Designers are selling a lifestyle to luxury customers
Building luxury takes time and commitment. When it comes to luxury interior design, meaning goes beyond just a price tag.
In today’s design environment, luxury clients expect a result that combines form, function and uniqueness into one. They want a home that reflects their location and personality rather than being specifically styled, and expect customization to suit their needs and aesthetics.
“In the past, luxury customers cared less about function – they just wanted fabulous,” says Dann Foley, founder and interior designer at Foley & Stinnette. “What we are looking for today in a main and secondary home is both.”
Often, luxury clients would request a specific look or style, ranging from things like “the modern city” to the “Italian Riviera”. Now, the focus has shifted to encapsulating a client’s lifestyle. The designers hope to illustrate who they are as owners and what their desires are.
“We try to emphasize how they personally relate to where their home is: the beach, the mountain, the desert, the city — wherever that is,” Foley explains. “It’s more about their experience of this place now, rather than thinking, ‘I’m in Florida, so I want a lot of palm grounds. It’s not dictated by stories that came before.
With less focus on patterns, designers are seeing an increase in bespoke furniture in the luxury market.
“The five percent are able to spend the money on that custom, couture look,” says Goff Christian, designer and owner of Christian Designs LLC. “A lot of the pieces I sell or make are unique. I also do my own design and upholstery. Luxury customers are usually okay to wait if they have something specific to them.
Owners of luxury homes remodeling their kitchens in Houston, for example, spent $90,000 in the top 5% of the market and about four times as much, or $370,000, in the top 0.5% in 2019, according to Houzz. San Francisco homeowners spent $157,000 in the top 5% of the market and nearly double that, $350,000, in the top 0.5%. In response, designers began customizing various elements of the kitchen, including cabinet styles and details. Unlike the clean, modern slab doors of the 90s and early 2000s, customers now want more dimension and embellishment.
“Nowadays, the frame that surrounds each door and each door panel doesn’t surround them all individually,” says Foley. “It’s around the stack of cabinets as one, and it looks a lot more like custom cabinets, because it is. If we make a slab counter and a backsplash out of the same material, I’ll probably use it somewhere else. I could line the walls or put it on the floor.
Joni Vanderslice, ASID, NCIDQ, designer and president of J. Banks Design, has also seen luxury customers become more adventurous in styling their kitchens and family rooms.
“They’re much more interested in the gorgeous finishes of all the furniture and textures,” she says. “It’s no longer about wallpaper on the wall, for example. It may have a unique type of inlay or carving. We see a lot of value in spending money on these finishes.
Designers are also seeing high-end antiques and heirlooms take center stage again, making furnishings much more personalized. Decorating a home with pieces from the past can create a captivating sense of history, provide an interesting story, and connect to a sense of nostalgia.
“We’re not talking about 90s antique collectors – we’re really talking about a new approach to antiques and traditionalism,” says Foley. “So it’s mixed with modern pieces and cleaner pieces that we all love.”
Almost any antique or vintage piece will work in a luxury setting, as long as the finish matches something else in the space. Creating a correlation between old and new coins is important in finding the right balance. Vintage poufs under cocktail tables or under console tables, for example, are useful for putting your feet up and relaxing, or for placing a tray on top while entertaining.
Luxury customers are also embracing color in 2022 and aren’t afraid to make a bold statement even with just one material or color. Before COVID, Foley says several designs centered on all-white and gray-on-gray kitchens. Now both are outdated.
“With our high-end client, we use a statement color as a neutral and create bold points in the room,” he says. “Sometimes I use it on the walls, along the ceiling, or even in the upholstery of major pieces in a room.”
A few years ago, customers warmed to the idea of colorful cabinetry. Now they’ve embraced blues, greens and, according to Foley, “frankly, any color that comes to mind.”
“Kitchens have also become increasingly personalized through color, and the same is true for our bathrooms,” he says. “They don’t have to be all white and stark to feel fresh and clean. There are so many choices in the range of materials available, especially for our luxury customers. »
The use of color and unique design made the difference in one of Christian’s recent vacation rental projects in Long Beach, CA. With so many vacation homes on the market, Christian says he’s always looking to design something that catches the eye.
“If you bring a little more luxury to these places, it will attract more people who will want to rent these spaces for longer periods of time,” he says.
Luxury clients are often eager to entertain guests, gravitating towards furnishings that will allow them to do so comfortably. To respond to this, Christian designed an indoor/outdoor space for the holiday home, conducive to both entertainment and relaxation.
“I wanted to do a really fun outdoor setup with a fire pit seating area,” he says. “On the other side of the sitting area overlooking the house is a TV with another sitting area. I also placed a giant chess board outside thinking it would work well if the kids were playing outside, but made them removable so guests could turn this space into a dance floor. It’s about looking at all the potential demographics and trying to lump them into one area, but elevating them so they reach more people.
With so many people working from home in the luxury market, second homes like these have also had to do double duty. In the past, clients may have only had the opportunity to visit these second homes for one or two weeks a year. Now, rather than going on vacation, they spend more time in their second home. And with working from home a common method today, designers dedicate space for business, conducive to each client’s personal work preferences.
“It could be something as simple as a really comfy chair in the living room, family room, or great room that has access outlets nearby,” Foley says. “We also incorporate great lighting so guests can sit at their computer, make a phone call, or even take a Zoom call where they’re seated and comfortable, because vacation homes always suggest vacations,
Some clients don’t want to be tied to a particular room or space in the house.
“Maybe they want to move,” Vanderslice says. “It’s not about getting a comfortable space anymore. People now want to carry the laptop to the bar, the kitchen island – it’s more about interacting and getting together comfortably. FLD