The intention of starting the daring journey arose when Virat SJB Rana, an investment banker at KPMG in India alongside his brother Varun SJB Rana, who had a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the Washington State University in USA, and Masters in Architectural Design and Theory from the University of Nottingham, put their successful money making careers at stake so they could start something new and fascinating in Nepal. They wanted to re-introduce domestic architectural design and preserve the Rana arts by building a sophisticated hotel in the land they had recently inherited from their father Gautam SJB Rana. It would help create a challenging and riveting business for them. According to Varun, “Kathmandu has lost most of its heritage value and therefore we have tried to reconstruct authentic Nepali culture. Similarly, people have lost the taste and desire to design Nepali style architecture and we want to revive that mind set of designing culturally.” Evidently, Kathmandu has around 4000 rooms for visitors and shockingly, only 5-10% of those rooms convey a cultural and ethical experience to the clients, hence making Babar Mahal Vilas one of the few boutique hotels that promote Nepali arts.
The construction of the hotel started in May 2014 focusing on extraordinary exterior and interior architecture and design. The hotel focuses on four main architectural themes: Newari, Rana, Mustang and terai architectures. The Rana architecture is focused on the Victorian and neoclassical era. The Rana wing consists of royal interiors, including crystal chandeliers dangling from the ceilings, portraits of royal figures on the walls and custom designed soft furniture that illustrate the Rana rulers.
Likewise, the lo Manthang themed rooms are designed with slanted walls signifying the high altitude in Mustang and the rooms are also designed with customized Tibetan furniture, detailed thangka art painted on them. In a similar vein, most of the rooms in the hotel display Newari architecture, as the interiors in these rooms were designed by the two brothers and given to one of Nepal's oldest and most authentic carpenters- the Shilpakar family from Bhaktapur. All furniture in these rooms are made from wood that are uniquely carved with beautiful Nepali designs. As Varun says, “All designs and interior work have come straight from the heart. They either belong to our personal collection or they have been designed by our own insight.”
Correspondingly, the hotel focuses on three colors in the rooms: yellow, saffron and silver, all of which have significance and symbolize life. Likewise, the royal suites have walls and curtains of blue which ultimately signify regality and make them stand out in general. Overall, the interiors of each room in Babar Mahal Vilas are a spectacular way to demonstrate and display Nepali culture to the guests. Likewise, the library is packed with engrossing history, art, and cultural books arranged in antique wooden shelves, alongside a display of Rana outfits in glass cupboards gives a peaceful and calm ambience for guests to spend their time. Despite the confined space, the hotel boasts a rooftop infinity pool and spa. The interiors of the spa are inspired by tarai arts such as paintings of Buddha. The restaurant which is on the ground floor along with the Surya Bar, were both inspired by Rana interiors and the finest royal cuisine served in traditional plates and cutlery. The wooden furniture is handmade, decorated with typical Nepali hand woven seat mattress and table mats. This gorgeous hotel is the perfect amalgamation of comfort and luxury. The bar is an amazing getaway for a soothing drink in a fantastic ambience. The Surya Bar is fully inspired by Rana family culture, with cozy leather seating and modern lighting accompanied by the family emblem of the Surya.
Although Nepal is god gifted with nature and climate, the vilas provide 5 star amenities in all rooms such as air conditioning, 24 hours electricity and room services. The overall interiors tend to reflect the Rana style, providing top notch regal services to the guests. As Rana answers, “the most important factor is that the guests should feel at home, because it is a special and unique address in the center of town.”
In retrospect, the journey of the development of the vilas was said to be a “nightmare” because of the earthquake and trade blockade which hindered the construction of the hotel. But that did not affect their motive and desire to build a successful and magnificent piece of work. Likewise, all materials and products found in the hotel are locally sourced, mostly through the handiwork of Nepal's finest and most original families of carpenters and artists. Despite, the vila being restricted in space, it does not disturb the way it promotes Nepali culture and ethnicity, regal luxury and local comfort.