Nap Bars

Khaliah O. Guillory, Owner of Nap Bar

A new set of businesses aims to help a sleep-deprived society relax and rejuvenate.

Nap bars. Upon hearing about this concept, various images come to mind, from a series of bedrooms with designated time slots for napping, to a pillowy oasis set in the clouds. While some ideas are more fantastical than others, the meaning behind many nap bar businesses and their missions is far more down to earth.

Whether naps are offered as a complimentary service or finely curated in a luxury setting, the importance of sleep has been reinvigorated by companies like these who know that the benefits of napping are nothing to sneeze (or snore) at in today’s world. 

In recent years, with the rise of globalization and businesses running 24/7, productivity can and has for some time become a priority. Maria Jose Hernandez of recharj, a meditation studio headquartered in Washington, D.C., says the needs of the human body should take precedence, however. 

An avid lover of naps since childhood, Guillory developed her company as a way to keep herself from “taking naps in [her] car.” 
Photos courtesy Nap Bar.

“Science has proven that sleep is how you are able to learn, retain memory — all these functions that we need to be productive.” 

Many nap bars and sleep-oriented businesses have been developed by busy business professionals and entrepreneurs who found themselves suffering from sleep deprivation or sleep-related issues. For example, Khaliah O. Guillory was working at a Fortune 500 company and struggled with getting restful sleep when she was inspired to open Nap Bar in Houston. An avid lover of naps since childhood, she developed her company as a way to keep herself from “taking naps in [her] car,” and engage other young professionals to rest, relax and feel rejuvenated through a curated, white-glove napping experience.

Top: Zen – Bar à Sieste Weightless Chair and VR.

Photos courtesy Zen – Bar à Sieste

Christophe Chanhsavang and his wife, Virginie, have had similar trials and tribulations. From Virginie’s corporate work hours to Christophe’s long hours of study, he realized from his experience working in the UK, China and Greece how much the concept of wellness was nonexistent in the French society. To avoid taking more naps in the office bathroom, Chanhsavang says they founded Zen – Bar à Sieste in 2011 in Paris and have since approached wellness from a holistic perspective by promoting sleep, nutrition, physical activity and mental health. 

Professionals in the wellness industry have noted and continue to highlight the importance of sleep, which in turn has led to research and results into the benefits of napping. Guillory offers facts that have helped fuel the educational aspect of Nap Bar, including a NASA statistic that suggests shorter nap durations are better for reducing the impact of sleep inertia, a physiological state of impairment that affects cognitive and sensory-motor performance.*

Mauricio Villamizar, CEO of Pop & Rest in London, takes these findings a step further, noting how a lack of sleep can ultimately lead to disruptions in workflow. “Sleep deprivation is linked to lower productivity at work and it’s one of the main drivers of absenteeism … in the workplace. If we translate this into working days, we are looking at around 200,000 working days being lost each year in the UK only. In terms of economic consequences, it’s around £40 billion, almost 2 percent of the UK’s GDP,” Villamizar says.

Wellness overall has seen a resurgence in strength from businesses like these, as health has come to be the utmost priority of nations around the world. And just like there are many types of methods of getting and staying well, there are a variety of ways to nap.

Pop & Rest is a London-based wellness startup that connects locals and travelers with sleep and meditation pods, offering clients safe and secure spaces to unwind, rest, and work peacefully. According to Villamizar, customers can visit one of the company’s various locations throughout London and become immersed in a calm environment where the pods are situated.

“Once you are inside, your pod will be like a box that features a single bed, small table, along with accessories to change lights, music and the aroma,” he says, noting that everything is built to ensure the best relaxation experience. The pods are movable and soundproofed, and only require a power supply and WiFi connection to function, an enticing offer for companies looking to purchase these pods for their own offices.

The aforementioned Nap Bar curates a luxury napping experience for customers, which Guillory says is ensured by engaging all five senses. For sight, all of the custom suites are outfitted with mood lighting that is adjustable; for taste, a duo of raw juice shots are offered with rich nutrients and ingredients that aid in relaxing the body pre-nap, and waking it up post-nap; for hearing, exclusive brain waves are curated for each client and played inside suites that increases the release of melatonin in the body by 97 percent; and for smell, an aromatherapy pillow mist infused with lavender is available.

recharj – D.C. meditation room and class.

Photos courtesy recharj

Pop & Rest sleep pod for napping.

Photo courtesy Pop & Rest.

The final sense, of touch, goes a step further, as all suites include an organic, locally sourced mattress, linens and sheets, and each room is painted with toxin-free paint. All of these inclusions are accompanied by a full-service concierge who will guide customers through the experience and help them on their wellness journey

According to Chanhsavang of Zen – Bar à Sieste, wellness is the future of humanity, a future he aims to advance with the Siesta Bar, which combines technological and traditional means of treatment for sleep deprivation. For nap services, customers can choose from a luxurious memory foam retreat, a zero-gravity massage chair or a Shiatsu bed; for aiding in relaxation and overall wellness, complimentary services include massages, virtual-reality meditation and even a fish spa.

As a meditation studio, recharj has been offering premier restorative practices to help clients, which includes the use of power naps. According to Hernandez, during open hours these power nap sessions are curated to be 25 minutes long and offered in large Yogibo chairs, a favorite for many. “A client once described them to me as if you’re laying down in a cloud,” Hernandez says, which only adds to the whole-body experience.

