A relatively new hotel in Sri Lanka, the Owl & Pussycat Hotel & Restaurant not only grasps a sense of idiosyncratic international appeal but has fast become the place to stay for comfort, vibrancy and luxury. With owls & pussycats around every corner from perky cuddly toy mascots welcoming you on the bed to silken pussycat dressing gowns, this coastal hotel in Thalpe near Galle is ideal for guests seeking a little extra pizazz.
I’m delighted to introduce Reita, the interior designer and co-owner of The Owl & Pussycat to explore her vision and concept when she embarked on this project.
What was the ambience you were aiming to create when you initially embarked on the Owl & Pussycat Hotel?
I was very keen to keep the atmosphere very relaxed and fun. For people leading busy lives they want to come to a place that is not demanding of them. They need staff that are relaxed but efficient. Sri Lankans are generally quite laid back people but a hotel experience is not always like that. Often the staff are dressed in a very formal uniform. I wanted the staff to be comfortable and efficient so there are in shorts and trainers to move around easily with caps to protect from the sun and sunglasses if they are outdoors.
The bar and café area in particular are designed in a way that a guest can approach the bar and sit there and chit chat with the bar tender and catch up on local news. We encourage the staff to be chatty and not be afraid of speaking to the guests.
The café and kitchen are open plan and allows guests to talk to the chef and request something special. Also it is fun watch him cook and perhaps even participate in the preparation of the meal. Often when I travel to a new place I like to talk to the chefs about health benefits of certain local foods or if I am tired and travel weary I like to eat certain comfort foods. This can be done in a relaxed and easy way because everything is designed for the guest’s requirements and always the chef will find me what I am in the mood for and not force me to eat what is on the menu.
A complimentary tea station is available near the pool so guests can help themselves to tea/coffee and also some little snacks without a staff member running behind them with a bill to sign. My husband is very fussy about the way tea is made and likes to make it himself. This tea station is designed for people who want things done their way and when they want it. People are often jet lagged and are peckish at odd hours. This station is designed for them.
For sundowners we set up an antipasti table where guests while having drinks are invited to taste little savoury bites from the kitchen. Often guests have no idea what the local snacks are and this allows them to see what the chef has made. It is usually different each day. This concept has been a big hit as guests also meet other travellers who are staying with us. Often they end up enjoying drinks and sometimes even having dinner together.
Instead of having lots of staff hovering around all the time I feel guests like fewer staff members and cherish their privacy. However staff are there when needed. Everything should always be relaxed.
We also wanted to create a larger space to encourage the regular visitors to Sri Lanka to stay longer. We found that there were a lot of expatriate families who lived and worked in other parts of Asia and in the Middle-East who visited Sri Lanka regularly and stayed in Hotels along the Southern Coast.
So we wanted to create a villa type of accommodation (for an example our spacious 4 two bedroom suites which are ideal for a families of 4 or 5 & our 4 one bedroom suites which is ideal for a couple or a family of 3, all with pantry, living & spacious balconies) with high quality service and excellent cuisine with a great local & international mix which makes the stay at Owl The Pussycat Hotel & Restaurant that much more comfortable and enjoyable.
What is your favourite design feature in the hotel and why?
I love the bar…it is so cool and chic and inviting. It has been designed by Uday Dhar our architect. You can sit right next to the water’s edge and enjoy a drink and take in the fabulous view. On the bar counter we like to display local fruit and other art objects, newspapers, magazines, etc. Colourful plates and glasses are always on display. Sometimes flowers and cactus and sea shells. It’s a sort grownup play area to relax. For longer stay guests it is a lot of fun to have a friendly, welcoming space that is breezy and well designed with something changing there on a daily basis.
We have recently been commended on the design of the Hotel by a well travelled intellectual from the UK who went on to add that ‘even Mr. Bawa Would be impressed’ which is very encouraging for us as owners of Owl & The Pussycat.
3. What makes the hotel unique in comparison to other villas in Sri Lanka, especially along the South Coast?
I would say it is the informality of the experience which is luxurious but still cosy and intimate. Travelling can be a lonely experience where you never meet anyone except shopkeepers and waiters. Because of the smallness of our hotel and we are a very little hotel, the experience is very personal like being a guest in someone’s home. To me that is very special when you feel like a special guest in Sri Lanka not a customer who has paid a fee.
Most of all nothing should be difficult or complicated when you are on holiday. Our staff is there to make things easy and get things done. Sometimes guests have forgotten things, need medicines, or want to go somewhere for the day. Our staff is trained to give the correct advice as we send them to gather information which is useful to guests.