Interiors: Suno Kay Osterweis Idyllic Lamu Retreat

Claudio Modola for Suno Kay Osterweis [Kenya]

Living Room - Claudio Modola

[Image credit: Claudio Modola Home for Suno Kay Osterweis – Tim Beddow/Architectural Digest]

Whilst browsing the blog Afritecture I came across this stunning home located off the Kenyan coast, on the beautiful island of Lamu. The home of Suno Kay Osterweis and her son Max, the founder of SUNO NY, is the definition of an idyllic retreat; and is the place Suno goes to a few months out of the year for reading, healing and restoration, and connecting with nature. Suno first visited Lamu in 1996 and was instantly captivated by the Island’s laidback living, stylishness and diverse mix of people. Returning often, Suno soon met and became friends with Italian architectural designer, Claudio Modola who resides on Manda a neighbouring island; and when she bought a piece of land on Lamu was the person she turned to for help with building her dream home.

The plot was an awkward shape, narrow and on a steep incline, so Claudio sought to design and build a rising palatial, tower-like structure with 23ft high ceilings; and to take advantage of gorgeous ocean views, at the same time maximising on the flow of cool breezes, situated the living spaces and master suite on the top levels of the building. The style of the house was inspired by the Lamu’s local Islamic architecture, combined with elements drawn from Suno’s Asian background; she was born in China to Korean parents and raised in Tokyo and later settled in San Francisco, her permanent home. Latin American design elements were also included in the design a nod to Suno’s journeys and ‘cultural curiosity’. A fountain at the home’s entrance marks the transition from outside to in; and at 20 ft above ground level is the swimming pool.

Interior - Claudio Modola

Bedroom - Claudio Modola

[Image credits: Claudio Modola Home for Suno Kay Osterweis – Tim Beddow/Architectural Digest]

The build faced several challenges; the main being that no cars are allowed on Lamu; the Old Town is a protected UNESCO World Heritage site. This means the island is only accessible by air or boat; and materials for the build, such as building blocks were produced on Manda and had to be ferried using small boats. However, perseverance paid of and the house was completed a year and half after construction started.

Shower Room - Claudio Modola
Terrace- Claudio Modola
Claudio Modola

[Image credit: Claudio Modola Home for Suno Kay Osterweis – Tim Beddow/Architectural Digest]

For the interiors and finishings, Suno sought to replicate the traditional plasterwork, seen in much of the Lamu’s architecture and buildings and was helped by Paul Weaver, an American who himself had spent eleven years renovating a local house which is now a hotel. Based on materials and techniques that are said to be disappearing from Swahili culture, it took two and a half years to complete the surfaces of the house which exude subtle colour and sensuality. Suno sourced most of the interior furnishings, incorporating locally made lamps and chairs with tables and benches made with driftwood. Other features include light fixtures sourced from an artisan who is a supplier to the King of Morocco; sourced from Afghanistan and Pakistan the elaborately carved wooden columns seen surrounding the beds and in the living area; and a dining room table designed and made in collaboration with local craftsmen. The overall feel is an airy tranquil home that is reflective of the owners whilst paying homage to its surroundings.

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For further information about Claudio Modola visit: www.claudiomodola.com

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