Summer Camp Like a Grown-Up: Luxury Getaways for the Kid at Heart - Luxury Travel Magazine

Summer Camp Like a Grown-Up: Luxury Getaways for the Kid at Heart - Luxury Travel Magazine


Summer Camp Like a Grown-Up: Luxury Getaways for the Kid at Heart - Luxury Travel Magazine

Posted: 01 Jun 2021 02:53 PM PDT

As we officially welcome the dog days of summer, fond memories of childhood summers spent at camp are top-of-mind. Lazy days spent lakeside, arts and crafts, horse rides, archery and sleeping under the stars topped off with stories and s'mores around the campfire.

These summertime shenanigans are far from over at the resorts listed below –– offering guests an abundance of activities reminiscent of their days at summer camp (with an elevated twist). Stargazing, bee workshops, lakefront lounging, wildlife safaris, naturalist workshops, axe throwing and kite-surfing are just a few of the camp-inspired activities guests can enjoy –– finished off with s'mores and a nightcap, of course. Travelers can kick it back old school and indulge in a vacation with something offered for every kid at heart.

Ventana Big Sur | Big Sur, California (pictured)

Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort, is set on 160 acres of rolling meadows and redwood forests in the heart of the California Central Coast, perched overlooking the Pacific coastline. This iconic property offers a wide variety of activities for an elevated summertime experience reminiscent of your fondest memories at summer camp. Begin each day with a morning yoga class or perhaps a guided hike around the property. Then, partake in one of the workshops and activities offered through the Alila Experience Program—options include Star Bathing, Falconry Experience, Photography Hike Workshop, Exploration in Chalk-Pastel / Acrylics / Watercolor, Touch Earth's Essence Clay Workshop and much more. At the end of a day full of activities, head to the Social House for s'mores –– a gourmet version from the executive pastry chef or opt for a nostalgic version ready to roast on an open fire while reminiscing on the day's adventures.

Carmel Valley Ranch | Carmel, CA

Carmel Valley Ranch has always been an escape with plenty of room to roam, explore, and discover. The Ranch's 500-acre playground offers endless activities, dining experiences, relaxation opportunities, wellness programming and more for the entire family. Outdoor adventures abound among the gardens, beehives, trails, and the wonders of Carmel Valley –– with workshops and activities lead by the property's artisans in residence. Enjoy outdoor activities like archery, falconry, naturalist workshops, hiking, tennis, bee workshops at the apiary and more along with the brand new Equine Experiences, offering guests therapeutic ways to embrace and celebrate the power of horses. Head to the artisan workbench to hand-churn ice cream, wine taste, learn more about cheese at the on-site creamery –– then finish the day fireside with s'mores (and perhaps a nightcap) to reflect on the day's summertime adventures.

The Cloudveil | Jackson Hole, WY

Located at the gateway to the Grand Teton National Park and one hour south of Yellowstone National Park, endless activities are within reach while staying at The Cloudveil, an Autograph Collection Hotel –– the only hotel located in Jackson's Town Square and the perfect launching pad for all of your adventures. The hotel's outdoor-savvy concierges, known as Pathfinders, can craft the perfect itinerary for you thanks to their local knowledge of the area. Snowshoe through Grand Teton National Park, explore the hidden side of Yellowstone, or embark on a wildlife safari with Jackson Hole Eco Tours where you'll learn to interpret animal signs, learn about the ecology of the park and see loads of wildlife –– all supplemented with a luxury picnic packed by Chef Gavin Fine. Finish off the day fireside on The Rooftop, and overlook Jackson Hole Town square while recounting the day's adventures with a nightcap in hand.

ADERO Scottsdale, an Autograph Collection hotel | Scottsdale, AZ

Perched high above the Sonoran Desert, ADERO Scottsdale is the only Autograph Collection destination in a certified Dark Sky Community. Reminisce on past summer camp days with stargazing at ADERO Scottsdale, as the resort offers two signature moments that promotes the hotel's stewardship to the Living Desert:

  • Daily Sky Chart: The resort telescope is available by request and can be placed in-room for guests. A Night Sky Chart is provided for a self-guided tour of the galaxy, in addition to information about ADERO's Dark Sky Zone and tips on the many ways to enjoy the night sky at the resort.
  • Stargazing: After sunset the night sky comes alive, and ADERO Scottsdale invites guests to the Stargazing Lawn to soak in the Dark Sky while enjoying light bites and drinks from CIELO. On select evenings the resort offers guided stargazing from the "Star Dudes," ADERO's Dark Sky Zone experts. Images: here.

