Travel by Design

Luxury Travel by Design: Design-forward Hotels Around the World

COMPILED BY Julia Freemantle PHOTOS Supplied; Adam Letch (Cheetah Plains), Greg Cox (Saseka); The Ingalls (Santa Monica Proper)


Travel should be a sensory overload throughout your journey, with design that serves to elevate the experience.

While travel is about more than sitting in a hotel room or holing up in a resort, the spaces you relax in between exploration matter hugely – and the more inspiring and considered they are, the better your experience will be. There are, however, a few destinations whose focus on the quality and style of their spaces, alignment with big industry names or owners dedicated to authenticity set them apart as a journey in themselves.

First Resort

PATINA, FARI ISLANDS, MALDIVES The Maldives doesn’t need much adornment – its staggering natural beauty speaks for itself. Which is why the design of the new Patina resort in the Fari Islands, in Maldives’ North Malé Atoll, is so masterful. Impactful and elevated (courtesy of custom furniture by brands such as Gervasoni and Bassam Fellows), its quiet understatement is where the mastery lies: embodying the sense of harmony and tranquillity you’d expect to find – demand, even – in a remote island escape, it’s earthy yet sophisticated. Designed by Brazilian studio MK27 and spearheaded by Marcio Kogan, a Brazilian Modernist architect based in São Paulo, the 90 one-, two- and three-bedroom water and beach villas and 20 studios exude minimalist cool courtesy of natural materials, a subdued palette, and a calming yet tactile take on texture. You’ll find all the trappings of an ultra-luxe Maldivian resort, of course – a sensational spa, bar, beach club, 12 dining options and water sports – and some charming surprises (like a gelato tuk-tuk), as well as beautiful artwork installations peppered around the property. And its zero-waste, energy-efficient practices are another tick in the plus column.

luxury travel
luxury travel

Safari 2.0

Long gone are the rustic, curio-populated bush camps that once dominated the safari scene. Now it’s possible to have a contemporary, design-forward experience in the wild sans clichés – and with a healthy dose of style.

CHEETAH PLAINS, SABI SAND GAME RESERVE, SOUTH AFRICA Turning the idea of safari spaces on its head entirely, ARRCC’s interpretation for Cheetah Plains in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve has all the hallmarks of the interior architecture studio’s signature style: luxe, cutting-edge, and filled with contemporary art and custom design. Within the scope of the villa format – ideal for exclusive family travel and groups of friends – Cheetah Plains takes all your preconceived ideas of what a safari lodge looks like and cleverly offers something new. The Plains House villas each house eight guests in standalone two-sleeper suites around a main shared living space, which comprises formal and entertainment lounges, living and dining areas, a pool deck, an outdoor boma for fireside dining, a fine wine gallery and a fully equipped chef’s kitchen. With sleek, angular contemporary architecture balancing the wild setting and the organic materials and graphic forms inside, and settling unobtrusively into its bushveld location, it’s unexpected yet strangely at ease in its surroundings. Custom designs by ARRCC and Okha, statement lighting, and expertly crafted pieces by South African designers and makers create an artisanal experience throughout.

luxury travel
luxury travel
READ MORE: Sabi Sands Lodge: Cheetah Plains

SASEKA, THORNYBUSH GAME RESERVE, SOUTH AFRICA Veterans of the hospitality design scene Silvio Rech + Lesley Carstens have their fair share of high-end lodges and resorts on their CV. For Saseka Tented Camp at Thornybush, they created something fresh – no mean feat in a niche that’s rife with stereotypes. Here the duo has cleverly managed to manifest the same close- to-nature feel of sleeping under canvas within the context of luxury lodge living, while incorporating contemporary touches and cutting-edge design (the bulk of the furniture and fittings is as far from traditional as you could find). Cocooned in the vegetation, the nine tented suites and the main lodge hub all invite nature in. Sounds and light can permeate the “walls” at night, while botanical prints on the fabric are a nod to the surroundings. Comfort and ease were a primary focus, though, so while the design is incredibly current, it’s also intended to make guests feel effortlessly serene.

