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5 villas with stunning design you can actually book to stay

From St Tropez to Palm Springs and the Maldives, here are five incredible villas you can actually rent this summer

The appeal of the hotel is obvious – round-the-clock service, daily turndowns, room service – but while the hotel experience excels, there are times travellers want stays where they can get away from it all – and from everyone. The best of these rentals offer space for the whole family to relax in uncompromised isolation, while enjoying all the amenities they’re accustomed to in their own homes – chef optional.

With so many options available across the globe – some of which also come with jaw-dropping design features – the only problem is knowing where to start looking. From the world’s largest standalone overwater bungalow to a verdant estate with its own yacht, we narrow down the choice and highlight five of the best villas to book for a getaway.

Gili Lankanfushi Private Reserve, Maldives

Private Reserve at Gili Lankanfushi is the largest standalone overwater villa in the world - Effect Magazine
Private Reserve at Gili Lankanfushi is the largest standalone overwater villa in the world

Private Reserve at Gili Lankanfushi blows all ideas we’ve had of Maldives villas out of the water. At a staggering 18,000 square feet, it’s the largest standalone overwater villa in the world, comprised of five buildings connected by wooden walkways over a clear, turquoise lagoon. While it’s technically part of the hotel, it’s only accessible by boat, so guests can feel truly alone while enjoying the resort’s services, including a 24-hour private butler.

The five buildings of the Private Reserve villa at Gili Lankanfushi are only accessible by boat
The five buildings of Private Reserve at Gili Lankanfushi are only accessible by boat

The interior of the villa features a “rustic-chic” design inspired by the surrounding island – think hand-crafted, upcycled furniture combined with luxurious fabrics and a colour palette of warm, neutral hues. This theme extends though the four bedrooms and the various lounges, terraces and dining areas where guests can enjoy service from their own team or recruit the expertise of the hotel’s executive chef.

Other highlights include open-air bathrooms with deep-soaking bathtubs, a state-of-the-art gym and spa, and a 69-foot infinity pool with a slide into the sea. This is the ultimate in barefoot Maldivian luxury.

Book: Nightly rates at The Private Reserve at Gili Lankanfushi start from $8,300 per villa per night for up to 8 guests including breakfast and return luxury boat transfer

Villa La Tourelle, St Tropez

Villa La Tourelle in St Tropez - Effect Magazine at Villa La Tourelle in St Tropez - Effect Magazine
Villa La Tourelle in St Tropez is an oasis of peace created in a 14th-century vicarage

St Tropez is one of the most sought-after places in the Côte d’Azur, so the summer months can get busy. For those who want to avoid the bustle, Villa La Tourelle offers an oasis of peace and tranquillity. The villa, which was once a 14th-century vicarage, was renovated by Tropezian architect François Viellecroze. Now modernised, it overflows with character, combining the contemporary with touches of the building’s heritage.

Neutral walls are decorated with intriguing artworks while quirky design features form major talking points – look out for the winding staircase and the wall of water in the dining room. Natural, wooden materials and antique furnishings bring a sense of nature inside and juxtapose with modern pieces across the four bedrooms and living spaces.

Outside, within the walled garden, guests can discover an historic tower, a mirror-edge swimming pool and various terraces, plus a pool house with bar, wine cellar and office area which is perfect for longer stays. It’s a place you may not want to leave. 

Book: A seven-night stay at Villa La Tourelle with luxury villa specialist Purple Summer starts from €23,680 based on 8 people sharing

Villa Papillon, Antigua

Villa Papillon is a beautiful property on the island of Antigua - Effect Magazine
Set on the tip of Reed’s Point on the island of Antigua, Villa Papillon is a beautiful property created by interior design studio Ward & Co

The beautiful island of Antigua needs little introduction. The Caribbean haven is home to white sandy beaches, colourful colour reefs and beautiful villas available to rent – and Villa Papillon is one of its newest. Set on the tip of Reed’s Point on the island’s south-west coast, the villa features hard-to-beat vistas and elegant yet cosy design which draws the natural surrounds inside.

The villa was designed by interior design studio Ward & Co which described the three-year project as a “love letter to Antigua”. Every element was carefully considered to pay respect to, and accentuate, the natural beauty, charm energy of the Caribbean.

A calming, neutral base is layered with colour pops of locally-sourced art, tactile fabrics that reflect the surrounding landscape, and bespoke furniture crafted in natural materials – picture wicker pendant lighting, natural stone and rustic tables, rattan wardrobes and plantation-style shutters. British colonial style seeps into the architecture, while every room maximises its stunning views.

“Our aim was to create an outstanding home that stands out from the rest – one that respects the brilliant hues of Caribbean culture while staying true to the elegant Ward & Co aesthetic,” says Sarah Ward, co-founder of Ward & Co. “To me, the ocean is like moving art and the soft noise of waves lapping against the shore is one of the most relaxing sounds in the world. It was important to strike a balance between a neutral palette that wouldn’t detract from the views, and creating an inviting contemporary design that stays with guests long after they have left.”

Book: Villa Papillon sleeps 12 people and is available to book now

The Pond Estate, Palm Springs

The Pond Estate in Palm Springs is a 12-acre property set against the drama of a desert oasis with a mountainous backdrop
The Pond Estate in Palm Springs is a 12-acre property set against the drama of a desert oasis with a mountainous backdrop

Palm Springs is having a resurgence. Visitors are drawn to the Californian city in their droves, tempted by the offer of hot springs, lush golf courses, peerless modernist architecture and wonderful rental villas. Sitting on 12 acres of lands, The Pond Estate is one of the largest and most characterful properties available to book. It features 11 bedrooms and 19 bathrooms across a villa and two guest houses, each of which features ruggedly charming southwestern exteriors and characterful interiors.

The main house has an expansive living room and formal dining room that are plush with elegant detailing – think coffered ceilings, stone fireplaces and wrought-iron accents. Meanwhile the guest houses – one of which has a vintage pink façade – have a more rustic vibe with beamed ceilings, stucco fireplaces and terracotta floors.

As its name suggested, The Pond Estate is a literal oasis in the desert. It’s laid out around a lake surrounded by plants – guests can cross cute bridges to reach a tennis court and pool – while whitewash bungalows stand out against the sandy canyons on the horizon. It’s one-of-a-kind.

Book: Stays at The Pond Estate start from £5,227 per night with a three-night minimum stay

Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica

Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo: freedom and privacy with all the services of a hotel

For travellers in Costa Rica who desire a blend of resort and residence, the ‘private retreats’ at Four Seasons’ Peninsula Papagayo property could be the perfect fit. The self-contained ‘Casas’, built into the Costa Rican jungle, were created to give guests a sense of freedom and privacy away from the main hotel, but still within reach of its services.

The villas vary in six from two- to six-bedrooms. They were designed by Ronald Zürcher of Zürcher Arquitectos and feature an indoor-outdoor concept that makes the most of the tropical location. Interior styling was penned by Dallas-based architectural and interior designer Paul Duesing, who selected natural materials and elements influenced by the flora, fauna and landscape of the Central American country. Guests can enjoy comfortable furnishings across the vaulted bedrooms, expansive living areas and gourmet kitchens, all of which also feature incredible views of the ocean. It’s rainforest luxury at its finest.

Book: Private retreats at Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo start from $4,000 per night (+ taxes) for a two-bed villa and $18,300 per night (+ taxes) for a six-bed villa.

Read more: Interior Designers I Interiors |  Design | Property + Real Estate | Travel