Mission Point Resort | Mackinac Island, MI

Mission Point Resort transcends time -- located on the sunrise side of Mackinac Island, Mission Point offers a lakeside retreat for guests to create generations of memories. Named the number one summer destination in America, Mackinac Island is often referred to as being suspended in a forgotten, more innocent time. The island is well known for its hiking and biking trails, given it boasts over 70 miles of hiking and biking on just 3.8 square miles of land. Mission Point is set on 18 acres of lakefront property where Lake Huron meets Lake Michigan, and offers an abundance of outdoor programming that will transport you back to the warm summer camp days -- ranging from tennis matches, the Greens of Mackinac (an 18-hole putting course), as well as horseback riding, kayaking, and more.

Hotel Drover, an Autograph Collection hotel | Fort Worth, TX

Kick off your boots and grab a canteen cocktail at The Backyard, Hotel Drover's half-acre outdoor oasis. Transport back to the good ol' days of warm summer nights underneath the twinkling stars with a reserved fire pit and s'mores kit. Roast marshmallows while overlooking the Marine Creek and if you're lucky, live country music will be heard from The Backyard Unplugged so you can enjoy the old western vibes all night long.

Twin Farms | Barnard, VT 

With adventures for every type of traveler, the best of New England is brought to life at Twin Farms - the casually luxurious, exclusive retreat settled amongst lush Vermont mountains. New for 2021, guests can now find an adventure at every turn of the property's sprawling 400-acres with its newly enhanced activities program! Each day, guests will receive a full activities schedule packed with different seasonal adventures to take advantage of at their leisure. Daily activities include, fitness classes, yoga, fly fishing lessons, hikes, guided bike trail rides, mountain golf, pickleball, archery, axe throwing, art tours, tennis, paddle boarding, canoeing, bee/honey tours, skiing lessons, ice fishing, horseback riding and so much more - all included in your stay! Guests also have the option to make any activity a private, guided lesson for an additional cost.

Under Canvas Lake Powell - Grand Staircase | Big Water, UT

Gather round the campfire at Under Canvas Lake Powell-Grand Staircase this summer for the ultimate "summer camp" experience. Offering complimentary nightly s'mores, a partnership with Gibson guitars, stargazing, water activities, hiking, and more, this summer camp unlike any other is perched on the edge of the Canyon Rim Plateau with views from the lake to its namesake, Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument. Suitable for all adults, accommodations are West Elm outfitted tents on elevated decks with private ensuite bathrooms, complete with a rustic design spanning over 220 acres of beautiful land. With the camp centered around a lobby lounge tent where guests (or campers) can enjoy board games, a book, Western inspired cuisine, retail offerings and the hub for outdoor adventure, kids-at-heart will make a visit to Lake Powell - Grand Staircase an annual summer tradition.

Hotel del Coronado | San Diego, CA

Set on one of America's most iconic beaches, the legendary Hotel del Coronado has been welcoming travelers for over 130 years to experience the very best of Southern California's coastal lifestyle. This seaside getaway is an unparalleled site for a summer camp-inspired getaway, with its private sailing excursions, surf lessons, stand up paddle boarding, Painting by the Sea. Power Hula fitness classes, bike tours and more to stay busy and soak up the summer sunshine. At night, guests can gather round their private campfire to roast s'mores (complete with all of the adult-friendly fixings like wine, cheese, berries and more), as a roster of summer movies are projected right on the beach, with the Pacific Ocean and glowing stars as a backdrop.

Epic Discovery | Vail and Breckenridge, Colorado

This summer, visit Vail and Breckenridge in Colorado and try Epic Discovery for some adrenaline-fueled adventure to really clear the mind and press reset. The Epic Discovery program encourages active adventure-seekers to "learn through play," promoting environmental education and forest stewardship with numerous fun experiential outdoor activities

  • Epic Discovery at Vail: Beginning June 19 - September 6, Epic Discovery at Vail offers thrilling activities of the Forest Flyer mountain coaster, bungee trampoline, Eagle's Nest tubing, Little Eagle zip line and Paramount Peak climbing wall.
  • Peak 8 Basecamp at Epic Discovery: Opening on Friday, June 18, the Peak 8 Basecamp offers signature Epic Discovery summer activities of scenic rides, biking, GoldRunner coaster, Alpine slides, Lil' Climber ropes course, Lil' Flyer zipline, Silver Summit Climbing Wall, Tom's Nugget tubing, mini golf and more
  • Alpine Camp at Epic Discovery: Alpine Camp will be located just steps off the top of the Colorado SuperChair and the heart of Epic Discovery's newest activities and adventures at Breck. This will include the interpretive hiking loop with activities throughout, Observation Tower (11,000 feet up!), Alpineer challenge course, and 40-foot Gold Summit climbing wall.

Marquis Los Cabos | Baja California, Mexico

Located directly on the tip of Baja California Sur, Marquis Los Cabos sits beachfront where the desert mountains meet the Sea of Cortez. The adults-only, all-inclusive resort is a luxury take on summer camp for adults, with two infinity-edge sunset and sunrise pools and a roster of complementary activities to keep "campers" busy and enjoying the sunshine - from cooking classes, salsa dancing, tennis lessons, target shooting, beach soccer, archery, tequila tastings, mixology classes, and more. What's more, after a day at play, the "dining hall" is actually five superb culinary options, with plenty of options to eat and drink while staring at the night stars.

