Four Incredible Designer Villas You Can Rent This Summer in Europe, Or Just Admire From Afar

Every winter, when I start fantasizing about summer vacations I might go on that year, there’s one form the daydreams always take: the enduring paradigm of the verdant country villa shared with family and friends, something straight out of a French or Danish film. I’m pretty much never dreaming about luxury hotels — save maybe for one on the Italian coast that I’m loath to share publicly — because it’s the romance of spending idle days reading on a sofa, swimming in a pool, and dining outdoors with only your loved ones around that appeals so much. The problem with those fantasies, though, is the reality that hits once you try to actually book a villa like that, because the grounds may be picturesque, and the building pretty enough, but the interiors usually leave a lot to be desired. That’s why we’ve been so happy to get to know the high-end home-sharing platform Boutique, with whom we threw a party in a Neutra house during Frieze L.A. — their offerings are geared towards design-forward properties rented by and for creatives, so your vacation can be both idyllic and aesthetic.

We went hunting on Boutique’s site for some of our favorite villas for rent across Europe and the UK that are lovely to look at both inside and out. If you’re lucky enough to be going on a fancy holiday this summer, whether it’s an annual sojourn or a once-in-a-lifetime splurge, put these properties on your shortlist — or find your own ideal spot among Boutique’s nearly 2,000 options.

Casa Soleto, Lecce, Italy

Remember this stunner in Puglia we published back in 2016? Architect Andrew Trotter has been consistently upping his game ever since, and the Casa Soleto — which he designed alongside Marcelo Martínez — is no exception. The house was built in the 1700s and many parts of it date back 400 years; the designers added their own colored plaster, terrazzo, salvaged monastery furniture, and just enough contemporary furnishings to restore it in a modern way without changing the old-world vibe. The 5-bedroom villa sits on the Salento peninsula in the south of Italy, an hour away from Brindisi airport — an hour we’d gladly traverse to stay in a place this magical. Photos: Salva Lopez

Lenza Barn, Corsica, France

In the same way that Corsica is a little bit French and a little bit Italian, the Lenza Barn is a little bit rustic and a little bit sleek, a little bit mid-century and a little bit contemporary. Perched atop a hill on the southern side of the island — giving it sweeping 360-degree views — the barn is similarly outfitted with such disparate pieces as a 1960s rosewood Ole Wansher dining table, a 17th-century buffet, calico-quilted bed linens, and a small army of Eames shell chairs. It’s a pretty great foreground against which to experience the background of trees, sky, and ocean as far as the eye can see.

Casa Fortunato, Setúbal, Portugal

If you’ve traveled in Portugal, you’ll know that there’s a little bit of a formula to its spaces, at least in the hospitality world: old buildings get renewed with bright-white walls, expressive tiled floors, and very minimalist contemporary furniture that lets the original architectural details shine. Casa Fortunato, on the very southern tip of Portugal, has taken that formula and tweaked it with a more layered, expressive approach to furniture, accessories, and art (some of it by the co-owner’s grandmother). With only 6 rooms, it’s easy to take over with a bunch of friends, and there’s a cute little multi-table dining room to make it feel a bit like summer camp, albeit the fanciest camp you’ve ever been to. Photos: Manolo Yllera

Secular Retreat, Devon, UK

When we first learned about Alain de Botton’s Living Architecture project in the early 2000s — which aimed to give a series of top designers carte-blanche to build holiday rentals in the UK, thereby allowing more people personally experience amazing architecture — we honestly were skeptical it would ever actually get built. But almost 20 years later, there are eight of them in existence, and one of them is bookable through Boutique: Peter Zumthor’s Secular Retreat. The architecture itself is highly site-specific, but so are the furnishings, almost all of them custom-made by Zumthor’s team for this space; the jewel-toned upholstery and rugs are a nice counterpoint to the minimalism of the glass and rammed-concrete walls. And if it gets too chilly on the coasts of Devon, you can cozy up to the epic fireplace in the center of the home.