Indian Ocean, Talpe, Sri Lanka
The name “IF” comes from this magnificent [Rudyard] Kipling poem about maintaining oneself with “head held up high” through life’s challenges,’ says David Gerard, one of the owners of this house in Talpe, a village in the forested, humid southern portion of Sri Lanka. The entire island is fringed by lagoons, sand-bars, peninsulas, dunes and marshes; forests and grasslands cover seventy per cent of it.
‘The architecture design history of this house,’ Gerard continues, ‘is that it was built about ten years ago by a Norwegian film producer and a Norwegian film star. And the house looks like a much older structure because they went around Sri Lanka, studied all of the architecture and designed the house to incorporate regional colonial elements. Since we bought the house about five years ago, we have designed and added a pavilion where we eat which is in the grass area away from the house, and the old kitchen was turned into a bedroom. We put in a lovely new kitchen, which is separate altogether, behind the dining pavilion. All of our additions were done in the same style of the existing house.’
The original pavilion-style house has a tiled roof over a high-ceilinged structure with covered porches all around. Since the region is humid and warm throughout the year, each room has – instead of windows – air circulation from the porches through wide, segmental- arched openings which are infilled with wooden shutters. The angled grid of large stone pavers further unites the spatial flow of the interior rooms out to the exterior porches, while the chocolate-brown color of the tiles above is matched by the pavers’ deep earthen color – all of which unites the house with the rich colors of the surrounding forest.
Two of the house’s other three owners, Barbie Gall and Anne Gerard, undertook the design of the interior themselves, reworking the main pavilion with some of the furniture purchased by the original owners. The porches are furnished with chaises in the traditional Sri Lankan form: low, with angled backs and elegantly curved arms. ‘It’s all quite casual,’ says Anne Gerard about the decor, ‘and those wonderful chairs are very standard for the region. Ours are antique, and you cannot find these pieces outside the country.’
Settled by Sinhalese, Tamils and Europeans, Sri Lanka has experienced political unrest in recent years. ‘The problems are up north around the Jaffna Peninsula,’ David Gerard explains, ‘and so when we visit our home, it’s just a lovely, peaceful place, and we don’t know that anything is going on up north.’ The monsoons from May to October don’t bother the Gerards and Galls, who find that December and March are their two favorite months to visit. ‘We like to come here at Christmas and Easter,’ says David Gerard. ‘At the holidays, we have a wonderful time getting together on these sandy shores of the Indian Ocean.’