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Spoil yourself in inspiring resorts
The West Australian The Luna2 in Seminyak.

Go on. Let's spoil ourselves. Not just with money but with design. Not just with somewhere flash but somewhere uplifting and inspiring. Somewhere with a sense of story.

And, in some way, that is the story of Design Hotels - an umbrella title which covers an increasing number of the world's most inspiring hotels.

Design Hotels' statement is that its 200 hotels are expressive, one-of-a-kind; that they are individual in concept and curated. And that they share a deep connection and dialogue with their locality.

"This quality enables us to reflect, refine and even define our neighbourhoods. From rural landscapes to art temples, we seek out the latest reflections of innovation, passion and responsibility."

And Malene Bertelsen, Design Hotels' representative in WA, sees increasing interest in such things.

She says Design Hotels now has 50,000 club members globally and, from Australia, the number of bookings are increasing. "I think there is interest in hotels that are doing something a bit different - people enjoy the contemporary design."

Last year was a year of strong bookings from Australia, she says, and so far this year, bookings have increased significantly again.

"I am encouraged by the fact that there are more contemporary hotels opening in Australia," she says.

Hotel DeBrett in Auckland has recently been accepted into the Design Hotels fold and there are six Design Hotels in Bali:

Alila Manggis: Local supplies and design elements on the quiet eastern coast, with a big thatch-roofed lobby.

Alila Ubud: Famous for its infinity pool, overlooking the jungled Ayung River valley and sculpture garden.

Alila Villas Soori: Near the sacred Tanah Lot Temple in the south-west, with the fertile Tabanan region, the landscape sweeps from volcanic to green rice terraces and black-sand beaches.

Alila Villas Uluwatu: 100m above the ocean on a limestone clifftop on the south-west foot of Bali, there is a pure aesthetic to this resort.

Luna2 Private Hotel: In Seminyak, Luna2 aptly bills itself as "funked-up modernist" and has the feel of a private, five-bedroom home but with sharp, contemporary design.

The Elysian Boutique Villa Hotel: 26 villas in Seminyak which blend traditional Balinese design with the contemporary, set in a cluster but each with a walled garden.

They are the strong South-East Asian face of Design Hotels, which is truly international. New openings this year include the New Hotel in Athens, Hotel American in New York and Das Stue in Berlin.

Design Hotels' strength is in the head; in design, approach, philosophy and these are encapsulated in its exquisite (and I use the word carefully) books.

Recently published is the new Design Hotels' hardback Made by Originals - a book full of not just hotels but of the truly creative people who make them.

Its frontispiece states: "Our company was founded on design, just one manifestation of creativity."

The book is a design and photographic masterpiece - full of wonderful images of places, scenes, details, people. Some of the best of contemporary photography.

It includes the story of Mark Edleson, the founder of Alila Hotels and Resorts. Raised in California, he spent three years with the Peace Corps in Malaysia, obtained a master's degree in international relations, led many successful hospitality companies over 35 years and in 2000, co-founded Alila which now has 12 hotels in Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, India and the Maldives.

Luxury and service are top of the list, but vying with them is their touch on the planet. The last three were built to the exacting EC3 EarthCheck environmental standard.

And, in the book, writer Erik Andersen says: "Edleson doesn't just talk the talk about the environment - he literally walks the walk as he has no car in Singapore, where he lives and works. His second home in Bali is solar powered and his wife and two sons have long been involved in projects of organic farming and sustainable housing."

Mr Edleson says: "Once I saw there was a bigger world out there, I made myself be a part of it. Travel is a great way to experience the unity of humankind - across the globe we all share pretty much the same pursuits."

Visit www.designhotels.com.

ALILA VILLAS

by DI BAUWENS

Luxury and ecotourism are taken to great heights at Alila Villas Uluwatu - an exclusive pool villa resort designed by one of Asia's most celebrated architectural firms, WOHA.

Bali's rugged southern coast is a dramatic setting for the sustainable design of the resort. Its eco-friendly framework made it the first of its kind in Bali to meet the rigorous Green Globe Building Planning and Design Standard.

Set high on limestone cliffs, Alila Villas is serene and beautiful, both stark and stunning. The resort's walls are made from batu palimanan from Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Bamboo ceilings and rattan interiors are locally sourced and crafted in Bali. Wood materials are recycled from railway sleepers and telephone poles.

The 84 villas have contemporary open-plan interiors enhanced by touches of nature and traditional Balinese accents of wood, water, stone and rattan. Each has its own pool and cabana.

The flat roofs of each villa are covered with local volcanic rock which acts as a natural insulator and encourages vegetation growth.

Indonesian and Balinese food is available in the sophisticated indoor/outdoor dining space of The Warung. Fine dining at Cire provides the option of contemporary Western cuisine among dividing screens and artworks.

See www.alilahotels.com/uluwatu.