Binaural beats are also incorporated into the nap session, a type of music melody that registers at different frequencies that are meant to relax your body and get it ready for sleep. Overall, the studio aims to bring a sense of relaxation as well as mindfulness through meditation to its clients. “We offer workshops about mindful leadership, mindful communication and mindfulness in general,” Hernandez says, which in turn helps clients learn ways to de-stress and regain focus on whatever tasks lay ahead.

Unlike the typical fad that comes and goes, wellness is rooted in a deep need for comfort and stability. As we write this, we’re in the midst of a public health crisis, and brick and mortar locations may not be open. But there are ways to implement the wisdom of these businesses from your own home. Studios like recharj continue to offer online meditation classes, in an effort to keep a consistent schedule that is based solely on keeping well. And though the future is uncertain, businesses like Pop & Rest, Nap Bar and Zen – Bar à Sieste continue to work and create solutions for customers, from promoting online educational sessions and tips to developing applications, products and services for when businesses are fully up and running.

“Wellness is not just a fashion, but a fundamental trend in our societies,” Chanhsavang asserts. “Hopefully the nap services and related businesses will become a game-changer in the hospitality industry.”

*Source: NASA conducted a study on sleepy military pilots and astronauts and found a 26-minute nap increased productivity by 34 percent and alertness by 54 percent.

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Lifestyle and Longevity

The trends changing houses in 2020 and beyond.

By Camilla McLaughlin

New values, shifting demographics and technology are all transformative agents in 2020, and each will shape real estate and design well into the next decade. Some, such as outdoor living, are not new, while others, including the importance of ancillary spaces or a desire for slightly smaller but highly customized homes, are just getting underway. Farmhouse is out; contemporary, along with modern interpretations of traditional styles, is finding favor with architects and home buyers. Attitudes about what’s important in a home beyond an open floorplan, and even the open concept itself, are being reconsidered and revised. Color is back. Experts tell us the passion for grey and all-white kitchens is waning, although in practice designers also say neutrals still dominate.

Got all of that?

Even the term “move-up buyer” has a new meaning. “Move up doesn’t necessarily mean move into a bigger home as it did for previous generation,” explains Leigh Spicher, national director of design studios for Ashton Woods. “Today’s move up buyers expect quality and are willing to invest in special features in their home.” For upscale owners, preferences are likely to lean toward diversification in favor of several properties in different locations rather than a large estate home.

Each year, The Best in American Living program (BALA), an annual design competition held by the National Association of Home Builders, showcases award-winning design and architecture and pinpoints current and growing trends. Awards this year, based on homes built in 2019, showcased a range of styles from midcentury modern to transitional to contemporary expressions rooted in traditional styles or regional aesthetics.

Another change, according to Don Ruthro , principal at Dahlin Group Architecture Planning and this year’s judging chair, is more homes with the same style inside and out, which he says conveys a greater sense of authenticity.

Even in production homes architects are pushing for more character and uniqueness with thoughtful, well edited design elements. Well edited, according to BALA, means a genuine purpose of place and points of interest that draw the eye across the facade without all of the fussiness of past decades.

Curated design details are another design trend BALA judges highlight. “It’s clear that buyers want their home to feel personalized to their taste. From ceiling textures to shelving choices to mullion size. Every detail matters, and today’s educated buyers won’t settle for anything less,” they explain.

Other trends play into the desire for personalization. Anything that adds texture is on trend, especially wallpaper. Also enhancing personalization are unique applications of wood to highlight forms and also warm up interiors. Compared to prior years, the use of wood, often a dark hue with a matt fi nish, mixed with other surfaces, was very much in evidence in homes, new and remodeled, constructed to showcase current trends at the International Builders Show. Adding to the depth created by an overlay of textures in a home is the use of mixed metal finishes, with gold tones very much in evidence.

No facets of design are left to chance or convenience, even lighting. “Like other design details, just installing what’s on hand without added thought about placement just won’t fly with the 2020 buyer,” further advise BALA judges. Curated design details, personalized lighting design and texture were all highlighted as trends buyers can expect to see in homes over the next few years.

Even though kitchen, great room and dining — casual or formal — combined into a central living space continues to dominate, how that space is organized and expressed in an overall fl oorplan is slowly evolving. “Open space plans for the family room, kitchen, and dining area are still going strong. Our challenge in open plans is how to defi ne each space and give it some separation while still maintaining the overall open feel,” says Chicago designer Donna Mondi.

In California, designer Christine Markatos Lowe says the open plan is going strong, and perhaps the biggest change has been the addition of a second functional space to kitchens. For higherpriced homes, the presence of a back kitchen, whether a full-blown kitchen, a large walk in pantry or a butler’s pantry, has become a must have, central to keeping the main kitchen streamlined and clutter free.

Colorful kitchens? Maybe.

Examples at the national kitchen and bath industry show refl ected forecasts calling for color to punch up kitchens. Dark blues and earthy greens combined with wood finishes often clad lower cabinets and islands. Still, a number of designers express reservations regarding too much color. Wood cabinets continue to be on trend, mixed with other finishes.

“There has been a shift back into furniture-style cabinetry, exposed appliances (there’s always a place for LaCornue!), and especially statement marble countertops. European influences have made their way into the modern kitchen and I couldn’t be happier,” adds Mondi.

Another trend in renovations, Lowe says, is to open sightlines so rooms feel more connected to each other but still have their own language. “So it’s a combination of both things we’re seeing.”

“The main living spaces are getting bigger and more integrated with each other, but a good architect will design in such a way so they feel like individual spaces even though it’s part of one room,” says Bob Zuber, AIA, who is a partner at Morgante Wilson Architects in Evanston, Illinois.

