Meet The GRACE Collective: Joanna White - The Grace Tales

Meet The GRACE Collective: Joanna White

We've heard that so many of you delight in reading the stories of our members across the world, and we know this week's subject will be no different.

As the founder of Luxuosa Residences, the wonderful Joanna White may soon be your go-to woman when it comes to booking luxurious, family-friendly holidays. We were delighted to speak to Joanna about her road to becoming a business owner, how she manages the work-life juggle and of course, her top travel picks. We’re ready to pack our bags and come right with you, Joanna!

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Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your family and your work? 

I’m from Sydney, and grew up in a great family home surrounded by lots of wonderful friends and family. In 2012 I met my husband on a work trip to Hong Kong, and a few years later moved up to be with him and set up a life in Hong Kong. I did a career U-turn at the age of 25 after working in the film industry, and turned my interest to travel and hotels. I had some incredible opportunities and experiences working for hotel groups, and was lucky to do a lot of travelling and was exposed to so many wonderful cities and cultures through my work. When I moved to Hong Kong, I did some work for a company specialising in luxury villa rentals, and I absolutely fell in love with this part of the industry; private villa rentals and bespoke holidays. I set up Luxuosa while I was pregnant with my son Angus, and continued to build the business for the next 18 months, launching after the birth of my daughter, Farrah. They are 17 months apart.

What does a typical morning look like in your household? 

Mornings I try to keep fairly routine and fun. My husband has an early start at work, and the kids are usually up for cuddles around 6.30am so I have a cup of tea in bed and they have their milk and giggle as they play hide and seek under the blankets. I then get them breakfast and ready for the day, and then they have a play for an hour at home while I get ready and do some work catching up emails from the night before. Then I drop my son at pre-school, while my daughter (19 months) heads off to the park, zoo or library with our lovely nanny. 

Did your work or career shift since becoming a mother? 

Yes, it was when I fell pregnant with Angus (now 3) that I decided I was ready to start my own company. I spent most of the pregnancy working as a consultant to some luxury travel brands i.e Luxe City Guides, while building and creating the website, product and platform that runs Luxuosa. I absolutely love what I do, but I’m someone who wants to do it all and tends to burn the candle at both ends, so it took time to get into a rhythm of juggling being a new mum, and founding a company. 

How do you make the juggle work in your family? 

We have a fairly structured week Monday-Friday which means I have full days in the office, and other times can work remotely to fit around the kids’ activities. My husband is also incredibly supportive and helps when I’m working into the night speaking with clients and suppliers in the UK & Europe. I’m also an early riser and manage the get at least half an hour in the mornings to myself which is a huge help in getting on top of things for the day, so no matter how the day unfolds, I’m ahead.

Can you tell us a bit about Luxuosa?

Luxuosa is a hybrid of luxury holiday villas around the world, and bespoke travel design.

Every one of the bookings is personally curated, and bookings are by enquiry only – we don’t offer an online booking channel so it allows us to get to know each client very well.

We take incredible care in helping the client find the ultimate villa/estate or in some cases castles, for their holiday and then tie all the ends together whether it be boat, car, jet transfers, private experiences right down to personally selecting babysitters and chefs. 

Each one of the villas we work with is vetted and hand-picked and all villas have a quality which makes them special; whether it be its location, interiors, gardens or history. Currently at over 500+ villas, we are constantly expanding and growing with the goal of being the “go-to” for every holiday-maker looking for a holiday home and experience designed specifically for them.

Our clients are scattered all over the world and we take bookings any time of the day – regardless of where the clients are based. We also offer a very wide range of villas so there are lots of options as every client has a different budget, style of villa they like, and specific needs i.e. expansive lawns for kids to run around, in-house hammam, beachfront location, remote island; the list is endless. 

Could you name a favourite property?

Such a hard question! I love all of them.

If I had to choose one for me and my family now I would probably book two weeks at Domaine d’Ares in Saint Rémy de Provence. It’s a magical estate with over 8 acres of gardens including a huge heated swimming pool and tennis court. On the other side of the house past the vegetable gardens, is a children’s house and garden; a paradise entirely dedicated to the kids to play in. It sleeps up to 18 guests across 10 bedrooms so is a great summer home for a few families sharing.

I also love Casa Juliette in Ibiza, and its location close to Es Cubells and Sant Josep means there is an endless number of white sand beaches on your doorstep which are perfectly kid-friendly. It has two pools, lots of outdoor space including a children’s playground and the bedrooms are large and bright. For family holidays in Ibiza, June or September are ideally the best times to go to avoid the crowds, and the weather is perfect. Plus the rates can drop by up to 50% outside of July/ August, which is always a plus!

