The Private Paradise Of Brands Whisperer RANIL DE SILVA

With his flair for making masterpieces of the mundane, for Ranil De Silva, having his own home was like having a blank canvas and a box full of crayons

By Avanti Samarasekera.

Published on February 16, 2015 with No Comments


My dream was to wake up in the morning and hear the ocean,” explains Ranil de Silva of the premise around which he built his Channa Daswatte-designed house in Kosgoda named Saffron and Blue. “Saffron is for hot and spicy, because we’ve had many parties and great times in this house. And blue is for cool and calm, because I have spent days on end sleeping or lazing on the daybed eating good food and reading books.” Saffron and Blue is his weekend home but it’s the residence that most personifies him, Ranil admits.

IMG_6506A single-storey property on the same land was destroyed by the 2004 tsunami, but Ranil found it in his heart to rebuild not only his house, but also 71 other homes in the Kosgoda village in partnership with Leo Burnett, the advertising agency that he heads. His empathy despite the loss of his own home to rebuild the village in nine months has endeared him to the community.


Ten years after the tragedy, his own home does not have any security personnel. The people in the area look out for Ranil and his home. A Lord Ganesh-inspired painting by Mahen Chanmugam and a cooling reflecting pool greet visitors. The cement-finished pool is cleverly aligned with a window that provides a vista of the ocean at the other end of the property. Daswatte, the architect, envisioned the sunset reflected on the pool through the window. Before an illegal construction obstructed the view of the beach, the reflection gave an illusion of the sun setting on the pool.

Another eye-catching piece of art is in the style of tiles parallel to the breakfast bar. Dispelling Daswatte’s idea of putting a large mirror on the wall, Ranil commissioned Sanjeewa Kumara, a renowned Sri Lankan artist with a penchant for bright colours, for the job. A fan of one-of-a-kind artworks, he explains the inspiration behind the painting as Sanjeewa’s top-down view of the beach at sunset when the artists visited the property one day. The painting includes the elements of sand, the reflection of the sun on shells and pebbles, and water in a fusion of colour.
DSC_3959Located at the centre of the house, the blue wall is perhaps a less talked about feature because it appears to be just that – a wall painted blue. For the house’s main resident, however, its beauty runs far deeper. “According to Channa, it’s a sculpture,” Ranil explains. The free-standing wall with separate slabs of cement embedded into it, which acts as a staircase, is actually pigmented floor cement; hence its blue colour. “I would have just painted the wall blue,” Ranil jokes, but admits that because Daswatte put a lot of effort into it, it is now one of the house’s defining features. The lamp fixed to the centre of the blue is more than meets the eye at first. One of Ranil’s own “quirky” ideas, the lampshade is actually an authentic brass bandesiya that has been fitted on to a wrought iron frame complete with a bulb at the centre. The beauty of the lamp comes to light at night when the whole wall reflects its glow.

Passionate about his personal life as much as he is about his work, Ranil says he applied the same philosophy he does in his job to the construction of his house. If a client approaches him and entrusts him with a task, he takes it to heart, looking into every detail with excruciating patience, ensuring that the final outcome is flawless. “So I realized that if I was hiring Channa, I shouldn’t tell him what and how to build, but let him build as he sees fit,” he explains.

Saffron and Blue is today proof of the effectiveness of this partnership, with Ranil only contributing minor details to the design and construction of the house such as a ground floor room for his elderly mother. “The one other thing I told Channa was that this house should be spacious enough for 10 people to coexist without having to interact with each other or get in each other’s way.” However, from that point forward, every furnishing detail had to pass Ranil’s scrutinizing eye.

Taking nearly two years to complete, the 9,000 square-foot house stands on a 59-perch property and features 130 lights. According to Ranil, high upkeep costs made it sensible that he hand over the management and maintenance of the house to Jetwing Hotels, a family-owned business of long-time friend Shiromal Cooray. “It used to cost me Rs200,000 a month just to maintain the house,” he confesses. Now marketed under the Jetwing brand name, he says that it is run strictly as a house, not a hotel.