Tricked Out Extras

Chances are what makes a house special for most buyers is not the number of bedrooms or even a great open plan but extras, what K. Tyler, also a partner and head of Interior Design at Morgante Wilson, dubs ancillary spaces. From tricked out mudrooms and laundry rooms to glass-enclosed wine rooms to pantries and second kitchens, what might be extras are essentials to buyers often shaping a unique living experience and often tilting them in favor of a certain house or floorplan. Offices, dens and studies will continue to be important additions to open plans. Nine times out of 10, homes with these features are going to be preferred over ones that just have big rooms, says Tyler.

Signature front entries are also gaining prominence. Expect to see continued emphasis on front entries. Foyers are designed to be functional but also to make a dazzling first impression.

Preferences for these features and quality over square footage extend to a range of price brackets. According to the National Association of Home Builders annual survey of buyer preferences, more buyers overall are likely to choose less square foot but higher quality homes with desirable features such as large walk-in master closets and energy efficient windows and lighting over large homes with fewer features.

Innovative materials continue to be important change agents. Consider outdoor living, one of the most transformative trends of the last decade. The modest pool and patio is now an array of open air venues and outdoor rooms. Pools and fire features are equally artful and functional. Rather than just an amenity tacked on to the house, outdoor connections are now the main orientation and organizing element for plans. Transitions between the two are hardly noticeable thanks to new materials and finishes, extending flooring beyond interiors. Master bedrooms morph into full blown retreats with their own outdoor spaces.

Innovative plans further bring green spaces deep into the home via interior courtyards. Expect to see more ways to bridge inside with outside as the decade progresses. Most recently, super large panes of glass and larger glass doors, further enhance visual connections and light-filled interiors. In most regions of the country, an indoor/outdoor sync is considered a “must have” for luxury, and there are no indications the penchant for outdoor connections will diminish. Among BALA trends, expansive largeformat windows along with sophisticated indoor/outdoor connections figured prominently.

Thinking Long Term

Beginning with the recovery, the tenure of homeownership increased. Instead of the 4.21-year average, typical from 2000 to 2007, ownership extended to 8 years or longer, hitting a record high in the end of 2018, with some cities — Boston, San Francisco and Hartford — charting tenures of 10 years or more. Whether or not this is a trend worth watching or simply a blip on the charts remains to be seen, but it is a solid indicator of changing attitudes toward home that spills over into design, interiors, even furnishings. Increasingly owners in almost all price brackets are thinking long term and lifestyle when it comes to their homes.

Resale seems to have moved to the back burner. Instead, consumers look for features and fi nishes that uniquely sync with and enhance their lifestyle. “I would say people are tailoring the house more specifically towards they way they want to live,” explains Zuber, noting sometimes those same features will also enhance resale.

According to Ashton Woods’ 2020 design trends survey, 86 percent of today’s buyers said home personalization is important.

Another indication of consumers anticipating longer ownership is growing interest in fl exible spaces and also in accommodating a range of ages. The term flexible spaces is taking on a new meaning. Instead of extra footage for a mancave or teen hangout, it’s viewed as versatile rooms that can change over time, explains Spicher. Perhaps a nursery today and a home o ce tomorrow. Or as many owners (55 percent in Ashton Woods Design survey) say, space that can transform into additional living space in the future for an aging family member or boomerang children.

More clients even in the 40s are looking to use the house when they are older and are planning to these accommodations with wider doors and space for an elevator shaft, say Tyler and Zuber.

Smart Home Challenges

In the next decade, smart home technology will change homes more than any other factor. Already new homes beyond a certain price point include a range of apps and devices, particularly in the kitchens, where manufacturers are already adding connections among appliances such as the hood with a range top. Also, voice control. Some brands also incorporate technology that enables some repairs to be made remotely. “What’s exciting is that every passing second, we get one step closer to a context-aware smart home. Manufacturers are pushing the boundaries. Developments in the areas of sensing technology and AI will result in appliances, fi xtures and systems that automatically respond and adapt to our home and environment changes,” says Kate Bailey, senior director of Category Management at Ferguson Enterprises.

“It’s not so much about new things as it is about things getting smaller, faster, lighter better integrated, so they get to the point where smart becomes livable and something you want to put in your homes,” says Melissa Morman, client experience officer at Builders Digital Experience.

Looking ahead, the key, the most transformative feature will be the development of an operating system that will integrate diverse function which will enhance integration and connection of devices and enable a home to further adapt to changing conditions.

Also on the horizon is a desire for homes to be a nurturing center for wellness, a capability that will be enhanced by new technology.

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A Unique Country Sanctuary in Dublin Hill

Award-winning design-build firm SBP HOMES is bringing life to a six-residence development on private Dublin Hill Drive in a bucolic and convenient section of mid-country Greenwich. 

SBP HOMES (who has created more than 100 significant homes in Greenwich, Southampton, New York City and South-Florida) partnered with six of the most dynamic architecture firms working in Greenwich today, to create this oasis of six, one-of-a-kind homes. “With Dublin Hill, we wanted to create timeless homes that added to the storyline of Greenwich, bringing together the top minds in the design industry,” says Doron Sabag, Co-Founder of SBP HOMES. The architecture firms involved include Robert Cardello Architects, Austin Patterson Disston, Laura Kaehler Architects, Tanner White Architects, Workshop APD, and Shope Reno Wharton. 

44 Dublin Hill Drive 
48 Dublin Hill Drive

For this development, each home is distinct, custom finished and situated on at least three acres of land — taking full advantage of the unique setting. The properties range from five to seven bedrooms, with clean transitional interiors and each include a shimmering pool with automatic cover and generous outdoor porches and terraces.

