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A Design for Life: An unforgettable stay at TreeHouse Villas on Koh Yao

A Design for Life: An unforgettable stay at TreeHouse Villas on Koh Yao

As the boat leaves the quay at Yacht Haven Marina you can sense the expectation among my fellow passengers. Sunglasses are down, Samsonite luggage secured, as we are whisked off across the blue waters to what looks like, based on all the promotional images, the remote tropical paradise Robinson Crusoe would have found if he’d been lucky enough to have been shipwrecked on an island owned by Bill Gates, who had employed Philippe Starck as an art director.

By David Jacklin

Sunday 23 December 2018, 01:00PM

For we are off to TreeHouse Villas in Koh Yao Noi, a gem of an island sitting peacefully between Phuket and Krabi in Phang Nga Bay.

TreeHouse Villas is an adults-only luxury destination… with a difference. Correction. A BIG difference. This uber stylish and visionary resort is designed by ‘Nature’s own Architect’ as their site promotes. It’s hard to imagine a more idyllic setting.

The boat trip lasts around 45 minutes, and it’s a pleasure. Calm seas and mounting expectations as we enjoy close-up views gliding between the sheer Jurassic cliff-faces of the region’s famous limestone rocks.

Eventually we round a point on the northern tip of Koh Yao Noi, and are presented with a secluded private bay and the TreeHouse Villas resort. Any boy is it a beauty. The unspoiled jungle looms between the rock faces, and then, as the boat reaches the jetty, you spot your accommodation for the night.

If the environment isn’t magnificent enough to take your breath away, save the little oxygen you have left for when you enter the most unique living space that you’re likely to have ever experienced, that manages to combine rustic and opulence so effectively into an other-worldly experience.

These incredible treehouse villa structures sit in harmony with the surrounding dense green foliage. You’re high in the canopy, with private and unprecedented views across Phang Nga Bay and the magnificent limestone rock seascape.

Even from leaving the terra firma of the earthy resort and stepping into your new world in the trees you’re in awe of these eco-friendly play dens and the design details in every nook and in every feature.

From the beautifully crafted winding rope and steel stairwell that connects these two-floor villas you enter a thoughtfully designed and practical apartment in the sky, where you and your partner can relax and enjoy both the charming interiors and surrounding environment in tropical style.

The first floor houses a wooden patio lounge space with recliners and bar area, which provides a wide and rather wonderful range of soft and more indulgent beverages with the compliments of the house. Designed into the flooring, and the perfect pastime to while your way through the fridge’s contents, is the jacuzzi dip pool. Cooling off from your journey with a Japanese malt, bubbles and view across the bay are to die for.

Ascending the stairwell to the second floor, releasing the wooden door with a tap from your key card, and open sesame!... to your magical lair. This elegant and wooden structured dome is a treasure trove of design details and home comforts. The extra cosy double bed with super quality linen. The bespoke designed bath tub and open shower wet area neatly cornered off in the round. I could be the envy of the Shire! This is like a hobbit’s dream home, and at only 5’ 7’’ I have every right to own one.

But this living space is not small. Not at all. And that is down to the very well thought through architectural design, interior layout and fittings that gives the treehouse an extremely comfortable and roomy feel that even those lofty elves could enjoy.

There’s also a great little balcony which gives you further elevated views for those high season sunset or sunrise stunners.

And if this is all just that little bit too cosy to want to head back down to the first floor to fix yourselves a drink, have no fear. The bedroom also comes with its very own filled fridge and hot drink facilities.

Come nightfall it’s like an enchanted grotto in the sky. The tree-top dwelling comes alive with charming soft lighting across the living spaces. On the first floor the cool blue florescence of the jacuzzi lights invite you and your partner back in for a romantic evening dip.

I met with Josef Raess, the co-owner and creative brainchild behind the TreeHouse Villas project. One can tell within minutes of meeting this welcoming and charming man why this venture is such a unique experience. Josef, a successful hotelier and entrepreneur, is truly a designer at heart, and it’s clear that attention to detail is key to his vision across every aspect of the resort.

CMI - Thailand

I was keen to know how he and his commercial partners came up with the treehouse concept and design.

“I was looking to create a boutique paradise,” replied Josef. “I wanted to build with the environment, not imposing on it, but blending naturally in. I knew I wanted something completely unique for the villas in location and detail, but had yet to find a design I was happy with. Then I walked into John Underwood’s Art Factory studio in Phuket and saw an early stage design of the treehouse.”

“I asked John what it was. John replied it was just a crazy idea he was working with, and I told him that crazy was good.”

Josef and his investors raised the capital for a prototype. John designed and built the prefab steel structure at his studio piece-by-piece. In Koh Yao they had a template design for the foundation, and when all was ready the steel parts were shipped over and the structure was fitted together like a luxurious lego set. The investors took one look at it, and TreeHouse Villas was born.

Josef himself took on the job of the interiors and furnishings, and the result is a testament to his artistic flair and passion for design from every angle.

It’s easy to get carried away describing the wonders of these structures, but there’s so much more to the experience of a stay at this resort.

The Clubhouse serves up a fantastic and diverse menu with equal emphasis on quality and presentation.

The resort has an outdoor pool and relaxing steam sauna, and the private beach houses comfy sunbeds, seated swings at the water’s edge, and a rustic beach hut bar for those evening drinks with a quality house band.

There is an activities centre too for those sporty types, and I took the opportunity to kayak around the surrounding bays to explore the limestone cliffs up close and personal, surrounded by the virgin jungle and unspoilt beaches.

It would be amiss of me not to mention the level of service and attentiveness of the staff. From the moment you step off the quay you are completely cared for, and nothing is too much bother to ensure you have the perfect stay.

It was important for Josef to support the Koh Yao community with this project, and 95% of the staff are locals and the team are actively involved in fundraising for charitable causes across the island.

The resort has the highest standard of conservation practices, having been awarded the accolade of a Travel Gold Life certificate, recognised worldwide by the travel industry. They have their own off-site recycling plant, water treatment facility and electricity generators.

In summation, TreeHouse Villas is a magical eco-microcosm that you won’t want to leave. I’ve been fortunate to travel the world and write about a number of high-end luxury resorts. Granted, this resort appeals directly to my particular taste, but in total honesty… TreeHouse Villas literally tops the lot.

TreeHouse Villas Koh Yao. Luxury Beach Resort. Tel: +66 (0) 76 584 450.

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