Connoisseur, gourmand, virtuoso; whatever the moniker, there’s no doubt that the dapper Shanth Fernando is responsible for putting Sri Lanka firmly on the global style map (well, at least partly).
An advocate of tasteful living and a keen collector of art, Shanth opened Colombo’s polished retail emporium Paradise Road Galleries in starchitect Geoffrey Bawa’s former offices 27 years ago. A one-stop nest-feathering shop filled with bon ton decor and lifestyle objects, Paradise Road was so beloved among locals and visitors alike that it quickly expanded into a shop, eat and sleep empire that now includes The Gallery Café , chic Colombo hotel Tintagel and divine beach flopspot The Villa Bentota.
Snazz jetsetter Shanth has collaborated on some of the world’s most chi chi hotels and homes, defining the distinct, delectable Sri Lankan aesthetic along the way. Here he gives LUXE an exclusive peek into his world of paradise…
Paradise Road, Colombo
I’m a designer foremost but I’m also an obsessive art collector who’s into design and food and hotels. Finding old-fashioned things to mix with very modern is what I love most.
Paradise Road style is timeless. We are known for our stripes. And I keep to a restricted colour palette of black and white. The products may change, but the style remains.
In the 1960s the only style was Geoffrey Bawa. He was an icon who created a certain aesthetic. Bawa was a customer of Paradise Road and we became close acquaintances – he introduced other well-known architects to the brand.
The moment you start producing in volume the product loses its identity and so I only ever work in small quantities. I get such a kick out of designing a product and seeing it sell.
Seventy percent of the craftsmen I work with are from Sri Lanka, and there are some very talented craftsmen whom I’ve worked with for 27 years. But Sri Lanka doesn’t produce everything and some things I have to source elsewhere – glassware for example, or simple white ceramics.
Paradise Road Studio, 12 Alfred House Gardens, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka, +94 112 506 844 & 213 Dharnapala Mawatha, Colombo 7, Sri Lanka, +94 112 686 043, paradiseroad.lk
Paradise Road gallery, café and shop all developed simultaneously and people were asking me ‘what next?’ When Tintagel came into my hands I saw the potential of the building as a hotel, it had its own identity and a distinct style.
Villa Bentota is best described as eclectic. It has the feel and style of Paradise Road. There are stripes, of course, and Chinese vases with Tibetan rugs and other pretty things. Putting [a mixture of items] together creates a challenge and the joy is in seeing it succeed.
My establishments are for people who are sensitive to style, to taste.
We serve 28 different desserts at Paradise Road Café. We are known for our desserts and ice cream all of which are handmade with the very best ingredients. We serve the most wonderful Tiramisu.
Tintagel, 65 Rosmead Place, Colombo 7, Sri Lanka, +94 114 602 121, paradiseroadhotels.com
Villa Bentota, Bentota
In Colombo I like to eat Indian at the Taj , steak at the London Grill at Cinnamon Grand and I like Green Cabin , which is a very traditional Sri Lankan restaurant. But we have such a good kitchen at Paradise Road I often prefer not to go to other places.
I love Paris. I love Paris for its style; I love Paris for its food, for its timelessness. I love Parisian design, the way of living. There’s a warmth to Paris; it has character.
I used to have a favourite hotel in Paris but I don’t go any more as they won’t let me smoke. At the end of the day it’s just a hotel room, when I’m in Paris or any other city I don’t stay much in the room – I’m out dining and exploring.
My children Annika and Saskia are both designers. Annika is an interior designer who owns PR fashion concept store, and Saskia has a contemporary art gallery and her own jewellery label, Papillon du Thé . They are both closely involved with the brand so the Paradise Road story will continue.
The Villa Bentota, Mohotti Walauwa, 138/18-138/22 Galle Rd, Bentota, Sri Lanka, +94 342 275 311, paradiseroadhotels.com
London Grill, Cinnamon Grand, 77 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka, +94 112 437 437, cinnamonhotels.com
Green Cabin, 53 Galle Rd, Colombo, Sri Lanka, +94 112 588 811
PR, 41 Horton Pl, Colombo 7, Sri Lanka, +94 112 699 921, pr.lk
Papillon du Thé, papillonduthe.com
For more slick shops in Sri Lanka, check out the LUXE Sri Lanka guide!