When less is even more
WE love putting together Destination Luxury issues of T&I. Twice a year we get to drool over pictures of bigsplurge suites at the grandest hotels and all-inclusive villas with butlers on call 24/7 and private pools and housekeepers with magic wands who pop flawless orchids and little bedtime gifts on Egyptian cotton pillows of unimaginable volumes and thread-count quality.
This time around, regular contributor Kendall Hill has found a hotel suite that costs (yikes) $87,000 a night (yes, you do get breakfast). Frankly, for that kind of money, I’d want Johnny Depp shaking the dry martinis and Krug coming out of the gold bath taps.
But luxury accommodation in the 2010s is not really about such excess. It’s as much about what isn’t there as all those glammed-up extras. In design terms, we’ve gone from velvet-curtained parlours to hard-edged minimalism to a pared-down maximalism with an emphasis on deep comfort. True seekers of exclusivity want a sense of sanctuary, service that’s so discreet you’re only aware when it’s not there and, of course, instant connectivity.
Luxury in a time-poor world is now as much a mindset as a checklist of amenities. It’s about ease and privacy, which leads me to make a plea to hotel designers (and not for the first time) — please note that savvy travellers are ‘‘over’’ all-white hotels that gleam like hospitals, blinds and taps that require a diploma from NASA to operate, and tubs in bedrooms. Bathing is not a spectator sport when you get to a certain age and nor, really, is swimming, which has to be part of the reason walled resort villas with private pools are so popular.
Call me cranky, but luxury also means silence — the sort of solitude that means you don’t have to strike up fleeting friendships with fellow guests, listen to nextdoor’s plumbing noises or family spats or, horrors, join communal dining tables. Getting away from it all does not mean joining in with it all.
Thoughtful little touches of luxury are often the most memorable and, oddly, cost hoteliers the least. Take the recently opened 1888 Hotel in Sydney’s Pyrmont — management of this little property in a beautifully converted heritage building has deliberately configured guestroom minibars so there’s space to put your own drinks and edibles. Then there are hotels that recognise there’s no such policy as one-fits-all and so they bother to ask if you’d like still or sparkling water on turndown or maybe a muesli bar instead of a naff liqueur chocolate.
Room service? Top marks to properties that include healthy children’s meals and vegetarian options on inroom dining menus rather than subscribing to the accommodation world’s proverb that hotel guests shalt live on a diet of club sandwiches and Toblerones alone.
Pillow menus? From buckwheat to hypoallergenic, pillow selection is no longer a five-star fancy. And, hoteliers, make sure they are all in stock, not like a country NSW guesthouse that suggested to me their ‘‘exclusive’’ (only) goosedown pillow should be booked ‘‘one month in advance to avoid disappointment’’. Cheap foam pillows for a $400 room? Big yawn.