Not every high-net-worth individual will spend what it takes to build or buy a dream home. But quite a few will pop for a luxurious amenity that may enhance their lifestyles and the value of their homes.
Rather than simply purchase a larger manse, upscale buyers are “going back and doing more work on their homes,” says Paul Boomsma, president of Luxury Portfolio International in Chicago, whose firm caters to this elite segment of the market. “These [homeowners] don’t necessarily need more square footage but they are feeling the want to update and increase the finish of their home.”
What’s the latest in luxury amenities? 24/7 Wall St asked Luxury Portfolio International to help us identify what’s hot heading into 2013. Have you heard about wet rooms? “The Jacuzzi world was great but the problem is people don’t have the patience to wait for it to fill up,” says Boomsma. “What they want is the experience of being surrounded in water. In a wet room, you turn on jets and the deluge of water comes all around you. There may be a tub, bench or slab that you can lie down or sit on.”
Before the housing bust in 2008, home spending often went into building larger spaces. Today, dollars are flowing into well-crafted amenities, such as stone bathtubs or infinity pools. High-end textures are also a sign of the times. “One of the first things in luxury homes right now is a lavish use of wall finishes, floor finishes and ceiling finishes,” says Boomsma. This translates into greater use of “raw stone” on walls or even the use of glass for walls, along with more imported woods. “Wood paneling, stone paneling, glass paneling, and tiling — all surfaces are being finished,” according to Boomsma.
What makes a home amenity extravagant? Consider the typical suburban great room, which combines a kitchen, a dining area and a living space. Nice, but in a luxury home with the identical square-footage costs may run at least 10 times higher because of the homeowner’s choice of materials or craftsmanship. For instance, a high-end home “might have 28-foot-high rather than 13-foot-high ceilings” says Malcolm Morris, a Chicago-based architect and owner of MDM Development Architecture, who consults with high-net-worth homeowners about the design and construction process. He says that his wealthy clients “spend a lot of money on millwork — built-in cabinetry and paneling that can run $100,000 or more.”
Attention to detail is a hallmark of an exceptionally expensive home. “My clients demand alignments to within a sixteenth of an inch with cabinet doors, or the centering of plumbing fixtures in a shower,” he says. Morris remembers traveling to an Italian stone quarry to select blocks of stone, paying special attention to each pattern of fissures, before determining “how best to cut it so the grain runs continuously when it’s on the wall.”
While great rooms that combine a living room, dining room and kitchen have been popular since the early 1990s, savvy architects have refined the concept to make it even more appealing. What Morris looks for in a great room is a “consistency of materials and a single palette” of color to unify the space. Ideally, he says, each area should have its own character, including different heights. While a kitchen is unlikely to have a vaulted ceiling, it can still flow into a living room through the use of color or other common materials, such as flooring or LED lighting.
In northern California’s Silicon Valley, Hadar Gordon, an agent with Sereno Group Real Estate, shows homes in some of the nation’s most expensive enclaves. Gordon reports:
Some newer, hot luxury amenities buyers find appealing include a professional, deluxe personal at-home spa room, custom wine cellar with tasting room, full outdoor kitchen (complete with features like a wood-fire oven for pizza), a vineyard, energy-efficient features including solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling systems, a fully-wired smart system connecting your devices, electronics and security — all controllable from your iPhone or iPad — and eco-friendly materials.
Here are examples of some of the hottest luxury amenities on the market today, along with Morris’ suggestions about what homebuyers should keep in mind when evaluating building or buying a home with these options and what makes these amenities so extravagant.
These are eight amazing home amenities for the rich.