Aerial view of Lengishu, Borana Conservancy, Kenya

Homes, sweet homes:
Meet the homes turned hotels


In luxury travel, there’s a type of accommodation to suit every taste or purpose: a bodacious boutique, a historic hacienda or a remote resort. Nonetheless, however enjoyable a stay, it’s fair to say there’s no place like home, with all its familiarity and comfort. It’s hardly surprising then that some homes turned hotels would come with a special USP – the fact that they were originally conceived not as money-making businesses, but as warm and welcoming places their owners once lived or continue to live in. The three properties below prove that this special quality can come in many different ways.

Lengishu, Borana Conservancy, Kenya

Cleopatra and Mark Antony. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Oscar Wilde and Lord Afred Douglas. For sure, three of history’s most legendary romances. Yet, it’s also possible to fall head over heels for a country. This happened to Joe and Minnie MacHale with Kenya: Minnie, over forty years ago on a profound 4-year stop in Nairobi; and the kids, on several visits, which have seen them volunteer at local schools, since then. So when the opportunity arose to build a residence there, the family, including Minnie’s husband Joe, jumped at it, constructing their very own Kenyan family home, Lengishu. Crucially with a destination like this, where tourism plays a vital role in securing the livelihoods of the local population while being able to contribute to the conservation of endangered species, any new structure gracing the landscape has the potential to be much more than ‘just’ a beautiful house. With this in mind, the MacHale family decided to open up their private sanctuary to visitors, so that they too could support this beautiful part of Laikipia County.

Joe and Minnie MacHale, owners of Lengishu, Borana Conservancy, Kenya
Joe and Minnie MacHale on safari in Kenya

Opened in 2019, the stellar safari retreat is available on an exclusive-use-only basis and consists of a main house and four cottages that can sleep 12. All the living quarters, which have a neutral colour scheme, exude a quintessential rustic charm. Guests can look forward to traditional ‘makuti’ thatched roofs, wooden beams made from local timber, freestanding copper bathtubs, and fireplaces or wood-burning stoves. And as the dwelling is in the heart of the Borana Conservancy, a spectacular 32,000-acre wildlife reserve renowned as a rhino sanctuary, its owners are on a mission to protect the natural environment. In our view, there’s something very appealing about staying in a hideaway such as this rather than a conventional safari camp or lodge: for instance, it being an exclusive-use accommodation engenders extra privacy and discretion, both of which have become even more important to luxury holidaymakers since the pandemic. Further, guests benefit from a warmer, more intimate décor, as it reflects the proprietor’s personal touch. Though it might not be obvious at first, Lengishu’s interiors, with their red accents, in fact pay tribute to both the family’s roots in Scotland, as well as to the traditional clothing worn by Kenya’s Maasai tribes. It’s one of several thoughtful features to set the property apart from others in the region – and with other selling points ranging from helicopter rides and an in-house masseuse to the chance to track rhinos while accompanying and learning from an anti-poaching team, we need little convincing to plan a trip to what might just be one of the most special homes turned hotels anywhere.

Photography by Stevie Mann, Backdrop Agency and courtesy of Lengishu

Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé, Pays de la Loire, France

This palatial estate is situated in the eponymous French village, in the verdant serenity of the Loire Valley, around 220 kilometres from Paris. The stunning, neoclassical limestone edifice was built by Baron Jacques Pineau de Viennay in the mid-18th century as a family residence. In the last decade, it’s undergone a meticulous restoration, which has kept many of the original features while also adding a swanky modern touch – for example, you’ll find customised fabrics by none other than Jean Paul Gaultier in the 19 rooms. The hotel’s interiors are the epitome of resplendence as they are also graced with vintage art, boiserie and furnishings, crystal chandeliers, Persian rugs and more. In respect of the facilities, they include a ballroom, a spa and fitness centre, and Versailles-inspired, manicured gardens all set with their very own orangery and swimming pool. We feel this is a great spot for a getaway if you want to immerse yourself in history and culture, as some of the doyens of the Enlightenment have passed through, from Mozart and Voltaire to Rousseau. For a getaway tinged with French heritage, you’d struggle to find somewhere more apt – or opulent, for that matter.

Photography by Michael Spengler, Adam Lynk and courtesy of Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé

The Vasilicos, Santorini, Greece

Picture it now: whitewashed walls and blue-green shutters stand astride, next to a door opening to a pallid sky merging with the Aegean Sea on the far-flung, otherworldly horizon. This entrancing vista is just one of the delights of a sojourn in the accommodation at The Vasilicos – cave-like structures, perched high on the Caldera cliff on the Greek Island of Santorini. The owner of the unique property, Daphne Valambous, relished many carefree summers there, once it had been commissioned by her father, Vassilis, in the 1980s. A bon viveur who collected art, a few of his pieces are in the various suites (there are just seven, making this a real insider hideaway on the island), which by necessity, have a bio-climatic, pared-down design due to them being moulded into the aforementioned volcanic rock. The food also has a refined simplicity; Yannis, the in-house chef, uses fresh, premium produce, even sourcing cheese and cured meats from neighbouring islands Crete and Naxos. Other staff offer a similarly dedicated, top-notch service: an enthusiastic ‘V Team’ is on hand catering to all needs – bringing and fetching, cleaning the pool, and pouring wine, inter alia (if it sounds like your actual home, well done, you). What makes The Vasilicos so special, however, is its intimate size paired with the personal touches in the shape of the owner’s artworks. Combined, those two things go a long way in making you feel as though you’re staying with a local… something that’d be hard to come by elsewhere on the uber-popular island.

Photography by Nikos Alexopoulos and courtesy of The Vasilicos

Bloom opt-in slide-in homepage

Join us on an adventure

Subscribe to our newsletter to enjoy early access to the latest news, luxury hotel reviews and inspiring travel tales, delivered straight to your inbox.

A confirmation email has been sent to your inbox. Welcome to the club!