Barely a year after Max Aniort, a Frenchman with an impressive if compact resumé of finance posts in Hong Kong and New York, launched Le Collectionist, the French newspaper Le Figaro proclaimed “Les riches ont maintenant leur Airbnb” (“the rich now have their Airbnb”). Indeed, Aniort’s motivation to create this online portal for luxury villa rentals was a friend’s Barcelona holiday let débacle – alluring online imagery proved quite unlike the dirty, amenity-free flat he found on arrival – and the site now boasts a 1,400-strong collection of distinctly fancy pads across 270-plus points on the sybarite’s travel map.
What distinguishes Aniort’s foray from other villa rental agencies on the internet, however, is the consistency of his high-end offerings. While many more established competitors surely include architectural gems waiting to get sifted out from the sandy masses, Aniort has stealthily collected some of the world’s highest-profile property prizes, along with hotel-quality concierge and housekeeping services, and insider travel tips. Take the so-called Villa Ariitea (from €2,780 per night, first picture) in New Zealand; if it looks familiar that may be because this cedar-clad modernist beach house designed by Auckland architect Andrew Patterson has another identity entirely – Pigeon Bay, one of the luxury villa collection better known as Annandale, occupying 4,000 acres of farmland and 10km of coastline along the scenic Banks Peninsula of South Island. This majestic property has three ocean-front master bedrooms plus a bunkroom that sleeps eight; the chimney is made of stone from the surrounding farm’s own quarry, while the soft rugs are spun from wool sheered from the sheep that dapple the surrounding fields.
Aliases abound on this tempting site: design aficionados and philanthropic-minded travellers may recognise the distinguishing architectural features of Villa Benchamat (from €3,990 per night, second picture) and the three-bedroom Villa Boontam (from €4,460 per night, third picture) on the Phang-Nga beachfront, just north of Phuket in Thailand, as Mark Weingard’s Iniala Beach House, which, while not elaborated as such on this site, in fact brings together 11 major international designers, including the Campana Brothers from Brazil, Spain’s Jaime Hayón and Englishman Graham Lamb. The exquisite kitchen here is helmed by Spain’s three-Michelin-starred Basque chef Eneko Atxa of Azurmendi, while profits fund the Inspirasia Foundation, which supports health and education projects for the disabled and disadvantaged throughout Southeast Asia.
Jet set destinations like Ibiza, Greece and Portugal’s newly chic Comporta coastline are also well represented, but among this site’s more under-the-radar riches is Villa Bosilena (€1,710 per night, fourth picture), a year-round, whitewashed hideaway in Bulgaria’s history-rich Rhodope Mountains. This six-bedroom ultra-high-end holiday let may be the best secret steal on this cyber-world treasure hunt.
And hunt you may have to, as I found the navigation, frankly, quite clunky; but be sure to manually click out of one destination before investigating the next, or you’ll be scrolling through Fiji and France at the same time, and finding “star” properties will probably become quickly addictive.