Indie Boutique Hotels And The Women Who Run Them
Here's a sample of women entrepreneurs and iconoclasts who made their mark running companies, designing homes or managing non-profits and yes now Hip Hotels. They harbored hotel design fantasies and also fell in love with place. As a result, women are curating travel style with their individual passion and values as part of the room fee. Below are some stylish Boutique Hotel women owned hotels by intrepid globetrotters, environmentalists and fashionistas. These women entrepreneurs opted for a flip flop life, Eco Luxe hotels and the vision to pull it off. I begin this section on women boutique hotel owners in Mexico and Spain. I will venture to South Africa, Morocco and other exotic points in my next post.
Rancho Pescadero- Todo Santos Mexico Run by Lisa Harper
"I am a real world drop out, " Lisa Harper former CEO of Gymboree told me. "I bought a piece of land in Todo Santos while I was running Gymboree. I had it for a few years. I was living in Sonoma and knew I wanted to be in Mexico and create this dream I had of building and running a hotel. I got up and drew a picture of it. Next thing I knew, I was down there and everything I needed came to me. From the contractor to the yoga & surf instructors, even the chef from French Laundry all wound up on my team. It was a manifestation of magic on all levels." Lisa's barefoot mentality is evident in the way she styled the hotel. Hammock gardens, beach beds, straw hats and fire pits, it's a family party and a true surf and yoga spot.
Yoga and surf instructors pour drinks too
From Yoga & Surf Retreats to Hollywood Iconic Glamour- Women Hoteliers Slowly
Take Charge. Ava Started A Mexican Trend
Ava Gardner- Hotel Diva in Night of The Iguana- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Remember Ava Gardner’s closed off -season hotel in Night of the Iguana when Richard Burton, the drunk priest came crawling back to her after falling off the wagon with a bus load of spinsters and a tempting Lolita needing rooms on the Pacific Coast? Now women know it's about you, your state of excellence, preserving your inner yogi, lover, chef, eco activist and interior designer and and yes, your inner Ava Gardner.
Check in to this hideout- Ava Gardner Takes Over Hotel As Needed
A Woman And Her Elegant Boutique Hotel From Hollywood Royalty
A love nest of Richard Burton's in the town of Puerto Vallarta was purchased by Bay Area Software entrepreneur and mogul Janice Chatterton. She restored what was known as Casa Kimberley for one of Burton's wives, and turned it into the church of bon vivants and lovers where food, wine, fetes and sensuous getaways are about a the lush colonial architecture, the history of the characters that lived there and the pure charm of the villa. There is even a private church, creative cocktail parties, ubiquitous bougainvillea and slow romance from the past and present.
Chatterton’s hands-on approach to remodeling and decorating the Hacienda’s collection of sixteen unique suites demonstrates a painstaking attention to detail which can take decades to develop, even among the most accomplished designers. Surprisingly though, she has no formal design background, and upon making the decision to relocate to Mexico in 2000, she possessed only the most basic of conversational Spanish skills. Her remarkable success as a hotelier and designer can be attributed to an innate creativity, tenacity and penchant for perfection.
Born in Eastern Oklahoma, Chatterton spent her teenage years in central California, and started a family before settling in the Bay Area at age 30. A risk-taker from the get-go, she pioneered the creation of telephone-based trivia years ahead of the curve in the early 1980’s. Initially inspired by her interest in astrology, Chatterton began researching software that could support interactive telephone gaming and trivia after hearing about a highly successful horoscope phone line that was in operation at the time. Eventually, she created a first in phone equipment: mass-marketed interactive gaming technology. Her highly successful company drew scores of devotees through its family-friendly content, helping to firmly establish her as a successful entrepreneur operating on the vanguard of communication trends. After nearly a decade in the business, she began to taper her involvement to a minimum in order to travel the world and enjoy the fruits of her successful start-up.
Chatterton began spending time relaxing and traveling with family and friends. An initial visit to the Mexican coastal town of Ensenada helped to jump start her affinity for stays South of the border, but it wasn’t until her second trip to the country that she was able to visit Puerto Vallarta, a city that would spur an ongoing love affair with Mexico. Says Chatterton, “I visited several Mexican cities over the years, but I always kept a special place in my heart for Puerto Vallarta. It resonated with my spirit every time I came back.”
Eventually, her enduring love for Mexican culture and design persuaded her to purchase a vacation home in Puerto Vallarta. Situated along the world-famous Bay of Banderas, the city’s rich mix of cultural tradition and modern comforts, as well as its bourgeoning art community seemed to be a perfect fit for her interests. In 1990, she began touring properties throughout the town, and soon fell for Casa Bur-Sus, a hillside villa with a glamorous Hollywood pedigree. Originally purchased by Sir Richard Burton for his wife Susan as a Valentine’s Day gift, the four bedroom villa embodied coastal charm and authentic Mexican style. Chatterton soon began splitting her time between San Francisco and Puerto Vallarta. A decade later, she decided to make Mexico her full-time home.
Though Chatterton had no formal design background and was not fluent in Spanish, she headed up an extensive renovation of Casa Bur-Sus creating a stunning property rich in both authentic details and modern luxuries. By the end of the project, she fell in love with the renovation process and became confident in her natural prowess as a designer, and when she was presented with the opportunity to purchase an adjacent three bedroom villa, she eagerly pounced on it. After a thorough renovation, the villa was re-named Casa San Angel and when combined with Casa Bur-Sus, the two villas formed Hacienda San Angel’s original eight room property, which opened in 2003.
