All posts by Kelly Potts

3 Luxury Villas Offering Custom Concierge Services

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 edition of The High End magazine. For more information about The High End, click here.

Owners of high-end apartments and villas around the world are differentiating themselves by offering customized concierge services and immersive experiences.

By Kelly Potts

Imagine creating perfect macaroons in the kitchen of an award-winning pastry chef in Paris; enjoying a fireworks display from the comfort of an Irish castle; taking extravagant boat rides around ancient coves in Greece. These are just a few of the bespoke experiences that are now being offered by vacation rental services around the globe.

As travelers search for more tailored itineraries and concierge amenities during their luxury getaway, brands like Paris Perfect, Adams & Butler and White Key Villas provide an authentic, culturally immersed experience for clients who want the total destination package.


Madelyn Byrne and husband Philippe Willems created Paris Perfect about 20 years ago when they found themselves traveling back and forth between their apartments in London and Paris. They decided to rent out Willems’ Paris apartment to family and friends while he joined Byrne in London, and were then inspired to offer unique rental options for vacationers looking for a true Parisian experience.

Dedicated to providing travelers “la vie Parisienne,” Paris Perfect offers concierge services in addition to bespoke excursions including skip-the-line tours of local attractions, day or night cruises along the Seine river in a private yacht and specialized shopping tours in the city’s best boutique shops.

“Our goal is to find that experience that a client wouldn’t normally do at home, that they can really enjoy doing in Paris,” says Byrne. One new service the company offers is called Paris Perfect Gourmet. “We explore the neighborhood shops together and offer exclusive cooking classes with gourmet chefs,” says Byrne. The hands-on experience includes an award-winning chef showing travelers where to buy ingredients, how to cook meals and even how to make the most of leftovers.

Byrne jokes that being married to a Frenchman requires a love of food — and Paris certainly makes that love come naturally. In fact, Byrne thinks that every family who visits Paris should have a “scavenger hunt” that requires each family member to look for a different type of food in shops around the city to create the perfect Parisian meal together. “I want families to do that more than anything else,” she says, “It’s an experience that everyone should have in their life.”

The company has also transitioned into real estate in addition to vacation rentals, helping over 90 owners find apartments in Paris. Byrne, who mentions that Paris fascinated her from her first visit, still enjoys the village-like atmosphere that the city provides. “We want our owners and guests to share in the magic of living in a small village in Paris,” says Byrne, “Paris is to be lived and savored and enjoyed.”

Top photo by Martin Morrell, courtesy Paris Perfect

Bottom photo courtesy Paris Perfect

Top photo courtesy Wikicommons/TheLizardQueen

Bottom photo courtesy Adams & Butler


Founder and CEO Siobhan Byrne Learat developed the business plan for Adams & Butler as her thesis for her MBA at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School in Ireland. By 2003, her thesis was a reality. “I set up Adams & Butler to satisfy the need for add-on services at the high-end level, but I soon realized that there was a huge gap in the market for a ‘one-stop shop’ luxury vacation experience in Ireland,” she says.

Now, Adams & Butler is exactly that one-stop shop, combining high-end experiences and services with private vacation rentals. With themed itineraries ranging from ‘Glitz & Glamour,’ offering luxurious spa treatments, shopping and a horse-drawn carriage tour, to ‘TV & Movie Tours,’ bringing you to locations where scenes from Game of Thrones, Outlander and Downton Abbey were shot, Adams & Butler offers excursions to appeal to anyone. “At the moment, our most popular requests are for food, whiskey and genealogy tours,” says Learat.

The company is often asked to assist clients in researching their roots in Ireland. “We can put together a specialized ‘Trace Your Ancestor’ itinerary using our expert genealogists,” Learat says. “The final result when you meet those long-lost cousins over a cup of tea are tears streaming down the face of joy and laughter!”

Learat mentions that her favorite offering is living the real Downton Abbey experience. “We can arrange for you to stay with an Earl as his guest in his private castle — like having a real Downton Abbey experience,” she says. The itinerary can include tea with the Earl and his cousins, private tours and a few rounds of golf at the five-star Lough Erne Golf Resort.

