I fell in love with this house when I first saw it in shambles. It took me many difficult years to restore it but I don’t regret it one second,” Serdar Gülgün says of his labor of love and most personal design masterpiece: his home, Macar Feyzullah Pasha Kosku.
Gülgün revitalized the historic home, returning the decaying house to a state of elegance and splendor after nearly a decade. One of the most important wooden Ottoman buildings in private hands today, the hunting pavilion was originally built in the 1860s by an exiled Hungarian pasha, formerly known as Josef Kohlmann. The legend behind the Pasha’s arrival to Istanbul is as captivating as Gülgün’s interiors.
Born in Hungary as a nobleman, Kohlmann was a soldier in the Austria-Hungarian Empire and led an unsuccessful coup d’état for the independence of the Hungarians in the 1840s. The Ottomans granted Kohlmann refuge in Istanbul, where he gave himself the name Feyzullah, joined the Ottoman Army in the Crimean War and later earned the title of Pasha. In the neighborhood of the Sultan’s summer palace Beylerbeyi, the Pasha built his summer retreat resplendent with Ottoman opulence.
When he first saw the once-regal estate in ruins, he felt compelled to perfectly restore the Pasha’s original architecture and spectacular design elements, from intricately carved ceilings, spacious rooms, domed ceilings, frescoed walls to a mysterious garden with old, towering trees. Gülgün oversaw the meticulous seven-year process with the aid of a family of expert restorers who also rejuvenated the Topkapı Palace.
While Gülgün doesn’t hunt game, the former hunting lodge is a showcase of his most prized trophies: a collection of important Ottoman and Asian antiquities. “I don’t hunt in the traditional sense,” Gülgün says. “I hunt for beauty.”
Perched on the wooded hills of Cengelkoy and boasting panoramic views of the European side of Istanbul and the Bosphorus, the house intoxicates guests with a sublimely elegant kaleidoscope of pattern, color and texture. Here Gülgün let his imagination run wild with audacious-yet-sophisticated flourishes: enormous Oushak carpets, sensuous brocaded upholstery, inlaid mother-of-pearl Syrian armoires and even a taxidermy lion with imperial provenance sporting a crown. On gemstone-hued walls hang Ottoman calligraphies and imperial portraits as well as tall Ottoman Sufi genealogies.
Housing his private collection and personal designs and decorated in his whimsical taste, Macar Feyzullah Pasha Kosku is Gülgün’s ultimate masterpiece.