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Atkin's Architecture Group recently won the first prize award for an international design competition with this stunning entry. Set in a spectacular water filled quarry in Songjiang, China, the 400 bed resort hotel is uniquely constructed within the natural elements of the quarry. Underwater public areas and guest rooms add to the uniqueness, but the resort also boasts cafes, restaurants and sporting facilities.
The lowest level runs with the aquatic theme by housing a luxurious swimming pool and an extreme sports center for activities such as rock climbing and bungee jumping which will be cantilevered over the quarry and accessed by special lifts from the water. With a stunning visual presentation as shown here, it's no wonder this project took home the first prize. This is a fine example of an ultra modern facility co-existing amongst its natural environment.
by Andy G
Do & Co Hotel is located in Vienna's District 1, on the pedestrian-only Stephansplatz, right in the middle of the most historic part of this mindbogglingly historic city. The hotel of 41 luxurious rooms and two suites opened in May on the sixth floor of the famous, glass-walled Haas Haus building, but it is the view that really takes your breath away. What you see from the Haus is a straight-on, full-size, real-life panorama of St. Stephen's Cathedral -- Stephansdom -- that has defined Vienna since 1147 AD. It is the sound of this Cathedral's massive Pummerin (big bell) that announces the official arrival of the New Year in Austria.
The original Haas Haus building was a furniture and interior decor store, Philipp Haas & Sons. Several reconstructions later, the grand-daddy of modern Austrian architecture, Pritzker prize winner Hans Hollein, designed the current glass-steel-concrete structure. It opened in 1990 with notable disapproval by traditionalists. Hollein was also behind the latest upgrade that included the Do & Co hotel.
Do & Co, the hotel's holding company, is known worldwide for its first-class airline and event catering business and its Do & Co Restaurants and Cafes. In the Haas Haus, it operates also Vienna's hot spot, the ONYX Bar (pictured above) on the 6th floor, and Do & Co Restaurant (7th floor), plus luxurious event space on the 8th and 9th floors with amazing views over Vienna.
The heritage of the company's Istanbul-born founder and majority shareholder, Attila Dogudan, is reflected in the colorful touches interspersed in the Do & Co hotel interior by Amsterdam-based FG Stijl. The firm's partners, British Colin Finnegan and Dutch Gerard Glintmeijer, have managed to unite Dogudan's Turkish heritage and Vienna's prissy past with understated modern luxury. Your room will come equipped with Kilim bedspreads, chocolates from Viennese confectionary institution Demel (also owned by Do & Co), and a Bang & Olufsen flat screen TV. By Tuija Seipell
The most fabulous example of a hotel combining drama, surprise, luxury and comfort is hiding in the heart of the historical, artistic and night-club haven of Montmartre in Paris. Opened in June 2007, the restored aristocratic mansion The Hotel Particulier de Montmartre has definitely decided to grow up. The two masterminds behind the project are Morgane Rousseau and Frederic Comtet who with the help of Mathieu Paillard have managed to mix art and comfort brilliantly in their unusual hotel.
The owners commissioned well known artists, designers, sculptors and architects to create an intimate five-room enclave of exceptional atmosphere and charm.
One of the distinctive rooms is the 'vegetable room' designed by New York-born, Paris-based contemporary artist Martine Aballca. With her interpretation, she wishes to evoke hanging gardens, trees and the play of sunlight and shadow. The other artists involved in creating one of the compact private suites are photo artist Natacha Lesueur (room theme: Curtain of hair), painter Philippe Mayaux (Window), fashion and textile curator Olivier Saillard (Poems and hats) and illustrator and creative director Pierre Fichefeux (Tree with ears).
Finland-born Mats Haglund of Chanel, Colette and Paul & Joe boutique fame, created the private living room. He used the personality of the proprietors as his starting point and furnished the salon with originals of classics by Arne Jacobsen, Mies van der Rohe and Alvar Aalto.
From every window, residents can view the luscious and intimate garden created by Louis Banech, one of the landscape designers responsible for revitalizing the world-renown Tuileries Gardens.
With that much artistic and design cache, The Hotel Particulier de Montmartre will not have difficulty attracting a clientele. But to get there, you must leave the nightclubs of Montmartre, start thinking like former Montmartre residents Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh, and locate the secret alleyway between l'avenue Junot and la rue Lepic. Continue to the Sorcerer's Stone and pray that the iron gates will open for you. By Tuija Seipell
China's first carbon-neutral hotel, the hip 26-room URBN Hotel Shanghai, will officially open this spring. Conceived by owners Scott Barrack and Jules Kwan, URBN promises to be the start of a new boutique hotel empire.
No strangers to luxury developments or to China where they have lived for 10 years, the two plan to open another 20 URBN hotels in China in the next three years, starting with Beijing, Hangzhou, Dalian and Suzhou. The hoteliers will go as green as possible by rehabilitating existing structures, using recycled materials, maximizing green space and introducing eco-friendly solutions.
Beyond co-founding boutique real estate investment and development company Space Development with Kwan, the California native Barrack has established several property companies in China, including Space International specializing in luxury French Concession district properties, and Inn Shangha, the city's first serviced boutique apartment complex. Sydney, Australia-born and raised Kwan is an alternative media and property development expert.
The partners have a unique, personal perspective on what works and what doesn't for a luxury traveler in China. To give visitors a true Shanghainese urban experience - something they felt was missing - they invited international Shanghai-based collaborators with similar sensibilities to convert a 1970s post office building to the stylish URBN Hotel Shanghai. The result is an impressive fusion of contemporary and Chinese design.
URBN's spatial concept, interior and facade design are by A00 Architecture, a partnership of three Canadian architects, best known for conversions of Shanghai's historic houses into unique residences. The hotel's interior designer is Brazil native architect, Tais Cabral, known for her commercial, cultural, residential and retail work in Paris, as well as her furniture design. By Tuija Seipell
Since 1991, San Francisco-native Jeanie Fuji has acted as the traditional Japanese okami (land lady or female inn keeper) of the Fujiya Ryokan (traditional wooden inn) in the Ginzan Onsen (hot springs) area.
That year, she married Fuji Atsushi, the son and heir of the 350-year-old inn and started her rigorous training under her mother-in-law in the art of serving customers, true Japanese style. This included preparing all meals, washing the dishes and cleaning all rooms. The goal was to make sure every need of every customer was anticipated and met following the age-old inn tradition of providing the right amount of service at the right time.
