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Why this Miss Universe prefers to live in Thai property

Natalie Glebova talks luxury Asian homes and life after coronation

 

 

 

Former Miss Universe Natalie Glebova has called Thailand home for over 10 years.

When the scepter has been put down, when the crown has been handed over, when the final walk has been walked, a Miss Universe contemplates life unlike anyone. The world’s most coveted beauty pageant title subjects its holders through a whirlwind year of travels and oft-gainful contracts, and it is a maelstrom that promises no soft landing. Beauty queens eventually face a crossroads leading stateside or home, bright lights all.

But those crossroads have turned out to be home itself for Miss Universe 2005 Natalie Glebova. After flying the flag high for Canada that year, the pageant monarch found herself in a series of serendipitous return trips to then Miss Universe host country Thailand. By the end of her reign, Natalie had received an offer from Thai lager maker Singha to be their brand ambassador.

More than 10 years later, the Russian-Canadian model and television personality still calls the Southeast Asian nation her base, with husband, 2001 Mister Panamá Dean Kelly, and their daughter Maya. Locals have grown endeared to the lanky expatriate, nicknamed Fah ("blue" in Thai) for her steely eye colour.

In 2014, she bought a three-bedroom, 180-square-metre condominium unit near Bangkok's plush Thonglor neighbourhood. She also owns two condos by the beach, one in Na Jomtien, near Pattaya, and the other in Rayong.

Her feet firmly planted in Asia, Natalie sounds proud of her decision to stay and explore the region's real estate offerings — make no Steve-Harvey-sized mistake about it.

What made your decision to move to Thailand?

The country and the people gave us such a warm welcome; it was hard not to fall in love with it. I felt so comfortable in Thailand and the Thais have even given me a local nickname, Fah. I’m very happy with my decision to settle here, because so many wonderful and amazing things have happened to me to make this a very special place in my heart.

Tell us more about your Thai condo. What drew you to it?

I loved the fact that it has only seven floors and doesn’t have too many units. I prefer to stay close to the ground — I don’t like to live in high-rises up in the sky — and also fewer units, so it’s quieter and not so crowded.

More: Asia Property Report speaks with Donald Trump

What drew you to Thonglor? What's so great about the area?


View from the top of the Octave bar in the Thong Lor district of Bangkok. Stephane Bidouze/Shutterstock

Ever since I started living in Thailand, I have loved coming to Thonglor to hang out with friends, go to restaurants and shopping plazas, and get all my beauty services. So when I decided to buy a condo, I looked very closely at properties in this area, not only because I was familiar with it, but also because it’s clean, has a lot of variety, and quite international with people from all over the world living in this area. Now I like it also for the fact that there are a lot of schools and kids’ facilities around here.

More: Why Thonglor remains Bangkok’s epicenter of cool
 

How great is Thailand, or Asia for that matter, in raising a family?


Natalie and husband Dean run a travel startup called Travelbook

Thailand is fantastic for raising a family simply because of ease of lifestyle and affordability. It’s easy to hire help and the schools are of very high international standards. There’s always something to do and places to go in Thailand, and we personally love to travel together as a family all over the region. Our favorite destinations are Phi Phi Islands, Bali, and Hong Kong.
 

Are you thinking of buying more houses in Thailand or Asia?


Sure, I’d love to own more property in Asia. I would love to have another condo in the south of Thailand like Krabi or Trat.

Which other countries in Asia would you like to live in someday?


I’d love to live in Bali, Indonesia one day. It has such a lovely charm and atmosphere, and the food there is just as good as Thailand. I could also see myself living in Hong Kong, as it reminds me of New York City in some ways, and I love NYC!

What is your current relationship with real estate developers?


I did an endorsement for Henderson Land a while ago. I am interested in exploring more real estate deals. I am urbanised and love to travel so I’m looking for properties that match my lifestyle.
 

What's a great final question you really would like to answer?


How do you define success? This was actually a question I asked one of the finalists in Miss Universe 2006 when I was passing on the title. I like this question because there are many ways to answer as success means different things to different people. For me, success has always been about reaching your personal goals, being satisfied with your life and what you’ve achieved, and having an inner happiness that doesn’t come from material things or possessions but from wealth of experience, love, and personal development.

 Natalie and Dean with daughter Maya, born April 2016

Read next: Ivanka Trump, scion of brand sophistication

 

Lighting up a high-tech Phuket hideaway

Designer Ian Potter discusses the smart tech powering this exclusive island bolthole

Ian Potter

Few designers light up a place quite like Ian Potter, founder of CWL Lighting. In recent years his company has supernova’d into a star name in the hospitality industry, with a client-list that covers 14 countries and includes brands like Aman, Dusit Thani, Hilton, Intercontinental, Marriott, Pullman, and Sheraton. Potter has also become a go-to collaborator for famed interior designers such as P49, PIA, Bill Bensley, Leo Inter, and HBA.

While his forte is hotels, the UK-born designer paid his dues — and is still — illuminating the abodes of high-net-worth individuals and celebrities in Asia and further afield. Indeed, he was a major presence during the boom period of villa building in Phuket in the late 90s and the early Noughties.

He has since been enlisted to shed light on two Phuket properties owned by David Roberts, former CEO of the New York-based architecture firm Aedas.

Between 2011 and 2013, CWL and Bangkok-based architecture firm Ideal 1 collaborated on Roberts’ THB200-million (USD5.75 million) villa that sits on 8,400 square metres of prime parcel in the hills near Rawai Beach. The 1,731-square-metre structure radiates inside and out with LED external lights, in-ground uplights at all structural supports, uplit rubble walls, and even a home theatre fitted with fibre optics that evoke the night sky.

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In terms of lighting, would you call David’s villa a smart home?

The fact that the whole lighting system is integrated into one control system is pretty smart. If the owner hears a crash or noise outside he can just hit buttons on his bedside control panel, turning on all the external lights and the corridor lighting as a security feature.

[pullquote]Smart living is using technology to help you perform necessary functions to make life easier — not gimmicks[/pullquote]

The fact that all of the channels are dimmable is quite intelligent too. The lights are integrated to the security system so if the system detects an intrusion it will light all perimeter lighting and various other external lights – even if nobody is at the property.

More: The dawn of the smart home is upon us – are you ready?

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Tell us more about the lighting scenes

There is a clock that turns on the external lighting at designated times. The lighting system calculates when it gets dark. It doesn’t come on at the same time throughout the year though, because the time of dusk changes across the year in Phuket. When it calculates the time for the lighting to come on, it runs with one lighting scene and then it fades into another lighting scene, which is usually softer.

The owner also has a handheld control in his car so that as he approaches the villa he can turn the lighting on.

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What makes each villa you work on unique?

Each individual villa is custom designed; you can’t cut and paste. However, techniques may be similar. This depends on the effect we’re looking for or what the individual owners want. Some owners, especially Westerners, like lower-level lighting. They like to have quiet areas, no glare, a softer, orangey type of light — like candlelight.

Whereas if you do a property for moneyed Asians, they like it to be very bright. They’re not into intimacy and quiet spots so much.

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How much has changed in terms of lighting advancements since you designed the villa?

LED light systems have developed significantly in the last three to four years. Now you’re unlikely to design with halogen or incandescent. It’s all going to be LED, whereas three or four years ago, it would be a mixture.

How would you define smart living?

Using technology to help you perform necessary functions to make life easier — not gimmicks.

Read next: Why it’s no longer luxury if it’s not ‘smart’

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