Sue Firestone has always had a taste for adventure. “I definitely loved to travel as far as I could. As a teenager I was hitchhiking up to Big Sur with friends and camping out under the stars,” shares the L.A.-based designer, president of the internationally acclaimed interior design firm sfa Design. “[It was] hippie living off the earth,” she adds, laughing.
These days, leading a team that creates luxe residential and resort interiors for a globe-spanning client list, including Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton properties, means Firestone’s accommodations have considerably improved. But she hasn’t lost her desire to explore: “I’m still drawn to the primitive type of experiences. Anything in nature has always been important to me,” she explains. Firestone’s travels have taken her to Kenya, China, and beyond, and her work continues to take her to new and exciting locales.
We asked Firestone, whose Curator’s Collection for Joss & Main launched on February 21, to divulge some of her favorite resorts and hotels (including some of her own projects) around the world. These oases of inspiration and relaxation top her list.
Hilton Windhoek, Namibia
Tucked away in sub-Saharan Africa, the sprawling city of Windhoek harbors one of Firestone’s most exotic projects. Although the city of has a colonial, German villa aesthetic, the Hilton Windhoek’s sleek designs adds a “suddenly contemporary” touch with “Namibian overtones,” Firestone explains. Using water as a defining theme, Hilton Windhoek evokes a tranquil desert oasis, and works by local artisans lend an authentic touch to the modern getaway. Highlights include a captivating view of the city from their rooftop bar and pool. Located in the City Center, the Hilton Windhoek is only a short walk from shops, restaurants, and landmarks, leaving guests free to admire the surrounding historical architecture at your leisure. Rev. Michael Scott St., Windhoek, Namibia, 264-61-2962929, hilton.com.
One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos, Mexico
If you’re looking for an exotic experience a little closer to home, look no further than Palmilla in Los Cabos. Having taken up several remodeling projects in Mexico, Firestone loves to find herself in this tropical utopia. “They planted it 35 years ago with tons of palm trees and oases,” divulges Firestone, “leaving the rest of the landscape intact.” Built in 1956, its earliest clientele included Bing Crosby, Lucille Ball, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Although the amenities may have been updated since then, Palmilla still boasts a wealth of lush greenery and, as its namesake , palm trees. Each guestroom faces the sea, offering expansive views of the Pacific Ocean or the Seat of Cortez. Ocean Front guestrooms are even equipped with a personal telescope where, if you’re lucky, you can occasionally spot grey whales breach offshore. Km 7.5 Carretera Transpeninsular, San Jose Del Cabo, BCS, CP 23400 Mexico, +52 624 146 7000, palmilla.oneandonlyresorts.com.
The Chedi Muscat, Oman
The Chedi Muscat is a “gorgeous hotel” and “one of my favorites,” says Firestone of the subtly striking retreat. A unique blend of Omani influence and Asian style minimalism, the Chedi is a Persian-inspired paradise infused with sleek contours and tranquil spaces. “Very symmetrical and very zen, it is sensitive to the surrounding culture,” says Firestone. Rooms designed with high ceilings and oversized windows look out onto dramatic mountains, sparkling waters, and vibrant gardens. Oman has no high rises, she notes, instead boasting thousand-year-old villages and incredible beaches with and some of the best diving in the world. The Chedi also hosts the largest spa in Muscat, offering intriguing services such as Balinese therapies, Indian Ayurvedic treatments, and indigenous healing rituals. North Ghubra 32, Way No. 3215, 18th November Street, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, 968-24-52-44-00, ghmhotels.com.
El Capitan Canyon, Santa Barbara, California
For an indulgent staycation, the California-based Firestone recommends El Capitan Canyon, a lavish campground in Santa Barbara. “A lot of people in L.A. know about it,” says the seasoned local. After you fill your days hiking, horseback riding, ocean kayaking, or stargazing, you can come back to a plush queen size bed in your safari-style tent or cabin near the beach. What’s more, it’s perfect for families—Firestone loves taking her grandkids because it offers the perfect balance of recreation and comfort. So if you love nature but won’t compromise on a hot shower, El Capitan provides both outdoor adventures and cushy accommodations for a truly “eco-luxury experience.” 11560 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, California, 805-685-3887, elcapitancanyon.com.
Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, French Polynesia
What better way to gain perspective than an excursion to French Polynesia? Always seeking to refresh her creativity, Firestone escapes to the coveted South Pacific islands, “one of the most romantic and beautiful places I’ve ever been.” “People live like a [Paul] Gauguin painting,” says Firestone, referring to the iconic artist’s striking paintings of Tahiti. An avid sailor, she spends time visiting the many islands that are seldom frequented by other visitors. The waters are “almost like a blue lagoon,” she says, full of mesmerizing turquoise waters, lush greenery, and “fascinating fish in unbelievable colors.” For those of us without access to a sailboat, Firestone assures “you can’t go wrong with the resorts,” noting that the Four Seasons Resort in Bora Bora features beachfront villas and over-water bungalows offering incomparable views. Motu Tehotu – BP 547, 98730 Bora Bora, 689-603-130, fourseasons.com/borabora.
W Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
If you’re seeking an urban crash pad on the West Coast, look to W Hollywood. The property includes both a hotel and residences, and sfa Design was asked to furnish one of the model penthouses for the latter. Inspired by Firestone’s life in 1970s Malibu, the W commission was by far her favorite project to date. “It was the first time someone had designed something just for me!” Firestone laughs. Defined by a boho-chic theme and steeped in “natural colors and earth tones without being too funky,” the bespoke abode showcases a tie-dyed accent wall, Moroccan pendants, a reclaimed wood console, and cozy ikat floor cushions for a fresh, retro vibe. 6250 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, 323-798-1300, whollywoodhotel.com.
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Scheduled to open this year, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi is one of sfa Design’s glittering achievements. Crafted into an elegant crescent, the grand resort invites breathtaking views of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the UAE’s cherished religious monument and “the most expensive and gorgeous mosque in the world,” gushes Firestone. Inspired by Renaissance architecture and the urban planning of Venice, Italy, the stunning resort is a majestic blend of classic design and contemporary luxury. Guests are invited to indulge in one and two-bedroom villas with outdoor terraces that overlook manicured gardens, the Grand Mosque, and the illustrious Grand Canal. If guests choose to venture beyond this bejeweled oasis, Abu Dhabi offers activities like kayaking through mangrove forests and exploring its beautiful coastline. For a dose of retail therapy, The Souk at the World Trade Center’s central market boasts three levels of 250 shops, where you can find traditional artifacts, Arabic perfumes, and artfully crafted jewelry. P.O. Box 91888, Khor Al Maqta’a, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, +9712-8188888, ritzcarlton.com.