Suite Envy - MEDITERRANEAN SUITE, MANDARIN ORIENTAL, BODRUM

Not all hotels are designed equally – this is a simple fact. No matter how much money is spent, marble lavished, oak varnished, terrazzo laid and gilt applied, it is essentially the design, attention to detail, F&B and functionality of a property that sets one apart from the rest. And in the case of the Mandarin Oriental in Bodrum, its suites are some of the best designed I have ever seen, especially the Mediterranean Suite I had the good fortune to road test for a long weekend towards the tail end of summer, which, I might add, is an excellent time to visit any resort if one wishes to avoid crowds and kids.

Don’t get me wrong, I love children, but when splashing this kind of cash, one imagines that a discerning traveller surely requires some peace and quiet to tenderly take in and revel in the pure unadulterated high-end hospitality gorgeousness of it all. Not to mention enjoy the luxe facilities, appreciate the carefully considered touches and admire the beautiful finishing. As I was reluctantly packing to check-out of 145m2 of suite bliss, a sleek black helicopter, with a modern fan-in-fin style tail rotor, landed a few hundred metres away, gently depositing a group of guests within the resort. How envious I was of them at the beginning of their deluxe Bodrum break, just as I was leaving.

Bodrum was not always a playground for the wealthy and fabulous. On the contrary, apart from ground-breaking boho chic beach club and boutique hotel, Maçakazi, which twenty years ago started Bodrum on its luxury travel trajectory, for much of its early touristic life the destination was serviced by bargain basement charter flights filled with cheap and cheerful sunshine seekers. The plethora of superyachts parked in and around Paradise Bay and its surrounding crystalline waters today, together with six-star spas, supermodels and billionaires sipping expensive malts and magnums of fine bubbly, have all arrived in recent years. Nowadays the pretty Turkish peninsula is a go-to destination for discriminating travellers, and has done a rather good job of setting to one discreetly fenced-off side, its once widespread image of tourist hordes, cheap bars and all-night discos.

When in 2005 Kempinski opened a delightful 173-room resort overlooking Barbaros Bay, there soon followed a noticeable increase in the number of gullets (traditional Turkish wooden sailing boats) in the waters around Bodrum, and increasingly larger yachts began to appear more regularly, the like of which had previously dropped anchor in the Caribbean for the European winters. Next came 36-cottage Amanruya in 2011, a then eye-wateringly pricey (for the area) ultra-exclusive Aman property.

Beautifully laid out on multiple levels of a hillside, amidst an ancient olive grove, Amanruya is skilfully bedded into its surroundings by a strong architectural synergy to regional villages, and further elevated Bodrum’s hospitality image, just 75-minutes flying time south of Istanbul. The introduction of direct flights from a number of important travel hubs, not least London and Dubai, positively beckoned premium class passengers to at least investigate Turkey’s premier resort town and Aegean coast yachting center. Since then, top end travellers have kept coming back, and some would say that this class of holidaymaker now outnumbers the budget brigade, at the very least in their spending power.

Mandarin Oriental is an iconic Asian luxury hotel group which prides itself on its excellent service, high quality accommodations, Asian authenticity and top global locations. In short, the brand provides 21st century luxury with oriental charm and finesse in some of the world’s most desirable destinations. So, Mandarin’s first Turkish outpost was always going to be very special.

Purpose built to cater for people who take their holidaying very seriously, and opened in 2014 to much fanfare, Mandarin Oriental Bodrum is a sprawling ultra-elite resort of 129 oversized guestrooms, suites, apartments and villas, all of which are amongst the largest five-star lodgings on the peninsula. Each has its own sun-deck, terrace or balcony, and many have lush private gardens and generous infinity pools.

Irrespective of size, every guest room is dedicated to the art of vacationing, from the spacious 72m2 entry-level garden view rooms, which are bigger than many a standard hotel suite, to the bulletproof 7-bedroom presidential villa coming in at EUR 40k/night. And once inside the complex there is basically no reason to leave, since absolutely everything one could possibly wish for whilst on holiday is quite literally at the end of a cobblestoned path, timber boardwalk or ‘0’ on the phone.