“We have people on the ground in Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales as well as Africa who are constantly on the lookout for new experiences and properties for us to include in our itineraries,” Learat says. “We have access to so many people just to provide that perfect experience that’ll stay with you for a lifetime.”

Left photo by Costas Mitropoulos, courtesy White Key Villas; Middle and right photos by Louisa Nikolaidov, courtesy White Key Villas


White Key Villas was founded in 2008 in Greece, when founders Dimitris Giannakopoulos and Anna Deimezi realized that families were not fully satisfied with vacationing at luxury hotels. Marketing Director Elena Fotiadi mentions, “the reason for this was not that the level of services was inferior, but the fact that in a hotel compared to the villa experience, they could not enjoy the sense of privacy, which is essential for spending quality time with their families.”

Because of that, Fotiadi says that most of White Key Villas’ typical clients tend to be families or a group of good friends who want to spend some quality time in a relaxed, private environment. The company prides itself on not only its large selection of villas, but also finding the right option for a client. “We know our villas and our destinations very well,” says Fotiadi, “We believe that half of the success is to make the right villa selection for our clients.”

White Key Villas offers travel and lifestyle amenities that can include services tailored to each client: an off-the route private helicopter transfer to a boat ride around ancient coves, or a toy package/baby equipment waiting upon your arrival are just a few of the lifestyle and travel experiences that White Key Villas includes. “Our list of services is endless: car rental, airport transfer, chauffeur, private jet, personal chef, yacht rentals, personal trainer, yoga classes, childcare and everything else you can imagine,” says Fotiadi.

White Key Villas has properties in 26 different locations throughout Greece including popular locations such as Mykonos, Corfu or Santorini, but Fotiadi notes that they also manage some stunning properties in more off-the-beaten-track beachfront locations with stunning sea views.

“Knowing that 95 percent of our clients are families with children and being parents ourselves, we know how to point you and your clients in the right direction with respect to children having the best time,” says Fotiadi. “Our main assets are our people and our years of know-how that ensure a sophisticated experience from booking to departure.”

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Made in Italy: 5 Trends in High-End Tiles

We examine five of the latest trends in high-end tiles as showcased recently at the Italian international tile trade fair.

By Katherine Salant
About 10 years ago, the Italian ceramic tile industry took off in an entirely new direction and began to produce tiles that previous generations of tile makers had thought impossible. The new tiles mimicked natural stones like marble so realistically, even experts couldn’t tell the difference until they got up close. This aesthetic leap was almost entirely due to the ingenuity of Italian engineers, who adapted digital technology to tile making machinery.
The obvious next step was replicating other natural materials like wood, and here the illusion was heightened by making tiles the same size as individual wood floor planks and adding texture with wood grain and mineral marks. The tiles also got bigger. Today, 12-by-24-inch and 30-by-30-inch tiles are the norm and ones as large as 5-by-11 feet, with a thickness of only a quarter inch are available.
With all these decorating possibilities, European households began to use tile in all their living spaces, not just the wet areas like the kitchen and baths, a move that is slowly catching on in the U.S. Where is the Italian tile industry today? These trends were spotted at this year’s CERSAIE, a huge international tile trade fair held annually in Bologna.

The color spectrum.

Two years ago beige and bone, neutral tones that influenced home decorating schemes worldwide for decades, had seemingly been banned from the color pantheon forever and gray was in ascendance. But judging by the exhibits at CERSAIE, beige and bone are coming back. Nearly every exhibitor had something in these colors.

Designers’ inspiration.

Tiles that look like natural stone and wood are still big sellers, but tile designers are moving on and finding inspiration in completely unexpected places.
Perhaps the most surprising was a nostalgic dive into 1970s American pop culture, sitcoms and Happy Days, once a very popular TV show in Italy as well as in the U.S. Ceramic Vietrese’s Happy Days Collection of 8-by-8-inch, multicolored geometric motifs is based on furnishings in the Cunningham’s house.
Marca Corona 1741’s Bleecker collection celebrates oriented strand board. A staple of residential construction in the U.S. for decades — here it is commonly called OSB — the 4-by-8-foot, plywood-sized sheets are made with waste wood chips and resin. Used for framing, OSB is covered over with finish flooring, siding, and roofing and completely hidden once construction is complete. Few Americans would single it out as worthy of note, but in Europe where OSB is relatively new, it is celebrated for its recycled content, explained Angelica Dallari, a sales manager with Marca Corona 1741. The tile version is available in a variety of sizes including 4-by-8 feet, and offered in six colors, including sage and red maple. As an interior finish, Bleecker achieves a surprising degree of elegance.

