The Waldorf Astoria Residences in NYC is for Sale Following Transformative Restoration

Posted in What to Buy

An icon of glamour and grandeur, the Waldorf Astoria has been the epitome of luxury hospitality since it opened its doors in 1931. The legendary hotel has been the Manhattan residence of choice among global elite, world leaders, cultural icons and royalty — hosting former famous guests such as Frank Sinatra, Winston Churchill, Grace Kelly, Queen Elizabeth II and former US presidents JKF and Barack Obama amongst countless more. 

The Waldorf Astoria has switched hands a few times, but was last sold to Chinese insurance company, Anbang Group in 2015 for US$1.95 billion and later transferred to Dajia Insurance Group to control Anbang’s assets due to a run in with fraud. The property is undergoing a US$1 billion renovation as of 2017 and is set to reopen in 2022. The renewed Waldorf Astoria may not be ready for check in for another two years, but apart from attracting hotel guests, Dajia is also looking to woo investors with the property’s brand new residences within the building, The Towers of the Waldorf Astoria, which is now up for sale. 

The meticulously restored Waldorf Astoria will be transformed from its original 1,413 hotel guestrooms to only 375 guest rooms and 375 apartments, making each unit much larger. The lower floors will remain as accommodation for the hospitality side of business, while the upper floors will turn into a collection of contemporary luxury condominiums. The residences range from studio flats which start at about US$1.7 million to one-bedrooms for US$2.6 million to four-bedroom units to two pinnacle penthouses for sale at north of US$18.5 million. 

For the restoration, one of the largest and most influential architecture, interior design and urban planning firms Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) has taken up the challenge. As Waldorf Astoria is New York City’s largest privately-owned landmark, great attention to detail was given to the original Art Deco design and to understand the building’s history and maintain its heritage while bringing it into a new age. The interior design rests on the expertise of emblematic designer Jean-Louis Deniot, the visionary behind some of the world’s most opulent homes.

Every detail was carefully considered and custom made for The Towers including solid custom-paneled interior doors with bespoke antique bronze hardware, custom Italian cabinets, vanities with polished marble countertops, forged polished nickel fixtures and tile mosaics featuring a Waldorf Astoria-inspired pattern. Every residence has been outfitted with all new windows with modern sound-attenuating technology while bringing back the 1931 design, herringbone floors and a full suite of integrated state-of-the-art Gaggenau appliances. 

“The Waldorf Astoria has a forever lavish aura. The interiors will reflect the magnificence of the past mixed with today’s great sense of energy. They will be grand and playful, all highly inviting, with many elements of surprise and excitement.” 

Jean-Louis Deniot, Interior Designer of The Towers of the Waldorf Astoria

As a resident of The Towers of the Waldorf Astoria, residents receive year round access to the hotel’s amenities. Over 50,000 square feet of private residential services includes a 25-metre swimming pool with a relaxation lounge, fitness centre with private training studios, men’s and women’s private spa (with sauna, steam room, treatment rooms), grand salon, private wine storage, games room with bar and lounge, theatre, private workspace with boardrooms, and children’s playroom.  

The Towers of the Waldorf Astoria, 303 Park Avenue, New York 10022, USA

Sales Inquiries: www.waldorftowers.nyc | +1 212 872 1200

Dara Chau

Airbnb Launches US$1 Million Fund to Build World’s Most Unconventional Home

Posted in Holiday Homes

As the world’s largest marketplace for homes, Airbnb has helped millions of hospitality entrepreneurs monetise their spaces. But aside from just building this guest community, the group has other home ideas up their sleeve. Right now, they are on the hunt for the world’s wildest home ideas by dreaming these unusual living spaces into a reality with a US$1 million fund. 

From now until April 16, design enthusiasts can submit their proposals for a chance to turn blueprints into their very own live property. Each submission will be scored against criteria based on creativity, feasibility, sustainability and social good. The purpose of this competition is to enable anyone with an extraordinary idea to design it, build it and ultimately share it with travelers from all across the globe. 

Ten winners of the Unique Airbnb Fund will be selected by an expert panel of judges including Emmy, Tony and Grammy award-winning actor Billy Porter, Airbnb superhost Kristie Wolfe of Big Idaho Potato Hotel and global architecture firm MVRDV. The winners of the award and grant will be announced by Airbnb on May 15.