Fuji describes the types of things she had to learn. ï¿½Sliding a fusuma door open and shut, greeting guests, bringing them meals on small o-zen tables... everything has to be done a certain way, following the old traditions. And I had to learn how to talk with the guests using polite, formal Japanese. I often wanted to give up and go home to the United States. But now I love my work here,ï¿½ she says in a Japanese publication.
By the time she had a good decade of experience behind her, Fuji had gained a celebrity okami status that she modestly and reluctantly dismisses. By 2004, she and her husband hired Tokyo-based celebrity architect Kengo Kuma to raise the personal service of the inn to even higher level. Kuma overtook a complete remodelling of the inn that reopened in July 2006. Kuma is behind many well-known buildings, including the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey headquarters in Tokyo.
The capacity of the thoroughly wooden, three-story Fujiya Inn was reduced to only eight rooms with full capacity at 16 persons. Considering the location of the inn, right in the middle of a relatively remote rural area known for its hot springs and natural beauty, the level of luxury in the inn is astonishing.
Kuma has been able to combine traditional Japanese simplicity with international tastes and needs, yet avoided the dumbed-down, westernized version of Japanese style. In fact, Fuji has written an autobiography on this subject Nipponjin ni wa, Nihon ga Tarinai (Japanese people are not Japanese enough), in which she emphasizes that it is important for modern Japanese to recognize and re-claim the value of their own millennia-old customs and history.
At Fujiya Inn, you feel that you are part of an ancient, authentic and almost organic history that seems to be seeping through every seam and screen here. Many aspects contribute to this effect. One is Kumaï¿½s brilliant use of layers, screens as thin as veils, to both hide and reveal space. The omnipresent samushiko bamboo screens by craft master Hideo Nakata (no, heï¿½s not the horror-movie director) and his son required 1.2 million four-millimetre-wide strips of bamboo. Green stained-glass panes by Masato Shida and the prolific use of the handmade, richly textured Echizen Japanese paper add to the feeling of lightness and transparency.
The organic, natural quotient of the inn is also boosted by the baths and the hand-prepared, fresh food. The inn has five beautiful private hot springs baths including an open-air bath on the top floor. The food is based on a regular washoku (Japanese cuisine) menu and features many edible plants and other local ingredients. Fujiï¿½s favourites include the sansai, mountain vegetables, including kogomi (ostrich fern fiddleheads) and urui (plantain lily petioles.) The only exception to this local-only rule is Cafe Wisteria (English for fuji), open only in the summer months, and offering international coffees and cakes.
To get to the Fujiya Inn, take the 3.5-hour trip on the Yamagata Bullet Train (Shinkansen) from Tokyo and then get a bus to the hot springs. Or fly from Tokyo to the Yamagata airport and arrange for a pick up by the inn. By Tuija Seipell
When in Barcelona, you will want to check into one of the several new or refurbished and distinctively cool hotels that have opened there recently. Among them, W Barcelona, located on La Barceloneta and designed by architect Ricardo Bofill, and the swish apartment residences of El Palauet that we featured in October.
The latest hotel launch capturing design media attention is Mandarin Oriental Barcelona. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group operates in 25 countries, but this is its first entry into southern Europe. Mandarin Oriental Barcelona’s official opening was celebrated in November 2009 with a lavish gala attended by the city’s style leaders and elite.
The hotel’s cool factor is a lucky combination of three elements: The convenience of the central location on Passeig de Gràcia, the good bones of the refurbished 20th-century former bank building, and most significant, the tour de force of design by Spanish-born Milano-based architect, Patricia Urquiola, responsible for the interior decor of the 98-room hotel, including most of the furnishings.
Urquiola is best known for her prolific career in designing clean-lined furniture and accessories for brands such as Foscarini, B&B Italia, Alessi, Capellini, Cassina, Knoll and Moroso. At Mandarin Oriental Barcelona she has created a strong sense of timeless elegance by using white confidently and lavishly, and by applying a Scandinavian sense of scale and clean lines.
To soften the linear angularity, Urquiola added beautiful touches that reflect the weightlessness and precious fragility of origami or intricate lace. The overall effect is stunning. - Tuija Seipell
The travel world is full of designer boutique hotels and resorts - cities and seaside locations are teeming with them. Winter resorts, on the other hands, have left a lot to be desired in the design stakes. Until now. Developers, architects and designers are turning their attention to ski resorts, help to redefine the experience of the typical ski holiday.
Taking inspiration from classic European chalets, sophisticated, design-led ski resorts and lodges are popping all over the world. From Australia to Austria, the new ski holiday is as much about the experience of kicking back in beautiful surroundings at the end of a long day of skiing, as it is about the runs.
Paul Hecker is the interior designer behind some of the most beautiful public interiors in Australia, including the Prince Hotel in Melbourne and more recently in Sydney, the Ivy and stunning adjoining penthouse hotel suite. The latest from Hecker and his Melbourne-based team at Hecker, Phelan & Guthrie, is the new ski lodge, Fjall, located at Falls Creek in Victoria.
Falls Creek is on its way to becoming something of a hot spot for those seeking the luxe version of a ski holiday. The Hecker designed Fjall lodge joins the hip Huski Lodge and Frueauf Village; luxurious architect-designed self-contained apartments and chalets. Next month the ski town will add another high-end resort to its stable, with the Quay West Resort & Spa Falls Creek set to open its doors.
Fjall lodge consists of spacious, private apartments. With the Fjall, Hecker has taken the modern Scandinavian chalet aesthetic up a notch. Working with a crisp, very Nordic palette of charcoal, white, black and pale gray, Hecker brings a strong sense of nature into the interiors, working with smoked and limed oak timber floors and wall paneling, and custom-designed oak timber joinery. Calacutta marble, heated balconies and cozy window banquettes complete the sophisticated space. - Lisa Evans
Photography - Peter Bennetts
“Someone has finally understood how the ultimate suite should look and feel,” was our chief globetrotter’s seldom-heard endorsement, when he encountered the recently opened four top suites and spa at Zürich’s Dolder Grand Hotel.