Necker Island | British Virgin Islands 

Being stranded on a private island has never been so chic and Necker Island is the ultimate all-inclusive adult camp. Available for exclusive-use only, adults seeking an adventure-packed holiday will have Sir Richard Branson's private island to themselves, where they can spend the days kitesurfing, paddle boarding and kayaking over the crystal Caribbean waters or swimming with the sea turtles. On land, an array of activities awaits - from spending that day roaming the island and hanging out with any of the eight Giant Tortoises that roam the island freely, or in the Lemur and bird enclosures, to playing chess on oversized outdoor chess board overlooking the ocean. At night, sneak up to the crowsnest and watch the Caribbean stars glisten and shooting stars fly by.

The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island | Amelia Island, FL

Situated on a remote Barrier Island, the resort is an idyllic beachfront escape with 13 miles of expansive, private beaches, nature-driven experiences and warm hospitality - packed with different activities and adventures, perfect for an adult summer camp feeling vacation. This year, the resort begins a new chapter with the debut of a renovation of guest rooms and suites, new culinary venues, and a Year of the Pearl campaign in celebration of their 30th anniversary. With extensive culinary offerings, a world-class spa and renowned service, guests can relax and indulge, or get outside and take advantage of the 18-hole championship golf course, indoor and outdoor pools and direct beach access. The resort naturalist has created a guide for small groups to use on hikes along the beaches and dunes where they learn about the history of the island and the natural habitats. Birding and shark tooth hunting on the beach are guest favorite activities that can be done self-guided as well, and kayaking and small group or individual water sports are readily available.

Rancho Bernardo Inn | San Diego, CA

Located in quintessential North County San Diego, adults can escape and experience a secluded San Diego getaway at Rancho Bernardo Inn, where personal luxury meets playful freedom. The property's 265 acres is a haven for summer activities, including a variety of lawn games like cornhole, croquet and oversized Connect Four; Mello Yoga in the stunning and serene Santiago Courtyard; a game room with Nintendo Wii, Playstation 4 or Xbox games; and more. Looking to spread your wings? Reserve a private falconry experience and get up close and interact with some of nature's top predators. Play field games with hawks, bond with owls and learn the history of falconry with each private session.

Surf & Sand Resort | Laguna Beach, CA

A leader in coastal luxury, Surf & Sand is the perfect summer getaway, sitting right on Laguna Beach's shoreline. Guests can take in the sun while relaxing on the sand or enjoying the oceanfront pool, or for those looking to try something new, the hotel offers surfing, bodyboarding and SUP lessons. For the foodies, start the summer with their signature restaurant's new dinner series. Inspired by Splashes' stunning oceanfront location, the culinary team has created a High Tide Dinner Series with a specially crafted menu and wine pairings that align with each month's full moon — June 24th will highlight the Strawberry Moon.

L'Auberge de Sedona | Sedona, AZ

Known as the "dark sky" city, stargazing in Sedona is unlike any other. L'Auberge de Sedona serves as the perfect setting to explore nature's spectacular stars, with complimentary stargazing offered to guests weekly. Join astronomer Dennis Young after dark and be guided on a tour of Sedona's world-famous night skies. Other outdoor-centric experiences include sound healing and daily yoga sessions. This summer, guests can also take part in the hotel's all-new mindful and restorative-centric Revitalization Retreat. Professional Life Coach and Soul-Centered Facilitator Donna Bond is at the helm alongside L'Auberge de Sedona and its skilled group of practitioners and healers. Together, they will guide guests throughout this 4-night, 5-day experience and offer the coaching, tools and activities necessary to make intentional and sustainable changes to have a positive and lasting impact on participants' overall health and wellbeing. Upcoming retreat dates include July 25-29, 2021, Aug. 22-26, 2021 and Dec. 5-9, 2021.

Four Seasons Resort Lanai | Lanai City, Hawaii

Located on the southeastern coast of the pristine island of Lanai, lies the 90,000 acre, secluded retreat of Four Seasons Resort Lanai. The oceanfront destination offers adult travelers a variety of options to curate a personalized island getaway. Spend the days lounging by the lagoon-style pools, strolling the botanical gardens, reconnecting body and spirit at the Hawanawana Spa with an array of low/no touch services or savor Japanese cuisine at the cliff-side Nobu Lanai. Discover endless opportunities to treat one's mind and body on land, ocean or air, including off-property hiking, horseback riding, sailing and ziplining. Snorkel amid coral-reef systems and submerged rocks teeming with tropical fish, green sea turtles and gentle reef sharks, or have a blast off-roading across red dirt roads. From the rugged uplands to the aquatic sanctuary of Hulopoe Bay, the opportunities for adventure and relaxation are endless.

Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort | Lanai City, HI 

Surrounded by lush foliage, pine-covered mountains and fresh tropical breezes, the adults-only Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort offer's every traveler's dream wellness getaway. The secluded destination features a private wellness consultation and personalized itinerary, with a choice of spa treatments, fitness classes and enriching island activities, as well as dining by Nobu. Activity options range from private yoga sessions, horseback riding through the surrounding hills of Koele, sailing off the scenic Lanai coastline, customized spa treatments and facials and more. The unmatched hospitality, reputable experts and extraordinary setting combine to offer a completely customized experience, allowing guests to discover their greatest well-being.

Edgewood Tahoe | Lake Tahoe, NV

With pristine blue waters and skies punctuated by towering trees, this summer guests can soak in the sun on the property's private beach and enjoy an extensive list of summertime activities, like an intimate picnic on the mountain with sparkling wine and a spread of artisan charcuterie and cheese. For water activities, embark on a Tahoe kayak adventure, in partnership with the one-of-a-kind Clearly Kayak. For the ultimate summer camp vibes, this summer Edgewood will also feature nightly s'mores, live music on The Bistro patio, lawn games, movies on the green, and star tours, where guests can learn about the Tahoe night sky and peek at summer constellations with onsite Star Guide, Tony Berendsen.

Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort | Los Cabos, MX

S'mores are roasting as the waves are crashing along the golden beaches of one of Los Cabos' only swimmer-friendly beaches at Hilton Los Cabos, a beachy adult summer camp destination. Cozy in a private beach bungalow at Enclave Beach Club for Bonfire & S'mores to delight in camp's favorite treat paired with cocktails. For the adventure enthusiast, book Hilton Los Cabos' new Cabo Wild Adventure Package, offering $500 credit at Wild Canyon Adventure Park for activities including a UTV tour along the Los Cabos desert landscapes, or go off-roading in an ATV along unique terrain paths.

Cavallo Point | Sausalito, CA

Nestled at the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Cavallo Point is an award-winning luxury property rooted in history and sustainability and committed to providing guests with a sense of place and undeniable serenity. Approaching summertime with fun, adventure and a myriad of outdoor experiences quintessential to the San Francisco Bay Area, Cavallo Point is the Bay Area's one-of-a-kind basecamp for summer adventure, with sustainable luxury accommodations, award-winning food and wine, rejuvenating spa experiences and unparalleled outdoor adventures. Guests can enjoy paddle boarding, kayaking, surfing school, self-guided or guided hiking tours, local and mountain biking adventures, daytime and sunset bay cruises, seaplane tours, helicopter tours of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge and Rodeo Beach shuttle excursions.

Rancho La Puerta | Tecate, Mexico

Set on 4,000 private acres of gardens, mountains and meadows, Rancho La Puerta, the original "fitness resort" and spa, is the ultimate adult summer getaway. Providing a luxurious experience that offers a unique reawakening and spiritual mental escape ideal for the adult looking for a transformative wellness experience this summer, this primarily adults-only resort is complete with over 80 fitness classes, exhilarating hiking trails, rejuvenating spa treatments, therapeutic sessions, cooking classes, renowned speaker series and exciting water programming in the pool. A truly perfect adult playground, guests are sure to leave The Ranch feeling revitalized after customizing their dream wellness itinerary for either a 3, 4, 7 or enhanced 21-day stay.

Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal | Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Situated on Cabo San Lucas' most coveted parcel of land overlooking the sparkling Pacific Ocean, the majestic Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal is an adult summer camp-lover's dream. A truly luxurious property complete with private plunge pools outside of each room, world-class culinary outlets and unparalleled ocean views, guests of Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal can choose from ample activities on and off-propety that are sure to satisfy every type of traveler. For the thrill-seeking adult, the property's Beyond the Beach Curated Exploration itineraries offers everything from swimming with whale sharks and snorkeling with sea lions to exploring Espiritu Santo Island by yacht or panga and savoring the culinary delights and art of Todos Santos. For adults looking for a more relaxing itinerary, the property boasts their signature Waldorf Astoria Spa that transports spa-goers into tranquility with Mexican folk healing inspired treatments and lunar inspired treatments designed to reawaken the mind, body, and spirit. Guests can end each day with the unparalleled stargazing Los Cabos is known for and a dip in their private plunge pool.

The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee | Greensboro, GA

Set along 30 acres of shoreline and cradled by the Georgia pines is a luxury lakeside resort with endless adventure and exploration around every corner. All the lake life fun with the luxury amenities of a five star resort - the property makes a perfect destination for an "Adult Summer Camp" retreat. Gather a group and head to the lake to indulge in quintessential outdoor lakeside activities from hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, boating and of course nightly S'mores by the fire. Adults will feel like a kid again by Lake Oconee. Summer "campers" can create their very own summer camp dream and book one of the recently transformed Cottages or the ultra-luxe Lake House your younger camp self could only have dreamed of.

Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi | Malé, Maldives

Travelers looking to adventure like their younger summer camp selves (but with the luxuries adult life provides)- can head to crown jewel of the Maldives, the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi's island paradise. With an idyllic backdrop of turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and Maldivian air the stage is set for adventure and exploration to unlock local treasures from sandbar excursions, diving with manta rays, kayaking, fishing, sailing and so much more. Those looking to pick up a new skill or cross off a bucket list item can opt in group and private lessons like wakeboarding, kneeboarding, and surfing available for all levels. The resort will unlock the inner summer camper within guests with its endless menu of activities made of dreams. Explore the Maldivian waters with trained scuba divers or snorkel the coral reefs and swim with turtles and dolphins - then retreat back to your "camp cabin" whether it be an overwater villa or maybe Ithaafushi - The Private Island to gather a summer camp crew and take over an island!

Town and Country | San Diego, CA 

A landmark resort in San Diego, Town and Country is a nod to the past, sure to bring you back to the good ole' days of splashing in the pool, zipping down the slides, playing in the yard, and enjoying each moment without a worry in the world. With a four-story "Twister" waterslide and soon-to-debut poolside bar and eatery serving up Palm Springs-meets-San Diego vibes, you'll transport back to the days of munching on classic bites in a wet suit (think: sandwiches, wings, hot dogs) with a local craft beer in hand, instead of a virgin-lemonade. In July, Town and Country will be the host for the original and largest Tiki event in the world, Tiki Oasis, which will bring all of the live music, dancing, and tropical cocktails you could imagine — a blast from the past.

Moats, Trampolines and Crazy Pools: The Wildest Requests Pro Landscapers Have Fielded - Mansion Global

Posted: 26 Mar 2021 12:00 AM PDT

SOME OF US might debate placing any sort of decoration in our yard. Will our neighbors find even a discreet tin deer statue pretentious? Other homeowners, however, freely pursue extravagant landscape ambitions limited only by their imaginations. Santa Barbara designer Margie Grace recalled designing and installing over 10 types of gardens on a three-acre site in five months. "A couple of months later they called," she said, noting that she and the clients are still friends. "They wanted to put in a model (ride-on) train that ran 'round the whole thing—and the adventure continued." Here, a collection of the most fantastical outdoor-design directives professionals have ever confronted.

"A young family in Texas requested a moat and drawbridge around their country estate. It sounded like a lot of fun, but unfortunately logistically we just couldn't make it work [within their time frame]." —Michelle Nussbaumer, interior designer, Dallas

More:In Hot U.S. Markets, Second-Home Seekers Should Consider Buying a 'Placeholder' Now and Leveling Up Later

"For a wraparound terrace on Fifth Avenue, a well-known fashion designer requested a trampoline for her boyfriend, who insisted it was safe, with no netting or railings on the edge. It was 16 stories up. The boyfriend never had an accident, but he wore out his welcome. We removed the trampoline and added planters with peach and apple trees." —Janice Parker, landscape architect, New York

"Our client requested that we accommodate his refurbished World War II Sherman tank that was to be stored in a show garage neatly tucked into the hillside of their 62-acre site. The request was revoked when it was determined that their Belgian-block driveway would be destroyed and have to be repaved every time they took the tank out for a spin." —Margie Lavender, architect, Ike Kligerman Barkley, N.Y.

'We had to create some really intense engineering to stabilize the home while protecting the trees,' said Miami architect Chad Oppenheim of ancient pines that geologists wanted to remove but the client loved.

Chad Oppenheim

"We were asked to create a miniature golf course and ice skating rink for a Connecticut client. During the warmer months, the kidney-shaped course featured buildings and monuments—the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty—to serve as golf holes, and in the cooler months [it was cleared and] chilled to be a skating rink." —Chris Pollack, builder/developer, Greenwich, Conn.

"[A client] told me she had begun taking trapeze lessons and would like to install a trapeze above her pool inside a garden pavilion…She thought it would provide a unique way to exercise. A local stage-rigging company helped us attach a trapeze to the ceiling beams and equip it with a motorized lift. When finished, she would just drop into the swimming pool."—Mark Lavender, interior designer, Chicago

"We designed an elaborate terrace with wall panels of rusted steel, a water feature, outdoor kitchen—you name it. The biggest challenge? Meticulously detailing and designing comfortable areas for the dog to go to the bathroom." —Brianne Bishop, interior designer, Chicago

From Penta:Sotheby's to Offer Basquiat's 'Versus Medici'

With help from Hess Landscape Architects and MAMO Architects—and carefully conceived hydraulics—Philadelphia interior designer Marguerite Rodgers satisfied an Avalon, N.J., homeowner's desire for a backyard pool that could be covered with a sturdy surface on which to entertain.