“In these unprecedented times — where city residents, in particular, are looking for an escape — Dublin Hill has everything a luxury homeowner would want in the most coveted area of Greater New York,” said Lyn Black of Houlihan Lawrence, who is also collaborating on the development.

Neighboring the new Greenwich Country Day Upper School Campus and close to town and other Greenwich private and public schools, Dublin Hill is a unique country sanctuary. 

52 Dublin Hill Drive 
42 Dublin Hill Drive 

To learn more about available listings, visit: https://www.sbphomes.com/listings/

Doron was featured in the 2020 Editon of Unique Homes Ultimate. Click here to check out this year’s issue!

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Jump for Jubilado

©istockphoto.com / SimonDannhauer

Government-sponsored incentives are drawing retirees to Panama.

From superior benefits for retirees and an assortment of visa options, to the captivating sights and real estate options available, there is much to see and even more to experience as a resident of Panama.

For retirees in particular, the benefits offered through Panama’s programs have crowned it as “one of the top retirement destinations in the world,” according to Stephanie Villarreal, president and Realtor for Your Panama Real Estate Connection. She notes that the government-sponsored “Jubilado” retirement program provides impressive discounts on a range of expenses, including dental/eye exams, medical consultations, restaurant bills, airline tickets and even car purchases. What is needed to qualify is an annuity/pension-like income of $1,000 USD per month. Having good, affordable medical services like, amongst others, the Johns Hopkins-affiliated hospital in Panama City is another added benefit, Villarreal says. New residents find themselves taking on the Panamanian lifestyle in no time at all.

The process of immigrating to Panama is relatively simple as well, Villarreal says, and with the help of experienced law professionals, the process is straightforward and easy.

Basilica of the Mother of God is prominent in Casco Viejo, where churches dating back hundreds of years blend with activities for those of all ages.

Photo  ©istockphoto.com / rchphoto

“We work alongside attorneys to assist our clients with immigration and residency,” she adds. The Panama Friendly Nations Visa, for example, is also a popular special immigration program for citizens of selected countries who have professional or economic ties with Panama.

Those exploring their immigration options should also understand the differences in lifestyle of Panamanians, from “slower pace of life” to the fact that Spanish is the country’s main language. However, every difference also offers an opportunity to learn and experience the unique nuances of Panama. “Things in Panama move slower than in North America and Europe,” says Villarreal, “but with our team’s extensive knowledge and experience of how things work in Panama, we can assist our clients to adjust to life in the country.”

Adjusting to life in Panama can come easily with the help of the right brokerage team who will help guide potential buyers to their dream home or neighborhood. Villarreal says her team recommends that buyers should visit the country first to get a feel for what Panama is all about. “There are established ‘expat’ communities in Panama City, various communities at the beaches … there are many clubs offering get-togethers, bingo, Spanish courses and more.”

Add this to the plethora of good restaurants, cafes and bars amidst the cobblestone roads and churches of Casco Viejo, Panama City’s old quarter, and the amazing beaches and archipelagos, and there’s too much to fit into one trip. So, perhaps, make it a trip to last the rest of your life?

 

This article originally appeared in the Unique Homes Spring ’20: Elite edition

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Unique Places: Mayakoba, Along the Riviera Maya

Surrounded by indigenous wildlife and serene waterfalls, a picturesque lagoon weaves throughout a 620-acre property connect four ultra-luxury resorts at Mayakoba.

All photos courtesy of Mayakoba

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Surrounded by indigenous wildlife and serene waterfalls, a picturesque lagoon weaves throughout a 620-acre property connecting four ultra-luxury resorts at Mayakoba — Andaz, Rosewood, Banyan Tree, and Fairmont. A luxurious boat ride uncovers four world-class spas, more than 25 restaurants, and four beach clubs and pools along the Riviera Maya coastline.

Upon entering Mayakoba, I learned that the land is home to more than 260 animal species — including monkeys, iguanas, and tropical fish. Biologists visit the site to ensure that a home for its native animals and plants is not only preserved but enhanced, as the number of species on the land continues to grow and all four resorts have received Rainforest Alliance Certification.

Rosewood Residences

Fairmont Residences

When I was not looking out at the lush lagoon from my private plunge pool at the Rosewood hotel, I was walking or biking to the beach through the man-grove forest on Mayakoba’s 2.5 miles of nature trails. Once at the beach, the crystal waters were perfect for jet skiing, snorkeling, and riding SEABOBs.

“Mayakoba offers experiences for all your senses, and there is a sense of discovery at every turn,” says Kappner Clark, chief marketing officer of RLH Properties, which acquired the property in 2017. “I’ve been to Mayakoba around 20 times this year and there is so much left to explore.”

While all four resorts exude distinct personalities, each private oasis blends seamlessly into nature. The 2- to 4-bedroom villas at Rosewood offer unparalleled luxury. With lagoon or beachfront floor plans available, prices begin at $3.3 million. The residences and penthouses at Fairmont boast lagoon and golf course views. Full-ownership prices begin at $1.5 million, with one-twelfth fractions beginning at $219,000.

El Camaleon

“Our homeowners choose to buy for the ease of owning a turnkey branded Rosewood or Fairmont residence where the hotel manages your property while you’re away. All you have to do is arrive,” says Clark, who notes that homeowners may use the property’s rental program.

A trip to Mayakoba would not have been complete without a visit to El Camaleon, the 18-hole PGA Tour championship golf course that boasts views of the tropical jungle, freshwater canals, and beautiful oceanfront.

