a building overlooking a city and lake
a building overlooking a city and lake

Four Seasons Private Residences New Orleans

Four Seasons is not only world renowned for its luxurious hotels but also its private residences. Here, LUX speaks to Paul White, President of Four Seasons Private Residences about the success and growth of the brand

a man in a blue blazer, pink shirt and blue tie wearing glasses

Paul White, President Four Seasons Private Residences

1. For the high net worth individual, what makes a Four Seasons Private Residence singularly attractive over a standalone home?

The goal of our residential strategy is to extend the Four Seasons lifestyle experience, creating the very best homes in the world – in the best locations, of the highest quality, and accompanied by Four Seasons legendary service. We are a “people powered brand” so this service is a fundamental part of our residential offering.

Alongside our renowned service offering, residents can enjoy the best of both worlds with exclusive and private homes that provide hotel-inspired amenities that they have come to love when staying with Four Seasons around the world. These amenities include incredible communal areas, private amenities and spacious lobbies and social areas.

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A major benefit to homeowners is that Four Seasons acts as the property managers of every residential property in our portfolio – we do not outsource to third parties like some other brands. If owners are only spending a portion of their time in-residence, they can trust that Four Seasons is on the ground and will care for and maintain their asset while they are away. This also safeguards their investment for the future.

2. Unlike unbranded residences, Four Seasons have a premium on trust and credibility in the luxury real estate sector. How has this buttressed the growing consumer desire for security and peace of mind amid the instability of the past year?

During the pandemic and as our industry looks forward to recovery, the trust and confidence in the Four Seasons brand, paired with our legendary service, is what residents are looking for and what is most appealing to prospective buyers. Especially in a lockdown scenario, they have all they need within the Four Seasons experience they know and trust.

During the height of the pandemic, more and more of our residents stayed in place in their Four Seasons home, a testament to the comfort, confidence and peace of mind they feel in the asset and in our service. Additionally, with guidance from internationally recognized experts, Four Seasons also developed Lead With Care, our enhanced global health and safety program focused on providing care, confidence and comfort to all guests, employees and residents within the new COVID-19 environment.

The use of technology to offer contactless service has become even more important in light of COVID-19, which is why we extended the award-winning Four Seasons App and Chat platforms to create a digital experience for our residents, accessible through their phones, tablets, or computers. The residential digital experience allows residents to further customise their residential lifestyle experience, including securely managing and maintaining their home, connecting with their designated Four Seasons team members, and requesting services with ease and convenience.

apartment block in Dubai

Four Seasons Private Residences Dubai

3. Owing to the phenomenal success of Four Seasons Private Residences, the brand is expecting to double its portfolio. How do you sustain its reputation for uniqueness and curation while pursuing growth on a global scale?

Our formula is to blend high profile real estate with the concept of lifestyle, to create the ultimate in luxury living for discerning homeowners who are in the market to purchase an amenity-rich and serviced residence or vacation home. Whether you live with us or vacation with us, a Four Seasons residential experience marries the world’s finest real estate and personalised, integrated service.

Our focus with both hotels and residences has always been to offer a world-class product in the best locations. We seek developers who can help us achieve this, and whose goals for offering the highest quality of location, architectural stature, interior design and amenities are aligned with ours. Our partners are equally as committed to excellence, and choose Four Seasons to deliver exceptional personalised service to residence owners.

As a brand, our residential offering is not new, but an important and growing part of our business. We have been a leader in branded residential since 1985, when the company opened its first private residences in Boston. Today, we operate 46 Private Residences globally, designed and built to Four Seasons standards in both global urban centers and gateway cities, as well as resort destinations.

4. Four Seasons branded residences have been around since 1985. Has there been a shift in the type of clientele since then?

Branded residential offerings are well suited to meet the changing needs of today’s buyer, not only by offering spacious, beautifully designed homes, but through the trust and strength of the brand and knowing that you and your home will be cared for.

Four Seasons buyers are not only looking for luxury and prestige – but also security, peace of mind and privacy – and are prepared to pay premium prices for a brand that goes above and beyond to deliver in these areas. A Four Seasons Private Residence make the perfect investment choice for both local and internationally mobile buyers, giving clients the opportunity to buy into a home with a globally recognised, reputable brand with both cache and credibility. As a result of the pandemic, we have also seen the lines blur around first, second, third homes. With the ability to work from anywhere, residents are using their homes differently than they have before.

living room

Four Seasons Private Residences. 20 Grosvenor Square

5. The private residences’ clientele ranges from full- and part-time occupants to those looking solely for an investment property. How do you cater to these various needs while maintaining an overall sense of cohesion and community?

