Co-owner of Jastam House
On the beginnings of Jastam House
The story begins with my parents, who, about 25 years ago, went to Mauritius for their honeymoon. Although they first contemplated setting up a property there, their attention shifted to Seychelles, where Jastam House is now located. Seychelles has somewhat of an 'untouched' charm. The country had around 85,000 residents at the time, quite a difference from Mauritius' 1.2 million.
Getting the land was a process that took about a year and a half. It was previously owned by a prominent family in the country, who lived nearby. They owned a substantial portion of the island, including the site that caught my parents' eye. So establishing a connection with them was pivotal, given their position within the local community.
Once the deal was finalised, the original plan was to co-own the property with another couple, some close family friends. The plan involved two main houses connected by the pool houses. At the time, my parents also had to prove that they were investing in the country, committed to eventually becoming citizens. It wasn't a case of simply living as tourists who find the land attractive and want to have a home there. After a year and a half of waiting, signing off all the contracts, etc. their friends end up backing out at the last minute. A nightmare. This led to revising the blueprint, and the construction took another year and a half, with its fair share of challenges, like trying to find the right building group in the region, and then further issues with the engineers from abroad.
Fast forward to 2002, when the house was finally inaugurated. I was just five years old, so my memories are hazy. Nonetheless, it marked the beginning of an incredible chapter.
As time has progressed, my role has evolved. With my parents now residing in various parts of the world, the responsibility of overseeing the property has largely fallen on me. I've taken on the task of selectively renting the place out, not to full capacity, but enough to sustain it and provide a sense of purpose for our devoted staff. It's a role that presents its own set of ups and downs, but the memories and experiences associated with the property make it all worthwhile.
On the design process
Architecturally, my father took the lead. Real estate is his forte, and he collaborated with architects and our chief engineer to design the plans. They carefully created the structure according to my father's vision.
The concept behind the three bungalows was to ensure that friends and family could enjoy their space without feeling obligated to constantly be together. Considering the distance to Seychelles and the fact that you can no longer get direct flights, people often stay for around ten days. So these three bungalows, resembling mini houses, offer our guests the freedom to have their private quarters while still being a part of our experience.
The garden holds a special place for my father. It's his jewel. He invested a lot of effort in sourcing all the endemic plants. There are before and after images on our website which reveal the entire transformation of the land—you can tell the garden truly makes the place what it is.
Around four years ago, we added a gym. Being a devoted yogi, I needed to balance all the indulgence with exercise, especially with our chef's incredible meals and all the cocktails. So that's the most recent addition.
The interiors and the artsy vibe that comes with the house are all down to my mother's curation. She's always held a strong affinity for interior design, and during the construction, she made numerous visits to India in search of antique pieces—items that are quite uncommon in Seychelles.
The neo-colonial style also ended up matching our art. Art plays a huge role in our family, and my father has an extensive Oceanic art collection—many masks, which just so happened to go with the house's decor. We really didn't want a modern home but something that would blend into the country's nature and culture, which I believe we've achieved.
On the highlight features of Jastam House
Some of my favourite parts of the property include where we have the billiards table. It's enormous. And playing billiards is one of our favourite pastimes as a family. Typically, before having drinks in the bar, we head up there to play, and it's become a go-to activity. We're also quite enthusiastic about backgammon and other board games. There's a table exclusively for this. It's adorned with an intricately designed backgammon board, which my mum created as she is the champion in our family when it comes to this. We could easily find ourselves engrossed in games until four in the morning. It's a part of the house that might seem the least significant, but it's the space we've spent a lot of time together as a family.
Speaking of the bar and drinks, the wine cellar that my father designed is quite impressive. I don't know how many bottles it can hold, but it's extensive with many different types of wines. It's an attraction in itself that our guests like to visit.
We're also cocktail enthusiasts, evident from the size of our bar and the sheer volume of bottles. My dad's passion has got him into collecting shakers, so we have a collection of those, too—around 100 different ones. They vary in design and style—one has an interesting rocket shape, and I believe it belonged to a famous German actress.
Upstairs, next to my dad's office on the second floor, there's a small corner that's just so charming. Despite the fact that I don't really like leather chairs, there's a leather seating area, which is extremely cosy. You'll find my dad's collection of antique books and photographs of my grandparents. On a rainy or thunderstorm-filled evening, I enjoy sitting there, sinking into the chair and reading a good book.
You'll find that we like to collect various things as a family. So when you stay at Jastam, I think you get a real glimpse into the essence of who we are and the interests we've cultivated over time. It's truly a labour of love and a culmination of different aspects of our lives, all brought together in one place.
On being family-owned
I want to highlight that Jastam is family-owned and run. It really is as though the life of my parents has been summarised into this property. And they often refer to it as their 'third baby' because they were so young when they built it. It was a journey getting the place to this point, and it's become one of their greatest assets and accomplishments because there really is no other property like it in Seychelles. I'm very appreciative of what they've created.
Apart from the aerial photos, you would never imagine a house located there while driving along the road. It's almost impossible to see it from the outside with all the greenery and the fencing. Even when you're on the beach, you can't see the house because we've kept everything below palm tree height.
As for the luxury side, it's luxury but in a way that makes you feel at home. That's why we're different from the hotels here. You can have contact with the staff, but you also don't have to see them if you don't want to. You have both options. But I must say our staff is amazing and they truly care about making you feel comfortable. I remember we had clients back in December who loved basketball, and they befriended one of our head gardeners who also loves playing basketball. He ended up taking them on a drive in the afternoon to play with the locals. So people really do feel at home here, even if it's not their own home.
On opening Jastam House to the public
Because Jastam is essentially our family home, convincing my parents to consider marketing the property was a tricky task. We're private people, and the idea of having guests from elsewhere come and stay seemed like an intrusion at first. But we have an exceptional team of staff, many of whom have been with us for years, some even since I was born. Their presence has been integral because when we return to the house, we barely notice any changes from how we initially maintained it. Everything falls back into place—the photographs, our personal belongings—it's as if no one ever stayed while we were away.
I feel that opening Jastam House to the public has breathed new life into the property, and I'm genuinely excited about this next phase.