It’s quite extraordinary how varied building styles are throughout The Maldives – the soaring cathedral-high villas of CHEVAL BLANC RANDHELI, the JOALI pair, ONE&ONLY REETHI RAH and others, lower roofed. And one brand stands out for its curves, Monroe rather than Twiggy.
That unique name is Soneva, the moniker a marriage of its founders and creators, Sonu Shivdasani and Eva Malmström. What Girlahead had not realised when she first went to SONEVA FUSHI (‘island’), on 30th March 2004, was that the very exterior shapes were all Shivdasani. Actually, come to think of it, what an onomatopeic word, it seems to dance and swirl, just as his shapes do.
Today Soneva Fushi has come into its own, its 65 villas built as natural shapes that so complement the lush vegetation of the island, which is 1.4km by 400 metres. Overwater villa 85 is impressive, all natural woods with colour reserved for soft blue and green cushions, a blue linen cloth on the flat space for the opened suitcase – and the varying blues of the ocean, outside and visible through floor-set windows. You admire the different, unpainted, woods, smooth as silk, and their shapes. The cockeyed wood frames of mirrors over the two shiny metal washbasins, the S-shape of a day bed in the indoor bathroom, the zigzag of the toilet stall door so that, when closed, it fits invisibly and perfectly into the wall around.
But shape without substance is Monroe-wannabe, minus marilyn-magnetism. Villa 85 is workable, thoughtful. An ocean-facing office has all necessary sockets and can be reached from living-or bedroom. The glass-walled kitchen has a wine and a normal fridge and an open-wine holder. The main bed, facing the ocean, has good reading lights: there are 14 pillow types, including beanbag pillows, and there are four different duvets. If it were not for the exciting food and drink elsewhere – Berlin’s masterchef Tim Raue is onsite until 24th January 2024, complementing the two Japanese culinary geniuses, Akira-san and Saiki-san – it would be tempting to stay in the villa and not move. One could, after all, take the wood spiral staircase up to the rooftop level, which of course has loungers, beanbag style. Take another staircase up to the villa’s waterchute, for a sensational curved plunge down into the ocean below.
This is no-shoes land, in the villa or outside (newly-arrived GM Gerhard Stutz has a uniform of cotton shirt over shorts, and bare feet). Your shoes are returned, on departure, in a bag with your initials on it. And when you do leave for the reality of the rest of the world, perhaps take, as mementoes of the resort that is at the forefront of sustainable style, a five cm-long aluminium rabbit and a multi-coloured glass paperweight, both made onsite, from, respectively, drinks cans and wine bottles.