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Head for the Hills

The quintessential destination for any discerning traveller, wineland regions around the world offer a convergence of leisure pursuits and scenery in areas often renowned for their culinary and winemaking prowess. Here the focus is on charm and immersion.

7 KOPPIES, FRANSCHHOEK, SOUTH AFRICA The manifestation of a dream to recreate the experience they had growing up in Italy, dining alfresco and surrounded by nature, 7 Koppies was created by its owners as a celebration of site that goes beyond just framing the magnificent views. Built on respect and reverence for this beautiful part of the world, the guesthouse sits among 50 hectares of fynbos on private land within a working farm. The owners have restored much of the indigenous fynbos to the property – and cultivated an abundant on-site vegetable garden, with plentiful fruit trees supplying the kitchen. The spaces bring together the couple’s British and Sri Lankan heritage, as well as the Cape Dutch and Arts and Crafts roots of the house, in a charming mix of country motifs and eclectic touches that include pressed flowers on the walls and beautiful copper vessels arranged en masse. It’s a fresh take on the traditional “farmhouse” concept that still retains all the charm you want from a country escape. The pool is the pièce de résistance, flanking the guesthouse and offering panoramic views, with a beautiful fireplace and outdoor pavilions to either side, inspired by Sri Lankan temple architecture.

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CASTELLO DI RESCHIO, UMBRIA, ITALY It doesn’t get more authentic and immersive than a 1 000-year-old castle in the Umbrian hills. Under the guardianship of three generations of the Bolza family, Reschio Estate, which spans 1 500 hectares in the Italian countryside, recently opened its doors in its latest iteration as a 36-room hotel. Now in the hands of Count Benedikt Bolza, an architect, the Hotel Castello di Reschio has been meticulously restored and reimagined, with all interior design, landscaping and even the creation of bespoke furniture, lighting and accessories taking place under his watchful eye. Every detail was designed to champion Italian craftsmanship and heritage – think fine Italian linens, handcrafted furniture, traditional stucco work and stone-carved fireplaces. The iconic scenery, a farm-to-fork ethos (produce, olives and wine grapes are all grown on the estate) that plays out in various dining options, and a cypress- lined swimming pool all serve to celebrate the gorgeous natural setting. And showcasing the centuries of history and culture embedded in the estate are the Bathhouse (a spa housed in the vaulted wine cellar, inspired by ancient Roman baths) and a plethora of activities, such as hiking, cycling, clay-pigeon shooting, truffle hunting and cooking lessons. Also home to an equestrian centre – and some of Italy’s most skilled dressage horses – Reschio offers riding lessons, wild hacks and evening performances.

luxury travel
luxury travel

READ MORE: The Robertson Small Hotel

City Slick

City spaces can – and should – offer respite from the urban chaos, while also drawing on the dynamism and energy that cities exude. To find that balance through design takes a certain level of skill.

SANTA MONICA PROPER, LOS ANGELES, US Designed by none other than the reigning queen of American interior design Kelly Wearstler, Santa Monica Proper is the epitome of coastal cool-meets-urban edge, with a serious dose of design cred. The hotel – made up of a circa-1928 Spanish Colonial Revival building and a contemporary new-build section – straddles new and old, subtle and bold in true Wearstler fashion. The designer’s incredible mastery of texture and pattern is evident throughout, with layered spaces and intriguing forms coming together in a seemingly effortless way. Nothing here is done by half measures. The Proper’s spa comes complete with an Ayurvedic doctor, a chef and a herbalist, emphasising Eastern- inspired wellness and programmes that support physical, mental and spiritual health. A rooftop pool deck is home to a Balearic restaurant, bar and cabanas – and a staggering 2 000m2 of flexible space in the form of a ballroom, meeting rooms, courtyards and terraces offers endless places to meet, dine, dance and drink.

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