The Four Seasons buyer profile varies from market to market – Four Seasons trends indicate that buyers are local who know the market and brand. There are also many UHNW buyers with an affinity to the Four Seasons, an affinity for a given location, and who are pre-disposed to buying real estate for personal use and enjoyment and/or as an investment.

While we are dedicated to upholding our brand standards, we recognise that the best real estate in the world is a genuine reflection of its locale. Each Four Seasons property is reflective of the unique culture, history and aesthetic of the destination in which it sits. We work closely with our designers and developers to understand the buyer profile in each location and optimise the design and amenities accordingly to meet the unique needs of the luxury consumer in that market and connect them more deeply with the local environment.

Read more: Luxury Travel Views: Four Seasons Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, Côte d’Azur

6. You are in the midst of growing your portfolio of standalone residences, with projects in London, Los Angeles, Marrakech and San Francisco. Tell us more about the process involved in these projects, and what differentiates them from other residences in the brand’s portfolio.

As a brand, Four Seasons is strategic and deliberate with the markets we choose to operate in. These standalone residential projects are unique in that they exist separately from hotels and resorts. They are a distinct yet complementary Four Seasons living experience, and in many global gateway markets we offer both standalone residential projects as well as residences that are connected to a hotel.

As we continue our robust residential expansion, our focus is on offering Four Seasons Private Residences in key destinations where our residents want to live, looking at the latest buying trends and understanding their residents and their needs. Our biggest differentiator is our service and this has always been driven by our people. It is our teams on the ground, led by a dedicated Director of Residences, who bring the Four Seasons experience to life, delivering the genuine, personalised service that defines our brand the world over.

Find out more: fourseasons.com

Reading time: 6 min
swimming pool at night
swimming pool at night

The El Mirador swimming pool at the Ritz-Carlton, Abama. Photograph by Gary Schmid.

Seclusion, service, tropical weather, Michelin-starred dining, multiple pools, golf, gardens and sports: The Ritz-Carlton, Abama offers an escape for everybody

As we all endure multiple lockdowns of varying strictness and duration, the idea of an escape from the past year’s febrile world is an attractive one. Time for a break from the pandemic fallout accompanied by multiple heated global conversations, including one which would have brought tears to Voltaire’s eyes, about whether we should actually be allowed to have a conversation.

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All of which makes your own beachside villa a delightful prospect. Although for some people, the attractiveness fades when you start to examine the details. It may have full service, but your chef realistically isn’t going to be able to rustle up a Michelin-starred Japanese meal one night and some molecular gastronomy the next. Your pool, while potentially big, will be just that, a pool, not a choice of numerous pools in different locations. As to the atmosphere, you’ll either have to make your own, or travel to the nearest establishment which has one.

Then, there is The Ritz-Carlton, Abama. Perched on a cliff at the southern edge of the Canary Islands, with a spectacular view across the sea to a volcano bursting out of the ocean and looking as if it might come alive at any moment (don’t worry, La Gomera hasn’t erupted for three million years). Abama has a sense of geography that would be the envy of many places in more exotic settings, in a location that is a short flight and transfer from the major cities of Europe.

view of red domed building

A view from the hotel’s Citadel building. Photograph by Roger Mendez Fotografo, S.L.

The luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel is at the heart of the complex, but we stayed at one of the villas, located on a series of pathways traversing exotic hanging gardens tumbling down the peak of the cliff. Despite the name, these are not villas per se, as they do not have a kitchen: ours was a large private apartment, with two big bedrooms with vaulted ceilings, marble bathrooms with North African touches, a marble living and dining room, and no fewer than four balconies, all facing the sea, the volcano and, at night, a view of the stars for which the islands are famous.

Read more: Professor Peter Newell on why the wealthy need to act on climate change

On our first night, we became addicted to room service, taking it on the biggest of the balconies, itself the size of a decent suite. Iberico ham, local Canarian potatoes with an intensity of taste served with a spicy vegetable sauce, the day’s catch of local white fish, and as secluded as you might ever want to be. Eventually one evening we headed out to El Mirador restaurant. This is located below the villas with its own pool, on the edge of the cliff itself. We dined on the restaurant’s speciality, its seafood paella with clams, mussels, white fish and calamari.

The resort exists in an elevated sphere of gastronomy. A short ride in your own dedicated golf buggy takes you up the hillside to Kabuki, an outpost of the famed Madrid restaurant of the same name, with a 100km view in three directions, a Michelin star and dishes that remain in the soul, like butterfish and white truffle nigiri, and white fish and Iberian pancetta sushi.

beach club

The Beach Club. Photograph by Roger Mendez Fotografo, S.L.

