Continuing on from part one of our exploration into the story behind this extraordinary Blakstad project in Brazil, we managed to catch a moment with the owner, Anton Kaunov.
Originally from Russia, Kaunov has travelled extensively, living in several countries before settling in Brazil. When he discovered Ilhabela, an island located just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from his current home in São Paulo, he decided to investigate. “I had started to think about building a home just before the pandemic,” he says. “And then when it hit, everyone was looking for an escape. I was no exception.” Most middle and upper-middle-class families in Brazil live in gated communities but it’s never been Kaunov’s scene. “I didn’t want that. I was looking for something very picturesque, almost cinematic.”
As soon as he visited the island, he was intrigued. Its proximity to the motorway and easy access to São Paulo made it very attractive along with its beauty, which remains largely undeveloped because of its status as a national park. When he saw the available plot, Kaunov knew he had to act, but it did not go the way he expected. The process started with the search for a new home and ended with the founding of a new business. “I never planned to build a hotel,” he says, laughing. “I didn’t even plan to buy anything on the island!”
Steep hills, tight restrictions and tricky terrain mean building in Ilhabela is a challenging prospect. “The island is mostly residential, so the initial idea was to build a home but when I saw the place, I realised it was much bigger than what I needed,” Kaunov says. “My background is in the hospitality industry, so I decided to just go for it and take the direction that life had given me.” Once the plot was his, he started to think more intensely about what he was going to build.
Understanding his future market of wealthy Paulistanos escaping the city for weekend breaks and holidays, he knew he needed to have a competitive edge – something exclusive and different that also fit into the landscape with subtlety. “I started to look at Greek architects, thinking about their traditional island designs,” Kaunov says. “Then I looked at French and Italians, but they don’t have that same understanding of island living.” It was Pinterest that brought him to Blakstad Architects and Design Consultants. “I remember, the first project I saw was Can Nemo. It had that fusion of traditional Mediterranean and minimalism that I was looking for. Then I scrutinised the Blakstad website, and I really fell in love with the style.”
Kaunoz reached out and a Zoom meeting was arranged. “Rolf understood exactly what I wanted right from the start,” he says. “I provided all the topographical details and restrictions and sent photos, videos and a mood board.” A few months later, Kuanov received a quote and the first sketches of a design. “When I saw the images Rolf sent through, I was like, wow,” he recalls. “The thing is, it’s not just the design. You can draw a nice picture, but he included everything, all the practicalities, all the limitations. The project just flowed. It was everything I wanted. It was amazing.”
Some minor tweaks were needed to accommodate further idiosyncrasies of the Brazilian bureaucracy and adjustments for climate, but the original design stayed fairly true to the very first sketches. A local architect has been enlisted to supervise construction and Kaunov has chosen a name for his new venture – Can Lofos Boutique Hotel. “The Can comes from Ibiza because I wanted to incorporate that tradition and connection and lofos means hill in Greek as the property sits on a hill.” What started as a quest to find a place to live ended with Kaunov building a place where he will work. The irony is not lost on him but the awareness that he is building something special in a magical place makes up for this change of trajectory. “What drives me is the process of creation,” he says. “And that’s enough for me.”