Living the Luxurious Life

Plan of the Villa Capra, Vicenza, Andrea Palladio

So you've just made your first Billion, or perhaps hundred million, and are interested in updating your lifestyle with a new home.  Where to start?  Below we will share just a few pointers for getting the house of your dreams.

First off, do NOT call a builder, even a good one.  They will be all too eager to start construction, and you will be putting the cart before the horse.  Quality homes happen on paper, and with countless meetings with a designer or architect first.

Secondly, it's time to get your priorities straight. Primary residences are rarely investments.  Instead, they are places of retreat and should be designed to your desires, not the designers' or architects' whims, and definitly not by a builder/contractor.  Simply stated, you need to interview designers and/or architects.  But where to find them?  Ask around.  Look at architecture and design magazines and see who the archtiect or designer was on a project you admire.  

To be certain, you will want to see a portfolio, but you also will be having a very close working relationship with this person for quite some time - so there needs to be a synergy.  You need to like them, and you need them to like you - or at least be able to tolerate you.    

Also, get the notion that Bigger is Better out of your head.  It's all about Design, Quality and Elegance.  Largeness has it's place, but Quality and Elegance speak volumes more about your success and character than does size.  You're striving for opulence, not garish.     


Yes, the goal is about getting what you want, but you are entering into the world of Patronage or Matronage of the Arts.  Approach it this way.  You could be working with the next great Architect or Designer who will become part of history.  How satisfying to have been the ONE to introduce this person to the World!  This means you are becoming part of that history too, and you want to keep your name clean.  Design comes with a price, and the better you pay the designer, the better they will work for you to ensure you get what you want.  Don't expect "free design".  It rarely happens.  If money really is no object, feel free to entertain off-the-wall ideas only so long as they support your principles and sense of design, but be wary.  You don't want to be the next emprorer with no clothes.  If you have no real sense of design, share this and then trust your designer to educate you.

If you are like most wealthy individuals, your home will be in the media at some point during your lifetime.  What do you want it to say about you?  Your home will serve to brand you, whether you like it or not.  In fact, if you already have a brand, your home should ideally compliment that brand that you have so diligently worked to build. 


When you interview your designer or architect for the first time, be sure that you are meeting with them.  It's fine to have an assistant make the arrangements and to  bring an assistant to take notes and handle the administrative things, but don't send only the assistant to the first meeting.  Also, you may need to ask your assitant to leave for some privacy, so you can talk freely about the design you want.  The designer wants to get inside your head, not your assistant's.  If this home is being designed with a significant other, be sure to bring them along for the first meeting as well.  Be prepared that your significant other may have quite different expectations.  Compromises and treaties abound in joint designs. 

The first meeting is about getting to know you, your likes and dislikes.  By this time in your life, you probably have a good sense of what you like.  Your designer needs to know this.  Do you like to have coffee on the veranda in the morning?  Tell them.  Do you entertain?  The design needs to accommodate this.   Maybe you have a specific style you like.  Perhaps you have a special piece of art or furniture that will be in the new home; your designer should know this in order to design around it.  The questions could be as basic as "what's your favorite color?"

Find out a bit about the designers' aspirations too.  What project have they always wanted to build, but haven't had the clientelle to support them?  Perhaps they have reams of unbuilt designs that the world needs to see, but have never been built.  Many of the world's greatest architects and designers landed prestigious projects much later in life thanks to great clients.

The best projects happen becuase of having the best clients - YOU!  


You need to hire a great designer or architect.  One way is to ask friends who they've used, or to comb the web for the latest Starchitect, but these guys (and gals) come with hefty prie tags and even heftier egos.  You didn't get to where you by throwing away dollars, but rather by knowing what is valued.  A relationship with your architect and designer is very intimate.  They will get to know you better than most who work for you.  They need to in order to know what you like and how to best craft a design to your desires.


As they say, "Location, Location, Location."  I would add, "And quality deisgn."  Your choice of where to live can be based on anything from a desire to be close to work, or like-minded friends and family, to an emotional response to a quaint small town well-situated for access to the places you need to be, and even to a good deal on the raw land. 

A well-designed home will retain it's value regardless of its location.  However, well located homes in hot zipcodes certainly make for quicker sales down the road, unless, of course you've decided to build in a remote part of the world and are sellign the private jet with the house...  But I digress.


"The Devil is in the Details"; so is the beauty of a well designed home.  A quality design should be refined and elegant.  Elegance is usually achieved through simplicity.  That doesn't mean the final home will be simple, but rather that much effort will go into to throwing out any and all parts of the design that complicate the simplistic nature of what you are tryign to achieve.  Whether you desire a French Renaissance home or a modern, sleek retreat, a good designer will know how to stick to the task and not "overdo" it.

Also, something to note, great homes are not designed "in plan", but rather "in elevation".  Think about it - you don't walk around looking at floor plans, but rather planes, surfaces, textures, and so on.  It's for this reason that stock house plans are not acceptable as quality design.  House plans are merely one tool that is used to communicate the final design to a builder - not the design itself.

Most importantly, hire the deisgner not just for design, but to oversee the project.  The designer works for you - not the builder - and works to protect the countless hours you've spent designing the perfect home.  He or she will review construction draws, and the work completed by the Contractor to ensure the protection of your assests.  Builders are great people, but they are working to maximize their profit on your project, rather than to protect your interests in the design.

After the level of quality has been established, it is merely an excersize in replicating the quality on a larger scale.  If you truly must have a 90,000 s.f. home, be sure it looks right and that you have the budget for it.  Don't be afraid to phase the project either.  Many large projects happen in various stages rather than all at once.  Again, it's better to have the best rather than only the biggest!


A luxury home is a journey in design.  Whether you are well-travelled or not, your designer may desire to take you to some exotic place to study the architecture with you.  (Great design doesn't happen in a bubble.)  This is, in fact, a working trip, but well worth the effort. 

Most importantly, enjoy the process, and it is a process.  You can afford it and you deserve it!   


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Gerald Forsburg

With over 15 years architectural experience, Gerald Forsburg Associates specializes in Traditional Design for clients who value beautiful, thoughtful design inspired by the past, wonderfully made for the present....(Read More)

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