And when I wanted a break from relaxing, El Pueblito was perfect. Resembling a Mexican town square with vibrant Mexican colors and traditional architecture, the lively square connects the four resorts, offering boutique shopping, restaurants, and a night bar, as well as a Mission-style chapel.

     

This editorial originally appeared in Unique Homes Winter 2020.

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Resorting to Hawaii

PHOTO BY MPHOTOI.COM

Kohanaiki

Hawaii’s stunning natural beauty, exciting culture, and penchant for luxury are altogether enhanced for members and guests among the developments and resorts that offer a one-of-a-kind island lifestyle.

Hawaii received over 9.9 million visitors in 2018, according to the state governor’s office. There is no shortage of foot traffic on the islands and more and more families are falling in love with the lifestyle and searching for a second home amongst the Aloha Spirit. A variety of developments and resorts to choose from makes the transition from vacation place to home seamless.

“There is a genuine sense of community among the members, who also love Hawaii and the island experience,” notes Chuck Cary, vice president of sales and marketing at Kohanaiki. The development on the Big Island of Hawai`i is an exclusive, high-end, invitation-only private club community. It appeals to those looking for an escape, which is easy to find on the 450 oceanfront acres. The idea of a luxurious, hassle-free experience is one that rings true for most developments and resorts in Hawaii.

“Luxury buyers are seeking opportunities to establish second home ownership that can deliver unique family experiences and ultimate gathering places – authentic communities that embrace local culture and a true turnkey lifestyle experience,” says Tina Necrason, senior vice president of Residential at Montage International. Montage Kapalua Bay, located on Maui along the waters of Namalu Bay, is an intimate 24-acre resort overlooking the bay.

Nicole Vincent, Realtor/Broker on the Kohala Coast for Coldwell Banker Island Properties, is well versed in the realm of luxury real estate, especially in developments and resorts. She notes that buyers, especially those with families, are drawn to the amenities that are offered in developments because the concierge, planned activities, fitness, golf, fine dining restaurants, and other amenities facilitate ease and convenience all within a community.

PHOTO COURTESY MONTAGE KAPALUA RESIDENCES

 Montage Residences Kapalua Bay

“The happiest clients are able to visit their homes and relax while visiting and really enjoy all the Big Island has to offer,” notes Vincent. The especially enticing elements that developments offer are the family-friendly and community-oriented aspects. “The memberships are structured for families with what is called a vertical membership, meaning the grandparents, children, and grandchildren can all be considered as members. This becomes attractive for families and extended families who vacation together,” according to Vincent. The sense of community is a crucial element that buyers and visitors expect, and it becomes obvious even after a short stay.

“The staff knows you, your likes and dislikes, the same way your family does. That personalized, high-end consistent service is a big part of why buyers know they want to be a part of a private club versus general luxury real estate,” urges Cary on Kohanaiki’s dedication to community. Similarly, Necrason, says, “there is a strong sense of camaraderie in the community through the relationships that are built as families get to know one another, whether through an owner event or shared excursion throughout the year or getting to know the resort staff.”

The luxurious amenities can certainly be a deciding factor for buyers, yet the decision can go further, beyond beach and spa access. “Ultimately, buyers seem to gel with a particular location based on the total package, despite all resorts essentially being able to claim most of the same amenity options,” says Vincent.

Kohanaiki, for example, is committed to sustainability and the conservation/preservation of the environment. “Kohanaiki is recognized as a leader in the evolution of the private club experience,” Cary says. “The planning and development of the community are centered on an environmentally sustainable infrastructure.” While amenities can capture attention, fundamentals such as this also play an important role in attracting guests and buyers.

     

This editorial originally appeared in Unique Homes Winter 2020.

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Centered on the Earth

Photo by Sally Guillaume.

These three travel companies offer sustainable opportunities to see — and even help save — the planet.

Aracari

Ahead of its time when it was originally founded in 1996, South American travel operator Aracari is highly regarded in the sustainable travel industry. Founder Marisol Mosquera defines sustainable travel simply as travel that does not destroy the
destination, which in today’s standards means low impact, low-volume tourism. These pillars of tourism have been part of Aracari’s mission since it began, in order to promote natural landscapes.

One of the most important ways Aracari maintains such high standards of sustainability is by educating guests throughout their trips, to “treat the local communities and sensitive environments with great respect,” Moquera states. To follow through, the company works tirelessly with the other businesses they work with to help ensure their self-imposed regulations are effective across the board. For example, Mosquera says the company seeks boutique hotels that are more stringent on standards like waste management, energy consumption, community involvement, et cetera. With these methods incorporated into their business model, Aracari is able to fulfill
clients’ travel needs while making a smaller impact on the surrounding environment.

“People travel to learn and experience new things, and our region is very rich with cultural and natural attractions,” Mosquera says, attractions that they strive to find new ways of highlighting through their bespoke travel tours. One upcoming tour in May 2020 is an eight-day excursion in Bolivia, hosted by National Geographic photographer Max Milligan, based in Kachi Lodge which is located on Sachar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. Nestled next to Tunupa Volcano, these transparent igloo tents afford wonderful views and a unique sense of isolation while guests enjoy delicious food, hot water and comfortable accommodations.

Kachi Lodge | Bolivia

Kachi Lodge is located on Sachar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat.

Photo courtesy of Aracari.

Machu Picchu

Guests can travel to archaeological sites like Machu Picchu with Aracari’s Peru tours.

Photo by Marcella Echavarria.

