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Finding a balance

After years of extremes, luxury property design trends appear to be approaching a middle way at the dawn of the 2020s.

26 February 2020 / Lifestyle

“The word is balance,” says Elaine Penhaul of Lemon and Lime, a property design consultancy. In the past couple of years, luxury design trends have swung between extremes of stripped-back Nordic cool to busy, colourful maximalism. “Today, people are more confident about finding somewhere between the two.”

The luxury property market continues to be healthy in the UK and further afield. Take London, a bellwether for the sector, where the number of prospective buyers registering interest in prime property rose by around 7 per cent in 2019, according to JP Morgan. And while uncertainty around Brexit has slowed the market, a combination of clarity and a weaker pound should give sales a boost.

So, what kinds of features, technologies and design philosophies can buyers expect to see in the coming year or two?

Less is more

When it comes to interior design, simplicity seems to be the name of the game. Simon Garcia, a partner at luxury estate agents Quintessentially Estates agrees with Penhaul. “People no longer want a sofa with a thousand cushions, or one that is so sleek and harsh that it’s not comfortable,” he says. Finding a balance between the two seems to be the approach.

It’s common to find high-end homes advertised with spas, saunas and yoga studios.

And this interest in balance extends beyond design features and into the general philosophy of how we want to live. Garcia notes: “People like to feel ‘zen’ in the home and more people are looking into Feng Shui and other pseudosciences in order to make it as harmonious as possible.” It’s increasingly common to find high-end homes advertised with spas, saunas and yoga studios; the vogue for big cinema rooms or hot tubs seems to have been replaced with a tendency to tap into the ‘wellness’ trend.

The taste for something more wholesome can be seen in everything from materials (with greater interest in sustainable sourcing) to architectural features. Penhaul describes how new builds in rural areas are aiming to invite nature in, with “massive glass floor to ceiling windows facing across open countryside”. Meanwhile, in cities, Garcia predicts: “We will see an increase in demand for homes with the best green spaces, such as private grounds and garden squares.”

Another side to this ‘wellness’ philosophy is a tendency to tone down the amount of tech used in homes. Where once designers saw it as essential to kit out homes with all the latest sensors and conveniences, Penhaul reports that “many people now think it is a bit of a faff”. From tools such as Amazon’s Alexa to connected homes, customers are finding that too much high-end tech gets in the way of actual human communication.

An appy home

That said, tech isn’t completely out the window. Things like mobile-enabled home temperature control (where you can turn the heating on from your mobile while commuting from work) should still be popular. And anything that supports wellness is also in – Garcia says that clients now expect air quality tests, pollution monitors and filtration systems.

2020 will be the year that we see innovative new approaches to luxury housing take off.

Outside the traditional property market, 2020 will be the year that we see some innovative new approaches to luxury housing take off. One of these is the notion of ‘co-living’. Targeted at millennials, co-living properties are typically rented studios in large blocks. The USP is that they provide a range of luxury services (think top-floor swimming pools, on-site restaurants, gyms, spas and workspaces) with communal activities where residents can meet one another and make friends. This might include games nights, yoga sessions or hobby classes. The Collective is one of the leaders in this sector, with two locations in London and one in New York. In many ways, these co-living properties incorporate the wellness and ‘balance’ we’ve already seen and throw in a bit of loneliness-beating community for good measure.

A different approach is the trend for branded residences, typically tied to major hotel and travel chains (the Four Seasons, The Dorchester and brands like Condé Nast have thrown their hats into the ring). Essentially, residents can live permanently in a hotel-style property, with a concierge at hand, high quality restaurants, fitness suites and so on. Quintessentially Estates’ Garcia reckons they’re a good bet: “Branded hotel residences are a reasonably new product, but as the word spreads about the amazing finishes and services on offer, demand will follow suit.”

From political uncertainties to the climate crisis, the outside world is in a state of flux. Perhaps it’s no surprise that luxury buyers are hoping for a little zen when they get home.

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Tech is transforming all areas of life – but not fashion. We might shop and pay for clothing in new tech-friendly ways, but the clothes we wear are the same as ever. Will we ever embrace shirts made from orange peel and algae?

/ 11 February 2020

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