The most important thing was to get the right people, who enjoy nature.
If “we are the sum total of our life’s experiences,” — Summertime, a villa nestled in the verdant hills just outside the buzz of Calangute, Goa, is quite literally the “sun” total of their owners, Hans Tuinman and Sucheta Potnis’ musings. The villa recently won Asia’s Most Romantic Retreat by the World Boutique Awards 2016, and it’s clear to see why. The Dutchman who together with wife Sucheta built this haven, has birds dropping in for a sip of water and koi’s swimming unfettered. They have taken years of customised tourism, hobnobbing in the most beauteous sojourns across the world to first, build their own home, a gorgeous and palatial chalet, and then Summertime, a sunny welcoming balm of peace on a hill nearby, as their home when they are older. Thankfully, they decided to let eclectic souls in, and give them a chance to experience paradise.
The awards that were held in London on November 9 saw Hans’ brother from Holland receive it as Sucheta and Hans were more happy getting their hands dirty in the rich verdant space, having constant tete-a-tetes with the abundant plump koi and dragonflies, or just sitting by the infinity pool, and wooded expanse.
“We built the house as a place that reflects us. We bought the place, planted trees, near our home. Since our current home is on different levels, and is difficult for mom, and we also knew, we will need it as we grow older, Summertime was designed. We thought, let’s rent it out for a period of time, as we’ve put our heart and soul into it so it’s not like other rented villas, and the aesthetics reflect this,” says Sucheta. Bali, as a feature trespasses with the wholesomeness of a forest, “We decided we would do our best, to make it a home, instead of just a rented space so we even lived there for six months, added lots and lots of books, etc. We got inspired by so many ideas, furniture from Bali, fanciful reflections from a Frenchman in Pondicherry who has taken to buying wood from the fast-disappearing Chettinad’s homes, and from Pondimania, the most ethereal lamps,” explains Sucheta, adding, “It’s inviting, asks you to come put up your feet and there are 100 different places to sit and read, or just sit in silence, honestly, everything, has a story around it.”
Sitting pretty on the few hills of lush green left in Goa, it was anthropologist Hans who worked on the designs and blue prints. “It’s quite something in a continent like Asia, with lots of special spaces, to get such an award.” And Sucheta pipes in, “At first we thought it was a joke, but then realised it was for real.” Hans adds, “It’s nice to receive an award like this. As tour operators, we have been crisscrossing so many places for guests, it was inevitable that we’d do this. When there was land near our house on sale, we thought — before someone builds a monstrosity, we’ll buy it, and then we got carried away,” he admits sheepishly.
“The most important thing was to get the right people, who enjoy nature,” explains the self-taught architect of the villa on a two acre property.
“I do all the drawings — and have taught myself but also sit with the architect. Of course, one thing you cannot play around with is structural engineering, I like the positive aspects of concrete but I don’t want to see any beams, so it’s a big struggle,” admits the man who came to India in 1978, specialising in research on the Untouchables, and later did a thesis at the University Of New South Whales. “Whilst there, I got a chance to organise study tours for students, and it snowballed. Academia is lonely and this gave me a reason to start living here. I met Sucheta and immediately asked her to work with me,” he recalls.
Creating itineraries of soulfulness, Summertime surely exudes it. The “romantic” moniker usually reflects its owners, so are the two busy-bodies romantic? “When you sit in the evening and the lights are on, it’s beautiful. We just saw the super moon and it was so beautiful, the colours and lights, the whole ambience is romantic,” Hans admits, and Sucheta, the writer-traveller and nature lover, adds, “We are hopelessly not! We grew together, have cried on each other’s shoulder, and since we don’t have children together, these homes are our babies, they reflect our soul. We are blessed with a fantastic land, with palm trees to gaze at.”
The couple also owns a yacht Solita on rent, and plans to take romance to greater heights with a package including their labour of love Summertime and a night on Solita. Landscaping, done by a man known for his aesthetic sense, Shashank Vaidya, is a close friend. The sun truly illuminates the villa — Like entering a forest, with Sucheta and Hans pottering about to keep the plants happy, the birds quenched, and the fish antsy — the soul is really at peace.