Isabel Goldsmith Pati`no - Las Alamandas
An Eco Minded Heiress Shapes Paradise Her Way
Pacific Coast between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo
photos by Wendy Abrams
As a girl, Isabel Goldsmith, daughter of flamboyant industrialist Sir James Goldsmith, was raised in hotels. She considered herself Isabel at The Plaza, and was fortunate to learn about hotels from some of the world’s best. Instead of hiding in a villa on the French Riviera, she wound up pitching a tent alone in her twenties on the wild Costa Allege up road from her legendary grandfather’s resort Las Hadas where the movie “10,” was filmed.
I spent a day with Ms. Goldsmith and could feel the resort as an extension of her history, life story in a visual and intangible way. In the sweltering heat as our guacamole wilted, she spoke a firm yet aristocratic Spanish to her staff. I felt a little unsure about the setting and her role. As we spoke, I could feel her vulnerability and love for the land in a way that was more feminine and surreal. She had the color pink splashed through out her beautiful palapas and the colonial plaza. It reminded me of my room as a little girl with canopies and pink and blue. The princess aspect was evident but also a fierce commitment to the land. She had been on the land for many years and I could feel her childlike spirit still smoldering in the Mexican heat.
Her father, Sir James Goldsmith left an eccentric shadow all over that part of the coast, but Isabel's rugged individual verve in her early twenties planted her there in a way that is quietly being ecologically influential. It is a nest for celebrities though. When I was there Annie Lennox was prancing around with a beautiful smile comfortable, relaxed and exuberant. She even built a gym for Robert Di Niro. As a woman exploring the globe for visionaries that are often men, I thought she was an inspiring person for me to reveal in the world of resort development. On her good taste, guts, instincts and love for nature, she quietly has created a hideaway that is in a way her own principality and her child.
''Just thirteen guest rooms on 1500 beautiful acres... Thank Isabel Goldsmith, Las Alamandas' visionary owner... She's left the rolling forest, estuaries and beaches in their pristine state, adding six fanciful villas... to create a compact luxury hotel enjoyed by a fortunate few.''
- Town and Country Magazine
Another Slow Hotel owner and ran from big cities like London and New York to the soulful surf of Mexico with a very modern style keeping Mexican color and simplicity through a refined British lens offering fresh confident design and another place to chill with a surfboard, counter cultural aspirations from surf lessons to painting.
This boutique hotel is on an island in the Caribbean owned by Sandra Perez, an artist, screenwriter and painter as well as muse to Pablo Milanes, the Cuban singer. Sandra has lined the walls with original works—hers and other Cuban artists—, personally designed the furnishings and named the rooms after inspirations: Ilusión (Illusion), Amanecer (Dawn), Sentido (Feeling)É. She is about art and beauty and nature and why wouldn’t she be. Her utopia is surrounded by blue inspiring Caribbean water.
One of Sandra’s aspiration as an author was to be able to write by the sea. Her dream place had also to be isolated, serene and the sea should provide ever-changing shades of blue from turquoise to deep indigo. On one memorable day, she landed in Cancun, and her attraction to the land of the Mayas was immediate and overwhelming! Little did she know then that her dream place was right there on an island where Mayas lived from time immemorial: Holbox Island… little did she know till she disembarked on this enchanting island. Nothing she ever saw was more delightful than the game nature effortlessly played with colors, the charm of the people who lived there - the barefoot fisherman with golden sparking smiles - the women weaving rainbow “hamacas” while wearing high heels stoutly implanted into the sand.
Mesmerized she thought: “ I must do something here!” Slowly a project started to germinate and to take root. Today, on the beach, facing the sea with an ever-changing shades of blue, this project has become a reality, she calls it: “A Hotel with a Human Sensitivity. Our pride is the way we have designed the environment for our guests through every details, from our art gallery filled with paintings to the beautifully designed and crafted furniture in each individual room.
We enhance the senses through emotions, poetic sensitivities, through the rainbow of “hamacas” swinging with the breeze, the rich scent of fresh coffee, the sea visible at every angle, gastronomically enchanting dinners by candle light; like colour strokes on a canvas, this place becomes magical, it becomes “The Space for your Dreams”
Holbox is part of the natural protected area of Yum Balam, that includes 154 000 hectars of protected areas, home of unique species. Non only it is here that the turtles spawn, the pink flamingos migrates, theterns soar, the white pelicans hunt, the different types of iguanas crawl, the crabs jog sideways, the dolphins surface, it is here that the wale sharks mate and gently wait for you to come play with them.
Spain's British Import
Slow Hotel Pioneer
Charlotte Scott- Trasierra
Trasierra, is nestled above in Seville Spain and was restored by a young British mom Charlotte Scott with her husband, and then just her and her kids. She moved the family from London in 1978 and has been growing and handmaking the structure in the most stylish and slowly luxurious way. Parts of the building date back to the 15th and 16th centuries.
Charlotte Scott- Owner Trasierra in Spain
The house stands in a 350 acre private estate, although the original property was much larger. It was a winegrowing estate up until 150 years ago when the vines were prooted and the olives planted.
It had been abandoned for 30 years when the Scotts found it in 1978 In 1979 they moved in without a telephone or electricity. Over the next ten years they restored parts of the roof and outbuildings, installed electricity and telephones and had four children, Gioconda, Jackson, George and Amber who were all raised and educated in Spain. Charlotte Scott has been working on the restoration and renovation ever since and continues to add new rooms and gardens to this day.
Each woman is dedicated to the land, their community and have completely reinvented their life with and without families. The adventure of their lives are an inspiration for us to visit and explore and imagine for ourselves. A slow cultivation of a dream, the land, the structures and the wishes of guests. It's an intuitive natural fit for both hotelier and guest. Hats off to these interesting worldly women!