Would you leave a chic apartment in Paris or New York and move to a derelict farm? For Singapore photographer-cum-art-director Edwin Ho and English hotel consultant Mike Jowett, that was exactly what they wanted when they decided to find a place where they could live and work seven years ago. After viewing properties all over England, they knew that they had found a space to dream when they set eyes on an old run-down dairy farm. And dream they did, by transforming the farm into a luxury boutique they named ANRÁN (meaning peace and tranquility in Mandarin), which has top ratings on sites such as Booking.com and Tripadvisor.
In the centre of the venue is The Manor House, an eight- bedroom historic building from the 1700s. It’s surrounded by The Barns, six old stone and timber buildings transformed into individual getaway residences. Each Barn is unique, with exposed stone walls highlighted by modern art and antique furniture personally sourced by the couple from all over France and Asia— including a lacquer four-poster bed hunted down in China, antique wingback chairs from Paris and tables repurposed from stone bowls that used to hold cattle food. “We like to contrast classical with raw—a big chunk of concrete or steel with a modern painting or a piece of classical furniture. It’s our style,” explains Jowett.
Related article: 5 Restaurants To Dine At The Capitol Kempinski Singapore
It’s a masterclass in casual luxe and to just call it a luxury boutique hotel doesn’t do ANRÁN justice. It’s where the couple live and work, and it presents a unique blend of both men’s careers and passions. Jowett has been working in luxury hotels for over 35 years and now consults on the launches of five-star properties all over the world. He knows what guests want: “A beautiful bathroom with a great shower, a big, comfortable bed and quality bed linen. I call it simple luxury.”
Ho’s impeccable eye for detail (thanks to a two-decade-long photography career with the world’s biggest advertising agencies and household brands) supply the finishing touches that make all the difference—like his personal blends of bespoke room fragrances made with fresh herbs. “A few drops of lemongrass or lavender oil in a diffuser are welcoming. People often comment that the rooms smell amazing.” There’s also Ho’s aptitude for cooking, which sees him baking pandan and coconut cakes for guests, much to their delight.
Related article: Best Places To Get The Most Authentic Korean Food In Singapore
Charismatic hosts who love to entertain, Ho and Jowett ensured that ANRÁN has a multitude of great spaces for celebrations. There’s The Glasshouse, a crystal palace that’s highly sought-after for weddings, and nearby, The Hut, a genius after-party location converted from a World War II-era Nissen hut, with chandeliers, a firepit and underfloor heating replacing the farm machinery and cobwebs it once housed.
Located at the heart of Devon, ANRÁN is a great base for exploring the county that lies just two-and-a-half hours from London by train—enough to make it a world away from the city, with medieval towns, Jurassic cliffs and picturesque harbour towns lining the English Riviera.
The historic towns of Totnes and Newton Abbot are a 15-minute drive away, while Dartmoor National Park is 10 minutes away. As well as being the setting for the famous Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, Dartmoor is a real escape. “It’s wonderful for relaxing walks. Or you can do guided pony rides,” says Jowett.
The couple have compiled a bespoke guidebook of the best local attractions, including where to find traditional Devon cream tea with home-made scones and pillows of cream and jam. “Go to Hill House Nursery for the best Devon cream tea,” advises Jowett firmly. “It’s one of the most historic plant nurseries in the country. You can sit in the heritage garden, and eat scones and cakes— baked fresh—in the tea room, which used to be the old vicarage.”
They also particularly love visiting Greenway House, a heritage Georgian mansion that was the holiday home of 1920s detective writer Agatha Christie. “It makes for a great day out. You drive a few miles down the side of the River Dart to Dittisham—often called the prettiest village in Devon,” enthuses Ho. “You ring a bell by the river. A man in a boat comes and takes you across the water to the house. It’s like stepping back in time. It’s as if Agatha never left. They even leave dishes in the sink, so you can imagine her there.”
Not that you need to go out, as there’s plenty to do at ANRÁN, what with its heated pool and a Doctor Dolittle menagerie of animals to pet, including alpacas, pigs and rescue chickens.
You can also take private ceramics lessons at the pottery studio, and try clay pigeon shooting, archery or falconry. Or try your hand at cake decorating or cooking, using herbs and vegetables plucked from just outside the window—because the real heart of ANRÁN is sustainability.
Buildings are heated with an eco-friendly biomass boiler, green waste is turned into organic compost, and all fruits and vegetables are grown on-site. The duo have also just renovated another tumbledown farm building, turning it into an organic greenhouse with koi ponds. “It will be our Plant Lab, so we can experiment with growing tender plants such as hop vines and lettuce. We’ll water the plants with water from the koi ponds because fish waste is healthy organic fertiliser,” explains Ho.
“This place is authentic,” Jowett says. “We kept the original buildings— some were almost collapsing and many people would have knocked them down. It would have been easier, but we wanted to keep the character. This place is original. This place is us.”