What Does Luxury Look Like in 2020?

Those of us in higher-end goods and services know the word luxury is not the buyer-nip it used to be. In my fields of design and home staging, I have a front-row seat. I see what buyers choose…what they under-value, what they pass on. 

I see too many miss the mark and pay the price. This is not early-adapter stuff either. We are past the center of the bell curve. We need a conscious reset to catch up to where consumers have been quietly moving towards for years.

Westchester County real estate regularly ranks high on desirability (and cost), but the luxury segment remains a challenge. Capping SALT deductions was an unwelcome surprise. It didn’t help, but most experts don’t see it as the culprit first feared.

Exclusivity, status and scarcity frame what we believe is luxurious. Price paid still defines it, and aspiration (or the more biblical ‘envy’) fuels the quest for luxury. These markers as still relevant, but manifest very differently today.

Luxury is more personal than public. More internal than external, and more about values than acquisitions. Historically tangible and obvious, I suggest time, wellness and feeling cared-for are today’s vanguards of luxury:

  • Time is a scarcity in most of our busy lives.
  • Lack of wellness robs us of time
  • Taking the time to feel cared-for is an exclusive privilege many aspire to

Forbes suggested wellness was the new luxury years ago. UK’s Spear’s magazine writes in luxury property builds, well-being is the new normal. And CE options for my ASID accreditation abound with salutogenic (wellness) design updates: residential as well as all commercial-not just the healthcare and hospitality sectors.

Last year the NYT wrote “the economy of screens” made human contact a luxury good in the service sector.

Luxury and lifestyle are two obsessions Quartz magazine writes about often, in wonderfully digestible detail. “No one knows what luxury is any more” (and yes, intentionally no upper-case!) cites two notable trends:

  • Millennials renting goods and services reject traditional allure and pride of ownership markers for themselves AND dilute the experience for others
  • Social, environmental and cultural awareness are the new social capital. The genuinely wealthy are spending on nonvisible, costly goods that let them access this while passing it on to their children

In design, clever and innovative brings more to the party, and engages more senses…more brains and more hearts than “BIG” or showy.

Luxury properties will do better when we think about, build/update, and present them with these internal markers. Also, the just as real external ones HGAR CEO Richard Haggerty recently wrote about: Affordability, transportation, and climate change.  No more floors from the rain forest, no stone coming over on a boat.

  • Well-designed smart houses, with local/sustainable materials.
  • Modest, and energy-efficient structures
  • Water-conserving landscaping and bath fixtures

As an industry, IMO we need to acknowledge more of what is real, warm and fuzzy. ALSO-please!!-let’s find new words when speaking of, and writing about these lifestyles and properties:  TRH heartily recommends One Look Reverse Thesaurus and perusing Quartz Magazine!!