Designed in 1899 by Jacques Gros, the famed health spa/hotel has a perfect city location overlooking Lake Zürich and the Alps. The grand old hotel has been re-imagined as a modern luxury hotel by a star team of professionals - architecture by London’s Foster and Partners, interior design by United Designers, also of London, and the spa concept by spa-industry visionary, Arizona-based Sylvia Sepielli .
The star power continues in the four top-level suites inspired by four famed guests. The top-most, 4,300 square-foot (400 square-meter) Maestro Suite channels the style of Herbert von Karajan. The sweeping two-level suite with dashing classical undertones features red leather chairs, dark timbers, a circular tower dining room, pale-marble bathrooms with whirlpools and steam showers (and one with a sauna), massive windows and a lounge-style terrace.
The late Swiss surrealist painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti inspired the Carezza Suite on the top floor of the spa wing. Sculpturally inspired furnishings and organic shapes create a peaceful lounge feel, enhanced by the neutral colors and the modern fireplace. The two-bedroom suite has a separate living room, TV lounge and marble bathrooms.
Also on the top floor of the spa wing, the Masina Suite gets its dramatic inspiration from Giulietta Masina, actress and wife of Federico Fellini. Night-blue and soft white evoke a feel of elegance and smoky glamour. A large Fendi sofa and a flat-screen TV are perfect for film noir nights. Floor-to-ceiling windows add further drama. Orange sofas, dark wood panels and pink furniture adorn Suite 101 created to reflect the legacy of the Rolling Stones. The decor has a retro vibe and an edge with distinctive, casual luxury. The suite includes a bedroom, living room, dining room, an ensuite kitchen and meeting room for 10. - Tuija Seipell
Thanks to the jet-set generation, demand for boutique hotels is increasing around the world. The first boutique "chain," W, started the trend for a network of branded urbane-style properties and has just launched its latest edition - W Hong Kong.
Located in West Kowloon, the hub of the buzzing financial district of Hong Kong, the new W brings a large dose of New York style to this cosmopolitan Asian business capital.
The area is right on the commercial waterfront, so instead of luxury yachts you are more likely to look out onto imposingly large freight and cargo ships. It works though, juxtaposing the designer, luxury environment with the gritty, functional realism of the hotel's location.
Overall the hotel's design is pitch-perfect for the W brand - New-York- style interiors with the W signature quirk in the form of butterflies (butterfly motifs everywhere, we loved it) and surprising contemporary art works such as a fiberglass seal holding up a grand piano (yes, a seal holding up a grand piano, it's for real and a feat of creativity and engineering).
Other standouts include the spectacular rooftop pool, featuring an incredible mega-scale mosaic of a butterfly graphic created by Australian designer Fabio Ongarato. The pool looks out over the whole island - one of the most breathtaking in the city.
The rooms, designed by Australian interior desiger, Nicholas Graham and Japanese designer, Yasumichi Morita, are comfortable and welcoming. Each designer was assigned a specific floor to design, so each floor has its own personality, countering the cookie-cutter feel of most large hotels.
As for the suites - let's just say that they're apty titled - "Wow" and "Extreme" - and are suitably enticing. Enough to turn a short stay in long one....- Laura Demasi
How do you create a powerful experience that leaves a mark on your customers? It's an important question that drives large brands and companies to seminar after seminar about experiential marketing and purchasing. Sometimes they get it right and sometimes, despite substantial financial investment, they don't. Which is why we love it when we stumbled on a small, independent that has nailed it. In the crowded market of luxury/boutique travel emerges Pretty Beach House, an exclusive food-lovers Hamptons-esque private beach house resort just outside of Sydney that takes the concept of 'weekend' getaway to a new level.
The resort is made up of three private pavilions; relaxed, non-pretencious and homely beach villas nestled discreetly into a landscape full of hundreds of old gum trees which stand there like living art sculptures. A sense of peace and quiet descends upon you as soon as you arrive, ushering you into instant relaxation-mode. The villas interiors are luxurious but not over the top and feature raw, natural materials which blend in with the more 'designer' elements. Privacy is paramount which is why, we guess, each villa also has its own private swimming pool. There are no TVs in the villas, just a Bose Soundock with iPod and wireless internet (for online-junkies) so there's nothing else to do but slide from day bed to pool and back again in a haze of sedation, facilitated by attentive staff who materialise at your every whim.
The setting may be beautiful but the real thrill begins when it's time to eat. Renowned Sydney chef Steve Manfredi is in charge of the kitchen and largely responsible for the best part of the trip, exporting sophisticated, city fine dining into this laid-back environment. Manfredi often serves guests himself. If anything, the trip to Pretty Beach House is worth it just for this. Where else can you experience one of Sydney's top chefs cooking just for you and a tiny handful of others?
Aside from sleeping (in extraordinary beds, we must note), lazing, eating and drinking, you can wander down to Tallow Beach for a swim and a dose of dolphin watching. Or if you're in search of a slice of adventure you hop into the Pretty Beach House boat or take out a helicopter ride over the area.
For more information check out the site prettybeachhouse.com.au. Mention The Cool Hunter to receive a free upgrade to the tree house villa. - Bill Tikos
Opened this spring in Poland’s second-largest city of Lodz, the Andels Hotel has one of the most stunning entrance foyers we have seen in a while. The restored, stoic, red-brick facade hides the entrance so well that the initial impression is very strong.If you need to host a large event and impress your guests in this city, this is the place to do it. Andels has a large conference space plus the city’s largest ballroom at 1,300 square meters, and it shares its expansive red-brick domain with the best in the city’s cultural and shopping offerings.
The hotel structure is Manufaktura, Polish textile magnate Izrael Poznans’s former textile mill, now meticulously restored under strict official guidelines for building preservation. We love the interplay of old and new, square and rounded, natural and artificial, intimacy and open space.
The design concept of Andels comes from Jestico + Whiles, an award-winning design and architecture firm with offices in London and Prague, and a long relationship with the Andels hotels. This month, Andels Hotel Lodz won the Best Conversion of an Existing Building in the 12th European Hotel Design Awards.
