Inside a concrete tile pathway at Chaksabari Marg in the busy Thamel, is a beautifully renovated Newar neoclassical style building sitting in its own comfort; welcoming you with the now contemporary name sign saying “Thamel Villa Heritage Hotel”. Just 50 footsteps in from the noisy, hipster paradise, every house you see is quiet, small, green and previously all a part of the same property. Starting from the middle of the 19th century, beside neoclassical, certain elements found in Mughal architecture in India were incorporated into the Newar vernacular thus exhibiting a unique Newar architecture, the Newar neoclassical style you can see in most significant buildings in the country.
Bahadur Shamsher Rana originally owned most of what your eyes can see in the space and was later bought by Sanunani Shrestha Singh, Ganesh Man Singh’s mother in 1953 AD. The building is believed to be 102 years old. The bigger share of the property was later segregated and one of the houses today is a boutique hotel with classic architecture and upscale amenities. This choice of accommodation comes in between an impersonal five-star hotel and a cheaper alternative that lacks character. The hotel, now four months in operation, has 8 rooms and a view it got in inheritance.
You are welcomed into a reasonably spacious lobby beside a courtyard, before being escorted into one of the four choices of rooms available: Deluxe, Super Deluxe, Village Superior, and Villa Suite. All the rooms are either floored with wood or telia tiles (mud tiles from Bhaktapur) and decorated with mostly vintage furniture. The rooms, named “Ka”,
Kha”, Ga”, to “Ja” move bigger in space till they reach the Villa Suite on the top floor. The Suites look like a service apartment- a concept getting more popular in the city, with your living room, small kitchen and dining space, leading to the entrance to the terrace. The terrace is semipartitioned and shared through two entrances from the two Villa Suites. The bedroom is an interesting attic space with skylight. The guest is sleeping directly under the roof and stars with slanted glass windows just above for the view.
The skylights were one of the things conserved during the renovation of the building. In the Suite Bedroom and the lobby, they serve the purpose of daytime lighting. Other examples in the hotel of old design currently exemplifying the space are the TV set just above the furnace in Village Superior rooms, a spacious staircase made of old chip marble, and cozy old wooden beams at the roof.
The renovation is tricky, hard, and expensive when it includes retrofitting and refurbishment. Especially where all the surrounding cousin buildings are also renovated and in-use, Thamel Villa has tried to maintain the consistency. The renovation, that started in 2015 just before the earthquake, took quite a while to complete. The construction with intentions of minimal invasion saw only wood, bricks, and zinc sheets being reused. The wooden staircase leading to the second floor was changed to meet the current practice standard (due to less preferred inclination) and is now a more stable L- shape. The flooring in most rooms was renovated from original mud to being supported by the wooden board and then hardwood flooring. Most bathrooms were newly constructed. The third-floor terrace which was originally part of the attic was newly constructed on. Because the building is divided into two, you can notice the compromise in design to maintain a level of consistency between the cousin buildings. The terrace construction required a wooden board support as did other floors, followed by an I Beam support and cement dhalan. Apart from Sofas and a few contemporary tables and lamps, most of the furniture was locally made in a vintage theme.
Apart from that, the renovation was a challenge, says Alok Maskey, the designer of the building, that smallest thing like wiring were remodeled to fit into the clean design. Renovation saw a lot of background work with structural support and technicalities like retrofitting. The cost can come to as much as building a new one and it’s still a process. Even though AC was not a priority initially since buildings like these with 18-24 inch walls provide a thermal insulation, it will be added for the comfort of the guests. As winter is approaching, heating also needs consideration and dampness is an issue that will need to be tackled.
Mr. Maskey also has similar buildings in Patan where spaces like these are a growing area in the Air BnB business. Online visibility is helping the businesses like these gain attraction and these businesses are in trend for the right reasons! The architect who designed the original building also designed a very similar building in Beni which is now a hotel called The Heritage at Mallaj.
Maybe apart from the beautiful space and accessibility, one of the most comfortable things about Thamel Villa Heritage hotel is a fun restaurant, Jatra, right next to it where the guests get their dinner and breakfast is ordered in from. There is a remarkably consistent comfort in this small space in Chaksibari Marg.