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Crumbling Sri Lanka Estate Restored to Extravagant “Firefly Hill” Mansion

For only $1,200 per night, you can stay in this beautifully restored Sri Lankan mansion.

Credit: Halala Kanda on Instagram

For only $1,200 per night, you can stay in this beautifully restored Sri Lankan mansion.

When Dean Sharpe stumbled upon the ruins of an old mansion outside of Galle, Sri Lanka, his world was changed forever. Halala Kanda was once the height of luxury, nestled in the jungle and boasting celebrity guests such as Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie.

Built in 1912, Halala Kanda, which means Firefly Hill in local dialect, is the original creation of wealthy and romantic Simonmeru Gunathilaka in his effort to win the heart and hand of a local woman. The following decades saw the mansion’s neglect as the jungle slowly reclaimed the space. In 2010, when it was rediscovered by Sharpe, the home had been all but subsumed by the surrounding nature. Bats had made their home in the rafters, the exterior walls were crumbling, and a tree had grown through the ceiling of the entryway.

Credit: Halala Kanda Website

With several years of hard work and dedication, interior designer Dean Sharpe and his close friends Jenny Lewis, Richard Bleasdale, and Bentley de Beyer worked to bring life back into the space. Their goal was to blend the original architecture with modern features. According to Sharpe, “We wanted it to look as authentic as possible. But we didn’t want to create a pastiche of what went before.”

Sharpe and his team commissioned architect Ross Logie to bring their dreams to fruition. The house underwent four months of painstaking demolition, with workers taking care to preserve as many original fixtures as possible. “We didn’t do a big bonfire and burn everything,” Sharpe said on the process. “Each window frame and roof joist was carefully removed and stacked.”

With the addition of modern plumbing, electricity, air conditioning, and roofing, the ruins became livable and eventually even luxurious. Over the following years, the majesty of Halala Kanda began to emerge from the brush again. Eventually, it boasted sweeping 20-meter high vaulted ceilings and a palatial design.

Today, the mansion is home to a 23-meter saltwater pool, an expansive kitchen, and a so-called “Room of Curiosities” in which all the house’s most valuable and eccentric items are displayed. In fact, all of the house’s décor was locally sourced from artisans and antique shops, filling the space with rich history and spectacular art alike.

Today, visitors can stay at the mansion for $1,200 per night. The home has six total suites, in addition to the myriad communal living and dining spaces. Two of these private suites have access to the house gardens. Two other suites have a private walled garden accessible only via those rooms. All bedrooms are furnished with four-poster beds and furniture made by a local artisan as well as ensuite bathing and dressing rooms.

Written By

Makenna Dykstra (she/her) is currently pursuing her M.A. in English Literature at Tulane University in New Orleans. She writes journalism and poetry.

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