Inside a home: the property tycoon’s mansion

Inside a home: the property tycoon’s mansion

10 Phnom Penh Property

Ehran born, London raised property tycoon Howric Ghotbi has a preference for all things old and antique, shunning the modern and slick aesthetic often synonymous with property developers in Cambodia.

“You can tell a lot about someone by their home…By what is inside,” Ghotbi says as he greets us at the gated entrance of his sprawling, five-story Phnom Penh house.

“You can tell if they have taste or not. Sometimes money doesn’t help. Old stuff is classic and makes you feel good. I lived in London, renovating properties in the best areas of the city. I love these old buildings with rich histories…the chateaus of France too. I saw an article on Bill Gates’ home…it’s a mess, very unusual and modern, I guess his personality is like that.”

Ghotbi was first lured to Phnom Penh, he says, after a holiday to the Kingdom in 1997, captivated by the grand, French colonial villas peppered around the city. The developer soon snapped up several of the crumbling structures and renovated them – including one on Street 240 which now boasts the British ambassador as a tenant.

“Every time I walk through this front door, I am taken aback. That’s important I think – every time one opens their front door they should be surprised.”

The home certainly is surprising. Built three years ago on a parcel of land close to the ostentatious ministers’ residences surrounding the Independence Monument, the daunting, neo-colonial mansion was once a humble Khmer style wooden home.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Ferns, creepers and orchids spill down a lemon brick walls, past Juliette studded balconies - a glimpse of a figure is spotted peeking out from a bedroom window off the balcony, but the space has been designed with privacy being paramount. “You could have 20 people staying here and you wouldn’t know,” Ghotbi says. Photo by Kara Fox

“There was nothing here then, now look around at all of this construction. There were some nice 60s villas, smaller homes, but I wanted something big, huge, that was going to last!”

Past a columned porch and entering through the elaborate front door, the main room opens into a soaring, vast atrium, closed in by a cascading glass ceiling, Ghotbi’s “oasis in an urban jungle.”

“[The house] is bigger that what you think, isn’t it?” he says.

With four living spaces, a dining room, six bedrooms (all with separate sitting rooms), a huge kitchen manned by at least three staff on our visit (he has a total of 14 live in staff), and a heated, basement pool (looked down on through a glass floor in the atrium), the house hasn’t a whiff of modesty about it.

Crystal tear-drop chandeliers swing from the ceilings, an elevator whirs up to the fifth floor roof top “secret garden”.

“It’s all about privacy and open space, a cool space. We spend a lot of time in this room. I like having an outdoor space but without the irritations here- the heat, the bugs, cockroaches and rats.

The pale walls, tawny floorboards and sandstone tiles are a muted backdrop for an eclectic mish mash of items gleaned from around the world.

They reflect the different tastes of he and his Cambodian wife, and there’s a sense of far East meets East meets West.

Gilded mirrors are placed alongside 19th century and contemporary paintings and ornate Vietnamese pottery next to bejewelled hookahs from Iran. Elsewhere, modern bronze female figurines flank apsaras, buddhas and a spirit house.

Ghotbi often refers to his love of British and French antiques but they’re largely missing in his Cambodian home.

“I left most of the antiques that I had brought over in the mansion on Street 240 – they fit the style of that house.

“I had a big collection of antique furniture and paintings that I sold up in 1999 at Christies [auction house] in London...how could I bring them here? They’d get damaged. So now I collect cars instead.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Stock photo agencies cash in on Khmer Rouge tragedy
    Stock-photo companies selling images from S-21 raises ethics concerns

    A woman with short-cropped hair stares directly into the camera, her head cocked slightly to the side. On her lap is a sleeping infant just barely in the frame. The woman was the wife of a Khmer Rouge officer who fell out of favour, and

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the