These amazing private members' homes are almost impossible to source

By Lysanne Currie | 11 Mar 2020 | Wealth, Property

From sumptuous 17th century châteaus to stunning luxury Greek villas and a state-of-the-art treehouse in Costa Rica

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There are certain holiday properties that are only rented out to specially vetted guests, by some equally select individuals. People like Alexander Kraft, chairman and CEO of luxury real estate organisation Sotheby’s International Realty France. “Over the past 20 years I have had the privilege of seeing and selling some of the most extraordinary properties in the world,” he says. “But even by the highest standards, Château de Villette is a truly unique property.”

In a country boasting many a stunning château, this 17th century marvel truly stands out for its priceless antiquity. Not for nothing was it dubbed ‘Le Petit Versailles’, with its octagonal Grand Salon, stately Library, pair of lakes, cascading fountains, pressoir à vin and orangery. It even shares a garden designer with the former royal residency in landscape artist André Le Nôtre. Its period interiors have been enjoyed by the likes of John Travolta and Lenny Kravitz. 

Tom Cruise rented it for his entourage while shooting 2018’s Mission Impossible: Fallout, taking advantage of its 13 deluxe bedrooms, helipad and a swimming pool which sinks and fills at the touch of a button. Moviegoers may also have seen the Château in The Da Vinci Code, where it stood in for the house of Sir Ian McKellen’s character.

Located forty minutes northwest of Paris, amid 185 wooded acres, its story begins when the revered French architect François Mansart, (the man with a roof named after him), built this heavenly château for the ambassador to Italy for Louis XIV, Jean Dyel. Later, during the Enlightenment, the likes of Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson rubbed shoulders with owner, the Marquis de Grouchy, and his pioneering feminist daughter Sophie.

“It’s not only an important historical monument with a fascinating history, but has also been restored to a level of comfort and perfection that is rare anywhere in the world, be it London, New York, Singapore or Paris,” says Kraft of the fairytale estate that has since undergone a £20m renovation. “At the same time, it feels neither like a museum nor an over-restored show place, but more like an inviting, tasteful family home – which is a very rare combination indeed.” >>

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Natasha Martsekis left a career in investment banking to launch luxury villa company Bright Blue Villas, “encompassing everything from sports adventures to gastro-getaways and magical once-in-a-lifetime moments that money can’t easily buy”. While she has many properties on her website, she also has a secret second portfolio which Bright Blue Villas doesn’t market, as her high-profile owners (“global travellers of the world, with private jets”, says Martsekis) don’t want their state-of-the-art properties to be visible. 

“We don’t give access to private collection without getting to know the guests first,” says Martsekis. “We also have to convince the villa owners that the people who will be staying are top notch and not going to damage their property.” However, she’s just as strict with them too; their properties must be faultless – “we kick out those who don’t comply”.

Oliver Corkhill is another keyholder with ‘secret properties’. While his luxury travel company Leo Trippi specialises in ski and winter breaks, he also caters for his preferred clients with some very special properties “that we rent out to cherry picked clients for our owners who have trusted us with their homes”. >>

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In particular, the three villas of the Olea Estate in Mykonos, situated among olive groves in a suitably quiet neighbourhood. The estate “offers the maximum privacy possibly achieved”, while its sister-estate, Olea Two, requires registration of interest before potential guests can receive any information at all. 

Meanwhile, friends Thomas Bennett and Jorge Munoz founded Stay One Degree in 2017, billing the company as ‘the world’s first trusted members’ club for luxury travellers’. Homes are scrupulously handpicked, and guests and owners alike are carefully and extensively vetted to create a “trusted community of travellers with access to exclusive homes all over the world”. Among the 3,000 homes in 50 countries include a Scottish castle, a bungalow in Bali and a “unique architecturally designed treehouse” in Costa Rica, “floating above the canopy on 1.5 acres of hillside jungle”. Says Stay One Degree: “Everyone looking at the [homes] should say ‘Wow, I’d like to stay there one day!’” 

Thanks to these UHNW concierges, a fortunate few can do more than just look.