Far from the madding crowd is Villa Samadhi Singapore, housed in a black-and-white colonial building in Labrador Nature Reserve.

Run by an antique lover, the hotel is inspired by old Malaya and features vintage items from the region, such as a Burmese bank-teller counter that serves as a check-in desk.

“We don’t chase trends,” says Frederico Asaro, the CEO and founder of Samadhi Retreats. “We celebrate a building’s original soul.”

Nestled in the greenery of the Labrador Nature Reserve is a new boutique hotel that harks back to Singapore’s colonial days.

Villa Samadhi Singapore
Where: 20 Labrador Villa Road, Singapore 119193
Hotline: 6929 2100
Prices: $200 to $400 per night (depends on season)
Rooms: 5 Types – Crib, Luxe Crib, Rustic Crib, Sarang, Luxe Sarang Villa

Villa Samadhi

Villa Samadhi: A British Colonial Building

Villa Samadhi Singapore, which welcomed its first guests on Jan 9, 2017, is housed in a two-storey, black-and-white military building built in the 20th century during British times, though the exact date is unknown.

The building had been empty for years before Mr Federico Asaro, 48, founder and chief executive officer of Samadhi Retreats, decided to turn it into a luxury retreat.

There are 20 rooms across four room types, featuring luxurious amenities such as plunge pools and rainshowers. All the rooms are located in the main building except the private 56 sq m Luxe Sarang suite, which is in an adjacent building that used to be a cook house.

Villa Samadhi Singapore - Luxe Sarang villa used to be an adjacent cookhouse
Luxe Sarang villa used to be an adjacent cookhouse

Villa Samadhi Singapore: Launched in 2017

Samadhi Retreats’ local property is the Villa Samadhi Singapore, a 20-room restored colonial residence near Labrador Park.

This is the third property for the Samadhi hospitality group, which also runs Japamala Resort on Tioman Island and Villa Samadhi Kuala Lumpur.

Besides hotels, Mr Asaro also runs The Tamarind Group of restaurants, including Tamarind Hill Singapore, which is a short walk via a “jungle walkway” from Villa Samadhi Singapore.

Colonial building was completely restored

When Mr Asaro took over the building that would become the Villa Samadhi Singapore three years ago, it was dilapidated, and the 20th century colonial garrison needed a complete restoration.

An avid antiques collector who lives in Singapore, Mr Asaro was adamant that the hotel preserved an authentic colonial atmosphere inside and outside.

The Italy-born hotelier says: “It’s a historical building in the middle of nowhere – there’s soul to this place. I didn’t want to have this old exterior and modernise the inside. It would have lost its essence.”

To avoid using modern replicas in the building, he travelled to Malaysia to source for old wooden floorboards and balustrades.

He also went to construction sites in Singapore to pick up discarded old roof tiles that were in good condition. He used them to replace broken tiles on the hotel’s roof. “The construction people thought I was an idiot,” he says.

Villa Samadhi – Elegant charm of Old Malaya

As a result, this Villa Samadhi presents the elegant charm of old Malaya. The rooms come with four poster beds, and some feature standalone bath tubs. And forget about tapping a card to get into the rooms. “We use the lock and key system here,” says Mr Asaro.

A collection of Burmese, Chinese, Hmong decor

His eye for detail shows in the elegant Asian-inflected furnishings.

In the lobby, guests check in at an old Burmese bank-teller counter. Along the staircase, there is a 120-year-old food carrier from China and art pieces made out of colourful Hmong fabric hang on the walls.

Around the property are custom-made furniture such as loungers made from recycled wood, carpets and rugs from Afghanistan and Iran, as well as antique luggage trunks placed in some rooms.

Samadhi is a Sanskrit word that means a state of intense concentration achieved through meditation.

Villa Samadhi Luxe Sarang Bedroom
Villa Samadhi Luxe Sarang Villa’s Bedroom

Villa Samadhi Rooms – Wi-Fi, Aircon, Mini Bar

He reassures that the rooms come with modern amenities, such as air-conditioning, wireless Internet, and a fully stocked minibar.

While putting in the right hardware is essential, just as important is ensuring the best guest experience.

“We appeal to the traveller rather than to the tourist,” he says. “Our guests are those who don’t want to stay in a closed up hotel in the city, but are looking for a different experience that is more than a fad.”

He cites the example of how guests can not only have their breakfast in The Library, but also along the open corridor outside their rooms. “If they wish, we can also pack a picnic basket for them to have it at Labrador Park.” Unlike other places, the resort serves breakfast all day.

Villa Samadhi

Villa Samadhi Singapore also offers taichi, yoga and meditation classes in a private field next to the resort. Guests can also unwind at a cool hang-out bar called the Library on the second floor.

Nature, which surrounds the property, provides the final touch. Mr Asaro says that peacocks, cockatoos and even an albino snake have been spotted around the premises.

He says: “I’m not selling a bed for a night. It’s about the experience.”

Villa Samadhi is located at 20 Labrador Villa Road. Tel: 6929 2100

Part of this article first appeared in The Business Times, The Straits Times in 2017.