Another tour featuring Milligan is an adventure through the mountains of Peru at El Albergue Ollantaytambo, where guests can visit local communities, archaeological sites like Machu Picchu, and an organic garden that stretches from the glacial snowline to the tropical cloud forest.

Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp | Kenya

Photo by Stevie Mann.

Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp | Kenya

Cottar’s Safari Camp provides an authentic and individualized safari experience by ensuring a legacy of wilderness, wildlife, comfort and security.

Photo courtesy of Steppes Travel.

Steppes Travel

Steppes Travel creates eco-luxury holiday trips that are tailor-made for people who are interested in wildlife. While it highlights giving a behind-the-scenes look into many different sensible wildlife environments and discovering different cultures, at the core, Steppes Travel focuses on giving back to the environment and communities their teams visit. An avid traveller himself, Rob Gardiner fit in perfectly at Steppes Travel as the Commercial Manager for the Africa sector with his overall knowledge and love for travel. “I love the people that you meet, I love the lessons that you learn from it, and I think it breaks down barriers, changing our perception of different places and alters our prejudices,” Gardiner says.

Gardiner says that the company’s focus on sustainable travel is driven by a need to look after the communities they visit and keep those wilderness areas as pristine as possible. Steppes Travel also works with community members and conservation groups to ensure proceeds are given back to those areas, noting that, as a whole, travel can be a force for good. “If you’re lucky enough to go to Zambia, Tanzania or Botswana on safari, for example, there should be money that goes back into the local economy so they too are incentivized to look after what they have.”

Regarding the tours, Gardiner says that the wildlife aspect is what helps keeps sustainability in mind for both guides and travellers. He notes that often these trips provide a unique educational experience, granting travellers a new, real perspective on conservation while taking part in projects like tracking rhinos in South Africa or working on a jaguar safari project in Brazil. Tourists can go further by becoming ambassadors for certain regions and work with communities around the world to be more conscious of endangered environments.

“As much as possible, we don’t believe in cocooning our clients away from the streetlife in Delhi or living with a nomadic family in Mongolia,” Gardiner affirms. “I think it’s about getting to know the people and about having that personal human connection.”

Undiscovered Mountains

According to Sally Guillaume, owner and founder of sustainable travel company Undiscovered Mountains, her reasons for starting the company were driven by a personal drive to create a better world, “to do things in a way that everyone benefits without exploiting people or environments.”

Focusing on trips located in and around the French Alps, Guillaume wanted to steer away from mass tourism and “build a sustainable approach to tourism both for the communities and the rich natural environments they live in.” In doing so, she built a business that not only focuses on preserving natural environments, but also helps clients to discover authentic Alpine communities, not usually found in mainstream Alpine travel.

Guillaume’s vision of a sustainable world includes less consumerism and a deeper appreciation for experiences. And while Undiscovered Mountains, Steppes Travel and Aracari are all model companies, there is a long way to go in sustainable tourism — from updating local infrastructure to promoting lower-impact travel methods such as train or “green” vehicles. She notes, however, the ethical standards of travel companies have become more and more important consumers in recent years, as well as the destination and activities involved.

From touring preserved natural environments with abundant wildlife and flora on the southern French Alps, to immersive tours in both Nepal and Norway that are launching soon, Undiscovered Mountains will continue to make its mission about serving the environment, which has always shaped the culture around them. “The type of food people eat, the architecture of old buildings, the choice of where villages are situated is all to do with how people have survived living off the land of the mountains for centuries.”

The French Alps

Travelers can learn to paraglide and fly above the mountains on one of Undiscovered Mountain’s paragliding courses.

Photo courtesy of Undiscovered Mountains.

The French Alps

From ski touring to dogsledding with huskies, …

Photo courtesy of Undiscovered Mountains.

The French Alps

Undiscovered Mountains offers a wide assortment of winter activities that are fully customisable, all in the French Alps.

Photo courtesy of Undiscovered Mountains.

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California Riviera

A desire for a serene coastal experience continues to fuel the luxury market in Orange County.

 

Orange County, California used to be defined by citrus groves and theme parks, but has evolved into one of the nation’s premier luxury residential markets. While some prices have begun to soften, several of the region’s top agents see strength moving into 2020.

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties’ Mariann Cordova reports luxury sales activity eased in 2019, but submits low interest rates and a fundamentally strong economy provide a counterbalance to negative sentiment generated by political uncertainty. “When people are making money, they’re spending money,” insists Cordova, who reports coastal areas like Laguna Beach and Newport Coast hold value best, followed by prestigious inland gated communities like Shady Canyon and Coto de Caza. The agent currently lists a 9,400-square-foot Mediterranean estate — the seller is former hockey superstar Teemu Selänne — in Coto de Caza for $6.9 million.

“The luxury market has suffered more than any other sector,” maintains Surterre Properties’ Chris Valli, who notes the trend began at least two years ago. He suggests the Orange County market has been impacted by the new tax laws, which effectively penalize high-value/high-tax states like California, but also reminds clients the market is experiencing a natural cycle.

“For over five years we went straight up and buyers began thinking prices were getting too high,” says Valli, who expects activity to rebound in the second half of 2020. He believes buyers waiting on the sidelines will soon enter the market and reports election years are historically active. The agent currently offers a sleek 6,500-square-foot ocean-bluff home in Laguna Beach — the charming beach town is becoming a showplace for modern residential architecture — at $13.5 million.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SMITH GROUP

Newport Beach, a perennially fashionable community where yacht slips are as important as driveways, remains a strong market. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage’s Tim Smith set the record last year for the most expensive sale on Newport Harbor, which he believes represents the quintessential luxury Orange County lifestyle — even more so than the region’s signature coastal bluffs. “There’s a connection to the ocean you experience when you live on the harbor that you can’t get anywhere else,” insists Smith, dubbing the area “Billionaires’ Bay.”

