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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

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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

Luxe Bangkok condos score big in last 5 years

Demand for world-class conveniences rises in Thailand


Plus Property conducted a real estate survey in regards to luxury condominiums in Bangkok recently and the results showed that there continues to be strong demand from both Thai and foreign customers for these types of units. The property and facilities management company noted that prices for luxury condos rose 30 per cent in the past five years.

“Luxury condominiums are receiving good response due to their unique design, luxury, international image, use of premium materials, tastefully designed and foreign imported furniture, and warranty,” Anukul Ratpitaksanti, Deputy Managing Director, Plus Property Company says. “These properties also have more extensive conveniences and facilities than other properties, including swimming pools, Jacuzzi, fitness facilities with 360 panoramic views, automatic parking facilities, sky lounges, movie theaters, pet zones, playgrounds, and limousine services. Some properties even offer parking more than 100 percent parking, and charging stations for electric vehicles.”

More: Accor to bring managed residences to Thailand

The research showed that there have been 22 luxury condominium projects put on the market since 2011. The majority of these projects are in the central business district with 75 per cent being found in the inner Sukhumvit and Silom-Sathorn areas. One reason property developers are choosing to focus on luxury projects in these areas is due to mid-level and budget properties currently being affected by weakening purchasing power.

Plus Property’s data showed that luxury properties have experienced an average price increase nearly 30 per cent. The majority of luxury projects have been built by large property developers who have more experience in developing upscale projects that cater to high-net worth individuals. Luxury projects also require high-end facilities management to ensure they meet the needs and tastes of residents.

“The facility management at these properties are world-class. Luxury properties are likely to provide even more of these premium features and services in the future,” Anukul concludes.

This article originally appeared on on 15 December 2016

Read next: Thailand real estate showcased as some of the region’s finest

This property market in Thailand isn't impressing anyone

A depressing decline


With a backlog of condo units building up and more foreign buyers avoiding Pattaya, a number of developers have decided to slow, freeze or even revise their new developments in the city, according to local media outlets. The decision comes after there had been some hope of a turnaround in the renowned party town.

Surachet Kongcheep, associate director for research at property consultant Colliers International Thailand, told the Bangkok Post that 307 condo units were launched in Pattaya in the first half which is the lowest level it has been in years and a significant decline from the number of launches in the second half of 2015.

“This was due to many factors such as the drop in the number of Russian tourists who have been the main buyers in Pattaya’s condo market for the past few years,” Surachet told the newspaper. “Some of the new supply is still waiting to be sold.”

It was noted that 17,000 of the 72,000 condo units launched from 2011 to the first half of this year are still available. The government’s property tax incentives helped bump up the take-up rate in Pattaya to 77 percent during the first half of 2016 before expiring at the end of April.

More: Why Pattaya’s condo market is balancing on a knife edge

During the past two years, Chinese buyers have begun to invest in condo units in Pattaya but they have been unable to make up for the dramatically declining number of Russian buyers that were found here during Pattaya’s boom.

Tirachai Pipitsupaphol, managing director of Ocean Property, pointed out that his company still has more than THB1 billion worth of condo units available at Ocean Portofino Condominium in Jomtien Beach. The project was finished a few years ago but sales have been sluggish at best.

“Pattaya’s property market is likely to take several months to return to normal as there are no entertainment activities during the mourning period,” Tirachai noted.

This article originally appeared on on 22 November 2016

Read next: 5 things you should know about Bangkok’s residential market

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