There are more outdoor pools than we could count – we gave up at ten. Each set of villas has its own long, sinuous, sneaky 40m-long pool at whose side socially distanced sunbathing on the garden terrace, accompanied by butterflies and exotic flowers, is not just possible, it happens naturally. This is a place with a luxury of space.

At the bottom of the cliff, accessible by lift, hotel transport or a short walk, is the only white-sand beach of the island, with its own beach restaurant, bar, rock diving spots and a sheltered swimming area where even short swim brings you into visual contact with an array of multicoloured fish. And at the top of the resort, high on the mountainside, is one of Spain’s most celebrated 18-hole golf courses, and a set of championship quality tennis courts.

The facilities of one of the world’s greatest hotels with the seclusion of a villa? The best, as Voltaire’s Candide would say, of all worlds.

Book your stay: ritzcarlton.com

Reading time: 3 min
The Excelsior hotel Hong Kong
Hong Kong Mandarin Oriental The Excelsior

The Excelsior is a cathedral to modern tourism and business travel

Luxury hotels are not all about marble bathrooms and art in the corridors: without perfect service and functionality, a luxury hotel is not worth the title. Darius Sanai holds up Mandarin Oriental’s Hong Kong behemoth as a case study – technically, it’s not a luxury hotel, but the experience should be an example for all hoteliers on how it’s done.

The idea of staying at a Mandarin Oriental hotel conjures up a dreamy vision, a blend of eastern exoticism and richness of service. And this dream is generally an accurate predictor of what you’ll receive in the only luxury city hotel group that, for me, perfectly combines the style and individuality of a boutique private resort group with the functionality of a major luxury chain.

‘Functionality’ is probably not a word that appears in Mandarin’s, or any group’s staff manual, but it’s a key element of a top hotel and one that is overlooked too easily. I have stayed in boutique hotels whose bar staff don’t know what a cigar cutter is; design hotels where room service breakfast looks like something on a second-class train carriage; style hotels where the concierge forgets your restaurant reservation and today’s front office staff have no idea about the detailed conversation you had about your needs with yesterday’s front office staff. An adaptor for your European plug? Sorry, the guest who borrowed it last week didn’t bring ours back.

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I’m ok with having an orange sofa in the shape of a banana in my room; I’m delighted to find an oxygen machine and green juice in my minibar, it’s fine that the person showing me to my room is an easy-on-the-eye Instagram star, but when I travel, and I suspect I speak for a fair number of LUX readers here, what I need is functionality.

This is different to being able to process eccentric requests, or to having a fleet of Teslas to show your green credentials. Functionality is boring, and it makes the world go round. If I call on my way in from the airport and order dim sum in my room at precisely 6.30pm that night, it needs to be there; I don’t need to have to call at 6.45pm to be told, oh sorry, there’s no dim sum today, would you like anything else from the room service menu? The adaptor – already in the socket. Housekeeping needs to speak English and know the answer to a question about dry cleaning delicates without promising to call me back – I’m talking to you now, I don’t need to talk to you again. Room service should remember my breakfast order from yesterday so I don’t need ask all over again about gluten-free toast and no lemon in the water and do you have any sliced grapefruit, no, not juice, sliced actual grapefruit. The person who answers the ‘At Your Service’ function on the phone really does need to know everything about the hotel – it’s not at my service if you have to be a broker between me and the rest of the hotel.

Read next: Searching for serenity in the Nepalese Himalayas

Staff need, in general, to know not just about what you are asking them, but every element of the hotel, so the host in the French restaurant on Floor 2 is clued-in that you have a car for the airport at 9.30pm and the staff there already know to serve dinner in time, while the concierge has already had the bell boy pick up your bags (and return the adaptor to reception so they don’t add a charge to your bill).

Which brings me back to Mandarin Oriental hotels. All the ones I have stayed at, from Hong Kong to New York, score high marks in this kind of functionality. Not unusual – a minimum requirement for a luxury hotel, and one which is shared by competitors like Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton.

There is a hotel that appears in the Mandarin Oriental portfolio, though, that doesn’t bear the brand name. The Excelsior in Hong Kong is part of the group, but not; it’s just called The Excelsior, and doesn’t share the luxury status or accoutrements of its more illustrious sisters. It’s a good bit cheaper, as well.