Characterizing the market as fragmented, Smith explains, “For new construction in great locations, we’re still setting records,” but acknowledges price pressures on less pristine properties. Smith currently offers a 9,609-square-foot, design-forward home in the oceanfront community of Corona del Mar for $24.995 million.

Jacqueline Thompson of Surterre Properties reports 2019 was among her best years and knows of many clients waiting to buy in 2020. “The number of international buyers, especially from China, has declined, but local money is very viable and results in many all-cash offers,” she says. Thompson concedes luxury purchasers still gravitate to the coast, and currently lists a two-estate compound on Newport Coast’s Pelican Point for $19.5 million. However, the agent closed two $11 million-plus cash transactions in Irvine’s amenity-rich Shady Canyon last year.

Orange County offers a wide range of properties, from glass-ensconced beach houses to palatial Mediterranean estates like La Casa Pacifica, listed by Compass’ Rob Giem for $57.5 million. While Thompson’s all-cash offers are illustrative, some agents insist that even super-affluent buyers can be motivated by low interest rates, choosing to put their own funds to work elsewhere. The cumulative effect of recent interest rate cuts, according to Coldwell Banker’s Smith, results in a 12-15 percent increase in purchasing power.

     

This editorial originally appeared in Unique Homes Winter 2020.

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Dining Responsibly

Whether you’re hosting a clambake on Nantucket, enjoying a procession of edible jewels at a Tokyo sushi bar or simply shopping for a suburban supper, the days of consuming seafood with careless abandon are gone. The oceans are desperately overfished, and seafood lovers must be conscious of their own personal impact on the aquatic environment.

The best known resource for both suppliers and consumers is Seafood Watch, a program created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Northern California 20 years ago. Its regional consumer guides, identifying the most sustainable and most threatened species, are valued by consumers, chefs and eco-conscious corporations. “We use a rigorous, scientifically-based standard to come up with recommendations, result-ing in the most up-to-date, credible information,” states Maddie Southard, content manager for Seafood Watch.

So influential are these guides—60 million have been distributed to date—that when a particular item moves from the red (“Avoid”) category to yellow (“Good Alternatives”) or green (“Best Choices”), millions of dollars can change hands. Reflecting the thoroughness of Seafood Watch’s recommendations, flounder appears four times as a “Best Choice,” 14 times as a “Good Alternative” and 18 times in the “Avoid” column depending on the exact species, geographic origin and methods of fishing or farming employed.

©Monteray Bay Aquarium, Photo by Tyson V. Rininger.

“Consumers help drive change, and when businesses recognize what’s import-ant to consumers they respond,” reports Southard of Seafood Watch’s ability to engage corporations like Whole Foods and Blue Apron. The program’s restaurant partners transcend economic strata, from trendy Farallon in San Francisco to family-friendly Red Lobster restaurants across the country.

In its early days, businesses viewed Seafood Watch as a fringe movement but today participation is embraced and display of the organization’s yellowfin tuna logo can be a marketing asset. A Blue Ribbon Task Force, comprised of honored culinary authorities, enhances Seafood Watch’s relevance with diners. “The public admires chefs and culinarians, and we realized the impact they have on consumers,” offers Southard, who adds, “Chefs were some of the earliest supporters of the movement so this was a natural partnership.”

“Whenever I’m making decisions about what to put on a menu, I always ask myself, ‘What would Sheila do,’” says Los Angeles chef Michael Cimarusti, referring to Seafood Watch’s Sheila Bowman, who oversees outreach to chefs. Cimarusti, who has earned two Michelin stars at his flag-ship restaurant Providence, became conscious of sustainable sourcing issues as a young chef in L.A. 20 years ago, when a Gourmet magazine review admonished him for serving bluefin tuna.

“As I learned more about issues relating to sustainability, I became really passion-ate about it and wanted to become more active in the movement,” explains Cimarusti. “I was honored to be asked to sit on the Task Force and have learned a tremendous amount from Seafood Watch,” says the chef, who shares all of the program’s recommendation alerts with his staff.

Éric Ripert, chef/partner of New York’s Le Bernardin, takes sustainability as seriously as Cimarusti. “I spend my days with many varieties of fish, considering which are best for the restaurant, he says. Ripert explains, “This means more than just judging by flavor and composition, but includes the ethics and politics surrounding how they’ve been made available to us.” The Michelin three-star chef cautions, “If we don’t support the artisanal way of catching fish, it’s going to disappear.”

Michael Cimarusti. ©Jennkl Photography.

Courtesy of Whole Foods Market. 

Hugh Acheson, author and James Beard Award-winning chef with a family of Georgia restaurants, also sits on Seafood Watch’s advisory board and is a strong advocate for local, sustainable ingredients. He recalls that in the 1990s chefs addressed a severe threat to swordfish through a voluntary ban and use of more sustainable alternatives, allowing stocks to replenish. “It made me realize how much clout we have, as chefs, to mandate change when we act as a plurality,” states Acheson.

“I think Seafood Watch has succeeded in being a valuable resource for consumers, chefs, wholesalers, and grocery stores,” says the Canadian-born chef who has helped reimagine Southern cuisine. Acheson, who notes that swordfish continues to face challenges, suggests Seafood Watch would have been an invaluable resource decades ago, when many chefs were oblivious to sustainability issues.