The double take.

Many offerings not only had unusual sources, they also elicited a double take, inviting a viewer to stop for a longer look.
Piemme’s Tartan in its Incipit Collection, designed in collaboration with Valentino Home, includes 12-by-24-inch tiles with a Scottish tartan pattern in colors that would make a Scotsman blush — shades of white, silver, bone and taupe.
Sometimes the double take is slow in coming. At first glance, Kale Italia’s Nami from its Mirai Collection appears to be ordinary black floor boards. But look closer and you see that the edges of the planks are not squared off, they’re wavy (an effect exaggerated in the image at bottom left) with white grout lines that add a cartoonish effect. As explained by Kale Italia’s Project Manager Massimo Ferri, floor boards with wavy edges are common in rural Scandinavia where wood floor planks are cut from tree sections without further squaring. Instead, the planks are rounded off just enough to fit together. The choice of black adds a bit of Asian flair — wood floors in China and Japan are typically this color.

“Happy Days” Collection from Ceramica Vietrese

Photo courtesy Ceramica Vietrese

Bleecker Collection from Marca Corona 1741

Photo courtesy Marca Corona 1741

“Nami” from Kale Italia’s Mirai Collection

Photo courtesy Kale Italia

Mattia Chini’s Large Format Tile for Pecchioli Firenze

Below photo courtesy Pecchioli Firenze

Ambience and playfulness.

Going beyond mere appearance, many designers seek to create a mood that is often playful. The best example was Piemme’s Fragments Resin Cloud series, created by Pierre Charpin, a French designer known for his imaginative furniture, glassware, lamps, and housewares.
Charpin’s completely unexpected results reveal a light touch. For his tan and bone colored Resin Tan Décor Oblong tiles he created irregular, potato-sized clouds that appear to be marching, sheep-like, in curved and straight formations across a plain background on 24-by-24-inch tiles. The clouds can be darker on a lighter ground or vice verse.
For his Resin Cloud Form tiles of similar size, Charpin’s clouds have varying earth-toned colors and irregular shapes, as if they were cut by hand with scissors. These clouds appear to be floating on a blue gray or charcoal background. The most unusual detail here — when you look closely at the seemingly weightless clouds, you see that they are actually textured stones.

Large-format tiles.

When five of FAP’s 20-by-43-inch Caleido tiles from its Roma Diamond collection are aligned to create a mural that is 100 inches tall, the overall image is striking, with an astonishing degree of visual movement. Pyramidal and rhomboid-shaped objects appear to be projecting forward as they tumble down the wall.
Museum goers and art history buffs will immediately connect this optical illusion and its earth-toned palette to Cubism, a seminal movement in the history of abstract art that was invented by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque at the beginning of the 20th century. These astute observers would be correct — early Cubism was the inspiration for Caleido’s tile designers, explained FAP’s marketing director Norberto Marzani in an email communication.
Mattia Chini’s large-format tiles (1-by-3 meters) for his family’s Pecchioli firm are equally abstract, but completely different in style and ambience and look like paintings with large areas of soft-edged color. In a telephone interview, Chini said he looks for inspiration in nature and not the work of any particular artist, but many viewers will be reminded of Jackson Pollack’s drip paintings and Monet’s Water Lily Series.
In describing how he achieves his unique look, Chini said he uses the old traditional methods for which his firm is known — powdered glazes applied by hand-sifting them through a screen from above, one color at a time. His method, honed over more than 20 years, gives the colors both a texture and a layered look. Once created, Chini’s tiles do not become a master copy that is mass-produced. Each one is unique.

When you see one of his pieces, you realize that you’re no longer shopping for tiles. You’ve entered the world of art.