IMG_6298The four bedrooms were meticulously decorated by Ranil himself around a colour theme. Each boasts a unique feature. The blue room – the family room – stands out for its two-storey loft element, the pull-out sofa bed for kids and the cupboard staircase created by furniture store Villa Saffron. The green room is a favourite for its Jacuzzi on the balcony overlooking the ocean. All rooms are adorned with cushions and bed linen made of the finest Thai silks from the Jim Thompson design studio, which Ranil says he personally acquired during the months the house was being built. “I used to bring back one colour and fix one room each time I visited Thailand,” he recalls. Ranil admits he has a fetish for crockery and linen. Adhering to this fixation, his staff lays the table complete with mats, cutlery and table linen during mealtimes. He is also particular about his dining room and table. The stately square dining table lies on a thatched mat usually found in the homes of villagers in rural areas, which adds character to the room. Two parallel walls are each lined with an altar ornamented with candles in various shapes and forms. Dinner at Saffron and Blue is always a candle-lit affair. The dining room’s orange walls enhance the amber tint from the candle light at dinnertime. The room also features another artwork by Sanjeewa Kumara, who refers to his paintings as “re-imaginings” or “pictures”. It also features two paintings featuring fish and hooks that Ranil hand carried from Cochin.

The attentiveness of his service staff, despite lacking professional training, is a unique selling point for the house. Ranil explains how they have grown accustomed to taking care of him whenever he retreats there from his work life in Colombo. They are now just as hospitable with any other guest. “They are more like your personal domestic at home rather than waiters or staff at a hotel.”Saffron and Blue is what each visitor wants it to be – it is the ideal location for a private rave, it can be the perfect getaway for an intimate weekend for a couple, or it can be a home away from home. The open concept without many doors or walls has also earned it the name ‘the house with only three walls’, as its façade facing the beach is open.

Ranil appreciated the complexities of constructing when his house was being built, and paid as much painstaking attention in furnishing it. His favourite artwork in the house is the three-panel, 7 feet by 3.5 feet each, Jagath Ravindra painting that adorns the largest wall in his main living area purchased before he had even laid the foundation stone. The painting’s yellow and blue undertones blends perfectly with its setting, making it perfectly suited for Saffron and Blue. “People think it was commissioned especially for this house, but that was just a happy coincidence,” Ranil says.

Although not an ardent collector, some of the works in the house were purchased and hand carried by Ranil from countries like India, China, Malaysia and Thailand, but they in no way compromise the Sri Lankan works displayed and venerated throughout the house. “I was worried that the house was looking too much like an art gallery,” Ranil explains as he points out an ancient yoke that hangs on one wall in his dining room. Due to this reason, he also has a framed saree of a naval admiral’s wife that he chanced upon in an antique shop in India.

DSC_3795Another artwork favoured by Ranil for its detail and precision is by Pramith Geekiyanage, whose forte is the male anatomy. Displayed in the champagne-tone living room, Geekiyanage’s black and white painting is in several tile-style canvases, which Ranil has arranged in pyramid shape, adding to the atmosphere of the room.

Owing to Ranil’s conscientious eye, every nook and cranny of the house has a warmness. As Leo Burnett Solutions’ Managing Director, it is no surprise that he has an eye for the arts. Beginning its operations in Sri Lanka in 1999, Leo Burnett Solutions Inc. is an advertising agency and provides related services. It is a collective of specialist agencies with one desired outcome – to increase the popularity of brands. According to the agency, its real purpose is to improve the sales effectiveness and reputation of its clients through ideas. Leo has built a strong reputation for its creative work in the last one and a half decades. It was named the Rest of South Asia Creative Agency of the Year for the second consecutive year at the South Asia Agency of the Year Awards in 2013, while its media buying arm, Starcom Worldwide Sri Lanka, won the gold award for the Rest of South Asia Media Agency of the Year award. At the event, Ranil was recognized for his contribution towards developing the Sri Lankan advertising industry and named runner up for the South Asia Agency Head of the Year award.

Although his chic city apartment favours white as a general colour theme, this was not possible in the beach house. However, this concept is brought to life in the elegant yet relaxing pavilion adjoining the pool that is complete with a sofa the size of a day bed – where he likes to sit listening to the soothing tones of the surf.


Favourite thing
My favourite thing would be the Jagath Ravindra painting in the main living area. People think it was commissioned especially for this house, but it was just a happy coincidence. I bought it even before I laid the foundation stone to this house. I went with a friend who wanted to buy a Jagath Ravindra painting, and I saw this and wanted it.

DSC_4030Most interesting artifact
The lamp on the blue wall – It’s actually an authentic brass bandesiya, which is inverted and fitted on to a wrought iron frame. In the night, when you turn on the light that is behind it, it is reflected on the whole wall. “I went from antique shop to shop looking for the right size bandesiya, then I got a wrought iron man to turn out the inside – it was a sudden quirky idea of mine.” says Ranil.



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