For some quirky and whimsical inspiration, here are some unconventional Airbnb homes on the market. 

To enter the Unique Airbnb Fund competition, apply here

Dara Chau

The Iconic 1970 Etcetera Lounge Chair is Making a Comeback

Posted in Designers to Know, Interior Design

If we take a look back at some of the most iconic pieces of furniture throughout history, there are a few popular movements that defined interior design and changed living spaces forever – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona from the 20s, Eero Saarinen’s Tulip from the 50s, or Philippe Starck’s Ghost Chair of 2002. But when it comes to the 70s, the piece that is often used to represent the style of the decade was Swedish designer Jan Ekselius’ Etcetera Series. 

Originally created as a prototype for a school project while attending Royal College of Art in London, Ekselius’ creation earned him much recognition. The unmistakable wavy silhouette was an instant hit for its creative and fluid design paired with its incredible comfort that stood the test of time and kept its iconic status until today. The original pieces have been exhibited in Christie’s in London and Bukowskis in Stockholm. Fifty years since its inception, the design makes a revival to be reintroduced to the next generation. 

“Fifty years ago, I could never have had imagined that Etcetera would be this desired today.”

Jan Ekselius

In partnership with Swedish design boutique Artilleriet, Jan Ekselius will bring back the Etcetera into production once again. Originally crafted with simply bent steel and covered in padded fabric, the new redesign with the help of craftsmen J.O. Carlsson and Forsbergs in Småland gets an upgrade in quality, detail and sustainability. Almost identical in design, the spring wire mesh fabric which was first used in 1970 is replaced with car manufacturer Volvo’s adjustable Pullmaflex back support design system with resilient bands to enhance comfort, while the covers remain in its organic ecological cotton velour material.

The relaunched Etcetera series consists of the Etcetera Lounge Chair (US$2,380), Etcetera Easy Chair (US$2,295) and Etcetera Footstool (US$780) and comes in seven colourways: Chocolate Brown, Crème White, Grass Green, Klein Blue, Ruby Red, Sand Beige and Zinc Grey.

Made in Sweden
Etcetera Lounge Chair: W: 63cm; D 107cm; H: 77cm
Etcetera Easy Chair: W: 63cm; D: 76cm; H: 68cm
Etcetera Footstool: W: 63cm; D:50cm; H: 42cm

Dara Chau

Italian Properties for 1€ Still Up for Grabs

Posted in What to Buy, Where to Live

The best investment on earth is earth. And why wouldn’t it be? They’re not making any more of it. That may be the case the world over, with the little exception of one (or a handful of) places – quaint villages all across Italy. Not only are the prices ridiculously affordable, it is in fact so low that even pocket change, can make you a homeowner. For the measly sum of 1€ (US$1.1), a house in rural Italy can be yours. Here’s the catch: they all belong in abandoned towns and part of the purchase agreement requires buyers to spend a minimum of 22,470€ (US$25,000) in refurbishments, renovations and upkeep over the course of a few years and a small security deposit. 

The unbelievable bargain price was set to woo potential new residents to revitalise what had become ghost towns due to locals emigrating to metropolitan cities in pursuit of bigger opportunities. In an attempt to salvage emptied out villages, the cheap sale would restore towns to a healthy population. 

The news of one euro homes for sale in Sambuca of Italy first broke last year. The story of the cheapest property in the world went viral. And now, after over a year of test driving the concept to lure investors to tap into the untouched, depopulated town, neighbouring villages are starting to follow suit. Is it too late to get in on the action? No. The good news is the first people to snap up these homes have now moved in and the returns are positive. So where are these 1€ homes you ask? Here’s a list of some of the most gorgeous, forgotten places all over Italy. 

Bivona 

Binova is one of the newcomers to join the 1€ movement. The Sicilian town also offers tax bonuses to anyone who is willing to move in. Town councillor Angela Cannizzaro is facilitating the great interest in the homes by setting up multilingual agencies to help buyers navigate through the process. There are currently 10 houses on the market, but more will be made available soon. 

