Luxury or Delusion?

Villa Vermonte

Luxury or Delusion?

Luxury or delusion? It may sound easy to rent a luxury purpose-built villa, but the truth is it’s really not that simple. For property owners wishing to venture into this market there’s very little information on how to achieve the perfect purpose-built property. Many owners advertise their rental properties as ‘luxury’ and although the property may very well be luxurious as a private residence, there are many differences between the two. They should reconsider many things before designing a rental property purpose-built for the high-end luxury market.

My search for a luxury property often dictates which country I visit and whether I stay in a hotel or villa. From Europe to the Middle East, my travels throughout the world have taken me to many outstanding properties in amazing locations but once inside, the interiors and layouts leave a lot to be desired. Being in the world of interior design and furniture production taking a ‘busman’s holiday’ is inevitable for me.

Interior Architecture

There are many fabulous properties that from the outside give the promise of a luxurious interior. But almost always on closer inspection the interior architecture and decoration disappoints. Deficiencies in the design and furnishings are apparent from the outset.

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Normally I find that luxury villas were once, or still are, being used as private residences. The design of an exceptional rental property ideally would be conceived from the onset of the build, or by commissioning a total remodel of an existing building, taking into account architectural and interior design changes. These properties are hard to find.

So what’s the difference between a purpose-built luxury rental property, compared to a property built as a private residence? Let’s examine the differences.

Which Bedroom’s Yours?

Many will have experienced the normal arrival rush of who is taking which bedroom, and the consequences of that often lead to guests or family members feeling downgraded. Individuals are assigned to inappropriately sized rooms, being too small or too large for their personal needs. Further down the pecking order others end up in the basement or staff quarters, not ideal or fitting the expectation of a property marketed as ‘luxury’. This is not a good start as most groups pay their equal share to rent such a property.

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A well thought-out, purpose-designed luxury property for rental considers each room, with the interior design features all as high-end and as important as each other. They should all be the same size, ensuite, with both showers and baths. Each room will also have the same storage and hanging space with good quality wooden hangers. Each private bedroom should be furnished to the highest standards with superior beds and linens. All should be fitted with the same size flat-screen television. Full-length double-window treatments, curtains or blinds, should be made to a high standard. Every room should be equal, so everyone begins their stay on good terms with no bad feelings of being downgraded. That’s essential – and you haven’t even started your holiday yet.

Luxurious Communal Areas

Communal areas could include a well thought-out library with a good selection of books for holiday reading, DVDs and a large television for convivial viewing. Add a separate living area, with plenty of comfortable seating provided in a sociable arrangement around a central coffee table, with double doors which lead out to the pool or terrace area. Soft furnishings and curtains should be impressive and well-made with appropriate well co-ordinated trimmings.

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Allow for a basement store to contain maids’ and housekeeping supplies, toiletries, linen, towels etc, like a small hotel. De-personalising is a must when renting, just like any professional hotel – although some lockable storage for property owners’ personal possessions, should they wish to use the property for themselves, is acceptable.


Many luxury rental properties are used for business purposes and entertaining but they really are most unsuitable. It’ll be unlikely the facilities are arranged for business use. A large formal dining room with a table that seats twelve may be there to use as a temporary boardroom but that’s where it stops. Do those facilities extend outdoors for al fresco meetings or entertaining when the weather is warm? Are there private spaces apart from a bedroom for work? Are the internet resources fully up-to-date and available throughout? Looking at your potential customers’ needs is a must.

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But even if you’re not there primarily for business, many people these days need to work whilst on holiday, and almost all of us these days expect high-speed broadband to be the norm. Wi-fi must be available throughout the entire property. Installing wi-fi extenders to give a good signal throughout the house is desirable.

Accounting for guest numbers has always been an issue in my experience. Most luxury rental properties are on the large side, but many do not factor in the right amount of sun loungers and parasols, or even provide a large enough terrace needed for guests and visitors when entertaining. Allowing for a larger area around the pool or terrace, furnished with a large dining table, provides another space in which to entertain and relax. A table with a Lazy Susan, and supremely comfortable seating, adds a considerate touch.

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Very often, rental properties overlook the fact that when entertaining numbers can double. Providing extra seating or a table extension is vital if your unexpected guests are to feel comfortable and relaxed. This naturally will have to include extra tableware and cutlery. If your house sleeps 8, then provide for 12 to give that extra special touch that the ‘luxury’ title demands.

