Interview

with Grace Leo

She is part of the few visionary hoteliers who changed the industry by identifying the small luxury independent hotel sector as an area of huge potential growth.

Grace Leo is part of the few visionary hoteliers who changed the industry by identifying the small, luxury, independent hotel sector as an area of huge potential growth.
For more than 20 years, she has been inventing, converting and developing hotels and resorts to give each one a distinctive design.
From Paris, to St Barth, to Mustique, … just to name a few.
Today she works with Reignwood Investments in London, and talks with us about her new projects, life in London and more.

BWB: Tell us about your latest projects in London?

My newest and most opulent project is called Ten Trinity Square. Located next to the Tower of London World Heritage Site, we are transforming this London Grade II landmark building into one of the very best of places where you can live, stay or meet.
Featuring 41 exceptional residences, 100 elegant hotel rooms, world-class restaurants, a private members club, plus a state of the art spa, all are operated by the prestigious Four Seasons Hotels.
The Reignwood Group is sparing no expense in making Ten Trinity Square into one of London’s ‘must visit’ business and pleasure destinations.

There’s a certain amount of wisdom in distancing yourself from a non-stop work schedule and in doing so, I often return to it with a fresh perspective.

BWB: You are from Hong Kong and have enjoyed a professional career between the U.S and Europe. How has this influenced your way of working?

Most of my adult life has been based in France – hence I really feel more European than anything else.
I value my Chinese heritage and my upbringing as a child in Hong Kong – and so today these values and traditions are always weighed into whatever I do.

Shorty after moving to Paris, I really started to appreciate the European notion of creating a balance between work and leisure.
I have learned how to set aside a little time each day to pause and breathe properly, and take a step back from whatever I am doing.
There’s a certain amount of wisdom in distancing yourself from a non-stop work schedule and in doing so, I often return to it with a fresh perspective. That’s a rather French approach to balancing out your life, I guess?

Grace Leo 1

BWB: You have a very successful career and what you have accomplished is truly inspiring. What are some of your ‘rules’ at work?

Rule # 1: Always have a vision and then stick to it!
Rule # 2: Use whatever amounts of willpower and diplomacy it takes to transform that vision into reality.
Rule # 3: Remain forever meticulous. As we all know, the devil is in the details.
Rule # 4: Plan out every project so that it is an aesthetic and a financial success. After all, without achieving the latter, what good is the first?

As for packing for a trip, my rule is to travel light. Calculate precisely how many tops, skirts, and pants can be mixed and matched in a similar color palette, as well as formal evening-wear and accessories required for the agenda, and take no more.

BWB: You travel a lot overseeing projects around the world. What is your advice to travel well?

The secret of fighting jet lag is to ‘stay up with the sun.’ Even if I haven’t slept a wink in over 24 hours, I always live according to the time zone of where I am visiting and not where I’ve just come from.

As for packing for a trip, my rule is to travel light. Calculate precisely how many tops, skirts, and pants can be mixed and matched in a similar color palette, as well as formal evening-wear and accessories required for the agenda, and take no more.

And when it comes to traveling with beauty products? I have a travel kit on standby that is a miniature duplicate of my essential beauty products and cosmetics that I use at home, that way I try to avoid leaving something behind which I would have trouble replacing overseas.

I always use a day skin cream with SPF 30+, and I always use sunblock when I’m visiting a country with a hot climate, like my upcoming trip to Dubai. I also bring along a hat to protect my face and it always looks elegant.

BWB: You have such amazing skin (and style!) Tell us how you care for your skin?

Thank you for the compliment! I am very blessed to have great DNA from both my parents who had wonderful, firm skin all of their lives.
All I do is to try to preserve this inestimable fortune I’ve inherited.

Secondly, I try not to frown and raise my forehead to avoid creasing – I know it sounds like mission impossible and not very spontaneous. But try taping a piece of scotch tape perpendicular on your forehead one full day or even a few hours and you’ll feel how often you’re potentially inflicting wrinkles upon yourself. Since my daughter turned 13, I have taught her not to crease her forehead and her eyes – so hopefully she’ll be able to delay any sign of wrinkles until very late in life.

Thirdly, apart from the foolishness of “jeunesse” of lying unprotected on the beach – I have taken care to ‘avoid the sun’ in my adult life. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not such a hot idea (forgive the pun) to bake your skin under blistering UV rays, which dry up and damage your skin forever. I always use day skin cream with SPF 30+, and I always use sunblock when I’m visiting a country with a hot climate, like my upcoming trip to Dubai. I also bring along a hat to protect my face and it always looks elegant.
I use good quality skin care products, and change brands regularly. I’m always curious and ready to try a new formula of anti-aging products if they have been tested and have proven results.

BWB: Now a Londoner, can you share your favorite spots in the city with our readers?

Some of my favorite spots in London are the new gastronomic pubs and contemporary brasseries where one gets good quality, consistent food and service.
I find it’s easy and relaxing to pop into my local gastro-pub, in search of a delicious bite of comfort food with a nice glass of wine, it’s a rather pleasant way to end the day. Here are some of my favorite places in my neighborhood:

Restaurants:
The Wolsley 160 Piccadilly
Thomas Cubitt 44 Elizabeth Street
Bar Boulud 66 Knightsbridge
L’Eto tea room 10 West Halkin Street
Ottolenghi 13 Motcomb Street

Museums:
Sir John Soane’s Museum
Tate Gallery, Britain
The Courtauld Gallery
The Serpentine Galleries, Hyde Park

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