Thursday, December 1 2022

The magnificent secret of Ghent

The Verhaegen courtyard gardens in Ghent

About 15 years ago, while living in the Netherlands, I spent a long weekend in Ghent, the larger but, in my opinion, more attractive sister city of Bruges. The style search factor in this canal town is high, from secondhand and vintage jewelry dealers to understated milliners. But I was coming to see a small guest house I had heard of called The Verhaegen. It is tiny only in the sense that its rooms are only four rooms; and calling them “rooms” makes the massive pied-à-terre style suites of this 1760 palace with its own walled gardens an injustice (the “40s Suite” is 70m²).

Interior designers Marc Vergauwe and Jan Rosseel have embarked on a multi-year restoration of the palace

Interior designers Marc Vergauwe and Jan Rosseel have embarked on a multi-year restoration of the palace

Vergauwe and Rosseel also opened l'Atelier d'Arthur, a separate property across the garden

Vergauwe and Rosseel also opened l’Atelier d’Arthur, a separate property across the garden

A room at the three-room B&B

A room at the three-room B&B

It was acquired in 2004 by interior designers Marc Vergauwe and Jan Rosseel, who undertook a multi-year restoration and decoration project that has resulted in some of the most beautiful and original hotel interiors I have ever seen. have met. Pedigree antiques mix happily with modern French and Dutch designs; fresh flowers fill the spaces with color and fragrance; breakfast is served in a huge dining room and drinks in the lounge (both can also be taken among the manicured box hedges of the classical garden). Book the Two-Bedroom Family Suite, with its large king-size bed and two twin beds, if you’re in town to introduce the little ones to the genius of the Van Eyck brothers (or the joys of well-done fries). For something a little more contemporary, with self-catering in mind (think small kitchens and workspaces), Vergauwe and Rosseel have just opened a second three-bedroom B&B, Atelier d ‘Arthur, across the garden. From 195€, theverhaegen.com


Mexico, small and suite

One of the three pools at Coqui Coqui Cobá Papholchac Residence & Spa
One of the three swimming pools at Coqui Coqui Cobá Papholchac Residence & Spa © Britney Gill

The founders of the Coqui Coqui lifestyle-fragrance line hail from France, but their lifelong love affair with all things and places Mexican has made the brand inextricably associated with that country. They are also its undisputed masters of small-scale hospitality: evidenced by the collection of a Coqui Coqui suite – their unique and sigh-inducing private accommodation next to the Coqui Coqui workshops in Valladolid, Merida and Izamal. Just inland from Tulum is their five-suite Coqui Coqui Cobá Papholchac Residence & Spa.

You won't find a TV or air conditioning in the rooms

You won’t find a TV or air conditioning in the “sigh” rooms © Cerruti & Draime

An outdoor bathtub with Coqui Coqui scents

An outdoor bathtub with Coqui Coqui scents © Britney Gill

Half ruin, half Arcadian idyll, it sprawls over a pair of stone towers, with three small but stunning pools, a communal dining room and library, a bar, and the promised spa, where plants and clays local areas feature in wraps and oil massages. What you won’t find: TVs, air conditioning, or guests in uninterrupted communication with their devices. What you will find: pretty pouches full of Coqui Coqui scents, strong on tropical notes of vanilla and white flowers, as a welcome gift. From around £330, coquicoqui.com


Rural style – and intimacy – in Sicily

The Palmento Residence at Country House Villadorata

The Palmento Residence at Country House Villadorata

Sicily’s Val di Noto has a lot to recommend: splendid Baroque towns, sandy beaches, easy access to the Etna vineyards and the sparkling travertine squares of Ortigia (and also, easily, to the international airport of Catania). 13 years ago, Seven Rooms Villadorata opened its doors in Palazzo Nicolaci amid Noto’s mossy, scrollwork and tablature facades, and set a new style tone for the area. In 2015, its owner, Cristina Summa, opened Country House Villadorata, a hostel on what was once an oil mill, five kilometers from town. Its eight rooms and five suites are spread over three residences and share living and dining areas.

The common swimming pool of the three residences

The common swimming pool of the three residences © Mattia Aquila

A deluxe room in the Palmento residence

A deluxe room in the Palmento residence

The eco-suite on the cement floor and clad in wood

The eco-suite on the cement floor and clad in wood

The renovation is fairly modern — less majolica, more groovy task lamps and butterfly chairs (and a very contemporary new eco-suite, with cement floors and sustainably sourced wood cladding) — but the charms are in what the country house offers from the land: its organic Officine Villadorata range includes oils, soaps and more produced by the house. And the perfection that is Calamosche Beach is a 10 minute drive away. From 549€, country housevilladorata.it


Destination Johannesburg

The conversation pit in the garden of AtholPlace

The conversation pit in the garden of AtholPlace

Johannesburg suffers unfairly from the great wilderness of Southern Africa – often seen, and therefore experienced, as a stopover or gateway rather than a destination in its own right (too bad, given its vibrant contemporary art and its culinary cultures). Those same passing safari goers often gravitate towards the large, full-service hotels here, missing out on a handful of thoughtful little spots whose opposite scale means you get an entirely different view of the city.

One of the smaller ones is AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, in the lush northern suburb of Atholl. Indeed, AtholPlace is two low-key homes on one property, with four and nine bedrooms respectively, each designed to be taken care of (since people tend to go on safaris in groups or families, this is the place to be). ‘ideal). The contemporary villa’s four bedrooms are all on the first floor, while downstairs is a lounge bar, indoor-outdoor lounge and garden with a private pool and conversation ‘pit’, lit by fire pits. on a chilly July or August evening. The galleries and shops of Sandton are a short drive away; so are the bustling cafes and restaurants of 4th Avenue in Parktown. Athol Villa from €1,500 per night for eight people, morokuru.com


Lisbon house-hotel perfection

“A compendium of serenity”: Santa Clara 1728 in Lisbon

“A compendium of serenity”: Santa Clara 1728 in Lisbon © Alex Reyto

And finally in Lisbon, and a definitive and unassailable permutation of the model of the little one is beautiful. Santa Clara 1728 is far from unknown: opened in 2017 by João Rodrigues – the TAP pilot turned hotel entrepreneur and founder of the singular Silent Living collection of Portuguese hotels – it has earned praise for its superlative combination of high design upscale, laid-back vibe and utterly convincing welcome (go ahead, step into the kitchen to ask for a charcuterie and cheese platter – or grab a knife and start chopping herbs with the sous chefs; both are totally tolerated).

A view of the 17th century Church of Santa Engrácia

A view of the 17th century Church of Santa Engrácia

Breakfasts are taken at the common refectory-style table

Breakfasts are taken at the common refectory-style table

The freestanding stone bathtub in the author's suite

The freestanding stone bathtub in the author’s suite

The six suites are masterclasses in infusing old spaces with contemporary flair, the work of award-winning architect and frequent Silent Living collaborator Manuel Aires Mateus. The 18th century meets the 21st smoothly, with natural and tactile materials – stone, wood, clay, lime, linen – in elemental tones. I don’t think I’ll ever get over my suite’s bathroom, whose huge window and freestanding stone tub faced the dome of Santa Engrácia and the green-gray expanse beyond. of the Tagus. Everyone eats lunch at a long refectory-style table; guests read and sip cocktails in the riad-like interior courtyard, where light and shadow play off the crisp white interior walls. In a city that relies on increasingly massive and invasive tourism, the Santa Clara is a concentrate of serenity. From 550€, silenceliving.pt

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