Villa Similan – the late Jaya Ibrahim’s last masterpiece


Nestled into the surrounding greenery and perched high on a hill overlooking Layan Bay, Phuket, sits the last masterwork by the late Indonesian design guru, Jaya Ibrahim.


Nestled into the surrounding greenery and perched high on a hill overlooking Layan Bay, Phuket, sits the last masterwork by the late Indonesian design guru, Jaya Ibrahim. Villa Similan is one of 15 villas that make up a new enclave on Phuket, called Layan Residences by Anantara, owned by hotelier William E. Heinecke. The famed resort designer was sought out by Heinecke to bring the interiors of the the villa to life - ensuring that the site’s immaculate vistas would be central to the design work.

Affectionately known as Jaya by those who knew him and the resort design world circles, the famous designer was the son of a Sumatran diplomat and a Javanese princess. His childhood was spent travelling with his parents and living in his maternal grandmother’s house in Yogyakarta, where Jaya absorbed the Javanese culture. These roots, along with Jaya's European experiences (he studied Economics and Sociology at York University, England) are essential to his  unique design approach.

The subtle fusions of style that Jaya was known for are seen in Villa Similan when compared to other villas on the island. Whereas others were designed to be quintessentially Thai (temple-style roofs, dark wood and tiles), such as the Amanpuri residences – only a short ride down the beach - the Villa Similan rooftops are flat. This contemporary design change helps maximise the spectacular ocean views, keeping them unobstructed and adding more space in the villa for lounging - not a surprising addition, seeing as 'comfort' is another of Jaya’s recognised design traits.

Heinecke instructed Jaya and his team to make sure the lush jungle and pristine ocean views would take centre stage, and indeed they have: the site’s natural beauty comes alive in the open-plan design, with clear lines and a light, natural colourscape. Intricately carved wooden claw-foot beds, lattice-decked ceilings and antique Burmese teak doors are all captivating points of Jaya’s signature touch.

Other projects that bear Jaya’s signature designs are The Setai Hotel, Miami; The Legain, Bali; and the Aman at Summer Palace, Beijing. In 2015, Jaya was awarded the Outstanding Contribution Award at the Asia Hotel Design Awards, and though he was internationally renowned (Architectural Digest listed him as one of the “100 best designers in the world”), his passion for finding beauty and individuality in each of his projects never wavered.

Unfortunately, Jaya passed away suddenly on the 5th May 2015 following a fall from the second floor of his home in Cipayung, east Jakarta. Though the design world may have lost an iconic, intelligent designer, his memory will live on through his beautiful designs and the various projects Jaya was involved in during his lifetime. As the last masterpiece designed by the man himself, the Villa Similan is a treasure indeed.





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