Andels Hotel Lodz is the first four-star hotel in Lodz and the latest addition to the Andels Hotels group, which in turn is part of the Vienna International Hotels & Resorts that has more than 40 hotels in Eastern European countries. - Tuija Seipell
Hôtel de Sers in Paris exemplifies a building that fits magnificently in its new role as a hotel because the current owners’ expensive and extensive renovation retained the initial feel and the structural bones of the original mansion, and managed to insert today’s touches in a way that does not feel like a pretentious afterthought.
Today, Hôtel de Sers has 45 rooms, four junior suites, two large suites with terraces that overlook all of the splendor of Paris, and one 80-square-meter apartment. The original building was a four-storey mansion designed by architect Jules Pellechet in 1880 for Henri-Leopold Charles, the Marquis de Sers.
In the early 1900s, the building served as a medical facility and gained four more floors and a six-storey attachment. It has been a hotel since 1935. In 1999, the Vidalenc family took over the building that was then known as Hôtel le Queen Elizabeth, and the family's younger son, Thibault Vidalenc, became the general manager. He engaged his cousin, recently graduated architect Thomas Vidalenc, and together the two began the 11 million Euro transformation of the old mansion into the chic and desirable Hôtel de Sers it is today.
Thomas Vidalenc designed most of the furniture as well, and added the latest comforts, technology and amenities to the rooms, but the new never overpowers the French classical elements.
The designer touches -- such as modern, sculptural occasional tables, and chairs and cushions covered in retro-floral fabrics -- add a Scandinavian, modernist feel, but it all seems to somehow belong in this environment that is resplendent with gold, and old paintings and red velvet. Not an easy balance to achieve. - Tuija Seipell
Eco luxury does not get any better than this. The Singapore based Alila brand has a firm grasp of what it takes to do it right. It is a brand to watch in the coming years with 20 new properties launching in Asia as well as Portugal.
We are most excited about Alila’s Alila Villas properties. Having just spent time at their sister hotel Alila Villas Soori, we were expecting the same level of luxury and care at Alila Villas Uluwatu.
Uluwatu is only 30 minutes from the airport (depending on traffic) and does indeed have the same WOW effect as Soori.
Stunning views, cliff-top balconies overlooking the ocean, beautifully designed villas with their own pool and decking, indoor and outdoor showers and just space, so much lovely space!
This is one of the reasons why the Southeast Asian luxury is so incredible: They understand space. They design spaces that make you immediately feel you are not “in Kansas” any more. It is unlike anything we run into in our everyday lives, or even in our customary luxury moments.
They make you feel that you are somewhere special and the fact they use sustainable materials in their design makes you feel smugly happy about splurging a bit.
The service at Uluwatu is on a level you seldom see. You are greeted by name throughout the resort. The staff at the restaurants knows you preferences, dislikes and allergies but makes no big show of it. It is like a great host, a close friend would treat you.
Everyone was extremely well trained and that, we believe, comes from managing director, Sean Brennan, the Aussie who has spent the last 13 years in the hospitality industry in Asia and who is a force of nature on his own.
Over our years of staying at hundreds of hotels, we have seldom, if ever, met a hotel manager like him. Sean is the type of hotel manager you would pouch for your own hotel if you had one.
He is more hands-on with guests and staff than anyone we have observed. He greets guests personally on arrival, shows them around, offers drinks, and sits with them at lunch and dinner, literally moving from table to table making sure the guests are enjoying themselves. He is a pleasure to watch, as he clearly loves what he does.
Just like Soori - the images here show exactly what the resort looks like and these last three images were taken by my own camera.
And guests become quite giddy and silly about their dramatic surroundings and service. Guest with their $10,000 cameras with super zoom lenses took pictures constantly posing by the pool, by the cliff, in the villas, complete with costume changes every few hours. It was hilarious to watch.
We would like to help introduce you, too, to Alila Villas Uluwatu. Mention TCH and you will receive a 90-minute complimentary spa treatment per guest. - Bill Tikos.
Best time to visit Bali: July - Septemeber
When you travel constantly, you are not easily impressed by hotels. You have no patience for pretentious or poor service, and you have seen enough amenity kits and fluffy robes to turn you off bathing permanently. Design does not even enter the picture until the all-too-common problem issues, such as bad pillows, no wifi or no internet connection at all, noisy surroundings and slow service, are eliminated.
However, if the service and comfort issues are handled well, we start to really appreciate design. This is why, when in London, TCH stays at the Firmdale Hotels. Our favorite is The Soho Hotel, situated right in the centre of Soho but tucked away in a quiet lane with theatres, shops and cafes within walking distance. The rooms are spacious and luxurious, and the penthouse is extraordinary.
Firmdale is a UK-based boutique hotel operator with six hotels in London and now one in New York. Firmdale is privately owned by husband and wife team of Tim and Kit Kemp. In each Firmdale property, Kit Kemp has been in charge of interior design and her attention to detail is impeccable. Color, texture, quirky themes and art collections are part of her signature style that manages to translate into an inviting and beautiful hotel experience. Kit Kemp’s eclectic but luxurious design work makes her hotels akin to the refined British Airways business class.
Late last fall, Firmdale opened its first-of-many-to-come North American hotel, the Crosby Street Hotel, in New York. Again, it is in the perfect location in the heart of SoHo between Prince, Spring and Lafayette Streets. It is a few cobblestones away from all the action, but on a quiet street.
The brand new 11-storey, 86-room Crosby Street Hotel was built on a vacant parking lot over a two-year period. A short film by Jean Roman Seyfried “The Reconstruction of My Views” chronicles the construction period using time-lapse photography. The film premiered in the hotel’s own 99-seat screening room. (all images here are of Crosby Street Hotel). - Bill Tikos
Firmdale's next opening will be in London. They have acquired a site in Piccadilly (called Ham Yard) and will begin to develop later this year.
La Banane on St. Barts is an exclusive, retro-chic hotel of nine distinctive bungalows. This hotel's cool vibe of the 1950s is not a fake as it has a great storied past and its stories are based on real life, real events, real personalities.
La Banane's founding father was the late Jean-Marie Rivière, a luminary of the Parisian cabaret world, who was often photographed with Zaza Gabor, Brigitte Bardot and other stars.
His first sexy revue called La Banane was performed in this hotel where celebrities and Rivière's friends mixed and partied, and enjoyed the green lushness of the surrounding nature. The welcoming Rivière and his show ruled the hotel and gave it its name, its sexy glamorous air and the show-piece island in the middle of the pool.
