Katy Macdonald's pet project was to build a beach 'shack' in Koh Samui for the occasional party. The result was Ban Suriya, an exclusive boutique resort with spectacular views and every luxury a girl could ask for. For most of us, a pet project might involve the planting of a window box or the rearrangement of CDs. For Katy Macdonald, however, her 'wee pet project' entailed the building of a 35,000-square-foot private resort in Thailand. A frequent visitor to Koh Samui (30 trips or so in the last four years), the Scottish-born, Hong Kong-based banker loved the island so much she bought a coconut plantation on its west shore and set to creating her dream holiday bolt-hole. Macdonald was drawn to Lipa Noi (Little Palm) Beach by its dramatic sunsets and spectacular views of Anthong Marine Park, and wanted Ban Suriya (the Sunshine House) to take full advantage of the panorama. She choose a U-shaped design so every room would face the sea, then positioned the property so the sun would rise at the back, shine over the pool and deck area in the afternoon, and set over the sea in front of the villa. She was just as decisive when it came to planning the development. 'I simply thought of all the things I love doing on holiday - swimming, sipping cocktails, chilling out with girlfriends, massages - and I wanted it to be a retreat where you didn't have to leave for anything, nor want for anything,' says Macdonald. Hence, as well as the usual bedrooms, bathrooms, pool and kitchen found in most holiday villas, guests will find a tennis court, gym, outdoor massage room and barbecue area. 'Basically, I wanted a party house,' says Macdonald, 'with lots of fun aspects like a swim- up bar, a Jacuzzi for romantic encounters, a big chill-out area upstairs and a den with an underwater pool window. It had to be social, with a main villa where everybody could congregate and hang out. But then, I also wanted lots of private space when it all got too much, which is why the bedrooms are in separate villas.' There are four unique, stand-alone villas surrounding the main villa, each with its own bathroom. 'You know how in hotels or homes there are always certain rooms better than others? I didn't want anybody ever to feel disappointed that they didn't get the best room, so every room had to have something special about it,' adds Macdonald. The Turquoise Room opens onto the pool ('You can dive in from the bed!'); the Lilac Room has a private deck capturing the best sunset view; to reach the Fuchsia Room you cross stepping stones in a lotus pond; and the Silver Room has an outdoor sunken bath. Macdonald sketched her myriad ideas on scraps of paper and took them to Karen Young of dwp CL3 architects (tel: 2527 1931; www.dwppartnership.com ), who transformed her doodles into reality. She took stacks of books and magazines, with designs she liked marked, and some, such as the floating stairs and the outdoor shower with pebbles, have made their way onto the property. There are also many unique elements dreamed up by Macdonald, making this the most personal of projects. The submerged window, for instance, was inspired by childhood visits to the swimming baths in East Kilbride in Scotland. 'In the reception area they had an underwater window onto the pool, and while my mum was buying the tickets I would be mesmerised by all the swimmers' legs.' What started as an idea for a 'beach shack' has morphed into a development that rivals an exclusive boutique resort, and Macdonald has since decided to rent out the property when she's not staying there (which may not be all that often because several parties are already being planned). The project took twice as long as expected (15 months as opposed to seven) and went way over budget. But Macdonald admits at times her dream project was a nightmare. Overall, she's happy with the result and cites her favourite elements as being the outdoor bath from where she can watch the sunset, and the pool. 'I can't wait to swim up to the bar and say, 'Mine's a Pina Colada!' It was traumatic at times, but I've learned so much and all [the problems] will be forgotten once I've had a few good weekends there. I'm having a housewarming party soon and 30 people are flying in, which is great as that was what Ban Suriya was built for. It's all about having a good time - a place to have lovely times with lovely friends.' Ban Suriya sleeps up to eight people and costs from US$600 (HK$4,680) a night, which includes three full-time staff, including a chef. For further details, contact firstname.lastname@example.org . TRIED & TESTED Remote control Building in a foreign country is a challenge, especially one with a different language and work ethic, and Katy Macdonald admits her biggest mistake lay in not hiring a local and independent project manager. 'I did it myself, when I should have spent more on a project manager than an architect. They can be there on site, making sure things get done on time and the money's spent properly.' To locate land in Koh Samui, she recommends 1st Asia Properties (tel:  7743 0241; www.1asia-properties.com ) and for landscaping, David Lees of Baan Khun Pbu (tel:  2254 8880), whom she commissioned after admiring the gardens he designed at Le Royal Meridian Baan Taling Ngam hotel. She advises buying furniture in Bangkok and shipping it to the destination. For accessories, she recommends Central Department Store Chidlom (1027 Ploenchit Road, Lumpini, Bangrak, Bangkok 10330, tel:  2655 7777; www.central . co.th). Another source of accessories is the Siam Discovery Center (989 Rama 1 Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330; www.siamdiscoverycenter . co.th), which has a floor dedicated to stores such as Habitat, Loft and Propaganda. Leave your booty in Bangkok, then when your holiday home is ready you can ship it in one go. Macdonald recommends Chatchai Wongvaisayawan at HKI Worldwide Movers (tel:  2392 7856). 1. Dusk at Sunshine House, set in 35,000 square feet of former coconut plantation and surrounded by palm and frangipani trees. The two-storey main villa is flanked by four others, each housing a bedroom suite. 2. A heated circular Jacuzzi comfortably accommodates six and looks onto the 20-metre pool with swim-up bar. 3. On the expansive lawn, a solid Takien wood and painted concrete dining table with matching bench and cube stools by contractor Project Pacific (tel:  7742 7307) has been built around a frangipani tree so guests are surrounded by the scent of flowers while they dine. 4. The teak veneer dining table with a built-in glass Lazy Susan and solid teak semi-circular benches, custom- made by STS Furniture (tel:  2585 0986), look out through double height concertina doors onto the solid teak sun deck. 5. The open staircase features 'floating' Takien wood treads and stainless-steel handrails. 6. In the master villa suite, a raised platform demarcates the sleeping and lounging areas. 7. The double-height kitchen is fitted with stained plywood cabinets, limestone counters and a stainless-steel topped central island with a built-in hob. 8. Seating in the cosy den is arranged around the submerged window onto the pool.