Living the life of luxury – for a weekend

Face it, most of us will never have our name in bright lights and be mobbed by hordes of adoring fans but there’s no harm in pretending . . . and thanks to a clever young Aussie entrepreneur who has the keys to some of the most opulent private homes, super-yachts and jets in Australia and New Zealand, you can at least masquerade as an A-lister.

Luxe Houses CEO Jessica Kirkpatrick, who has welcomed many a celebrity to the 200 prestigious rental properties she manages, says in recent years she has seen the emergence of the domestic and international luxury traveller seeking bespoke accommodation.

“Our Luxe Houses portfolio provides these discerning travellers with an elite experience in some of Australia and New Zealand’s most exclusive private houses,” says the 34-year-old Aussie businesswoman who founded Luxe Houses in 2011.

“It’s where stars, black-book celebrities and well-to-do expats call first to seek out outstanding accommodation.”

And so can you. There is a substantial fee involved in this play-acting scenario but for a special holiday or celebration, it’s worth throwing caution to wind once in a while. If you gather up a group of like-minded pretenders to share the cost, it is not out of the question to spend a few days at a multi-million private Sydney harbourside home like La Corniche or fashion icon Collette Dinnigan’s former pad in Paddington or a stylish Tamarama mansion overlooking the sand, sea and coastal walkway to world-famous Bondi Beach.

Justine prepares to enjoy lunch by chef Clancy Atkinson. Photo: Justine Tyerman
Justine prepares to enjoy lunch by chef Clancy Atkinson. Photo: Justine Tyerman

Insomnia has its advantages when you have a limited timeframe and many things to experience as an A-lister. It allows you to maximise your time and explore a place at your leisure without interruption. For instance, when I stayed at the palatial Luxe Houses’ entire fifth floor apartment at La Corniche recently, I got twice as much value out of the experience as the rest of my family.

For a start, I did not limit myself to just one bed. I slept around! I started off in the sumptuous super-king in the master bedroom where the sheets were so thick and luxurious, I thought they were doubled, moved to the super-soft queen beds in the two spare rooms, then tried out the huge white L-shaped leather couch under a whisper-light woollen throw, the cosy arm chair with footstool in the window looking out to Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House and the giant spa bath above the satin waters of the harbour. I was even tempted to sleep on the floor, the carpet was so deep and soft and warm.

I know exactly when they turn the Luna Park lights off, when the harbour ferries and the bridge trains start, when the cruise ships begin to glide majestically in and out of the harbour and what time the apricot pre-dawn glimmer casts its warm glow on the shells of the Opera House.

I have done many lengths in the heated indoor pool, meditated in the jacuzzi with its super-charged bubbles, steamed myself in the sauna and tried out all the equipment in the gym. All these facilities, just a few steps down from our whole-floor apartment, I had to myself.

My attention then turned to the impressive array of German Gaggenau appliances in the kitchen and the vision of George Clooney smiling at me from somewhere behind the Nespresso machine. Out of habit, I wiped down the acres of green marble bench in the kitchen. Always dangerous with a cloth in my hand, I lifted the lid on the huge BBQ outside the kitchen on one of three wrap-around balconies, hoping to find something to clean but it was spotless and gleaming like the rest of the place. I forgot, A-listers don’t do cleaning!

Instead, I counted the plates and glasses to see how many we could have for a dinner party, if we took up the Luxe Houses offer to have their celebrity chef Clancy Atkinson cook dinner for us here “at home”.

Clancy was busy catering a birthday soiré at La Corniche for Ronan Keating and his girlfriend on Friday night so we had to cross that night off and then he was headed to Palm Beach for three weeks to cook for a family from London at another Luxe Houses mansion.

The dining room set up for Ronan Keating's birthday. Photo: Justine Tyerman
The dining room set up for Ronan Keating's birthday. Photo: Justine Tyerman

There were another 50 or so glasses in the bar cabinets so cocktails for 100 would have been a possibility – there was ample space in the vast living/entertaining areas and guests would have spilled onto the balconies and outdoor entertainment areas to gasp and exclaim at the jaw-dropping views of that opera house framed by that bridge.

The impressive circular entrance way to La Corniche with its unusual plume-shaped inset in the marble floor is the size of a small living room so another 20 people could be entertained there alone . . .

We eventually settled for an intimate lunch for three instead of dinner for 50 or cocktails for 100.

I sat at the oval table in the conference room, leafing through the long list of other bespoke services I could order if I so desired – I chose Clancy’s fancy lunch, of course, followed by an in-house massage, hair, skin and revitalisation pampering (God knows – I needed all of that), yoga to harmonise the body and soul, a personal shopper to advise me with my summer wardrobe followed by a day or two cruising on board a luxury super-yacht, a flight on a private jet to wherever there’s an airport and some acrobatic manoeuvres high above the harbour in a fighter jet, the latter of which were a bit harder to justify. I used the “When in Sydney . . .” and “You only live once . . . ” rationale for those activities.

Disappointingly, I did not discover Narnia behind the pair of massive antique doors set into the walnut-panel walls of the conference room, an intriguing feature which made my imagination run wild. I’m still convinced there are secret passage ways behind the doors to allow celebrity guests to come and go from La Corniche undetected.
Seated at the bar, I fantasized at the thought of Gerard Butler, another Luxe Houses celebrity client, sitting on the same barstool I was perched on.

The view from the master ensuite. Photo: Justine Tyerman
The view from the master ensuite. Photo: Justine Tyerman

The powerful binoculars mounted on a tripod in a curved alcove in the living space were not much use at night but in the daylight, I could see the eye colour of the cruise ship passengers. It felt disturbingly voyeuristic to examine people so closely without them knowing.

It was quite exhausting being an A-lister, trying to fit all these experiences into just a few days. So I spent some time chilling out, as celebrities no doubt do, just gazing at the view, mesmerised by the iconic sights of Sydney, all lined up side-by-side.

If you always fancied living like an A-lister with a concierge at your beck and call, or have an extra special occasion on the horizon worthy of a few days in extreme luxury, have a chat with Jessica and her team.
Luxe Houses are also used by businesses for corporate, public relations and media events, VIP client entertainment, product launches, advertising campaigns, movie/photography shoots and conferences.

And you must get Clancy to cook lunch or dinner for you “at home” – he’s an absolute gem.

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  • Getting there:

Air New Zealand flies direct to Sydney from Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown and Rotorua with flight options also available on alliance partner Virgin Australia.