He’s never been accused of being the retiring type but here our editor in chief discusses his options when the golden years eventually arrive – and how such thoughts have informed his mansion mission in Thailand.
How often do you pause in the middle of your working day to think about how you’ll be living 20 or 30 years from now? Do you start by spinning the globe, thinking about where you’d like to live, or do you do it the other way around: consider your immediate surroundings and build from there? Or perhaps this is a thought you shut down altogether and decide to return to at a later date. After all, you’ve got plenty of time, right? No need to think about where you’ll be when you’re 70 or 80 when you’re having a lively and lovely time at 50. Or is it worth just taking a few moments to consider what your set-up might look and feel like when you eventually decide it’s time to shift down a gear or two?
You might end up sitting on the terrace of a Herbst-designed bungalow atop a cliff on the Coromandel Peninsula. Maybe there will be a dog at your side, while your life partner potters around in the vegetable garden; you could jump in a battered old Land Cruiser to drive into town once a week for a good coffee and to stock up on supplies. But have you thought about the downsides of being so remote? Or is this exactly what you’ve been working towards and you can’t wait to be disconnected and self-sufficient?
For the past few years I’ve been filing away little mental notes whenever I meet people who seem to have their “silver” years figured out. At a Christmas dinner a couple of years back I met a sparky gentleman in his eighties who decided to open up his villa on the shores of Lake Zürich to a few lady friends, creating what sounded like a cross between a luxury kibbutz and a co-ed college dorm. His friends had the run of the house and did the shopping and cooking; every day they all sauntered down to the edge of the property for a morning dip (I wasn’t seeing much in the way of swimwear). He said he rarely went away on holiday because he had the best of all worlds: city, lake and regular visits from friends.
In Italy I’ve stayed at a few private family-owned hotels where the mamma holds court in the lobby, or out on the lawn, and is looked after by loving staff and entertained by guests who’ve known her for decades. This sort of gig is pretty close to ideal as you’ve got all the comforts of a hotel without the hassle of running your own house. What could be better than handsome young waiters who bring you your first G&T at 15.00 and then move you to the shade when it’s time for your nap? And how nice to have an audience every night to keep you sharp as you trot out all kinds of tales from your finest years and never feel you need an excuse to shuffle off to bed.
Sometimes I also think about the well-preserved men and women who live in the very grand Bretagne apartment complex in São Paulo and how they have a perfect little community nestled in the heart of one of the world’s most dynamic cities. Whenever I’ve visited I’ve always paused to peek at the women reading newspapers and enjoying tea. And then there are the gents sitting in a drawing room playing cards as their wives pull up out front in an old Mercedes clunker after an afternoon at the mall.
I had all of these people in mind (and many others) when I toured the backstreets of Bangkok a few weeks ago to search for a property to build our take on the perfect mansion block. In case you missed the announcement late last year, we’re working with our colleagues from our agency Winkreative and Sansiri property group to develop a residential project. I’m hoping that it will be the perfect building for those who are looking for a Southeast Asian base, as well as those who fancy the idea of retiring to a bustling city that’s renowned for good service, excellent food and outstanding medical care.
After a short primer about the neighbourhood (good tennis club, lots of Japanese bars and not too far from the Emporium Food Hall) we jumped out of the van in front of a plot that fit the brief. It was leafy, there were no tall buildings to block the sunlight and loads of shops and services were right next door. We peered over walls and walked up and down adjacent laneways. And as I stood back and thought about architects, potential residents and, of course, the prospect of rooftop cocktail parties, our little mansion block started to take shape.
“Perhaps it should have a tiny supper club on the ground floor that stays open till 3 or 4 in the morning,” suggested a Thai colleague. “It will also require the best little karaoke lounge alongside it,” I added. “Is the pool on the roof or in the garden?” asked another. “And where will there be space for washing dogs?”
Back at the hotel we started to jot down a list of essentials for the kick-off session and before long we had the framework for what’s set to be a handsome low-rise building that Monocle readers can call home. As all of this is very much in the planning stage, we’re keen to hear what you think is essential in a perfect mansion block. So feel free to jot down your thoughts and send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org (and also let us know if we should put you on our reservation list). We look forward to seeing you at the launch – and thank you for your support.