And even more real-life story has been added when La Banane was recently completely revamped. Each of the bungalows and all of the common areas are furnished with pieces that one would expect to see in a home of an avid collector of original pieces by great modernists, with Le Corbusier the chief figure.
Several of the pieces are originals created in the mid-1950s when Pierre Jeanneret, went to India to help his cousin, Le Corbusier, who was creating a bold, new city, Chandigarh in the Punjab. There they designed and commissioned local craftsmen to build leading-edge, new-style furniture of rosewood and teak.
Each bungalow at Le Banana is named after an artist, designer or craftsman, ranging from Hungarian designer Mathieu Mategot (1910-2001) to American painter and sculptor Alexander Calder (1898-1976). Each piece of furniture is individually identified and its origin and design explained, so that the guests can appreciate the pieces that surround them. - Bill Tikos
If celebrity patrons are an indicator of a hotel's popularity, the Maldives super-lux Huvafen Fushi is about as hot as it gets. George Clooney popped in for lunch last month, Kate Moss partied in her Ocean Villa, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes booked in a massage during their honeymoon, Alexander McQueen had left when I arrived and when I left the island, Stefano Gabbana of Dolce & Gabbana and John Galliano were set to arrive (separately).
Trendsetting Huvafen Fushi has been raising the benchmark since its first inception two years ago. Opening its doors to feature the world's first underwater spa, Huvafen Fushi has since earned its spot on the coveted Conde Nast Traveller MagazinesUK and US Hot List.
This discreetly luxurious, contemporary retreat is located on its own lagoon on a tiny island in North Male Atoll. I arrived late into the night direct from Singapore, the flight doesn't get in until 10pm (note: book Emirates instead to arrive during the day).
When I was escorted into my over-water bungalow, I felt like I'd walked into an Apple store/Armani showroom, with a bed in the middle surrounded by all my favorite gadgets. Surround sound Bose indoor/outdoor music system, Plasma TV screens, Bang & Olufsen phones, iPod Nano with an incredible selection of music that had already been installed, a separate massive bath which overlooks the ocean, my own private plunge pool, oversized king size bed, Frette linen, designer furniture (including pieces by Frank Gehry) electronic curtains, waterfall shower, the list goes on and on.
Waking up in the Maldives is something everyone should experience before they die. The view from the bed in my room overlooked the plunge pool which overlooks the Ocean. Itâ€™s an incredible sight, serious postcard material.
The day at Huvafen Fushi starts off with a buffet breakfast in Celcius, luxe-but-laid-back dining on a white sand floored deck branching out over the lagoon. Next it's off snorkeling where you'll see the most amazing colored coral and sea life including sting rays. It takes approximately 3 hours before you realize you have a tan, the sun is extremely bright and even with 30+ sunblock, you tan quite fast and you notice tan lines by the time you've finished breakfast.
My day was busy, yet I did nothing. I snorkeled, I tanned, I read, I snorkeled again, I read more, I walked over to the over-water gym, and walked back out (are you kidding, who can face the gym on holidays) and before I knew it, the sun was already setting. So I headed to Umbar to order a cocktail and sit back in the seriously comfy lounge chairs and watch the sunset while the chill band played, very Cafe Del Mar. The music, the sunset, the people, the atmosphere - it's an amazing vibe. Dinner at Salt restaurant (barefoot) is a highlight. The food was fine dining at its best, as good as anything you'll find in the world's best restaurants.
Famously, the highest point in the Maldives is only four meters above sea level, so perhaps its not surprising that the Huvafen spa is underwater, something totally exclusive to this resort. It's like entering a glamorous fishbowl where you are the main attraction to the fish. It's the perfect environment for a massage. I chose the Maldivian monsoon ritual massage and it defies description. All I can say is that I don't think I will ever be able to top the experience. Incredible is an understatement.
BEST TIME TO GO
NOW UNTIL MAY
The friendly, laid-back staff: guests in pavilion accommodation get a 24-hour butler service, while the rest of the resort gets a FISH (Fast Island Service Host), which amounts to the same thing. The underwater spa is a must.
Three restaurants, a lively bar, a seriously cool well-stocked underground wine cellar, an over-water yoga pavilion and the world's first underwater massage treatment rooms complete the picture.
Bungalows from US$880
This year, Huvafen Fushi is proud to announce three new initiatives. An übercool 70ft luxury yacht, an exclusive compilation with one of the world's most famous DJ and Producer, Ravin from Buddha Bar, Paris as well as an uplift to the world's first underwater spa.
When Huvafen Fushi first opened two years ago, Per Aquum Resorts, Spas & Residences, CEO, Tom McLoughlin, commented, "This is just the beginning. We will continue to refine the original Huvafen Fushi concept, while constantly pushing the boundaries in delivering the ultimate guest experience."
Huvafen Fushi has certainly made this statement its driving force with more amazing concepts on the way. - Billy Tikos
Paris loves to show off. The recently re-opened Le Royal Monceau is by far the showiest hotel in which the TCH team has ever stayed. This is a storied hotel and a location with a fantastic, historical past, but the latest incarnation is reimagined by Philippe Starck.
We are not huge fans of Starck as we tend to consider him one of the somewhat “gimmicky” designers — together with Karim Rashid or Marcel Wanders — whose creations sometimes transcend time and become classics, yet at others appear like a flash-in-a-pan that you only want to see once. This kind of design is fun and quirky, but we get tired of it very quickly.
In Le Royal Monceau, Philippe Starck has created a classic. Two years after possibly the wildest ‘demolition party’ in history, Paris’ newest palace hotel is THE place to stay.
The location itself is a winner: Five minutes’ walk from Arc De Triomphe and Champs-Elysées.
The entry to Le Royal Monceau is super-grand, from the six doormen to the first glimpse of the foyer — it feels like you’ve walked onto the movie set of Eyes Wide Shut. The luxe-chic interiors are the grandest we’ve seen but it’s somehow magically NOT over the top. It works in Paris; it really works wonderfully.
The hotel’s point of difference is a serious commitment to art. It has its own gallery, Art District, with the inaugural Basquiat show, of works selected from Enrico Navarra’s collection. There’s also an art bookshop and a dedicated blog Artforbreakfast.
