LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Pads of Perfection


Raising the stakes on elite accommodation, Private World gives its exclusive clientele access to award-winning and architect-signed vacation homes.

Thinking about test-driving a Pritzker prize-winning architect's private masterpiece before commissioning one for yourself, or slipping into the sleek interior spread of a glossy style scribe sans the cumbersome photography crew? If avant-garde architecture and interior design is de rigeur during your next holiday vacation, Private World promises to deliver the destination of your dreams.

An ultra-exclusive villa rental agency combining the expertise and invaluable high-rolling Rolodexes of two travel luminaries — Ian Holmes, former travel journalist with Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue and Harper's & Queen; and interior-designer-cum-luxury-villa-hotelier Merryanne Loum Martin of Dar Tamsna and Jnane Tamsna fame — Private World's stellar portfolios reflect the impeccable taste of the founders combined 40 years in the industry.

"Clients who come to us are not interested in a range of villas, just the guarantee that they have the best one," explains Holmes, who personally hand picks each villa for the company's discerning word-of-mouth clientele. While Private World's "Directory" portfolio features over 100 extraordinary homes in forty different countries, it's their more exclusive selection of Rad Pads that has attracted the cutting-edge cognoscenti. "Discerning, stylish, affluent clients expect the same quality of interior design on holiday as they live with at home," continues Holmes. Combining peerless avant-garde aesthetics with 5-star services, a memorable stay in a Rad Pad ensures that you'll never have to compromise contemporary cravings for a taste of the road.

What is your definition of luxury?
Privacy, style and individuality.

If luxury were a person, who would it be?
They would be too private to name - but probably dressed by Spencer Hart on Savile Row.

If luxury were a place, where would it be?
Motu Tane: an idyllic private island in the Lagoon of Bora Bora – once French Explorer Paul Emile Victor's South Pacific Island home – now with villas designed by Christian Liaigre.

If luxury were a moment, when would it be?
A moment when perfect opportunity and one's ability to appreciate it meet – that was how Aristotle defined Pleasure and it is a nice way of looking at luxury too. Alternatively, a two-hour massage, overlooking the sacred Sun Moon Lake at sunset, at the Lalu Hotel in Taiwan would provide another 120 possibilities.

If luxury were an object, what would it be?
Whatever feels most desirable but just out of reach at any given time; so right now, it is a perfect Van Cleef & Arpels wristwatch I saw in Rome last week....only to find someone else had just paid a deposit for it.

When did you first notice an interest in modern homes from your clientele?
We have seen a gradual increase over the past 3-4 years. Firstly, more and more design professionals have been saying that they couldn't find a villa to suit them where they wanted to go, so they ended up building their own. That means that not only are there more modern holiday homes being built in destinations popular with a young, design-conscious clientele, but more exceptional properties available as vacation rentals. Secondly, I think across a broader spectrum there is an increased appreciation of and demand for modern style. More people are comfortable living in modern surroundings and, possibly, more confident in being able to say that a "grand, classical" style of interior is not what they aspire to.

Under what criteria did you build your Rad Pads portfolio?
Rad Pads is a response to this trend towards modernity, yes, but we chose to pitch it at the far-end of that trend—at a radical extreme in terms of the architectural and interior styles of the properties. This also helped us give it a very strong, independent, and clear-cut identity, differentiating it from the main Private World Directory.

What are the benefits to vacationing in a Rad Pad villa?
Personally, I think it is great that people can now spend their holidays in homes built by some of the world's top architects or in villas that have won design awards. It is an uplifting aesthetic experience in a uniquely modern environment—a chance to enjoy living in a kind of home one might never otherwise try out which helps add to the holiday's memorability and sense of occasion. When we started Private World, one question I always used to ask when considering a house was "Would it be featured in AD?" That question always struck me as a good measure of a property's architectural merit and style. And that still applies. Nowadays, when distinguishing between our main Private World Directory villas and those that appear in Rad Pads, I tend to think of the former as being "Classical-Modern" in style, suited to readers of Vogue, and the latter Radically Modern, appealing to readers of Wallpaper.