Cammarata 

If waking up to a beautiful sunrise gets your day going, then Cammarata is the place. Known as “the town with 1,000 balconies to the East,” the Sicilian town is known for its views and hearty local cuisine. Cammarata is also one of the most attractive deals with not just the dollar pricetag of a home, but also due to the government handing out a US$1,116 (1,000€) incentive for every baby born in town. 

Gangi

As one of the first towns to be listed for 1€, Gangi has become one of the most popular property markets offering this special deal. “Over 160 crumbling dewllings got a makeover thanks to new owners and this has triggered a revival also for the private real estate market. The old centre shines again,” Mayor of Sicily explains. There are about 15 homes that are still available, so if Gangi is one of the places you’ve been eyeing, act fast. 

Sambuca 

Sambuca is probably the one you’ve heard of if you’ve looked into dollar homes. It was the first town to offer the unbeatable deal, and thus has garnered overwhelming interest. With such great demand, local authorities have set up auctions to offer homes to the highest bidder. Only one of 16 homes were actually sold for 1€, with the highest being 25,000€. So a little on the pricier side, but what’s a little extra for Sambuca’s illustrious mazes, rugged hills and local wine?

Zungoli 

Location, location, location. That’s what it’s about at Zungoli, which borders Naples and the Amalfi coast. Aristocratic mansions, cobble steps and ancient castles make Zungoli one of the most romantic and picturesque towns in Italy. In preparation of the sale, this old rural land gets an upgrade with new pavements, public lights and lightning WiFi. Thirty houses have been sold, but there are more lots available for purchase. 

So if being a property owner of a home in the rustic romantic towns of Italy for dirt cheap is a dream of yours, it isn’t too late. Get a piece of the pie by applying here or here and start packing.

Dara Chau

Building Spotlight: Blue House, Hong Kong

Posted in What to Buy

With skyscraper upon skyscraper sweeping the skyline of Hong Kong, it’s not unusual to overlook the far and few historical and cultural buildings that have survived over the decades. For the first instalment of our monthly series, Building Spotlight, we take a closer look at one of the city’s most illustrious houses – the Blue House. 

QUICK FACTS

  • Address: 72, 72A, 74, 74A Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai
  • Built: 1922
  • Site Area: 808 sq. mtr.
  • Gross Floor Area: 2,323 sq. mtr.
  • Price per square feet: N/A

Tucked away from the busy street of Queen’s Road East in Wan Chai, and nestled quietly off the adjacent little path, Stone Nullah Lane is the Blue House. It’s hard to miss as it stands boldly with neighbouring buildings in 1920s heritage style architecture painted in vibrant blue, yellow and orange against the ashy tone buildings we’ve grown accustomed to around town. Known as the Blue House Cluster, the brightly painted façade of the three buildings has long been a tourist (and social media) attraction for its vibrant hues. 

Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai | Photo: Public Records Office

Back in the 1870s when the Blue House was built, it blended in with its surrounding buildings seamlessly. For one, the structural style of the construction was very much of its time, and secondly and more surprisingly, the building itself wore a slightly bleaker hue.

Built in the 1870s, the four-storey building was known as Wan Chai Kai Fong Hospital or Wah To Hospital, named after the God of Medicine from the Three Kingdoms period. As the first hospital of its district, it provided locals with Chinese medical services. The centre closed in 1886, and became a temple dedicated to worshipping Wah To. 

Stone Nullah Lane, 1915

Fast forward to the 1920s, where four four-storey tenement blocks were built and the structure was simply named 72-74 Stone Nullah Lane. The ground floor remained as a shrine, while upper storeys were repurposed as residential dwellings for lower income families. The temple remained until the 1950s when it was subsequently replaced by a martial arts studio and Teet Da clinic opened by Kung Fu master Wong Fei Hung’s protégé, Lam Sai Wing and nephew Lam Cho. About a decade later, it had undergone several changes including an osteopathy clinic, a grocery store, a Chinese wine shop and even a school that offered free education to children within the neighbourhood. It was also home to the first and only English school in the district before WWII as well as a committee hall for the Chamber of Commerce for Fishmongers. 