FAP’s Caleido Tiles, Roma Diamond Collection

Photo courtesy FAP Ceramiche

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Unique Homes Magazine Chooses Park City Home For Cover

Nestled in the exclusive Promontory development overlooking the international ski resort community of Park City, Utah, the mountaintop estate known as Cascade will grace the cover of Unique Homes magazine for the Global, November/December edition.

Offered at $19.5 million, this architectural masterpiece designed by Wallace Cunningham is composed of steel, concrete, glass and Serpentine stone.
Settled over 5 acres, Cascade boasts some of the most magnificent views of Park City.
Italian Serpentine stone was used extensively throughout this transformative property, with 30 to 35 different elevations that interrelate. Listing Agent Alan Long, formerly of Los Angeles and now a principal with Rising Stars in Park City, noted that the early Romans believed this exclusive stone had healing powers.

“Every time I walk through the house, I notice something different and that doesn’t happen with other houses. It is more a piece of art than it is a structure,” observed Long, a veteran marketer of fine homes and estates.
Richard Goodwin, publisher of Unique Homes, said the property’s “cutting-edge, Contemporary design made it a natural choice for the cover of the magazine. We try to feature homes that are distinctive and exclusive. Cascade is perfect.
“Park City is a destination that engages and interests our readers. We’re excited to have Cascade as a cover home,” noted the longtime industry fixture.
For additional information on the property, visit
To view some 70,000 estate properties currently on the market in excess of $1,000,000, visit

Published just six times a year, Unique Homes magazine is the quintessential consumer source guide dedicated to the buying and selling of estate properties worldwide. The preferred publication of affluent consumers in the market to make a luxury estate purchase, Unique Homes is sold primarily through retail outlets and airport newsstands. This edition retails for $9.99.

Represent a listing that demands exposure beyond the local market?
Contact Unique Homes magazine at

This property was featured in our Global 2017 issue.

Click here for the full digital version.

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Expand Your Book Collection With These Rare Reads

From custom-made coloring books to first edition copies of century-old novels and everything in between, online marketplaces are now offering customers the chance to purchase incredibly rare, hard-to-find books. Sites like Biblio, AbeBooks and VeryFirstTo have all the options you need to expand your book collection, including these noteworthy titles.

By Kelly Potts

East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North by Kay Nielsen 

This signed limited edition version, one of just 500 copies printed, features gilt titles and decorations to the spine and front cover, and an original pen and ink drawing by Nielsen. “It’s probably one of the most collectible illustrated books of the 20th century,” Richard Davies, PR & publicity manager of AbeBooks, says of the book that was published in 1914. $49,913.49 •


Photo courtesy

The Bespoke Colouring Book with Bespoke Illustrations by Ian Beck

Featuring 10 custom illustrations that can range from meaningful personalities to locations to events, this coloring book is hand-bound in leather with the buyer’s name embossed in 24-karat gold lettering on the cover. As VeryFirstTo reports, Beck is excited to begin this project, saying, “This is an amazing keepsake and heirloom in the making for the family.” $30,875 •

Photo courtesy VeryFirstTo

Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

“The gorgeous condition of this century-old book is something to be thrilled over,” states Shehan. W.W. Denslow illustrated this first-edition copy of the classic children’s book, published by George M. Hill Company in 1900, with 24 color plates and text illustrations. $27,500 •

Photo courtesy Aleph-Bet Books, Inc, Pound Ridge, New York

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

Featuring an inscription by the author, this first edition copy of Casino Royale from publisher Jonathan Cape includes a letter of provenance from the original owner. Described by Amber Shehan, marketing coordinator for Biblio, as “simply spectacular for any fan of James Bond,” this novel (later turned into a film) was written by Fleming over a period of two months according to Biblio. $130,000 •

Photo courtesy Raptis Rare Books in Palm Beach, Florida

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National Spa Week: 6 Luxury Developments Taking Wellness To The Next Level

In honor of National Spa Week (starting today, October 30 through Friday, November 3), we’re taking a look at luxury developments that are taking wellness to the next level by incorporating top-of-the-line spa amenities. Inspired by luxury spas found in five-star hotels, developers and designers have created an opportunity for residents to effortlessly live an unparalleled wellness lifestyle by incorporating some of the most relaxing and extravagant pampering amenities.
From Himalayan salt therapy rooms to beauty bars and steam rooms to phytotherapy and more, these six spa domains are anything but ordinary, providing the utmost relaxation to residents without them ever having to step foot outside their homes.