In Asia, Villa Analaya is an incredible 6 bedroom beach-front villa with a huge outdoor living area and edge infinity pool overlooking the Andaman Sea. It has 3 separate sleeping quarters (each with two bedrooms) so if you’re sharing with friends or family you have your own private space. It’s located on the West Coast of the island so it’s great if you want a few dinners out as well. We recommend Catch Beach Club & Amanpuri’s Thai Restaurant.

And lastly, in Byron Bay, Orana Beach House is a fabulously chic beach house walking distance to Clarkes Beach and town. It generally books out well in advance, but if you’re organised to book at least 6 months out, you’ll be very happy with a week or two here. Top Shop is around the corner for morning coffee and egg rolls and it’s perfect if you want to share with another family as there’s great privacy between the bedrooms.

What’s your favourite travel destination as a family?

For families with younger children, anywhere with a beach or big pool and lawn is incredible as they are entertained for hours, and it’s a great burn out for them too. In Asia, I tend to recommend booking a well-located villa in either Thailand, Sri Lanka and Bali.

All of these destinations have incredible villas, service and food. Villa Zambala in Canggu Bali is excellent for families, and their staff are incredibly playful and kind with the children. Once you have a well-appointed villa you don’t tend to venture out too often which gives you a chance to relax while the kids are entertained. In Asia it’s very easy to make the villa the destination and bring in all the wonderful experiences i.e. yoga, art classes for the kids, cooking classes, massage. 

What’s your proudest career achievement to date? 

It would definitely have to be launching Luxuosa. I have always dreamt about having my own company, and finally sending it live was a huge milestone.

What’s your most memorable moment of motherhood so far? 

Gosh, so many… The most memorable though would have to be the birth of both of the kids. Those first precious moments together are euphoric and nothing can come close to that maternal explosion of love.

How do you switch off and make time for you? 

A good laugh, a cheese board and a bottle of Chardonnay with my best girlfriends is my usual go-to, but I also play cricket for the Hong Kong Cricket Club. I played at school and uni and picked it back up again last year and I love it. Playing in a team again, who can be fairly competitive is great and my kids love coming to watch me play on the weekends.

What lessons are you hoping to instil in your children, or legacy are you hoping to create?

Resilience, confidence and a good sense of humour. My Grandmother used to say to us when we were young, that it was important to find a partner for life with a good sense of humour, as laughter makes for a great life.

What sacrifices have you had to make since becoming a mother?

It’s definitely been a shift and an adjustment to the speed in which my husband and I used to live life, socialise and travel for fun, but I love the time I have with the kids, and we take them with us a lot of the time to friends places and to BBQs. We also plan our weeks around being able to get out and see friends, watching and playing sport (for Adam) as I think it’s important to retain (where possible!) that interaction. We’re both total extroverts so somehow we make it work! 

What are the top ten things on your favourites list at the moment?

  • Ottelenghi’s book SIMPLE is my go-to for dinners and I love almost all of the recipes in this cookbook of his. The slow-cooked lemon, mint & cumin lamb is always a crowd-pleaser.
  • Standish wines from the Barossa Valley. Head wine maker and owner Dan Standish produces I think, some of the best Australian red wines.
  • Rationale’s tinted sunscreen/ moisturiser C7 product is heavy enough to substitute foundation, and just seems to disappear and look invisible at the same time.
  • Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette is a staple and gives you shine and bronze in one which I love. I go through it far too quickly!
  • I’m a big fan of Isabel Marant’s Etoile range, and floaty silk pieces by Ulla Johnson or Chloe. Hong Kong tends to warm most of the year so I live in sandals (K Jacques) and dresses.
  • Retykle: An innovative luxury resale e-commerce platform (and soon to be permanent shop in Hong Kong) enabling you to buy great kids clothing at a fraction of the retail price with brands I love like Bonpoint & Jacardi.
  • The Daily podcast which is news podcast covering the latest political, cultural breaking news hosted by Michael Barbaro from the New York Times – It’s 27 minutes and gives great insight and understanding (perfect for the walk to work).
  • Fleabag Series by created and acted by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who also stars in it is absolutely hilarious and a perfect laugh after a long day.
  • Xtend Barre Classes – I’ve recently taken this up and I’m a convert. It’s the perfect mix of Pilates and cardio. Flex studio in Hong Kong is fresh & bright and they limit classes to 8 people so you get a lot of hands-on adjustments if you need it. Great for an energy & muscle booster.