There’s also a whiff of rock’n'roll, with each room featuring its own guitar, with a portable recording studio available to guests. Trailblazing fashion multibrand, L’Eclaireur, will also host a show room in the hotel. Plus there’s a Clarins spa, Pierre Hermé desserts, a cigar smoking room, a cinema, an extensive garden.
The rooms are fantastic, and for 800 Euro a night, you’d want them to be.
We were upgraded to the hotel’s best suite on the top floor with an attic-style roof. We entered a room to find a service of croissants, macaroons, coffee, water, grapes and oranges presented in a way fit for a president. The room has a small lounge with a large mirror leaning against the wall like a painting. The mirror miraculously becomes a TV with a switch of the remote control.
While the bed with its Italian crisp linen is divine, the bathroom is a real eye-opener. It’s like ‘Studio 54 meets a Puff Daddy video’ or like bathing on the face of a Chanel diamond wrist watch. All mirrors on every wall. You either love it or hate it.
Le Royal Monceau has it all, including all the beautiful people. The in-crowd has found it and the breakfast room was buzzing with film directors, actors models, advertising gurus, fashion types ; everyone dressed immaculately looking like a tear-sheet from Paris Vogue.
Power meetings were happening over lunch and at dinner/drinks. The place was buzzing with the most flamboyant characters we’ve seen in a while and literally every night was busy. We can only imagine the vibe of this place when Paris Fashion Week comes along! - Bill Tikos
Unlike the tourist-tainted landscapes of neighbouring of Cancun and other Caribbean resorts; Santorini, Greece provides a seemingly untouched backdrop of white hills, red beaches and blue seas.
A gem of Santorini, the Ikies Traditional Houses, sits high atop the archipelago of islands in the village of Oia (pronounced E-ah). Ikies houses are divided into studios (one bedroom), maisonettes (loft bedroom), and suites. Each lodging has its own intriguing name — presumably derived from local occupations — such as artisan, boatman, collector and antiquarian.
The eleven luxury dwellings are carved out of pumice and designed to blend in with the surrounding architecture — hence “traditional houses”. The theme of bright white with a highlight of blue windows, roofs and shutters create a mesmerizing effect when pared with the Aegean’s cerulean waters and red clay cliffs.
Ikies makes brilliant use of their surroundings by perching their apartments on these cliffs, and expanding the space even further with private patios, Jacuzzis and pools, all of which are carefully crafted for viewing of Oia’s famous sunsets.
Beyond the intricately detailed infrastructure, Ikies has become renowned for its obsession with service. One satisfied review read, “Their staff lives for nothing more than to refill your cocktail. Continental breakfast, light fare and cocktails are all served to your room (or terrace or pool area). For the romantically-inclined, Ikies also offers a full service honeymoon package, with champagne breakfasts, flowers, satin sheets and the works.
With its full-service amentities and incomparable landscape, Ikies is a prime example of what this region has to offer. Stay tuned to Coolhunter to learn the ins and outs of the best places to vacation in Santorini, Mykonos, and Athens as we will be reporting live in September. By L. Harper
* Mention the cool hunter for a 15% discount
In a world where people appreciate good design everywhere, cool mini hotel rooms are the latest ‘it’ trend. In Tokyo, the Capsule Inn exemplifies the bare-essentials hotel rooms for brief use, and similar concepts are popping up at airports, train stations and downtowns around the world, replacing and mimicking the “day rooms” already existing at many airports.
Unlike Tokyo’s bed-only cabins where customers climb into a human equivalent of a honeycomb for a night’s rest, Yotel pods at Gatwick and Heathrow airports in London and Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam come in larger and more comfortable formats. These self-contained mini hotel rooms are equipped with a bed, table, HD TV and Wi-Fi.
The fourth Yotel is set to arrive in New York in 2011 with a location opening on 42nd and 10th street boasting 669 luxury rooms and the largest outside terrace in any hotel in New York
Also in Amsterdam, Citizen M has a hotel with 230 mini rooms at Schiphol Airport and a 215-room hotel in Amsterdam City. Citizen M plans to open similar hotels across Europe.
Qbic Hotels has opened two “cheap chic” hotels with mini rooms in the Netherlands: Qbic World Trade Centre Amsterdam and Qbic Maastricht, plus one in Antwerp, Belgium.
Taking the next step in rest and space efficiency, Russia’s Arch Group designed the SleepBox.
Along with an airport version of the rest pod, equipped with the usual, high-tech necessities offered by other companies, Arch Group has also designed an easy-to-relocate version fit for hostels. A small, mobile compartment, 2m (l) x 1.4m (w) x 2.3m (h), SleepBox is made of wood and MDF. SleepBox is meant to “allow very efficient use of available space and, if necessary, a quick change of layout”, making it perfect for hostels where demand and space available often come in conflict with each other. The hostel-specific SleepBox features bunk beds, flip-out tables and sockets for computers or phone chargers and not much else. Yuri Pushkin, Tuija Seipell.
Mamilla Hotel in Jerusalem describes itself as the first luxury lifestyle hotel in Israel and Jerusalem. With its city-center location and views of the old city walls, it connects old and new gracefully. Mamilla is a refined and elegant reminder that just as the word “urban” comes from the ancient Latin word urbs for “city,” luxurious city living in aesthetic harmony with the surroundings is not something we have invented in the last few hundred years. So, yes, this may indeed be the first luxury lifestyle hotel in Jerusalem that we will have the chance to enjoy today, but it probably has predecessors in the distant past of this historic, global city.
Deftly, by letting the milieu and setting speak their language, Mamilla’s main creative forces, Massachusetts-based Moshe Safdie and Milan’s Piero Lissoni, have avoided one of the syndromes that has become boringly common in hotels aspiring to exude luxury and cool — the overuse of black and white with a few splashes of bright color.
Many of us have vivid sensory memories about Jerusalem: the ever-present sand and stone, the strong sun, the subtle surface textures, and the soft, sun-bleached tones of color. Mamilla expresses all of this, and that harmony creates a peaceful, classy and confidently un-trendy hotel environment.
To protect Jerusalem’s ancient ambiance, all new construction must by law use the local light-hued limestone called Jerusalem Stone. In this hotel, the use of the stone is prevalent, but not pretentious. For example, in each of the 194 rooms, the bedside walls are of exposed Jerusalem Stone in harmony with the massive metal headboards and dark wooden floors, and in contrast with the modern, Piero Lissoni custom-designed furnishing and bathrooms.