Pretty much everything has been designed with exclusivity in mind. A fleet of leather-upholstered buggies swish guests around in the appropriate fashion, between the sumptuous three-storey spa complete with VIP penthouse and garden cabanas, Blue Beach Club on the edge of the Aegean, a multitude of gastronomic options, and jetties against which superyachts are routinely moored whilst their passengers dine on innovative Japanese fare at Kurochan by Ioki, overlooking the resort’s main sands. The possibilities for eating, drinking, reclining and enjoying life to the full are seemingly endless within the portals of this idyllic 60-hectare vacation paradise.

As I’ve always said, luxury is different things to different people. For some, space and time and freedom is all they’ve ever wanted. For others, rich fabrics, deep duvets, plush drapes and cashmere blankets make their world go around. In the case of a Mediterranean Suite at Mandarin Oriental Bodrum, the luxury inimitably lies in the height, light, design and, most of all, the attention to interior detailing. This is one exceptionally well planned and executed suite, delivering perfectly on all the levels one would expect at its price point.

What strikes you immediately, once through the gloriously tall solid wood entrance doors, is the sense of serenity and calm which permeates the large loft-like space. This is thanks to the abundance of natural daylight which floods in through 12-metres of floor-to-ceiling doors filling one wall of the lounge – which open onto a private garden and pool – plus two giant skylights, one of which illuminates the bathroom from above. Married with the liberal use of different types of stone and timber, not to mention Turkish rugs and naturally coloured furnishings, cushions and curtains, the overall effect is one of immense warmth and calm quite literally from the moment you enter.

Dark wood tables with dark green marble surfaces, and timeless teak armchairs meticulously upholstered, are juxtapositioned with grooved white stone walls which add a subtle touch of 70s glam. Furniture of varying heights – including a cool high-top table topped with a slab of locally quarried stone and surrounded by chunky solid wood stools – draw the eye to all parts of the space, which serves as an extension to the pool deck when the massive 3m square doors are fully open. Off the lounge, a stainless-steel kitchenette is connected to the real world via a separate entrance so butlers can discreetly deliver room service, and a guest powder room is laden with Shanghai Tang toiletries.

Outside, the enclosed private gardens and large infinity pool – the latter lined in rich Verde Guetamala sourced from India – combine to create the perfect ode to al fresco eating, poolside lounging and sun worshipping in supreme style, complete with a huge curtained day bed, outdoor shower, oversized loungers and dining for six.

In the bedroom, night lights are discreetly built into bespoke hand-woven leather headboards, bedside table panels feature a ‘blackout’ button which works to a tee, soft furnishings abound in soothing tones, and more floor-to-ceiling doors slide open towards the private back garden. In the spacious master bath, a beige deep-soaking tub sits a few metres away from a long vanity topped with handmade porcelain bowls finished in a stunning cracked turquoise glaze. A massive walk-in shower enclosure at one end of the room boasts a variety of showering options and doubles up as a steam room.

Since the design and décor is so spot on, artwork, flowers and objet d’art would be superfluous anywhere within this suite. Such design perfection is not easy to achieve in any environment, let alone hotels, which are notorious for their louche impersonality. Acclaimed international designer, Antonio Citterio, is to be applauded for so perfectly executing such sweet accommodation, to not only take full advantage of the resort’s outstanding vistas across Cennet Koyu, but also allow guests to feel at one with nature.

I am rarely one to stay behind closed doors, especially when presented with the excitement of a new destination. Blurring the lines between inside and out, rendering everything as one immaculate Mandarin Oriental hospitality world, so perfectly designed was my Mediterranean Suite that, despite the lure of happening beach clubs and gourmet restaurants mere minutes from my abode, I was reluctant to leave it for the duration of my time in Bodrum. On check-out day, I extended my departure time as late as I possibly could without offending the hosts at my next stop. Next time, perhaps it would be easier not to check out at all. 

Nicholas Chrisostomou stayed in a Mediterranean Suite at Mandarin Oriental Bodrum in September 2017, when the nightly rate was EUR 3,725 inclusive of breakfast and taxes.

