Passion Points: Style
Why would a couple invest $20 million of their own funds in the restoration of a decrepit but stately home in the Irish countryside and open it as a hotel? Or a celebrity open the doors of his private fantasy island to guests? Or a couple of green-minded hoteliers develop a costly eco villa, the first of its kind? The answer is passion—pure and simple.
The following hotels and resorts were founded and are fueled by the inspiring dedication of their owners. Whether the property celebrates the natural diversity of its destination, or emphasizes pure, unadulterated pampering, each of these five special retreats was created by owners whose enthusiasm is contagious. They are the Passion Projects we found most inspiring in 2011.
Located in the Irish midlands in County Laois (“Leesh”), Ballyfin is the kind of property that invites exclamation: a grand Irish estate! A dramatic rescue! Period furniture! Great art! Originally designed by architects Richard Morrison and his son William Vitruvius Morrison, the manor was restored over the course of nine years by Chicagoans Fred and Kay Krehbiel. The result is a gift to the Irish patrimony: a stately home embodying the taste and buying power of a landed family in the 1820s. None of the antiques, sculptures, mirrors or chandeliers is original to the house; all were either in the Krehbiels’ private collection or acquired recently to retrofit the mansion. But nothing looks like it’s changed for 200 years. ‘Our intention was to rescue a place as important as this for its own sake,’ says Jim Reynolds, Ballyfin’s managing director and the Krehbiels’ longtime partner in other building projects. ‘We wanted to make you think Charles Coote had gone out the back door as you came in the front.’ A stay at Ballyfin is probably as close as you’re going to get to an Irish-mansion version of A Night at the Museum. Read more about Ballyfin.
South Africa: Grootbos
Grootbos, a nature preserve and five-star lodge about two hours’ drive east of Cape Town, comprises about 5,000 acres of pristine wilderness. From God’s Window, its highest point, you can see virtually all of it, as well as all the way to Cape Point and De Hoop Nature Reserve: a magnificent sweep of mountains, foothills, valleys, rivers, ocean and dunes. Happily for the world, this landscape is in exactly the right hands. Grootbos”:/passions/6/departments/172 (pronounced HROOT-boss), which means “big bush” in Afrikaans, is owned by the Lutzeyer family. Brothers Michael and Teritius are passionately involved with every aspect of the place, especially preserving the indigenous flora. Michael bought the property in 1991 as a simple farm, then gradually began adding lodging and taking guests. Today there are 27 suites spread among two lodges and a series of cottages strung along the hillside. The architecture is modern and stunning, making the most of the views, which are so open and vast it’s hard to capture them in pictures. Writes Indagare’s Eliza Harris, who visited Grootbos in June: ‘Before I went, I confess I didn’t quite get it. Why travel two hours from Cape Town to visit a nature preserve? But I must admit that it was one of the highlights of my entire trip to South Africa, in large part because it has so much soul.’ Read more about Grootbos.
Bahamas: Musha Cay
‘For me, Musha was like a palette, a canvas on which I could create something special, like the illusions I do on stage,’ says magician David Copperfield, who turned a series of Bahamian cays into a fantastical getaway. The expansive Musha Cay and the Islands of Copperfield Bay, which can only be rented in their entirety, include eleven islands. The main one is home to five stunning guesthouses, as well as myriad amenities that will keep even the most hyperactive guest entertained. The place is often billed as one of ‘adventures,’ and Copperfield’s handpicked team can organize such activities as elaborate treasure hunts and James Bond–inspired spy games. But what sounds like it could easily be a rich man’s theme park is actually an island of surprising depth. One hundred fifty–acre Musha is a beautifully landscaped tropical retreat, with massive palm trees and colorful Bahamian guesthouses that are tastefully hidden in the vegetation. Copperfield has been a Vegas showman for decades; Musha is the place where he, too, comes to escape the glitz. Contact Indagare at 212-988-2611 or firstname.lastname@example.org for an introduction. Read more about Musha Cay.
California: Ranch at Live Oak Malibu
Indagare founder Melissa Biggs Bradley first heard about the Ranch at Live Oak Malibu from a friend who told her that someone had finally created a spa as tough as the Ashram but with beautiful rooms and gourmet vegetarian food. Owners Sue and Alex Glassock set out to turn a particularly scenic spot in the hillside of Malibu into a retreat for those seeking exercise, health and a revised outlook on their daily routines and habits. The staff at the ranch supports guests through intensive outdoor physical activity, exercise sessions and a structured nutritious diet of homegrown, fresh organic vegetarian fare. Guests detox, cleanse and shed unwanted pounds, all in the splendor of the Santa Monica Mountains. Read more about the Ranch.
Thailand: Soneva Kiri
Bangkok-based resort and spa company Six Senses has built its name with castaway-chic retreats in such places as the Maldives, Vietnam, Oman, Jordan and Thailand. The most sumptuous of its multiple lines is Soneva, a trio of stunning resorts that are the passion projects of the pioneering and devoted Six Senses founders Sonu and Eva Shivdasani. Since their company’s inception, the power couple — he’s an Indian businessman, she a former supermodel from Sweden — have been fiercely dedicated to the environment, and many of the Six Senses resorts are models of sustainable, thoughtful development. Sonvea Kiri, on the Thai island of Koh Kood, is no exception. The resort occupies 1,200 acres of hilly, dense tropical forest and beaches on the island’s northwest side. Great care has been taken to reduce Soneva Kiri’s environmental footprint (with liberal use of bamboo, which grows quickly, for example). The pièce de résistence is the resort’s unique Eco Villa, the first of its kind in this part of the world. Developed by the Shivdasanis as a model of sustainability that will surely make an appearance in other Six Senses developments in the future, the villa is a secluded jungle fantasy with the bonus of zero-carbon emissions. The pool is a saltwater pond, and the bedroom’s ceiling is a collage of teak leaves. Knowing the thoughtfulness behind the resort’s conception makes it all the easier to relax. Read more about Soneva Kiri.
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