Freud said “Biology is destiny.” For houses, geography may be destiny.
Witness Sri Lanka, subject of Thames & Hudson’s luscious coffee-table book “At Home in Sri Lanka” (208 pages, 350 color illustrations, $45, June 14). This island off the southeast coast of India – about the size of West Virginia – is known for the black tea bearing its former name, Ceylon; Buddhist temples; a diverse populace and landscape; a longstanding democracy, the oldest in Asia; a 2004 tsunami; a 2009 civil war; a thriving economy (up 6.5 percent); and recent mudslides that left scores missing as WAG went to press. And one thing more: Several hundred miles north of the equator, the country has a hot, humid climate.
This book, with wish-you-could-dive-into-them photographs by James Fennell (“Living in Sri Lanka”) and an elegant text by Tom Sykes, illustrates how 26 choice properties — included those created by architects Geoffrey Bawa and Anjalendran — have responded to the climate’s challenges. Put it this way: These are not your Greenwich and Bedford homes. Forget about million-dollar art collections, floor-to-ceiling windows, overstuffed wood furnishings and massive kitchens that spill into family rooms: They couldn’t take the heat. Instead say “hello” to overhanging roofs, double walls with slats, courtyards inside and out, outdoor kitchens that whip up the dahl (lentil curry) that is a staple of virtually every meal; and concrete furnishings built into walls and artfully covered in cushions and batiks. As Sykes writes, these blur the line between inside and out, cooling hosts and guests alike.
Traditional or modern, each house is stunning in its own way. But the eye will keep drifting back to the colonial splendor of Gillian Anderson’s one time retreat, Pilimetienne. The actress has made a name for herself playing a self-possessed FBI agent in “The X-Files” and a series of self-deluded literary heroines in “The House of Mirth,” “Bleak House,” “Great Expectations,” and, through June 4, in “A Streetcar Named Desire” at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. Add to this description creator of a home whose curving walkways, scalloped arches, clean-limbed furnishings and crisp brown and white palette, off-set by splashes of tall floral arrangements, offer delights at every turn.
Like its renovator, Pilimetienne is a fine-boned beauty.
For more, visit thamesandhudsonusa.com.