In Luxury Design, Bigger Isn’t Always Better

March 19, 2018

Space and luxury have traditionally gone together like truffles and aged fine wine, but that may be changing among a certain set. Trends in luxury condo living are moving beyond the expected high-end finishes and concierge services.

Increasingly, upscale residential buildings in cities are selling a lifestyle, and it’s one in which bigger isn’t always better. Many people find they don’t need entire rooms to house books and music collections anymore. Buyers are looking for well-designed communities where their every need can be easily met.

Urban Pace, a Long & Foster company, convened a panel of experts in Washington, D.C., last week to speak about the future of urban residential luxury design. The panelists, guests of Urban pace’s first Luxury Trends Conference, said upscale buyers want privacy, exclusivity, and convenience along with a feeling of home. Speakers were: Clint Mann, president of Urban Pace; Stephen Brockman, of Deborah Berke Partners (New York); Elaine Cecconi and Anna Simone, of Cecconi Simone (Toronto); and Morris Adjmi, of Morris Adjmi Architects (New York).

The panel noted:

  • Square footage is declining in importance because of technology. Buyers are placing higher value on the amenities in the building and neighborhood. Two of the panelists, Brockman and Cecconi, said they live in 450 square feet – Brockman in New York City and Cecconi in Toronto. “Everything I need is within that 450 square feet,” Cecconi said. “But the amenities add value to my life.”
  • Desirable design adds convenience. A well-thought-out place for a hair dryer or vacuum sweeper just makes life easier. Some designs incorporate moveable walls that add versatility to spaces. “Built-ins are a way in which we’re thinking of things very differently,” Simone said.
  • Demands for storage are changing. Downsizers want climate-controlled areas in which to store their art and wine collections. Developers are offering more of those spaces or services that store belongings off site and will bring them to the owner upon request.
  • Thoughtful inclusion of retailers and food halls is making residents’ lives easier. “You want to create what’s missing,” Brockman said. “That can be transformative for a neighborhood.”
  • Theaters and gyms are old news. Luxury buyers are demanding well-designed, sunlit spaces where they can meet privately with a personal trainer or conduct a business meeting without leaving their building.
  • Outdoor spaces demand a premium. Many buyers desire terraces and gardens, not just a balcony.
  • The way we use cars is having an impact on building design. Automated parking is giving developers access to lots that previously wouldn’t have sustained a residential building because of lack of parking stalls. A covered area where someone can exit their Uber or Lyft without getting rained on could be more desirable than a parking spot. For many, owning a car isn’t the necessity it once was, and that’s affecting urban design.

Dan Conn, CEO of Christie’s International Real Estate, said at the conference that luxury lifestyle brands and the art world are converging with real estate in some cases to deliver buyers the ultimate experiences in high-end design. And some developers are partnering with star architects to draw buyer interest. “You have to think about doing things differently from the beginning if you want to succeed,” Conn said.