The Israel-born architect Moshe Safdie is also the planner of the adjacent Alrov Mamilla Avenue, a shopping and entertainment area overlooking the Old City.
The Mamilla Hotel is part of Alrov Luxury Hotels Holding – the hotel and hospitality subsidiary of Tel-Aviv-based real estate company Alrov, founded in 1978. In addition to Mamilla, Alrov Luxury Hotels owns the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem and is developing two properties in heritage buildings in Europe: the Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam and the Café Royal Hotel in London. - Tuija Seipell
See also Neve Tzedek Hotel, Tel Aviv
OMG! This is insane! Those were the most common — and in some situations the only — comments we made during our stay at Saffire Freycinet, the luxury resort that just-opened on Tasmania’s East Coast in Australia.
Very few resorts manage to get all the ingredients right when opening but we can assure you, this beauty of a hotel has ticked all the right boxes. We were literally left speechless — and that takes some doing — as we feasted our eyes on the breathtaking vistas, indulged our senses in our gorgeous suite and in the spa, and devoured the food that made any thought of a diet ridiculous. A four-hour walk on the pristine beach helped, too.
These were the first notes we scribbled just after departing: “Expectations were far exceeded. The resort, the location, the backdrop, the mountain walks, the spa, the room, the excellent service, the attention to detail, the happy staff, and the food, OMG the food! — Saffire is truly one of Australia's most exciting places to stay.” Without wanting to sound cocky, it takes a lot to get us to write something like this.
In the suite, the amazing bathroom was all marble with heated tiles. Our suite’s amenities included, of course, wireless internet and remote controlled blinds, but the best part was the sweet turn-down service. They supplied a hot water bottle for the bed and a thermos of hot chocolate as it is winter in Tasmania.
One of the highlights of our stay was Saffire’s restaurant Palate. The multi-course degustation menus matched with the outstanding local wines are the specialty of head chef, Hugh Whitehouse, who is an Australian icon and a master of fresh, local, imaginative food prepared and served with style, love and care. We would go back for the food alone.
Designed by Tasmanian architects Morris Nunn and Associates, Saffire consists of only 20 suites ranging in size from 80 m² (860 sq. Ft.) to 140 m² (1506 sq. ft.). The buildings are super-modern yet reflect the surrounding environment perfectly. Waves, manta rays, sand dunes are all forms that come to mind both inside and out.
The interior design, by Chhada Siembieda Australia (CSA) www.chhada.com ,takes advantage of the surrounding materials and vistas. Stone and timber are the key materials but they are used in a light, airy fashion. The color palette reflects the surroundings as well focusing on soft grays, greens and a snap of orange.
It truly was an amazing stay, and it felt sinfully delicious to work on our laptops while surrounded by this kind of luxury and gazing at the amazing views this place affords. - Bill Tikos
Rates start from $1550 per night, per suite for 2 people and includes dinner, all beverages.
Elite, exclusive, private - Soho House Group’s properties continue to exude an air of privilege and luxury that entices members and non-members with its exclusive, members-only spaces, hotel suites, several restaurant brands and the Cowshed spa brand.
The newest property, Soho House Berlin is Soho House Group’s first outside-UK European property and its largest so far.
It is a private members club and 40-room hotel located on eight floors of a 1928 late-Bauhaus building on Torstrasse in Berlin’s famous Mitte district.
The hotel rooms offer the typical upscale fare: custom beds, rainforest showers, Samsung flatscreens and in-house Cowshed spa products. Some even have restored vintage record players and vinyl LPs to evoke a retro industrial feel also reinforced by exposed concrete and dark paneling.
Soho House Berlin’s hotel rooms are a delightfully mad yet subtle mix of this hard, angular visual language with a padded-velvet lush and prissy 1930s glamour. Soho House’s cool interiors are the work of in-house designer Susie Atkinson and London-based Michaelis Boyd Associates.
Following the concept of Soho Houses in London and West Hollywood, a Cecconi’s restaurant will open in Berlin’s Soho House this fall.
Soho House Group operates five Soho House clubs and hotels in the UK and one in each of New York, West Hollywood and now Berlin. The next property, Soho Beach House Miami will open this fall in Mid-Beach, Miami, in the historic Sovereign hotel. - Tuija Seipell
Castello di Vicarello is the kind of place you dream about. Movies and novels describe such places but you don’t really believe they exist. Too good to be true. But Castello di Vicarello is definitely real and it has been so since 1100. The castle sits on a hill overlooking the Maremma countryside in southern Tuscany, and it offers absolutely everything that any of your senses would want of a Tuscan vacation.
About 50 years ago, it was practically a ruin, completely abandoned, when the Baccheschi Berti family saw the potential. With much love and care, and quite a few lira, the family transformed the ruin into an exquisitely luxurious yet completely unpretentious Tuscan paradise that opened for guests in 2003.
We had the pleasure (thank you Maserati) of driving from Rome to Tuscany (about 2 hours) and then being the guests of Aurora and Carlo Baccheschi Berti and their two sons who pampered us with their company and their incomparable food, and gave us the opportunity to let the stress melt away in their amazing castle.
Each room and villa (only 7 in total) is different, with hand-picked furnishings, fabrics and accents. The exposed stone, brick and wood of the structure provide a perfect framework for the harmonious mix of antiques, modern design and Indonesian touches (the Baccheschi Bertis spent a decade in Indonesia in the textile business). The beds are adorned with the highest-quality Italian linen sheets and yes, they do help you sleep better.
The views of the countryside, the two outdoor fresh-water pools, the magnificent garden that changes with the seasons, the beautiful spa, the vineyards, the olive groves, not to even mention the amazing food Aurora and her staff prepare daily — there is absolutely no reason to leave this place. Ever. We spent hours just wandering around lazily and barefooted, gazing at the vistas, listening to the birds — no social networking, no technology, just peace and quiet. There is a slowness of time here and that's the magic.
Arguably the best holiday we’ve ever had anywhere, even in Italy, our favorite country, that manages to deliver every time — from food to the fashion, from people-watching to design, from architecture to hotels, from wines to coffee. How many countries get this many things right?