Halkin | Mason Photography

"It was an exhaustive wish list—a white garden ("like the one at Sissinghurst Castle," the client said), a theater garden ("like Lotusland"), a parterre garden ("like Versailles"), a Zen garden, children's garden, vineyard, herb garden, veggie garden, outdoor chess... And could we complete it in five months and have it look fully grown? Endless midnight design sessions and five months later, the gardens were complete." —Margie Grace, landscape designer, Santa Barbara, Calif.

"A young family was looking for ways to incorporate a pool in their backyard, ideally without losing square footage for their children to play and space for them to entertain. They asked if there was technology like a hydraulic retractable floor that would cover the pool. With the right team, their goal was achieved, the first such pool in northeast America."—Marguerite Rodgers, interior designer, Philadelphia

"A movie director's property for his new Los Angeles home featured incredible, ancient pine trees, and his directive to us was 'Do whatever it takes to preserve these trees.' Problem was, the geologists wanted them removed to stabilize the cliff-side property. We had to create some really intense engineering, like tremendous caissons, to stabilize the home while protecting the trees. In the end, the window in one of the rooms basically frames these beautiful, old sacred trees." —Chad Oppenheim, architect, Miami

The Perfect Garden Home You’ve Been Dreaming of All Year - The Wall Street Journal

Posted: 28 Nov 2020 12:00 AM PST

Tending a garden has been collective therapy this year, and Luciano Giubbilei has doubled down with two. The plots are a few miles apart in the sleepy northeast corner of Mallorca, Spain, where Giubbilei bought a house three years ago. One, in the courtyard outside his front door, is on its way to maturity; the other, in a sloping field nearby, existed mostly in his head until this fall, when it was planted in warm, slightly humid soil, a fleeting combination on a Mediterranean island known for its desertlike climate.

Giubbilei is an Italian landscape and garden designer based in London, and gardening for himself has been something like a restaurant chef sliding behind the family stove—second nature and reassuring. In a normal year, he would be on the road worrying about other people's weeds and watering systems. Like a handful of his peers who make luxurious private gardens around the world, Giubbilei leaves nothing to chance, traveling constantly to meet with clients and suppliers, consult with experts or track down specimen plants at out-of-the-way nurseries.

Luciano Giubbilei in the house's living room.

Photo: FRANCOIS HALARD For WSJ. Magazine

"The garden is made at the garden, it's not made in the studio," says the 49-year-old designer via a Zoom call from his Mallorcan kitchen. Not many men can pull off a center part into middle age, but Italian men can, and Giubbilei does. Though his was getting floppy: For most of the spring and summer he'd been living alone in the village of Son Servera, in the shadow of the unfinished facade of a 20th-century neogothic church called Església Nova. On the table before him were pomegranates in a glazed bowl made by Maria Antonia Carrió, a local potter. Carrió had lived and worked in the modest house for nearly 20 years, until her death in 2016, and it was her ultimate creation, as elegantly austere as one of her petal-shaped serving plates. For members of the Mallorcan creative class, her studio was a regular stop on the shopping circuit.

GREEN ENERGY The garden, planted with beeblossom, dwarf myrtle, maidenhair vine, farfugium and pomegranate trees.

Photo: FRANCOIS HALARD For WSJ. Magazine

A half-dozen years ago, the English architect John Pawson showed up with clients who had a second home nearby. "I found it fascinating," he says of the tidy green-and-white ensemble of house, studio and garden, all dwarfed by, as he puts it, "a whacking big church, cathedral-sized, in the backdrop." Not a lover of pots, Pawson nevertheless left with one of Carrió's pieces under his arm. "She did that thing of saying, 'Well, of course you wouldn't want this plate...because it's broken.' And of course, having spent four years living in Japan, I thought, Well, I'll have that one. There was a bit of a tussle. She was obviously a brilliant saleswoman."

Giubbilei also met Carrió on a studio visit, in his case one arranged by mutual friends. Gardener and potter spent the day discussing parallels in their work, he remembers, especially around the subject of agency. "You work with your hands, and you have a certain amount of control—but a lot of things, really, are out of your control," he says. "We talked about this." When Carrió died six months later, in her mid-70s, Giubbilei's friends encouraged him to buy the house; they'd never seen Carrió as happy as she'd been on the day she spent with him.

The kitchen, with chestnut chairs by Pascal Raffier.

Photo: FRANCOIS HALARD For WSJ. Magazine

"My very first instinct was—I love beautiful things, by the way—'This is a beautiful thing,' " he recalls. He bought the property in 2017. Almost immediately, the idea of an artist's residency surfaced. It seemed like a way of keeping Carrió's studio alive and extending their dialogue, one Giubbilei was eager to share with his four-member team back in London: They could come down now and then to clear their heads, opening themselves up to new ideas about garden-making and the creative process. And in 2019, he invited Swedish ceramicist Maria Kristofferson to be the first artist-in-residence at Potter's House Mallorca.