Stone Nullah Lane, 1963 | Photo: Information Services Department

In 1978, 72, 72A an 74 Stone Nullah Lane was surrendered to the Hong Kong Government. It wasn’t until 1997 that the building was repainted blue– the distinctive colour that earned the house its name. The iconic hue that has made the Blue House so recognisable and given it much of its charm, came as an accidental coincidence when the decorators at the time covered the exterior in remaining excess paint from the Water Supplies Department. In 2009 74A Stone Nullah Lane, which was previously privately owned, also surrendered to the government, the same year Blue House earned its Grade 1 Historic Buildings status. 

In 2006, the government announced its plans for renovations at the Blue House and its adjacent buildings. All historical features have been preserved including its timber staircase between the two blocks serving the flats in the upper floors, old patterned tile flooring and ornamental ironwork railings. Units were also given cantilevered balconies that overlooked the streets below. Inside, the 20 apartments were given a much-needed revamp with modifications to include bathrooms and flushing toilets, kitchens and air-conditioning. A courtyard area in the middle of the block was also converted into a public gathering space. 

The Blue House today | Photo: Development Bureau Hong Kong

Cultivating and preserving culture, the Blue House is Hong Kong’s architectural treasure. The house is partially open to public for viewing and regularly hosts events and art exhibitions that touch on Hong Kong history and development. 

Dara Chau

Invest in: Cam Ranh, Vietnam’s Hottest Hospitality Market

Posted in Market Report, What to Buy

The unspoilt coastline of southeast Vietnam has become a property investor hotspot in Asia. It belongs to the Khanh Hoa province which has grown in popularity for its pristine beaches and year-round tropical climate. But beyond its natural beauty, Cam Ranh lures investors with its secluded refuge, idyllic seafront views, flourishing connectivity to international airports, tempting price point, and most importantly its appreciating value with government policies and burgeoning new properties in development including integrated resorts. Here are the three reasons why Cam Ranh is heating up to be Southeast Asia’s hottest property investment. 

Secluded and Untouched by Mass Tourism 

Cam Ranh has been under the radar as Vietnam’s best kept secret until recently. A promising venture, the once primitive landscape is still very much in its original rural beauty without the crowds of more populated travel destinations. The Cam Ranh peninsula’s white sand and crystal waters are a traveler’s paradise, making investors eager to be one of the first to tap into the land.

Compared to Southeast Asia’s top sun and sand destinations like Bali, Phuket, Boracay, or even Nha Trang (just 45km north and sharing a coast with Cam Ranh) which boast the same picturesque views and vibes, the privacy and solitude is unbeatable at Cam Ranh. With such similarities, it is predicted that Cam Ranh too, will become a tourism capital. Moreover, neighbouring destination Nha Trang is showing signs of tourist overload, making Cam Ranh an easy vacationing alternative within the region. 

Accessibility and Connectivity 

The international terminal at Cam Ranh International Airport has undergone a HK$1.27 billion (US$163 million) renovation and opened in 2018 to accommodate more direct flights, reducing travel time and inconvenience. The airport sees 10 million passengers a year, and is one of the busiest airports in Vietnam together with Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi and Da Nang, with direct flights to and from mega metropolises like Hong Kong, Bangkok, Seoul, Shanghai, and Taipei. With easier accessibility and more potential routes from Tokyo and Singapore, Cam Ranh will be open to further tourism for its convenient logistics. Apart from its airport, Vietnam’s visa requirements are minimal and can be processed upon arrival, making it all the more simple (and convenient) for travellers.

Appreciating Value with New Developments on the Rise 

Many resorts are currently being constructed at a rapid pace, and there are further plans to erect more luxury hotels, apartments villas, and holiday houses. Pioneering projects such as Cam Ranh Riviera, Fusion Resort, Dessole Sea Lion and Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts have been running with great success and new development projects are currently going underway.

The Nha Trang Bay Investment and Construction Joint Stock has since been one of the most attractive ventures, with tourist experiences becoming increasingly exciting. These integrated resorts include casino expansions with the Vietnam Prime Minster deciding on investing in casino businesses such as KN Paradise Cam Ranh as part of the country’s proposal of the Ministry of Planning an Investment in 2019.

With the KN Paradise expected completion date scheduled for 2025, investors are eager to get a piece of the pie before the value of the market skyrockets. It is currently the fastest growing up-and-coming area in Southeast Asia, suited for luxury high spending tourism and coastal residences. Aside from resorts and villas, golf courses, shopping malls, and boat marinas will also be constructed. 

Dara Chau