Mention TCH for the special rates.
If you feel like cooking, you can help Aurora in the kitchen (she runs an informal cooking school)
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In its latest incarnation, Barcelona’s El Palauet is now appearing as a most desirable home away from home. Six luxurious apartments, each approximately 150 square meters in size and designed to please even the most demanding traveler, are available for rent for stays of three days or longer.
With the confident charm of the well-lived and well-looked-after, the 1906 modernist building’s residences ooze affluence, elegance and tradition, while at the same time sporting the latest technology, connectivity and gadgets.
The beautiful details and ornamentation of the building are matched by the high-end designer interiors and furnishings throughout the apartments, and in the common spaces. A private spa with a Finnish sauna is open exclusively for the guests and located on the terrace that opens to views of Passeig de Garcia and the Tibidado mountain. A-la-carte hotel services from daily breakfasts to private chefs and butlers are also available.
In Paris, the ten gorgeous apartments at La Réserve offer a similar degree of luxury and design-savvy for those who want a city experience that is more like being a resident and less like being a tourist or a visitor.
While this level of opulence may be too much for most of us, the trend to opt for apartment-style city living rather than traditional hotels is starting to become more and more prevalent. If you have found an exceptional city residence that is available for rent, please let us know. - Tuija Seipell
It is tough to describe our six glorious days at Castello Di Reschio in Umbria, Italy, without resorting to clichés and big words that sound like overstatements. Awesome. Amazing. Surreal. Idyllic. Exquisite.
But when we review our images, videos and stories from Di Reschio, the one thing that has become even clearer over time is the feeling that we were transported to some unspecified luxurious time period between ancient history and tomorrow. A perfect “time is standing still” moment, offering relaxation and pampering, yet managing to surprise and delight at every turn.
With the estate itself a testament to how beautifully structures can age, combined with the extraordinary attention to detail in the restoration, and topped with every modern amenity one could wish for, it all appeared – and still does – almost too beautiful and perfect to be true.
We kept thinking that it resembled a movie set, yet there wasn’t a single fake or pretentious item in the place. Everything felt that it belonged here, and somehow always had belonged, even if reality proved otherwise.
The back story of this incredible estate and the family that runs it, is just as unbelievable and romantic as any fantasy we could conjure up. In 1994, Count Antonio Bolza and his wife, Angelika, purchased Castello di Reschio, a 2,700-acre estate in the hills of Umbria, Italy. They set out to restore and renovate the disused farmhouses on the estate that dates back to 1202.
Over time, the Count’s son Benedickt Bolza (now known as Count Bolza) graduated from architecture school and joined the family operation, taking over the planning, design and renovation.
He met his future wife, Nencia (of the princely Corsini family of Florence), at Castello di Reschio where she was hired by his parents in 1998 to paint decorative trompe l’oeil murals.
Eventually, the couple took over the estate’s largest castle as the home for themselves and their now five children. It was the most challenging to renovate, says Count Bolza, but it is beyond amazing. The couple has no regrets about the painstaking work they’ve done on it and offer tours for the guests.
So far, they have renovated about 25 villas on the estate, catering to an international elite client base of buyers and renters.
We stayed at the Palazzo that sleeps 10. The staircase in the centre of the house alone took our breath away. And the attention to detail in absolutely everything on the entire estate. From custom-design (by Count Bolza) furniture to incredible amenities including Ortiga Sicilia toiletries that we completely fell in love with.
On arrival, at lunchtime, our house was bustling with cooking and soon a delicious lunch was served at the huge table. This was a precursor to the astonishing mealtimes we were to enjoy throughout our stay.
Swimming pools, gyms, tennis, cooking lessons at your own house, and eating, of course, eating. Everything as fresh as can be and everything produced locally.
As we were focusing on doing as little as possible, we were delighted to be spectators at Conte Bolza’s Tuesday evening dressage performance. As he and his white horse moved elegantly around the paddock, we were seated under a maharaja tent, and served Italian hors d’oeuvres and wine.
The entire setup felt like we were witnessing an old-world European aristocratic tradition, and we were probably not too far wrong. Dressage does have deep European roots dating back to before Renaissance, and horses have played a vital role in this former frontier fief situated on the border between the former Papal States and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
And within a five-minute drive from our Palazzo was the estate’s restaurant, Osteria – that’s how large the estate is – where chef Marco Pellegrini creates the Di Reschio cuisine.
Unpretentious, delicious, fresher than fresh. Italian. Perfect bright-red vine ripened tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil, pasta, gazpacho, bread, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and chilli, and wine. You get the idea. We think we have found our heaven on earth and it is called Castello Di Reschio.
A short video we produced on the most extraordinary place we experienced last summer - Castello Di Reschio in Umbria, Italy. - Bill Tikos
Pristine snow-covered scenery of Courchevel in Les Trois Vallées area of the French Alps, one of the world’s oldest and largest ski areas with all the amenities and options imaginable. Not a bad set-up to build an exclusive luxury ski resort.
L’Apogée Courchevel (the summit, zenith, pinnacle of Courchevel) is a new resort located on the same peak where the former Olympic ski jump was located.
With slabs of stone, peaked rooflines and massive timbers, the hotel exterior speaks the tried-and-true language of resort that reminds us of many ski resorts around the world but also of the National Parks “Parkitecture” in North America. Nothing strikingly different here.
Inside, timbers, fur, leather, suede, wool fabrics with plaid patterns and velvet in rich textures, all confirm that we are, indeed, in an opulent, Tyrolean ski resort.
But the hotel’s 55 rooms and suites involve real modern luxury with customized furniture, bathrooms of Fior di Bosco marble and designer showers and deep soaking tubs. Underfloor heating throughout – including on the balconies. And the scenery from each suite is breathtaking.
If that is not enough, you can stay at the penthouse suite. It has four bedrooms, and a rooftop terrace with a hot tub that is literally a large wooden tub.
And for those with even deeper pockets, there is the private, five-bedroom chalet. The resort’s own spa, restaurant and other amenities may also mean that you never get to the slopes.
The hotel’s owner is French technology entrepreneur Xavier Niel who owns the Internet service provider, Free. L’Apogée Courchevel is managed by Oetker Collection www.oetkercollection.com that manages resort properties around the world. - Tuija Seipell.