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private luxury: Iniala Beach House, Phuket, Thailand

ONE OF THE last openings of the year, could well be the most memorable. We love luxury here at the TLTB but we don't get impressed by just any old five star. Oh no. And this private villa resort has got the whole office hopping -so it MUST be pretty special.

Iniala Beach House opens today (Wednesday) in Phuket and we're tipping it as Resort Opening of the Year.

Former derivatives trader and philanthropist Mark Weingard (see our interview in January's The Luxury Travel Bible magazine) , founder of Iniala, says 'I wanted to create many extraordinary environments' in one exclusive location. I visited design exhibitions around the world and looked for designers and designer-artists who expressed great originality with beauty.' He feels that 'Iniala is not just a retreat to relax by the beach in Phuket, it is also a temple of global design, art and gastronomy.' A temple, huh? Big call but we think he may be right.

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The amazing villas (each with three suites and their own spa) have been created by some of the world's best creative minds including The Campana Brothers of Brazil, A-Cero from Spain, Joseph Walsh of Ireland, Mark Brazier-Jones from New Zealand , Graham Lamb from Britain and Thailand's Eggarat Wongcharit. The list is impressive, the result spectacular.

Weingard had a house on the site for several years. Using Thai healing hands as inspiration, Graham Lamb created new villas set around the original structure. Every villa and living space is completely different, a unique expression from "masters of contemporary design from around the world".

Each villa bear the hallmark of a particular design team, so throw out everything you ever thought you knew about luxury villas in Phuket and start over - you haven't seen anything quite like this before luxe-lovers.

Here's a taste of the fantasy:

Villa Siam
Designs by Eggarat Wongcharit, Thailand
There is nothing minimalist about this lush symphony of gold and rich colour inspired by Thai culture and Buddhism.: beds and sofas hanging from the ceiling and The villa's private spa is housed within an ancient , golden Thai bell, with Buddhist teachings inscribed in the walls.
 
Villa Bianca
Designs by A-Cero, Spain and Philosophy of Design, Russia
Expect abstract explosions of art and Russian icons. A-Cero's two bedrooms are like giant giant seashells. While the Russian influence is found in chairs and beds shaped like traditional Matryoshka dolls.

The Collectors Villa
Design by The Campana Brothers, Brazil and various other designer
The villa is an homage to is leading contemporary design, including remarkable work by humberto and Fernando Campana. Their colour-laden ceramic-walled public spaces (Think Gaudi meets The Crown Jewels) are at the heart of the design. Mother of Pearl and Bronze shine in their spa .

The bedrooms within the Collectors Villa are each as eclectic as the artists who have conceived them. TLTB particularly likes the sexy boudoir created by New Zealand's Mark Brazier-Jones and the sinuous, ash wood bed from Ireland's master furniture maker Joseph Walsh.

The Penthouse
Designer Graham Lamb, Great Britain
Take off your shoes and enter a surreal desertscape. The floor beneath your feet feels like melting like sand. The seating is built into the contours of the living room itself. The bed extends from the ceiling without a connection to the floor. The bathing area is sunk into the ground "like an oasis in the Sahara itself".

The island of Iniala
Designed by Chris Jones, USA
The Island is a giant Playhouse designed for children of all ages. Dubbed 'the first kids' hotel in Asia' it is a fantasy of pirates and jungles and fairytales. It also includes a kitchen where children can learn to cook with the help of Iniala's own chefs.

But this isn't JUST about the kids. There is also a fully-equipped private gymnasium,boxing ring and games tables for adults.

The creativity doesn't stop at the design either. Restaurant Aziamendi is overseen by Eneko Atxa, the youngest chef to have ever received 3-Michelin Stars in Spain. At Aziamendi, overlooking the Natai River, he combines traditional European techniques with the best of local Thai ingredients.

Oh, and did we mention that every villa has its own spa and personal therapist?

There is one other reason why Iniala ticks all the boxes for us. At the core of the residence is philanthropy. Weingard, a survivor of the 2004 tsunami, has embraced Thailand and other parts of Asia with a big, open heart. Fifteen per cent of a revenues will go to The Inspirasia Foundation, set up by Weingard after the tragedy 10 years ago to help mentally and physically disabled people across Thailand, Indonesia and India.

The resort is situated on Natai Beach just 20 minutes north of Phuket Airport. It has uninterrupted views of the beach and theAndaman Sea.The entire Iniala Beach House is available for private hire from US$80,000 per week. The villas and the Iniala Penthouse Suite can be hired individually from  US$21,000 per week. Worth every penny.

And the good news for lovers of luxury and good design is that Weingard promises that this is just the start of Iniala, with more residences are planned around the world.

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Sophie Davis 10/12/13
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