Having a break from travel over the past couple of months has inspired many of us to rethink how we choose our vacation destinations and how we experience them when we get there. If you are drawn to the idea of immersing yourself in your new surroundings (and perhaps the thought of checking in to a half-full hotel seems too dystopian to bear), then staying in an extraordinary private home could be your preferred option.
Travel platform Stay One Degree is disrupting the luxury rental industry by opening up some of the world’s most unique and under-the-radar homes to members, who get to expand their global connections while on vacation. The concept plays on the idea of six degrees of separation – you can only rent to and from people you know or who you have mutual friends with.
Think LinkedIn meets Airbnb for avid globetrotters. And, as most homeowners are either locals or frequent visitors to the areas, their inside knowledge to each destination means they can share recommendations – favorite restaurants, chefs, fitness classes, drivers and even nannies – with their house guests.
Founders Thomas Bennett and Jorge Munoz would often rent their homes to friends while traveling and soon realized there was something special about having a trusted global network opening up their private abodes to each other, while providing a personal insight into the locations they resided in. “At Stay One Degree, we hand-pick all our homes and regularly turn away ‘luxury’ homes that, for me, are not awe-inspiring. Instead, we focus on unique homes that will surprise you,” says Bennett.
Here, we select three of the most intriguing properties from Stay One Degree, which we are bookmarking for our next getaway.
A Provençal villa with a contemporary twist
It’s difficult to imagine a Provençal home without a stone façade or window shutters, but this architecturally led villa in the seaside town of Bandol eschews the rustic charm characteristic of the region for a far more contemporary aesthetic. Designed by Rudy Ricciotti, the architect behind Marseille’s Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations, the four-bedroom home is an unexpected construction amid Provence’s tranquil landscape. Its discerning owners have decorated it with art and furniture by internationally renowned artists and designers, and there’s plenty of outdoor space, including a roof terrace – the ideal spot for sundowners. Opt for wine, as Bandol is one of Provence's most prestigious wine regions, and there are plenty of vineyards just a stone’s throw away. But the standout feature? The 28-meter pool running the length of the house, which is lined with glass paneling and can be viewed from the floor below like an aquarium.
A fantastical Scottish castle in Aberdeenshire
Dating back to the 12th century, this castle in the rural Aberdeenshire countryside makes for a regal country escape. Owned by Game of Thrones star Rose Leslie’s family for more than 800 years, the sprawling estate was Leslie’s childhood home and the location for her wedding to Kit Harington in 2018. Heavily decorated heritage interiors give a sense of grandeur while remaining cozy. You’ll find oil paintings of the Leslie clan adorning many of the walls, intriguing heirlooms and roaring open fires. The castle’s expansive interiors are made for entertaining, with a lavish dining room, several reception rooms, eight bedrooms and a farmhouse-style kitchen. The local woodlands and Bennachie hills are perfect for long walks and exploring the surrounding wilderness.
Jacquetta Wheeler’s beloved family bolthole in Tangier
Set across three acres of tropical gardens, Jacquetta Wheeler’s hilltop 1920s villa overlooks the bay of Tangier. The model has many happy memories of it, having spent countless family summers here. Now she’s opened up the North African retreat to renters, who are enamored by the eclectic interiors and secluded location. With many pieces acquired from nearby souks and bazaars, as well as further afield, the home is a treasure trove of inspiration. Candy-shop color schemes, bohemian upholstery, fine art and photographs by Wheeler’s late mother Tessa Codrington embellish the fully staffed property, which has a BBQ terrace, chevron-tiled swimming pool and vegetable garden. While it may feel like you’re hidden away among the lime trees and bougainvillea, just a 10-minute drive beyond the verdant mountains you’ll find yourself amid the hustle and bustle of the old town. If you can tear yourself away for a few hours, there are plenty of monuments and museums to visit in Tangier, as well as centuries-old medinas and mile-long beaches. The café culture here is renowned, too, once popular with art and literature legends such as Henri Matisse, Tennessee Williams and William S Burroughs.