The Excelsior, Hong Kong

A Deluxe Double Room at The Excelsior

I have just bid The Excelsior farewell for the last time. I had a three-year advisory contract with a Hong Kong-based client, whose company booked me into the Excelsior for all of my four-to-six-time-a-year stays. Having, on previous trips to Hong Kong, stayed at the Mandarin Oriental, its sister hotel the Landmark, and other luxury citadels like the Four Seasons and Upper House, I have found myself staying in The Excelsior for something like 15 times over the last three years, for nearly a week at a time; that’s more than 90 nights, enough to get to know a place, or get weary of it.

The sole sub-luxury hotel of my global itineraries for LUX, my luxury consultancy Quartet Consulting, and my other employer Condé Nast, the 848-room monolith, at the ‘wrong end’ of Hong Kong to the financial bustle of Central, with its plethora of groups from mainland China, should have stood out as a step down, a place to be endured, perhaps even complained about to my client. One colleague did complain: a creative director who travelled with me once took one look and instantly changed addresses to a boutique hotel, which turned out to have paper-thin walls and chaotic service, but which had Tom Dixon light fittings.

Read next: Fine artist and model, Orla Carolin on modelling’s need for greater equality 

The Excelsior is a cathedral to modern tourism and business travel. Thousands seem to flow through its two facades every day. Its rooms are homage to the era when hotel rooms weren’t really designed; the bathroom’s on your right (with a shower in the bath), the safe’s in the cupboard on your left, the desk is in front if you, and the bed’s over there. To walk into my room (2422, usually) after the 12 hour flight from London should have been to be hit with a wave of mundane gloom: my functional home for the next six days.

But I rather loved the Excelsior. My room, like most others (I never received special treatment there) looked out over the harbour to Kowloon, and past to the mountains in China, with that spectacular and unique mix of commerciality, romance, urban ugliness, urban beauty, noise, light and possibility that Hong Kong epitomises.

My flight would touch down at 5pm on a Sunday night, and, arriving at the hotel around 7, I would get changed (a shower in a bath is fine) and walk outside into the neon-lit streets. The crazy signs and lights of the Laforet stall, the crowds of shoppers at any hour, the shops on the Lockhart road selling Chinese roots and beauty products and barbecued chicken and technicolour drinks; these were an instant hit of Hong Kong, unlike anything you will receive in the sanitised central business area a mile or so away.

I would then walk back to hotel for dinner at Yee Tung Heen, the Cantonese restaurant on the second floor. A formal, sophisticated, old-fashioned place with white glove service and tablecloths and a vast menu of traditional Cantonese dishes, it is apparently a favourite place for a treat for local families – and appears absolutely nowhere on the fashionable tourism agenda. Bare sharing tables, fusion offerings, Cantonese cocktails – all are on offer elsewhere in Hong Kong, but Yee Tung Heen has extreme comfort, peace, an excellent wine list, and superb food. From the boiled peanuts which I dipped into the homemade XO sauce as a pre-starter, to the steamed garoupa with ginger and lime, to the citadel of Chinese mushrooms, this was the best food I had in three years of being shuttled around Michelin-starred restaurants in Hong Kong.

The Excelsior, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong

ToTT’s bar has the best views of Hong Kong from the roof terrace

After dinner, jet lagged, knowing this would be my only night “in” during my stay, I’d ask for the rest of the bottle of Riesling to meet me at the rooftop bar, ToTT’s. It inevitably got there before I did, a table would be waiting and I would sip a glass and marvel at the best view of Hong Kong from anywhere: 34th floor, with a precipitous view of both the city and Kowloon across the water, and the canyon of lights leading away through anonymous forests of blocks into the eastern distance.

“Room Service, Wendy speaking, how can I help you Mr Sanai, would you like the same as usual?” – how did Wendy remember, or care, among 848 rooms, with my several week period of absence each time, about the jug of American coffee, empty bowl with spoon, sliced apple and orange, and Welsh sparkling water (not the revolting San Pellegrino)? How did the entire concierge and front desk staff always know exactly when my limo for the return to the airport was booked? How did it all link up in such a vast hotel with its streams of bemused and voluble first-time tourists?

My theory, though I can’t be sure, is that the Excelsior is a kind of test-bed for Mandarin Oriental’s staff: if they can operate at peak standard at the Excelsior, they can do it anywhere.

It’s a rare anomaly of a hotel where the service is super-luxury and the rooms are barely above three-star (a recent refurbishment stripped them of their most attractive element, 1990s-retro oak panelling and desks that ran the length of the walls, replacing them with forgettable florals and whites). And I’ll take it that way anytime. The Excelsior may never be a LUX Hotel of the Month – not unless it is knocked down and rebuilt, as the old Intourist in Moscow gave way to the new Ritz Carlton – but every luxury hotelier should pay a visit to see how hotels ought to operate.


Reading time: 8 min