Best Smith Villa
When you’re used to haute hotel-hopping, finding private-pad perfection hasn’t always been so easy. Thankfully we’ve done our home work: killer villas; no filler…
For those more social stays, you want a home-from-home feeling with hotel-worthy design, just-so styling, effortless arrivals, stunning surrounds and space to entertain.
TV judge, design guru and Stellar columnist
Award-winning writer Lee is travel editor at Vogue Living, editor-at-large at Luxury Travel and an acclaimed author
Co-founder and creative director of artfully Australian fashion house, Aje
Coolest Creative Hub
Best Smith Hotel 2018
Best Smith Villa winners...
‘Seclusion is the new opulence, so this remote villa – situated on a lake in an extinct volcano, with working farm and superb eco credentials – is truly off-the-grid. The ultimate good-for-the-soul retreat. (Plus: cashmere pyjamas!)’
– Lee Tulloch Travel Editor, Vogue Living
RUNNER-UP: ELS COMELLARS, MALLORCA, SPAIN
No wonder sultry songstress (and erstwhile Smith Awards judge) Jessie Ware picked this modernist Mallorquín villa as the cover-star of her new album: it's an aesthetically pleasing prospect fashioned from Jaipur-pink clay, with walls rising imposingly from the olive groves. But despite its design credentials (its co-creator literally designed London’s Design Museum), it’s a family-friendly space with generous grounds, a sandpit for budding architects and spots to shade you from the Balearic sun.
Yes, Clooney has a fabled Lake Como villa, but we’d wager even his ‘money’s no object’ abode is humbled by this neoclassical period-piece. Built by ennobled families in the 16th century, the grand gates now open to reveal its parterre gardens for those outside the inheritance line. Within this marble-balcony-bedecked Baroque folly is Muzio Canzio’s stuccoed ceilings, a piano nobile groaning with porcelains, and a museum housing Napoleon’s hats.
Ah, the simple life: retiring to your humble finca (with a posse of up to 14 compadres) in Ibiza’s rural interior; gathering windfalls from olive groves and citrus orchards; living the barefoot, sun-kissed life at 0km… Wait, is that Patricia Urquiola’s Vieques bath tub? And, are those Konstantin Grcic’s Magis chairs in the kitchen? Finca Basso’s rough-stone walls and rugged farm setting might promise the life of an Ibicenco, but from certain angles, it resembles a Hockney dream-home.
Still writing that novel? A change of scene helps, especially if you decamp to Brody House’s muse-nudging 19th-century villa. This fiercely maximalist, art deco retreat (allegedly built for his ballerina mistress by scribe Baron József Szterényi de Brasso) woos with colonnaded loggias, dramatic fireplaces and artist Miksa Róth’s glorious stained-glass. Splash about in the pool and hidden Jacuzzi and ask the housekeeper to stock the wine cellar – it's a surefire way to a Byronic bestseller.
6. PANACEA PRAANA RESIDENCE, KOH SAMUI, THAILAND
‘Residence’ is an underwhelming moniker for Panacea’s all-singing, all-dancing, floating-like-a-butterfly stay. This dramatic six-bedroom villa sits high about Koh Samui’s lushly tree-clad hills; it’s an attractive study in Thai elegance (sleek woods, opulent detailing, alfresco bath tubs), but most impressive is its collection of bells and whistles: deep breath – within lies a muay Thai boxing ring, nightclub and bar, spa suite, tennis court, cinema, games room, lavish wine cellar…
Say ‘How d’ye do?’ to this terribly British villa, a gabled stay set in classic English gardens by a comely stretch of the Thames. Set within rambling distance of Cliveden, here the hush-hush titillation of the Profumo scandal lingers like a dying spritz of perfume. Still, there’s a warming aga in the kitchen; three elegantly appointed bedrooms (one with bunks for kids); and a private boat mooring for impromptu romps that won’t get you into trouble…
This beachside Ibizan stay looks grown-up, with its precise geometry, neatly trimmed lawns and colonnaded pavilions, but it knows how to let its hair down. Families will have a blast here, with a treehouse and trampoline to play on, tennis over a table or in a full-size floodlit court, and a petanque pitch to knockabout on. Within, warm, Berber-by-the-beach spice hues, enormous wooden beds and delicate tiling soften the white cube’s severe vertices.
One could mistake Soori Estate for a tasteful airport; it’s not too far a flight of fancy – nothing is here (there is a heliport after all). So, salute the Poliform, Flexform and B&B Italia furnishings, or find yourself landed in one of 10 sleek bedrooms with alfresco bath tubs, spa therapy room, or five pools. The butler – who has his own in-villa digs – will guide you through this newfound opulence. Okay, it may not be a higher-tier transport hub, but if you’re checking in, you’ve assuredly arrived.
Imagine gazing out at the breezy Caribbean from the window walls of an impeccably styled lounging area in your villa. The chef asks what you'd like for dinner after your yoga session: ‘Hmm, the snapper' you say. Now, enhance: eight of you are gathered around a barbecue on which fresh lobsters are sizzling. People sashay barefoot to the beach bar and return with elaborate cocktails. Your butler whisks away empties as you think ‘could this get any better’?
Best Smith Villa award criteria
We’re not talking second-thought second homes with second-hand furniture here, what we seek are the unique, the stand-out, the oh-wow… Whether it’s a family-friendly finca, an A-list crash pad, or a hidden hideaway in a hotel’s grounds, we crave private-home perfection with a generous squeeze of Smith-required style.
Whether it’s an extended family escape or a group getaway with friends, communal space is key. Convivial kitchens, lounge areas you can truly lounge in, outdoor space to seek sun or shade, somewhere to sip those sundowners together – we look for people-pleasing properties.
We go above and beyond (quite literally in some cases) to find the very best villas offering that bit of holiday peace. Be it a quiet spot down an unmarked island road, or a lodge tucked into the remotest of coves, a bit of seclusion lets you make what you want of your stay, without the need to worry about that after-dark pool party waking the neighbours.
Sure, you’ll be left to your own devices during your stay but peace of mind is important. Stay at a hotel villa and you’ll have everything they offer on tap in a best-of-both-worlds scenario. Book one of our private villas and that moment you need something – a fridge restock, a chef for the evening, an airport transfer – you can rest assured we’ll be right there to make it happen.