Al Fresco Dining

A supply of beautiful tableware, cutlery and glassware suitable for both indoor and outdoor entertaining needs should be provided. High quality plasticware, that actually looks like glass, can be safely used outside; broken glass in the pool can be a nightmare, for children in particular. Provide high quality china of a simple plain white design that can be easily replaced by the spares kept in the basement. Many villas, after a few years, have a mismatch of assorted crockery, glassware and missing cutlery which is simply not acceptable.

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A well-planned outdoor kitchen and dining area is essential. A substantial high-end gas barbecue for al fresco dining provides an informal relaxed atmosphere, with the chef or cooks being able to socialise at the same time as showing off their culinary skills.

Manicured Gardens

Along with an attractive terrace, a professionally designed landscaped garden is essential, particularly for properties in warmer climates, as outdoor living is the norm. Provide a simple and easy-to-maintain design with well-manicured flora. Develop a quiet area with a bench and cushion for reading, ideal for early morning or evenings, for those guests wishing to have a little privacy. Add an orangery for a pleasant touch.

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Place comfortable seating in the upper terraces to catch the sunset, and provide tables to allow romantic starlight dining with double french doors opening out from each bedroom. Set aside safe, private, quiet areas and keep well maintained lawned areas.

Thoughtful Pools

Adding shallow large steps leading into the pool for the elderly or children is both considerate and vital. Having access from the pool area to a bathroom with double french doors on the ground floor bedroom, perhaps next to the kitchen, makes life easy for both infants and less mobile guests not wishing or able to climb stairs.

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Considering the needs of children, the elderly and those with a disabilities not only makes a property bookable by more people, but also shows thought and increases the recurrence of bookings.

Bring The Indoors Out

Guests will require plenty of sun shading with awnings and parasols which will provide cool areas in hot climes. Top quality garden furniture, cushions and parasols need to be regularly replaced. There are many so-called ‘luxury’ villas still using cheap white plastic sun loungers, tables and chairs and thin plastic-covered cushions.

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Provide spares that can be quickly replaced and stored in an exterior store room, together with cushions for the garden furniture and the parasols, making life easier and the property much tidier.

Attention To Detail

Guest information needs to be beautifully presented in a hardback folder. Providing local information enables guests to quickly familiarise themselves with the area and get the maximum benefit from their stay. Helpful recommendations add a personal thoughtful touch. Many so-called luxury properties provide guest information documents that range from the inadequate to the disgusting. For example, I have come across guest information with mildew on the front cover and food or alcohol stains from previous visitors. Paying attention to detail makes all the difference.

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Keep It Up

Ensuring the maintenance and management of a property is done by professionals is particularly important. Maids and housekeepers must work to a detailed brief and be encouraged to be proactive in the maintenance of the property, ensuring they have authority to report the smallest of items needing to be fixed or replaced thereby avoiding big bills for repairs before something small gets out of hand. This all gives the guests the knowledge that they are being considered thoughtfully, and may lead to repeat bookings and recommendations.

Villa Vermonte

This is how I see a luxury high-end rental property. It’s a special find if it fulfils all the criteria I’ve discussed. Many properties are described as luxury but the truth is they just don’t deliver on all counts.

A Genuine Luxury Rental Property

These photos are of a luxury rental property where I recently stayed, Villa Vermonte in the Algarve. It was developed specifically for the luxury rental market by an architect who specialises in classical architecture and owns a practice called Concepes in Loulé, Portugal. Built in 2002 using classical architecture and interiors, both the architect and the owner gave considerable thought to the luxury high-end rental market they were trying to attract.

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Guests are tantalised and drawn in from the onset. Large double gates which open remotely lead you to the main house. The guests are then greeted by an impressive and beautifully designed villa. Fronted by huge Roman pillars supporting a splendid portico, solid double wooden doors open into an beautiful entrance hall. With double height ceilings, central chandelier and sweeping staircase, it welcomes the guests with supreme luxury and a promise of things to come.

In my opinion, the luxury rental market is so under-developed, but an area in which it’s so easy to achieve results. Addressing this market by providing luxury facilities designed for purpose is key to success.

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