Carrió's attentions to the three-story dwelling over the years had made a place of almost ecclesiastical purity, a kind of walk-in Robert Ryman painting. She'd banished interior woodwork, for instance, cut crude skylights into the roof and replaced the door handles with rope pulls. But basic maintenance had gone by the wayside. Giubbilei spent a year making essential repairs and a few upgrades that felt to him, if not quite like splurges, then at least a little less like hair-shirt moments. The three bedrooms now have proper light switches and wood bedframes, and a Japanese bench offers a place to sit outside the ground-floor bathroom.

OUTSIDE CHANCES An alfresco dining area with a table by a Mallorcan carpenter and stools from a local market, surrounded by Pittosporum tobira 'Nanum' in planters from Morocco.

Photo: FRANCOIS HALARD For WSJ. Magazine

Pawson, who has designed several houses on the island, admires how the sun gets funneled in through the skylights and deep-set windows, which bend it around corners and make it perform crazy tricks. "You know the whole business in Mallorca is keeping the light out, and controlling it, making it softer," he explains. "It's not a problem getting it in." His iPhone snaps of Carrió's sawtooth staircase catching rays are favorites on his Instagram feed.

At first Giubbilei planned to use the ceramic studio off the garden as his bedroom and workspace. Now he's not so sure. "There is still a little sense of her there," he says of a setting stacked high with tubs of glaze and stiff brushes in straight-sided pots. "I don't know if it's spooky or not, but I believe it's a great thing." For the moment he's staying in the main house; visiting artists live and work on the second and third floors, while the ground floor holds a kitchen and living area, the latter arranged gallery-style to present artwork. Carrió did the same when she was alive, displaying her pieces on wood plinths and clamping white task lights here and there like ghostly grasshoppers.

FERTILE IMAGINATION In a bedroom, where an Eduardo Chillida work on paper leans against the wall, the oak cube table and handwoven soumak hemp rug are both from Rose Uniacke.

Photo: FRANCOIS HALARD For WSJ. Magazine

Giubbilei sees a little of his own uncompromising approach to making gardens in Carrió's vision. Still, he finds her asceticism confounding. "She was washing in a plastic bucket," he says, shaking his head. "And the plastic bucket would have been on a wooden bench. And the mirror would have been wedged on the wooden bench. And she had no heating!"

But she did have a garden of sorts in the courtyard, anchored by two spindly pomegranate trees around a central pool. After shoring up the concrete basin and adding steps, Giubbilei thought about what kind of planting would pay tribute to his friend and her tough-minded existence in Son Servera. He added some drought-tolerant perennials and grasses—myrtle, valerian, hairlike stipa—to the airy-white beeblossom and gray santolina that Carrió had treated with benign neglect, and he introduced a few newcomers from correspondingly arid climates, such as maidenhair vine, seaside daisy and farfugium, with its hubcap-size leaves. The result is welcoming, a loose accumulation of textures closer to controlled chaos than the classically inspired tapestry of green that Giubbilei has become known for in Britain. From the terrace above, though, a structure comes through in the syncopated tufts and clumps and mounds. This is no wild meadow planting. "I don't think we have to make a garden exactly as nature is," he says. "Because we are not doing that anyway; from the moment that we start, we are not."

A sawtooth staircase.

Photo: FRANCOIS HALARD For WSJ. Magazine

Courtyard gardens hold memories for the Tuscan-born designer, who spent his childhood playing soccer and carousing in Siena's patchwork of town squares. "I love gardening in such a constrained environment, where you are away from everything, you have no vista," he says. "The mental state to be within is a really very beautiful feeling."

A Maria Kristofferson ceramic work next to a vintage lamp.

Photo: FRANCOIS HALARD For WSJ. Magazine

Giubbilei was raised by his grandmother on a narrow street a few hundred yards from Piazza del Campo, Siena's medieval heart. Making flower deliveries was the closest he came to horticulture until he was 20, when a move to the countryside and a visit to Villa Gamberaia, the 17th-century estate and public landscape in the hills above Florence, led to a sort of conversion. He asked for a meeting with the head gardener, and soon he was wheelbarrowing dirt around its maze of cypress and boxwood hedges a few days a week. A year later, he took off for London and the gardening degree program at Inchbald School of Design.

A Japanese bench with a ceramic moon jar titled Venus I by Yoon Young Hur.

Photo: FRANCOIS HALARD For WSJ. Magazine

"There were beautiful gardens in Tuscany, but these were gardens for people who got invited," Giubbilei says diplomatically. In England, access to many of the great estates had been democratized almost a century earlier with a collapse in private ownership, and he could have his fill. Twenty-seven years later, he's a three-time gold-medal winner at the Chelsea Flower Show, the garden world's biggest rodeo, and a member of Britain's landscape design firmament.

