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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


Bangkok is proof that building along new transport lines doesn't always work

New plan bans low-rise development along purple line


Even in rush hour, Bangkok's Purple Line is not always full. Image: Gastuner/Shutterstock

Construction of low-rise buildings on smaller streets in Nonthaburi has been banned as part of a new city plan aimed at improving the take up of existing condo supply along the Purple Line, local media reports. The Purple Line connects Nonthaburi and Bangkok and currently there is an oversupply of condo units surrounding it.

The new city plan calls for a ban on low-rise residential buildings at land plots located on roads narrower than 8 metres and situated further than half a kilometre from a mass transit station. The former rules allowed for low-rise housing to be built on roads at least 6 metres or wider regardless of their proximity to a mass transit station.

“The local government of Nonthaburi wants to make the city well-organised to keep with the city’s fast growth, driven by the development of mass transit lines and new transportation routes,” says Nonthaburi Real Estate Association President Lertmongkol Waravenuch to the Bangkok Post.

More: Super-luxury dominates Bangkok’s Lumpini area

In terms of condos launched in 2016, the Purple Line was the 3rd most popular location. A total of 6 projects and 4,790 units were launched along the transit line last year, according to market research from LPN Development Plc. The research also showed that the sales rate at this location was down by nearly 20 per cent from 2015 figures.

One reason for the high amount of condo supply currently available on the market is due to the increase in mortgage application rejections from banks. A number of projects that had units booked could not be to transferred to customers. It was also noted that the Purple Line has not been as well received by people as hoped.

“Despite that, some projects had a sales rate of up to 80 per cent, they could transfer only less than half as customers failed to get a mortgage loan approval. The mass transit fare for those living near the line and working in the city remains high,” says Lertmongkol.

This story originally appeared on on 21 March 2017.

Read next: Both good and bad news for Bangkok property in 2017


Park Avenue goes to Bangkok with Anne Carson

The former Ralph Lauren Home creative designer transplants Beaux Arts architecture in Bangkok

Anne Carson is the interior designer of 98 Wireless, Sansiri's flagship condo project[/caption]

It is a long way from Manhattan to Bangkok, but for Anne Carson, a twinge of familiarity pervades the horizon.

“I think that design is kind of trending back into some of the more traditional aspects of people wanting the comfort, luxury and that type of feeling in the interior,” she said.

The American interior designer has been brought to the Thai capital to carry out a super-luxury project by Thai property giant Sansiri. The upshot of that engagement, a condominium tower called 98 Wireless, evokes home.

“I think it’s very reminiscent of Manhattan in Park Avenue, especially with the treeline,” Carson said. The 25-storey skyscraper sits at the edge of Lumpini, one of Bangkok’s biggest parks, and beside the US ambassador’s residence.

This is Carson’s first engagement in Asia, and a testament to the growing tentacles of her design firm, Anne Carson Interiors, which she started after working for several years as an in-house creative designer for Ralph Lauren Home.

More: The Trumps hire Laotian-American to decorate the White House

“I was excited about the chance to work in Bangkok for the first time, and thrilled to be able to be part of such a special project,” Carson said.

The project specifications plied familiar territory, drawing on Carson’s flair for Beaux Arts styles of the 1920s Gotham persuasion. “I feel like the way that the way it’s not over-embellished and it’s simpler, with cleaner lines, makes the design direction more appropriate,” she said.

Home beckons after Southeast Asia. Carson is working on a luxury development at 157 West 57th in Manhattan, soon to be one of the tallest buildings in New York City.

“But it’s always worth coming back to Bangkok. I really enjoy making friends here,” she said.

Read next: An intimate conversation with Lidia Bersani

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’

Super-luxury dominates Bangkok's Lumpini area

98 Wireless and 28 Chidlom raise standards in exclusivity

Marble slabs imported from Italy to build the 98 Wireless condo tower by Sansiri[/caption]

The marble slabs are Statuario, quarried all the way from Carrara, Italy. The façade is of Moleanos limestone from Portugal. The plaster mouldings are handmade by a firm with a track record of restoring historic interiors in the US.

Sansiri, one of Thailand’s biggest property developers, launched yesterday 98 Wireless, its super-prime project along Wireless Road in Bangkok's Phloen Chit district.

It is just one of two super-prime projects emerging above the treeline of Lumpini park over the past year, the other being 28 Chidlom by Thai property giant SC Asset, according to a recent report by Knight Frank.

[caption id="attachment_61672" align="aligncenter" width="740"] The Jacuzzi at 98 Wireless[/caption]

Together, 98 Wireless and 28 Chidlom bring 513 super-luxury units to the central Lumpini market. The two rank among only six condominium projects that Knight Frank added to the Bangkok prime and super-prime list in 2016.

The super-prime and prime segment is expected to enjoy overall growth but at a much slower pace of sales this year, said Frank Khan, executive director and head of residential, Knight Frank Thailand. "The selling price, on the other hand, would continue to climb given the limited land stock available for development — and as other real estate asset classes, such as offices and hotels, are becoming more appealing to developers.

"The super prime market showed strong growth in supply especially within the Sukhumvit, Central Lumpini, and the Chao Phraya riverside area on Charoen Nakorn. Demand was remarkable despite showing signs of slower growth compared to 2015, as price levels reached a new high.”

The 28 Chidlom project, valued at THB8 billion (USD227 million), sits on a 3-rai (4,800 square metres) land parcel along Chit Lom Road acquired in 2015. Scheduled for completion in 2019, 28 Chidlom will offer 427 super-prime units across two towers, one at 47 storeys and the other at 20 storeys.

[caption id="attachment_61772" align="aligncenter" width="740"] The facade of one of the two towers at 28 Chidlom[/caption]

More: 5 amazing Bangkok properties for those spectacular river views

Sansiri acquired the 2-rai (3,200 sqm) plot for 98 Wireless in 2010 at THB1.5 million per square wah (4 square metres). With a development value of THB8.7 billion, 98 Wireless comes with Ralph Lauren Home furnishings and SubZero refrigerators that use NASA technology, among other perks.

Sansiri's Wireless project has 77 low-density units ready for turnover, each with private lift access. The basement descends to five levels of parking space, with 191 slots on offer.

[caption id="attachment_61773" align="aligncenter" width="740"] The sky pool at 28 Chidlom[/caption]

Both projects boast proximity to the BTS Skytrain stations. The 98 Wireless building juts 25 storeys above the Phloen Chit station, while 28 Chidlom is several steps away from the Chidlom station.

At 28 Chidlom, units ask an average of THB330,000 per square metre. Prices for 98 Wireless condos range from THB70 million through THB250 million. “The One,” the penthouse occupying the top two floors of the latter, has been sold at THB650 million.

Aside from central Lumpini, the Sukhumvit area added two projects to Knight Frank's prime and super-prime segment, namely Khun by Yoo on Thonglor and Vittorio on Phrom Pong. The developments combined offer 236 units.

[caption id="attachment_61673" align="aligncenter" width="740"] Balcony balustrades in 98 Wireless are water-jet-cut from 2-centimetre thick iron plates[/caption]

Read next: What you need to know about Bangkok property for 2017

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