Who does the Rad Pad portfolio appeal to?
I would say that they are people who enjoy design; people for whom experiencing design abroad is one of the great pleasures of traveling. They have grown up during the boutique hotel revolution of the last 20 years and have therefore become very comfortable staying in modern accommodations abroad. They are no longer prepared to put up with the tired or tasteless chintz that blighted villas throughout the Mediterranean and Caribbean in years past, and quite rightly so. Rad Pads appeal to those who revel in radical architecture whether modern or retro; in fact our most popular villa in that collection is the 1968 Elrod Lautner House in Palm Springs, a triumph of Mid-Century Modernism.

How important is the architecture to the clientele? Do they privileged form over function, design over amenities?
No, none of our clients would sacrifice amenities or service for design in the way that one had to when boutique hotels first arrived. On the contrary, they expect the amenities in the house to be better because it is modern and they expect the overall quality of the property and its service performance to be just as high as if they were in a world-class classical villa. Another important attribute to the modern villa is that they're equipped with all of the amenities of home: WiFi, wide-screen TVs, good water-pressure, good air-conditioning, a sexy modern pool, a modern gym, a professional kitchen, a back-up generator, a property that is built to cater to local weather conditions, high-tech security, top sound systems. Perhaps in the past, some clients would put up with a few "eccentricities" in a villa that they saw as part of its character. Not any more. When someone is paying anything from 30,000Euros per week and upwards for a holiday home, it is only right that it "delivers".

Luxury tourism is filled with new high-end rental agencies catering to the growing masses of affluent travelers. How does Private Villas plan on continuing to distinguish itself from its competition?
I think the fact that we specialize in representing only the very best 1-2 villas wherever we go and that we visit all our properties personally. In a portfolio covering over 60 countries that gives us quality control and an exceptional range to offer our clients. Also, our ultra-private approach to our business – like a Swiss Bank in the travel business – is a point of difference clients appreciate. And, the fact one that Meryanne is actually a top villa-owner-designer-operator she is a great advantage in our relations with other owners.

What are some of the custom-tailored services that Private World provides its distinguished clientele? How do they differ regionally?
We try to do whatever we can to please any client request. Once I flew to a villa on Phuket just to try out various masseuses for a super-model arriving the next week. On another occasion I flew to Langkawi to play the golf course simply to be able to advise a client as to how to best play it when he stayed at our villa there during Christmas. Meryanne once filled her wine cellar with vintages dating from the year of a certain client's birth simply to add an extra dimension to her birthday celebrations at Jnane Tamsna. So it is not so much about providing an extra service, but rather a belief that we are taking care of a client's holiday, not just their holiday home.

All of the homes in your portfolio are exceptional, but which are your top five personal favorites and why?
Favorites change with time, but right now I would single out our villas Take me to the River on Trancoso in Brazil, Manzah Al Jamile, in Marrakech, Ad Astra on Mykonos and Chalet Karma in St Moritz. They are quite simply the very best quality properties of their kind, head and shoulders above their neighbors. Then I would add Baan Sairee on Koh Samui, simply because an old fashioned teak house, in beautiful gardens, on a private sandy beach, with lovely bay views, wonderful service, great cuisine, a tennis court, pool and boat is my idea of perfection.

Which properties in your portfolio have proved to be the most popular? Why do you think that is?
Villa L'Olivetta near Lucca in Tuscany has always been popular. Visually clients love its valley-view infinity pool so it photographs well; then they appreciate how it offers easy access to both the countryside (Tuscany), the coast (Forte dei Marmi) and to the cultural attractions of Lucca. Most of all though, the villa just "performs" perfectly—it pleases everyone who stays there and they always tell their friends.

Which areas of the world are you the most excited about developing? I would love to find suitable villas in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos for their combination of culture, architecture, scenery, service and style.

Do you plan on developing newly built homes in the future to accommodate demand?
Yes, we are currently planning various new Private World developments in resort locations around the world and are actively looking for suitable locations at the moment.

What can we look forward to in future trends in the luxury tourism industry?
I think as more clients enter the realms of private travel – through fractional ownership schemes, vacation clubs etc... a higher echelon will evolve, a super-private sector if you like: a stratosphere of privacy and privilege that transcends current expectations of the world's most luxurious travel experiences – and it will be very exciting to be part of that.

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