When less is even more

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

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.

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