serge Ferrari fabric floor mat and Maiori cushions (HK$3,900) came from Tropical Outdoor.




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