Home in a restored colonial villa

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
‘We held onto the fundamentals of the original design: big rooms, high ceilings, open spaces, louvre windows, ‘ says Anthony Simms. Scott Howes

Home in a restored colonial villa

Walking up a wide curved staircase a smoky-sweet scent greets us, pervading the entire corridor. Tan Sopheap, 28, beckons us from the other end of her apartment. In the background violin riffs blare from a widescreen TV playing an old war movie.

The tiled floors provide cool relief from the midday heat, and the half-closed shutters cast shadows over the hall.

In Daun Penh’s Post Office Square stands a beautifully decrepit French colonial building, which was once a grand hotel called the Manolis.

It now houses the penthouse apartment that Tan shares with her Australian partner, Anthony Simms, 42, and their two daughters, Emilia, 5, and Amy, 5 months.

Simms is away in Afghanistan when we visit where he works as a technical adviser for American NGO the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The couple moved in some five years ago, but the renovations took almost three years.

Despite making some modern touches, Simms was keen to retain many of the building’s original features. “Colonial architecture has a huge amount of charm that is senseless to put to waste, and there isn’t a great deal of it left in the city.”

Tan Sopheap
Tan Sopheap used to be a professional chef. Favourite dishes? ‘Khmer food – a little bit sweet and sour.’ Scott Howes

The apartment’s original features are complemented with exotic touches from the couple’s travels. There’s a painting from Myanmar where they went on holiday two years ago, a multitude of furnishings, trinkets and antiques from Afghanistan and a tribal mask from Papua New Guinea. “My mum’s very scared when she sees this,” Tan chuckles.

Kitchen countertop bowls bulge with produce; there’s fresh rambutan here and garlic there.

But this isn’t a show home, where the mother puts on the airs and graces of being the perfect housewife. Tan is a generous host and a former chef (at the Rising Sun). Emilia sits at the kitchen table happily devouring the dried beef and rice cooked by her mother. The same dried beef that perfumes the air with its smoky-sweet scent.

Tan hasn’t always shared Simms’s enthusiasm for their apartment.

“When I first moved here, I thought ‘Oh my God’. I was scared because I thought the old building would maybe fall down one day. But Anthony’s fixed it and it’s a great place [now]. I love it.”

MOST VIEWED

  • EU parliament’s 13-point vote to decide on possible sanctions

    The European Parliament is due to vote on Thursday on a 13-point resolution on Cambodia – which includes a call for the treason charges against bailed opposition leader Kem Sokha to be dropped – a threat that could see the EU enforce a range of sanctions against

  • Government hits back at threats to pull EBA, suspend UN seat

    The spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has said the government is in no way concerned after the European Parliament gave it three months to reverse what it called the “systematic repression of the political opposition”. Ignoring the ultimatum could mean facing

  • Sar Kheng: Sokha requested security

    Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Sunday revealed the story behind the transfer of former opposition party leader Kem Sokha from Trapaing Phlong prison in Tbong Khmum province to his house in the capital. Speaking at the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) headquarters in Prey

  • PM vows to ‘protect’ Chinese interests

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday told Chinese companies investing in Cambodia not to worry about contract cancellation in the Kingdom. Speaking at a roundtable meeting with business executives in China as co-chair of the China-Asean Expo, the prime minister told six Chinese conglomerates with