How to Add Gilded Age Glamour To Any Backyard
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How to Add Gilded Age Glamour To Any Backyard

The restoration of a grand New England garden offers lessons for growers who are eager to add ‘instant age’ to modern-day plots.

By KATY ELLIOTT
Thu, Aug 18, 2022 9:47amGrey Clock 3 min

WHEN WE BEGAN, it was basically an archaeological ruin,” landscape architect Douglas Jones recalled of the elegant Marblehead, Mass., garden that his client, Brian McCarthy, has dedicated two decades to reviving. In the late 1990s, when the McCarthys purchased the waterfront parcel, which included portions of a turn-of-the-century summer estate once owned by heiress and historical preservationist Louise du Pont Crowninshield, their focus was building a home for their growing family—not planting hedges and training roses. But after neighbours shared 1930s photos of the Italianate garden at its peak, the challenge of making a new version look as if it had been there for more than a century proved irresistible. “I wanted to embrace the history,” said Mr. McCarthy.

Guided by that mission, Mr. Jones, of the Boston firm LeBlanc Jones Landscape Architects, launched a “conjectural restoration,” informed by remnants of railings, walls and garden beds. Mr. McCarthy, an avid auction-goer, stalked period statuary. “At a certain point, we had to invent,” said Mr. Jones. “But we were always faithful to the spirit of the place.”

The result is a welcoming garden that looks as if it has always been there—and always will. Here, five strategies that can help homeowners add historical character to their own backyards, no blue-blood pedigree required.

1. Embrace Reclaimed Materials

Though brickwork walls were one of the original features of the garden when Mr. McCarthy hired Mr. Jones to take on the property, the structures were in various states of disrepair, ranging from bad to worse. The solution for an age-appropriate fix: hiring masons to rebuild and repair stairways, walls, niches and arches using a mix of original materials and reclaimed Chicago common bricks sourced to complement the old ones. “Afterward everything was sandblasted to give it a unified, weathered look,” Mr. Jones explained. A creeping blanket of English ivy also helps tie old and new together. “A masonry consultant would definitely tell you to pull off these vines,” he said. “But we love how they add a sense of age, so we’ve allowed them to envelop.”

2. Traffic in Traditional Motifs

For a garden that looks timeless, stick to designs that never go out of style. Topiaries and manicured hedges with well-defined edges are a classic motif in formal gardens and an ideal way to imbue otherwise bland spaces with structure and a sense of history. Here, Mr. Jones used an allée of pyramidal Japanese yews to create a linear transition between the rose garden and the looser, perennial plantings that abut the pool and greenhouse. “It’s a complete invention but in keeping with the old garden,” he explained. Feathery pink astilbe, added by gardener Rick Elder, brings a soft, organic note to the corridor, and in the distance, a 150-year-old bronze beech forms a majestic backdrop behind a sweet marble statue of a child.

3. Seek Out Antique Varietals

The rose garden was one of the most well-documented elements of the original plan, with copious photographs and remnants of the beds visible on the ground. But its restoration was also aided by serendipity: “Amazingly, we found a label for some old roses buried in the soil,” said Mr. Jones—info that was confirmed by an elderly gardener who had worked on the estate more than half a century before. True to the past, Mr. Jones used that varietal—Iceberg, a floribunda prized for cloudlike blossoms—for the perimeter of the garden, then filled in using fragrant newer cultivars from renowned British breeder David Austin Roses, such as Glamis Castle and Abraham Darby, in a pale palette of pink and white.

4. Splurge On Mature Plants

Don’t discount the power of a head start. To lend the grounds instant age, in among younger specimens Mr. Jones planted dozens of established shrubs and trees. Some of Mr. McCarthy’s favourites: the sprawling wisteria that cascades over the waterfront porch of the family’s newly built (but historically-accurate) Georgian home. They were decades old when purchased—”and they might be a hundred now,” said Mr. McCarthy. Trained and nurtured since, the vines drape to create a keyhole vista of Marblehead harbour. “These have really been a labour of love,” said Mr. Jones.

5. Drop in Pieces With Patina

Arranged everywhere throughout the garden, in niches and clearings, is the sculptural evidence of Mr. McCarthy’s keen collector’s eye. In a less grand garden the objects might look out of place, said Mr. Jones. “But they really work here.” Among the most striking pieces: figures in bronze and cast-iron that react with the elements to form a warm, coppery patina. “I love the way the colouring looks against the brick,” Mr. McCarthy said. “These aren’t the kind of things you’re going to go to Home Depot and see—you’ll never find another one,” he added. “Antiques give the garden the mystique it needs.”

Reprinted by permission of Mansion Global, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: August 17, 2022.



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Booming demand for wellness tourism shows no slowing, with travel related to health and well-being projected to have reached $1 trillion last year and to hit $1.3 trillion by 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit based in Miami.

Curated wellness travel programs are especially sought-after, specifically holistic treatments focused on longevity. Affluent travellers not only are making time to hit the gym while gallivanting across the globe, they’re also seeking destinations that specifically cater to their wellness goals, including treatments aimed at living longer.

“I believe Covid did put a spotlight on self-care and well-being,” says Penny Kriel, corporate director of spa and wellness at Salamander Collection, a group of luxury properties in places like Washington, D.C., and Charleston, South Carolina. But Kriel says today’s spas are more holistic, encouraging folks to understand the wellness concept and incorporate it into their lifestyle more frequently.

“With the evolution of treatment products and technology, spas have been able to enhance their offerings and appeal to more travellers,” Kriel says.

While some growth is connected to the variety of treatments available, results and the digital world are also contributing to the wellness boom.

“The efficacy and benefits of these treatments continue to drive bookings and interest, especially with the support of social media, influencers, and celebrity endorsements,” Kriel says.

While genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, a diet free of processed foods, sufficient sleep, and human connection play essential roles in living well and longer, experts believe in holistic therapies to help manage stress, boost immunity, and ultimately influence length and quality of life.

Anti Ageing and Beyond

“For years, people have been coming to spas, booking treatments, and gaining advice on how to turn the clock back with anti ageing and corrective skin treatments,” Kriel says. However, today’s treatments are far more innovative.

On Marinella Beach in Porto Rotondo, on the Italian island of Sardinia, guests at the five-star Abi d’Oru Hotel & Spa can experience the resort’s one-of-a-kind “longevity treatment,” a unique antiaging facial using one of the island’s native grapes: Cannonau. The world’s first declared “Blue Zone”—one of five designated areas where people live longer than average, some into their 100s—Sardinia produces this robust red wine varietal, the most widely planted on the island.

Known as Garnacha in Spain and Grenache in France, Cannonau supposedly contains two to three times more antioxidants than other red-wine grapes. By incorporating Cannonau, Abi Spa says its unique 50-minute longevity session increases collagen production for firmer, younger-looking skin.

Maintaining a youthful appearance is just one facet of longevity treatments, which range from stress-reduction sessions like massage to nutritional support and sleep programs, Kriel says. Some retreats also offer medical services such as IV infusions and joint injections.

Keeping with the trend, Kriel is expanding Salamander Collection’s existing spa services, such as detox wraps and lymphatic drainage, to include dedicated “Wellness Rooms,” new vegan and vegetarian menu items, and well-being workshops. “Sleep, nutrition, and mindfulness will be a big focus for integration in 2024,” she says.

Data-Driven Wellness

Skyler Stillings, an exercise physiologist at Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort—an adults-only wellness centre in Lanai, Hawaii—says guests were drawn to the social aspect when the spa opened in November 2021.

“We saw a huge need for human connection,” she recalls. But over the past few years, what’s paramount has shifted. “Longevity is trending much more right now.”

Human connection is a central draw for guests at Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Billionaire co-founder of tech company Oracle Larry Ellison and physician and scientist Dr. David Angus co-founded Sensei. After the death of a mutual close friend, the duo teamed up to create longevity-based wellness retreats to nurture preventative care and a healthy lifestyle. In addition to the Lanai location, the brand established Sensei Porcupine Creek in Greater Palm Springs, California, in November 2022.

Sensei has a data-driven approach. The team performs a series of assessments to obtain a clearer picture of a guest’s health, making wellness recommendations based on the findings. While Sensei analyses that data to curate a personalised plan, Stillings says it’s up to the guests which path they choose.

Sensei’s core three-day retreat is a “Guided Wellness Experience.” For spa treatments, each guest checks into their own “Spa Hale,” a private 1,000-square-foot bungalow furnished with an infrared sauna, a steam shower, a soaking tub, and plunge pools. The latest therapies include Sarga Bodywalking—a barefoot myofascial release massage, and “Four Hands in Harmony,” a massage with two therapists working in tandem. Sensei Guides provide take-home plans so guests can continue their wellness journeys after the spa.

Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Sanctuaries for Longevity

Headquartered in Switzerland with hotels and on-site spas across the globe, Aman Resorts features an integrative approach, combining traditional remedies with modern medicine’s advanced technologies. Tucked behind the doors of the storied Crown Building in Midtown Manhattan, Banya Spa House at Aman New York—the brand’s flagship spa in the Western Hemisphere—is a 25,000-square-foot, three-floor urban oasis.

Yuki Kiyono, global head of health and wellness development at Aman, says the centre provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. Aman’s customisable “Immersion Programs” consist of a three- or five-day immersion. “The programs encompass treatments and experiences that touch every significant aspect to create a path for longevity, from meditation and mindfulness to nutrition and movement,” Kiyono explains.

Banya Spa House at Aman New York.
Robert Rieger

The spa’s “Tei-An Wellness Solution” features 90- to 150-minute sessions using massage, cryotherapy, and Vitamin IV infusions. Acupuncture is also on offer.

“With its rich history of Chinese Medicine, modern research, and the introduction of sophisticated electro-acupuncture medicine, acupuncture has been proven to assist with problems and increase performance,” Kiyono says.

Resetting the Mind and Body

Beyond longevity, “healthspan”—the number of years a person can live in good health free of chronic disease—is the cornerstone of Mountain Trek Health Reset Retreat’s program in British Columbia, Canada.

Kirk Shave, president and program director, and his team employ a holistic approach, using lifestyles in long-living Blue Zones as a point of reference.

“We improve our daily lifestyle habits, so we live vitally as long as we’re meant to live,” Shave says of the retreat. He built the program from an anthropological stance, referencing humans as farmers, hunters, and gatherers based on their eating and sleeping patterns. Food includes vegetable-centric meals sans alcohol, sugar, bread, or dairy.

Guests wake at dawn each day and have access to sunrise yoga, several hours of “flow” or slow hiking, spa treatments, forest bathing, calming crystal singing-bowl and sound therapy sessions, and classes on stress reduction—one of Mountain Trek’s primary goals. The program motivates people to spend much of their time in nature because it’s been proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to inflammation and disease when elevated for extended periods.

While most guests aren’t aware of how immersive Mountain Trek’s program is when they arrive, they leave the resort revitalized after the structured, one-week program. Set in the Kootenays overlooking its eponymous river, the resort and adventure promise what Shave calls a “visceral experience of transformation.”

“They’re interested in coming to be in nature,” Shave says of the guests. “They hit a wall in their life and slipped backwards, so they know they need a reset.”

Banya Spa House at Aman New York provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being.
Robert Rieger

This article first appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of Mansion Global Experience Luxury.

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