Suite Envy - Park Hyatt Vienna

Number 2 Am Hof has been an important building in the heart of Vienna for decades. One of the most prestigious addresses in the Austrian capital, whilst today the square on which it sits, Am Hof, is dominated by the white Baroque façade of the Kirche am Hof (built between 1386 and 1403 by the Carmelite Order), the site was once Vindobona fort and military garrison, established by Roman troops in 98 A.D. Centuries later in the Middle Ages, the then Duke of Austria erected Babenberg Castle on the Am Hof, repurposing the remaining walls of the Roman fort into a palace.

At its height, the grand Babenberg Castle hosted such luminaries as Barbarossa and Walter von der Vogelweide, the famed minnesänger who starred in Wagner’s Tannhäuser. The castle was the official residence of Austria’s dukes until 1220 and the square in front of it was often used for jousting. Later, once the Habsburgs had moved to the castle of today, the square became a marketplace. Today, hundreds of years later, Am Hof is still used for markets, festivals and fairs and is very much the oldest and most historic square in Vienna.

The present building at Am Hof 2, affectionately referred to by many as “The Pearl of Vienna” and originally the headquarters of Austrian Länderbank, was erected more than a century ago between 1913 and 1915. The imposing six-storey edifice was designed by Ernst von Gotthilf and Alexander Neumann, star Austrian architects of the time, who had previously conceived a number of prominent structures in the city, including the headquarters of the Vienna Bank Corporation and the stunning private residence of David Fanto, the massive Palais Fanto. Their Austrian Länderbank building was amongst the first in Vienna to be fashioned in a neoclassical style, embodying the splendour of the Wilhelminian era whilst also incorporating elegant Jugendstil elements.

Unsurprisingly since the Wilhelmine Period roughly coincided with the Belle Époque era, the Austrian Länderbank building bears many beautiful hallmarks of the time, including an ornate frontage facing Am Hof, sculptured ornamentation above the stately Doric-columned portico and a gable decorated with three-dimensional figures. A frieze of Greek keys and rosettes and an elegantly protruding cornice unifies the building’s elongated side elevations with the magnificent front façade. Inside the building included many opulent features and careful detailing which were considered lavish for the early 20th century, including a wood-lined elevator inlaid with mother-of-pearl, which was used to ferry the bank’s directors to their offices, a grand marble staircase, oak parquet floors and rooms completely paneled in dark walnut. By all accounts von Gotthilf and Neumann’s creation for Bank Austria was something of a first in many respects, particularly one hundred years ago, so the job of renovating and restoring the structure a century later, let alone reworking it into a luxury hotel containing every modern-day convenience, was never going to be easy or straightforward.

The task of reimagining the interior of the 100 year-old building, and overseeing its transformation from a financial hub to a 21st century hospitality haven, was the job of interior design duo Colin P. Finnigan and Gerard Glintmeijer of Amsterdam-based firm FG stijl. Their incredibly visionary concept for Hyatt’s first property in Austria was not only elegant and contemporary at the same time – seamlessly and tenderly interlacing the old with the new – but also breathed new light, energy and vigor into a relatively rigid building that could so easily have become oppressive and pompous.

After three years work and despite a catastrophic fire, Finngan and Glintmeijer’s skilled and beautifully executed juxtaposition between the building’s history and the building’s future resulted in public spaces, corridors, restaurants and guest rooms which are a joy to behold and move around in, and feel as casual as they do smart. Whilst an underlying sense of decorum is palpable throughout the building, it is also a space to enjoy and be enjoyed.

From the outside and considering its slightly intimidating façade, one would imagine that staying at Park Hyatt Vienna – amidst the huge columns, fine marble, gleaming brass, wood paneling and alabaster ceilings – might be a stifling and staid experience. On the contrary, once inside sofas beg to be lounged on, cushions squeezed, chairs sat in and every handsome detail, exquisite nook and charming cranny beckons to be discovered. The entire building feels like it has been designed to be used, by people, rather than devised for looks alone with functionality and aesthetics coming second. Nowhere is this more evident that the hotel’s best suite.