An affinity for bluefin tuna (maguro) and eel (unagi), both largely on Seafood Watch’s “Avoid” list, and adherence to centuries-old traditions makes sushi chefs among the most reluctant to adopt sustainable practices. One sushi chef committed to sustainability is Bun Lai, chef/owner of Miya’s Sushi in New Haven, Connecticut and another member of Seafood Watch’s Blue Ribbon Task Force. Some odd ingredients—every-thing from insects and invasive species to edible weeds—populate his voluminous menu, and the James Beard Award nominee relies on guidance from Seafood Watch.

Éric Rippert. ©Daniel Kreiger Photography. 

Hugh Acheson. Photo by Emily B. Hall. 

“Miya’s started working on sustainable seafood very gradually in the early 2000s,” reports Lai, explaining that unreliable data made conscientious sourcing challenging. “Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch changed all of that by creating a tool that helped people choose sustainable seafood in a market awash with imported seafood of mostly dubious origin and quality,” says Lai. “When I first discovered Seafood Watch, it was as if a light beamed into the darkness I was surrounded by,” he says.

Bun Lai. ©Alan S. Orling.

“I admire my heritage, but we must question our traditions, too,” states Lai, acknowledging sushi’s popularity contributes to overfishing around the globe. He cites Jiro Ono, the revered sushi master featured in the documentary film Jiro Dreams of Sushi, who lamented the demise of the majestic bluefin while continuing to serve it to customers.

“There are, however, sushi chefs filled with a passion for sustainable seafood like those café owners who pioneered fair trade coffee decades ago,” says Lai with optimism. With Seafood Watch’s guides and app available to chefs and consumers alike, good choices can be made on both sides of the bar.

Sustainable Sources

Hugh Acheson
www.hughacheson.com

Le Bernardin
www.le-bernardin.com

Miya’s Sushi
www.miyassushi.com

Providence
www.providencela.com

Seafood Watch
www.seafoodwatch.org

 

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Windblown Magnificence

ODYSSEY PHOTO COURTESY HORNBLOWER CRUISES AND EVENTS

The Odyssey Chicago River

 

Between top-tier restaurants and skylines, the Windy City is an adventure that’ll satisfy all of your senses.

The best guides to “The Windy City” will urge visitors to experience Chicago on every luxurious level from the river to the skyline. Begin by roaming the Magnificent Mile for a glimpse of glamour on foot, set your gaze over Lake Michigan from historic rooftops and then cruise along the Chicago River before tasting the flavors of the world at top-tier restaurants for an adventure that will satisfy all of your senses.

Kimi Williams, director of sales for Hornblower Cruises and Events, says “Chicago is a big city with a generous sprinkling of Midwestern charm.” Similarly, Adam Skaf, senior public relations manager of The Magnificent Mile Association notes, “Chicago is increasingly cosmopolitan yet entirely cozy and approachable.”

Located in the heart of downtown, The Magnificent Mile is known as Chicago’s version of Bond Street in London or Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, and is the perfect way to get a feel for the city. “The Magnificent Mile is home to three vertical shopping centers, rang-ing from the country’s original mixed-use mall at Water Tower Place to the 900 shops that appeal especially to locals in the Gold Coast neighborhood with its higher-end retail offering,” says Skaf.

PHOTO AT RIGHT COURTESY OF THE MAGNIFICENT MILE ASSOCIATION

Designed with a bounty of greenery, Michigan Avenue offers a perfect day of exploring with views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River and more. “What strikes me about The Magnificent Mile is the full spectrum of options for a shopping spree, from well-known brands to independent boutiques and luxury retailers,” according to Skaf.

Strolling through Chicago’s streets opens the door to the many neighborhoods that make up this great city. “Chicago has all the benefits of a major city yet it leaves you with a sense of comfort and intimacy as if it was a collection of small neighborhoods. Each neighborhood offers unique experiences with the charm of good old fashioned Midwest hospitality,” says Michael Ditterline.

PHOTO COURTESY THE GWEN HOTEL

The Gwen King Terrace Suite

As the general manager of The Gwen Hotel, Ditterline knows something about hospitality and Chicago’s robust history of architecture and more. “Our original façade on the building was famously created by renowned sculptor Gwen Lux, our hotel’s name-sake.” The Gwen balances modern details with historic glamour that is unique to Chicago and has the feel of a boutique hotel, with all of the benefits of being a part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection. “Located right off of The Magnificent Mile, The Gwen offers a luxurious respite from the bustle of the city below,” according to Ditterline.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MAGNIFICENT MILE ASSOCIATION

The John Hancock Building at dusk

For an equally relaxing afternoon, dinner on the water brings the true beauty of Chicago’s architecture and skyline into focus. “The Odyssey Chicago River redefines the city’s grand tradition of river cruising through its unique blend of contemporary design and elegant dining seen from an entirely new perspective — pulling the outside in and fully immersing guests in the spectacular architecture and vibrant energy of the Chicago River,” according to Williams.

Experiencing Chicago is embracing the city’s history of architecture, great food, and the brisk winds off of Lake Michigan. Luckily, the Odyssey is well equipped for toasty year-round cruising. Williams notes, “One of my favorite things about the city is the incredible views, especially when you get to enjoy this from the water. Admiring the sunset against the skyline while cruising across Lake Michigan or sailing down the Chicago River with the city backdrop is a perfect way to spend the day.”

     

This editorial originally appeared in Unique Homes Winter 2020.

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