Monday, April 25, 2016

Defining luxury; what you should look for in a high-end home (Part 2)

How might we define 'luxury?' 

Instead of offering a host of superlatives, let me tell you a story about Rolls Royce. Perhaps the most notable luxury brand in the world, Rolls Royce is known for their art-in-motion automobiles, distinguishable not only be their performance and details but a unique emblem gracing each and every hood – a statue of a woman who appears to be launching into flight. 

But most people don’t know that the women is actually someone named Eleanor Thornton who was the love of Lord Montagu of England’s life.

But when they were sailing on a steam ship from Marseille on Christmas 1916, a torpedo shot from a German U-boat struck the boat. In the chaos that ensued, Lord Montagu tried to hold on to Eleanor, but she was swept away by the sea as the ship sank. Montagu survived only be clinging to a broken lifeboat in the cold seas for 32 hours without food or water. Even though his beloved Eleanor was surely perished, he spent his days and then years looking for her, frail and infirm from the ordeal but unable to let go one more time.

Years earlier, Montagu had taken his Rolls Royce out for drives along with Eleanor and his good friend, who was the managing director for the fine automobile company. So it was Eleanor Thornton who became the inspiration and model for the Rolls Royce hood ornament and logo we still see today, called the “Spirit of Ecstasy.”

Thus, Rolls Royce has become the icon for luxury, not just because if the performance of its cars but because of the unwavering passion, dedication, and timelessness the brand conveys, telling a story about the person driving it that goes far past bravado over a price tag.

Luxury brands always convey a legacy, and that is true for luxury homes as well. But how can we tell if a house holds those same spirited qualities as Rolls Royce, aside from just sharing a sizable price tag and some fancy amenities?

In part one of this blog, we covered the first four ways we can define authentic luxury when buying a home, and here are the next six:

5. Natural light
Homes that can be truly considered luxury are built by accomplished architects that consider every detail – including the dispersion of natural light. There is a big difference between standing in your kitchen in the morning while you sip your first cup of coffee and the soft glow of morning light gently bathes your kitchen, compared to being sun-blinded in a kitchen that’s ten degrees warmer than the rest of the house by 730 am. A home correctly equipped to accept natural light at certain angles and times of day not only looks bigger, but more open, inviting, and is proven to be perceived as more “homey” and boost the mood of the owner. But that’s a more intricate science that it may seem, with varying seasons and the need for shelter from direct sun in hot summer months. The discussion of natural light also brings us to windows in high-end homes, which should always be of the highest quality double-paned low UV glass, which protects against weather, noise, lowers energy bills and maintains safety.

6. Reputation
This may sound like something subjective and inconsequential, but a community, builder, architect, or even whole city that enjoys a sterling reputation will always be desirable, and therefore hold its value. When investing in a luxury or high-end home, it’s equally important to do your due diligence on the architect and the builder as well as survey the actual home. But don’t stop there, as news stories, crime rates, school systems, nearby housing subdivision, and planned commercial projects all factor in to your neighborhood’s reputation.

7. Ceiling height
One thing to check for when you’re touring luxury homes is the ceiling height. In fact, a survey of high-priced homes across the country reveals that ceilings in luxury homes are almost never standard height, and there is a correlation between high ceilings the higher the home’s intrinsic value. It’s interesting to note that this virtue extends only up to about 14 foot high ceilings, after which the price tag sees only diminishing returns.

8. Layout
Distinguished dwellings are always functional AND aesthetically pleasing, and the layout of a home’s floor plan is a huge testament to that. Long gone are the days of calling McMansions “luxury” just because they occupied gaudy amounts of square footage. But true architectural refinement allows you to always FEEL like you’re in a bigger space, specifically designed for its intended purpose but within the flow of the entire blueprint. Some areas like dine-in kitchens and great room living spaces will be purposely open and unobstructed, while offices, dens, master suites, media rooms, and guest rooms are typically segregated and feel cozy, yet still spacious.  

9. Amenities that matter
An immense built-in fish tank, faux balconies with ornate ironwork, and a hexagonal shaped swimming pool with a three-story water slide? Those bells and whistles may seem enticing if you just hit the lottery, but true connoisseurs of the finer things in life are able to discern which amenities really matters in a home. Research shows that luxury homes should focus on fully functional fitness rooms, a distinguished office, fireplaces, innovative and practical use of storage, indoor/outdoor living areas, spa-like master bathrooms (those never go out of vogue!) and green and smart tech.

10. Land
Speaking of McMansions, homes that aspire to be luxury often check the box on square footage but fall comically short on land. Gardens, outdoor living areas, sports amenities like basketball and tennis courts, horse stables and pens, and even acreage reserved for wildlife, streams, lakes and ponds, and unbridled nature are often hallmarks of luxury estates. Even if you live in an area where acreage is at a premium (like many parts of California!), higher-quality homes separate themselves from the pack with relatively ample land.

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