The best suites in five-star hotels literally come in all shapes and styles. Generally, they are always large. But from the contemporary to the traditional, and the cutting-edge to the whimsical, there is no hard and fast rule about how a showpiece suite will feel once you’ve put the key in the door and stepped inside. From my personal experience, those laden with grand pianos and huge chandeliers, and bedecked with acres of marble, miles of curtains and walls of dark wood, are the most unfriendly, unwelcoming and downright uncomfortable places to unpack one’s cases and lay one’s head. Not so Park Hyatt Vienna’s 170m2 Presidential Suite.

Situated on the high-ceilinged bel étage, overlooking the city’s most fancy shopping street on the corner where Am Hof meets Bognergasse, Park Hyatt Vienna’s Presidential Suite strikes just the right balance between tasteful opulence and warm livability. I felt right at home within moments of setting down my bits and bobs on a console and my MacBook in the office.

The oval salon is hung with a massive Josef Hoffman-designed Lobmeyr crystal chandelier, which was apparently increased from its original size to have greater impact in the main living space. Whilst huge and OTT it really is a thing of beauty. A three-metre curved sofa echoes the shape of the room, facing a large hi-tech TV casually sitting on the floor in front of a curved bank of 4.5-metre windows and plush drapes. Beyond them a balustraded balcony which, from the outside, accentuates the rounded corner between Bognergasse and Seitzergasse. An antique 1937 Bosenddorfer grand piano sits coolly to one side of the lounge – present but not screaming to be noticed – sans candelabra. Meanwhile in the dining room, a dreamy Casper Faassen painting enjoys pride of place in the middle of a huge wall, looking down on a silver leafed table equally equipped for eating and conferencing.

Towering walnut bookcases laden with gorgeous objet d’art fill one wall of the masculine yet comfy office, where a large L-shaped desk inset with champagne-coloured stingray is offset by a deep-buttoned ivory leather swivel armchair. And so it goes on, every space brimming with detailing, fabric covered walls, mother-of-pearl, silver leafing and more detailing. Not to mention marble – plenty of marble. For me the pièces de résistance are the spectacular wall of lapis in the master bathroom, and the 3-metre mother-of-pearl encrusted oval mirror in the guest cloakroom, which was so huge it was impossible to photograph. I almost forgot the Lalique taps, the mirrored bath tub fit for a pop diva, the custom-designed silvered four-poster canopy bed, and the slick black kitchen equipped with every convenience, complete with a separate entrance for clandestine room service deliveries. Yet, despite being surrounded by such glamour, lavishness, excruciatingly expensive finishes and valuable antiques and bespoke furniture at every turn, the suite was comfortable, entirely usable and functioned just beautifully.

Double-glazing and electrically-operated blackouts and curtains ensured that I slept like a baby, and room service breakfasts gently eased me into each day. And what I liked most about the suite, was that from the corridor outside, you had no idea what grandeur lay beyond the relatively nondescript single guest room door. Pure class.

Park Hyatt Vienna is a place that stirs guests’ emotions, welcomes them with open arms and rewards them with luxuries, pampering and fond memories, the latter being as much about GM Monique Decker and her spirited and caring staff than it is about the warm environment they have created.

The architectural beauty of Park Hyatt Vienna is that from an artistic and historical standpoint, inside and out Am Hof 2 is much the same as it was when the building first went up in the early 1900s. This is an incredible feat when you consider that inside now contains every modern-day hospitality convenience, seamlessly integrated into the old structure, and the hotel’s guest rooms are some of the most sumptuous and spacious in the city. A testament as much to Dutch interior design duo Finnigan and Glintmeijer as it is to Am Hof 2’s original creators von Gotthilf and Neumann, these four experts – spanning more than one hundred years of craftsmanship and design – have between them guaranteed that The Pearl of Vienna will stand proud over the Austrian capital’s most famous square for at least another century. 

Nicholas Chrisostomou stayed in the EUR 5,000/night Presidential Suite at Park Hyatt Vienna in July 2017. The nightly rate includes Mercedes S-Class airport transfers, breakfast and taxes.