The d’Orsay

The d’Orsay, a boutique condominium of 21-luxury homes, located at 211 West 14th Street, in the nexus of the West Village, Meatpacking District, and Chelsea will provide residents with the luxury of not having to leave their home to access innovative and hotel-quality spa amenities. Legendary French designer Jacques Garcia thoughtfully implemented his renowned hospitality experience into the project by incorporating a private spa, complete with an art deco plunge pool, steam room and treatment room which can be booked for facials or massages.


1000M, the curving, cantilevering, 74-story luxury condominium coming to Chicago, will provide residents the opportunity for effortless relaxation and pampering right at home. Residents can mark their destination to the 11th floor 1000M spa, where they can take full advantage of the five-star hotel-like spa amenities including a meditation room, plunge pools, steam room, beauty bar and a Himalayan salt therapy room.

1 Seaport

Situated thirty floors above the hustle of New York City, residents of the Hill West Architects-designed 1 Seaport enjoy a sanctuary in the sky that rivals even the swankiest of spas, including a hydrotherapy circuit with a steam room, misted water passageway and teak sauna with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking New York’s most notable landmarks. The 30th-floor amenity suite of this Lower Manhattan luxury condo also includes a breathtaking indoor pool and sun terrace with custom chaise lounges, creating a true refuge from the city below.

The Grand at SkyView Parc

The Grand, a 743-unit luxury condominium nestled in the heart of Flushing, features The Grand Club, a full-service spa for its residents. Located at the Grand Tower Three, residents can treat themselves to a relaxing massage or hangout at the social whirlpool area with friends. Those looking to melt away the stress can leave it all behind once they step inside one of The Club’s steam, sauna or treatment rooms. Whatever they choose, it’s the perfect way to find a little “me” time during National Spa Week and beyond.

Amrit Ocean Resort & Residences

Spanning over seven acres in picturesque Singer Island, Amrit Ocean Resort & Residences is a new paradigm of mindful living, developed in partnership with world-renowned ESPA and the Himalayan Institute. Every ESPA treatment unites the best of aromatherapy, thalassotherapy and phytotherapy combined with ancient and modern Oriental, Ayurvedic and Western European philosophies. Within the natural surroundings, Amrit’s enhanced lifestyle experiences, customized programming, and spa offerings will be focused around the “Five Pillars of Wellness,” a selection of integrated areas of wellness that address sleep deprivation, nutrition and diet, relaxation and de-stress, personal training, fitness, beauty treatments, mindfulness, and more.

Caroline Bay

Caroline Bay, a 182-acre destination in Bermuda with branded residences and hotel by Ritz-Carlton Reserve will boast beautiful spa-like amenities and each home is situated to take full advantage of the mesmerizing pink sand beaches and azure blue ocean views, while still offering a sense of privacy with retractable glass walls. Various residences feature plunge pools, while the remaining residences will be equipped with outdoor kitchens.

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Chandeliers For Your Ears

The following article originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of ERA Real Estate Distinctive Properties Magazine.

Earrings are the essential final touch to an ensemble.

By Kelly Potts

Photo courtesy Neiman Marcus

A high-end pair of earrings can be an instant enhancement to a look, whether it’s a set of dainty, yet charming, studs or a pair of eccentric, trendy drop earrings.

Pamela Huizenga, a fine jewelry designer who began studying the art of stone cutting at the age of 16, refers to
earrings as ‘little bits of artwork that dangle from your ears.’ She notes that luxury earrings feature sophisticated craftsmanship and high-quality materials. “My pieces are one of a kind,” she says, “Every stone is handpicked, every piece created as a wearable piece of art.”

Wearing a piece of art on your ears, however, doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of comfort. Huizenga views earrings as
little chandeliers, but adds that they need to be comfortable. “I use extra large ear nuts and always focus on comfort and the way the earring sits on the ear,” she says.

When it comes to earring designs, Huizenga is all about…

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