One can only change their place’s interior so many times but there are many ways to fulfil one’s desire to be in a new environment and ambiance. One of them is to escape to somewhere new. I recently got the opportunity to place a quick escape to Villa Ayun, a family-owned eco-retreat in the heart of Hindukush and was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of it all. From the garden that serves as a testimony to how stunning the region is to the villa that reflects Chitral’s royal heritage – the villa offers a unique experience that lives with visitors long after they’ve left. This week You! unfolds the unique retreat that is Villa Ayun, its rich history and beauty…
The charm of the villa also lies in the fact that it is not a hotel and doesn’t aspire to be one. It is an ancestral home and reflects that personal touch as well. With only six bedrooms open to guests at a time, the villa provides an immersive experience that is truly unique. When one enters the villa, the spacious and beautiful gardens inevitably catch one’s attention. Designed and curated beautifully, the gardens have stunning flowers, trees, plantation, a small waterfall, swings and traditional Chitrali takhts with throws and cushions that add to the natural beauty of the place. The sound of birds chirping and water flowing in the background makes the garden look like a part of a fairy tale.
Co-founder of Villa Ayun Maria ul Mulk told the scribe that the gardens at Villa Ayun are a labour of love. “They have been nurtured by our grandfather Khush Ahmed Ul Mulk, son of Chitral’s former ruler – a deeply thoughtful gentleman whose love for plants dominated his life and gave the area surrounding Villa Ayun its colour and beauty.”
The place is a sight to behold in spring and roses feature quite abundantly in the garden. From pecans, grapes, apples, pomegranates, raspberries, citrus, apples, cherries, and apricots, to basil, rosemary and asparagus, every fruit, or vegetable that can grow in the region has been grown in the villa’s botanical gardens. Since the house is spread on several acres, there are many segments of the garden that guests can use without running into others.
Villa Ayun was built on the site of the old fort at Ayun which historically served as the centre of social and political interaction between the rulers and the inhabitants and features intricately carved woodwork from the original structure. And this is reflective through the traditional handcrafted furniture, carved ‘takhts’, old family pictures and historical documents from the family’s archives featured in different corners of the space.
What’s evident at the exclusive villa is the blend of modern-day interiors and traditional architecture. It seems like a conscious effort has been put to ensure that the common spaces have ornate décor with traditional woodwork, hand woven carpets, walnut wood furniture, and the bedrooms are contemporary and minimalist with simple wrought iron furniture, bookshelves or racks in corners, and bedspreads and throws in colours that are easy on the eyes. This blend allows a compelling architectural narrative and helps guests feel at home while also enjoying a unique Chitrali experience.
Maria shared that the highlight of Villa Ayun’s interior is perhaps the traditional Chitrali ‘Baipash’ that serves as the formal living room at Villa Ayun. “It features intricately hand carved wooden pillars and arches commissioned by His Highness Shuja Ul Mulk for the original fort at Ayun. The ‘Baipash’ originally served as the central room in the old fort and was built on different levels that represented the hierarchy within the family around the fire hearth. The woodwork from the room was restored and incorporated into the design of Villa Ayun when the fort was dismantled. The pillars feature floral and geometrical patterns ornately hand carved into deodar wood and arches that perfectly frame the living room windows,” she added.
One can’t talk about Villa Ayun’s interior and architecture without mentioning its beautiful terrace that gives a stunning view of the mountains at any time of the day. Designed with beautiful pillars and arches that hail from the original fort, the terrace is reflective of the traditional Chitrali architecture and do justice to the majestic mountain’s view that faces Villa Ayun. A striking element in most rooms at the villa is the large windows and according to Maria they were purposefully designed that way. “The villa was designed facing the South to allow for the maximum inflow of sunshine during cold winter months in Chitral. Most of our bedrooms and living spaces have large windows that look out on to the vast valley below, offering views that range from garden vistas to panoramic views of the majestic Tirich Mir (locally known as the Abode of Fairies), the highest peak in the Hindukush,” she said.
Maria mentioned that the interior was designed keeping simplicity in mind. “It retains the character of a heritage house and hence unlike a hotel, no two rooms are similar, and each bedroom has a unique interior. We stayed true to the local aesthetic and did not aspire to conspicuous luxury. Thus, the simple green and grey slate, deodar wood and limestone finish of the villa’s interiors reflect the natural environment outside and most of our building materials were sourced from the local area,” she concluded.
Villa Ayun can be reached out to through their Instagram page.