"Not that I'm a plantsman, I am not," he insists. "I am not one of those English guys that know everything. But I know the Mediterranean plants."

NEW DIGS The field close to Giubbilei's home where he has begun planting a garden inspired by native Balearic plants.

Photo: FRANCOIS HALARD For WSJ. Magazine

Early in his career, Giubbilei turned out elegantly architectural, mostly green gardens in and around London that were steeped in the classical principles of his native country—symmetry, proportion, balance. He excelled at making them, but after a while the results felt formulaic. Fashion designer Paul Smith, a friend and a fellow gardener ("I dust, I dust," Smith demurs), thought Giubbilei's structured approach could use a push toward what he calls "the nitty-gritty" at a place like Great Dixter, one of England's renowned pleasure gardens and a horticultural brain trust, where the habits of an aster or a magnolia, their temperaments as they move through the seasons, are observed.

The potter's studio, with a bowl by Maria Antonia Carrió.

Photo: FRANCOIS HALARD For WSJ. Magazine

"Often people who have an accolade, like winning the medal at the flower show, unfortunately it becomes a bit too much of an ego trip," Smith says. "And Luciano's not got that at all. He's very simpatico. He's a very curious person. He's very open about asking questions—Why does that happen, and what about that? What's that made from?"

" "[Luciano] is a very curious person. He's very open about asking questions—Why does that happen, and what about that?" "

— Paul Smith

In 2011, at the age of 40, Giubbilei began a residency at Great Dixter under the watch of head gardener Fergus Garrett. Since then, Smith says, "Luciano's life, his way of working, has really fast-tracked." The designer has begun to take on bigger American jobs, including a Virginia flower garden, the largest his studio has yet attempted, whose beds skirt a refurbished hilltop barn and ebb into the surrounding meadow; he's been engaged for five years on a vineyard estate in Val d'Orcia, Tuscany, and he keeps a steady number of projects going in London.

A staircase in landscape and garden de-signer Luciano Giubbilei's Mallorca home.

Photo: FRANCOIS HALARD For WSJ. Magazine

As his style has matured, Giubbilei has become more confident. "I think he's given himself a little more freedom to be more dynamic," says Roy Diblik, co-owner of Wisconsin's Northwind Perennial Farm and a frequent collaborator. Diblik believes that Giubbilei and the generation of gardeners a half-step ahead of him—Piet Oudolf, Dan Pearson and Tom Stuart-Smith, among others—are leading a shift toward a greater understanding of what a garden is for, beyond the static ideal of beauty, often cultivated at nature's expense. "They see this big transformation taking place in horticulture where it's not about products, but a plant-driven future," Diblik says. "They see life as diversity. "

A vase by Yixia Lin stands in a niche.

Photo: FRANCOIS HALARD For WSJ. Magazine

Over the course of his Mallorcan stay, Giubbilei has been enjoying the small routines of shopping, brewing his own morning coffee, swimming every day at a nearby cove. Though he's been coming to the island for 25 years, living here has clarified a few things—not least that Italians use tablecloths, Mallorcans don't.

"I've felt love like I've never felt before," he says, slouching back into his chair and glancing around the kitchen. "I really found myself—and not because I didn't know myself." He mentions a passage from Italo Calvino's novel Invisible Cities, "about when you see yourself in a new place and you can recognize it from your past. I think there is something so true about that," he says. "This woman, this whole thing about the house, has brought a change in my life."

One of Giubbilei's garden designs.

Photo: FRANCOIS HALARD For WSJ. Magazine

When Pawson and his wife, Catherine, arrived for a visit with Giubbilei this summer, they found him standing in a field of dirt near his house, mapping out the new garden. A serpentine stone wall with sharply cut corners—a work of art in itself—ranged into the distance. "He was out of sorts," Pawson recalls of Giubbilei's mood that day. The designer had left workmen to install some power and water lines, and the men had severed the roots of "a couple of trees that were a few hundred years old. So Luciano was in proper shock," Pawson says. "It must have been like cutting your arm off."

Església Nova in the background.

Photo: FRANCOIS HALARD For WSJ. Magazine

Giubbilei took it in stride. A few green agaves and white olive trees were already in place; he was waiting for cooler weather before making his next move. A colleague from Barcelona who is an expert in plants of the Balearic region has been advising him on natives that will thrive amid the scrubby maquis. "I think I want to make an old cultural reference with this," the designer suggests. "I would like to do quadrants, with four different plants and with a different amount of water given to them. How will they behave?" Gardening in the Mallorcan climate, he says, "is like planting on the moon." But he can't stop turning over the possibilities in his head.

A sheltered terrace overlooks the garden.

Photo: FRANCOIS HALARD For WSJ. Magazine

"Gardens are about emotion, but there is even more of that in a landscape," he says. "When you have a landscape, you can see something that overwhelms you. Is it bigger than words? Is it bigger than what the eyes see?" •

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