I think the most hackneyed and bandied about word in Interiors, Fashion, and lifestyle in general is Luxury.


Everyone, it seems, wants a luxury bespoke life, however there are very few in the world that can actually have one in the true sense of the word - that would be reserved for Oligarchs and Billionaires who can live at a level you occasionally glimpse in things like glossy coffee table books.

Luxury is often used to imply scarcity - people will say the ultimate luxury is time. However Luxury as a term has been hijacked by marketers and big international conglomerates to conjure illusions of material wealth. Queuing up outside a "luxury" good store to buy something expensive and supposedly rare, as seen above, is not exactly a luxury experience in my book.

Luxury isn't just about the price tag associated with something and the ability to purchase that item. For many people it comes with a log of baggage around the experience of purchasing the item. A book I have mentioned before on the blog "I Sold Andy Warhol (too soon)" contained an anecdote, written in a rather bitter manner, about how after the author had sold his Andy Warhol painting, his (now ex )wife bought a Chanel suit. He accompanied her to the boutique and as he was waiting he chatted to the sales assistant helping his wife and told her he'd just sold the painting so was stumping up for his wife's "dream" suit. He later found out from his wife that apparently this ruined the entire experience for her. Part of her dream wasn't just in buying the suit, it was wrapped up with the entire experience of pretending she could buy it easily, and having the sales women fuss around her.... the luxury was the fantasy feeling she was getting from the experience as a whole, not just in the actual garment.

I've danced around the topic of Luxury on this blog for many years, be that what it means in fashion or in life in general... but I was recently reflecting on it again because I was asked to articulate what Luxury at home meant to me.

Certainly some of the push back I've had on the blog in the past has been the umbrage that some have felt at my suggestion that people should question spending large amounts of money on heavily logo'd luxury goods with dubious design merits in their house. Luxury has been democratised, and it really has very little to do with whether you can personally afford something (hello credit!) and there seems to be almost a sense of entitlement to items branded as luxury goods being available to all. So what exactly is it that makes them luxurious if everyone can buy them, and you have to queue up in order to do so, like some sort of Communist bread line?


via John Jacob Interiors


I have decided, after a lot of deliberation, that Luxury is a feeling that is somewhat fleeting (it can wear off), and comes down to three things: Ease, Comfort and Appearance, in that order, and really has very little association with the money aspect.

via Veranda

Ease of living feels luxurious. This can mean a lot of different things, but I think for most people (who do not have staff) this boils down to a house works for you, not you for the house. An example of this is that in recent years a lot of people have added bathrooms to their dream outer suburban homes at alarming rates. It's not unusual for a suburban McMansion to have 5 bathrooms, one for each bedroom, plus an extra WC or powderoom, whereas a house in the same location with people with the same earning ability would have had only one bathroom not that long ago. Luxury in this instance has been interpreted in having large amounts of personal space. The major problem with this is that unless you have staff, then you have 5 bathrooms to clean every week. The house is not working for you, you are working for your house, and this doesn't feel luxurious if you're the one scrubbing the bathrooms of your children.

Excerpt above from Imogen Taylor's "On the Fringe" about her time at Sybil Colefax and John Fowler.  I found it a very interesting observation that people with a lot of money didn't actually know how to live well... and that their Interior Designers were teaching them.  It plays into the idea that luxury living isn't about the cost of something, although a lot of people assume that it is. 

Back on track, comfort, the next key component of luxury comes from the extra thought you might put into a house that makes it tailored to how you live in it. It's about having a table for your drink next to the comfortable chair you like to sit in. It's the kitchen that is easy to cook in because everything is where you need it, and it doesn't require traipsing up and down to fetch things, or hauling things out of cupboards constantly to get things out from the back that you need. It's a restful night's sleep because you have blackout blinds, or a house that is warm in Winter and Cool in Summer. Feeling supremely comfortable is a luxurious sensation - anyone that enjoys the feeling of sliding into fresh sheets on a bed and the luxuriously expansive feeling that can bring will know what I am getting at.

via John Jacob Interiors

Then you get to appearance, which is the part that many people jump to initially. Some things look luxurious, perhaps because they require commitment, in a surface sense, to keep their appearance looking that way (shiny surfaces are often associated by people as being "luxurious", however they all require a lot of maintenance to keep them that way, perhaps why they are associated with luxury as they imply staff that keep everything looking immaculate). Appearance can also mean an attention to detail that is beyond the norm to make it feel luxurious.

So where does this lead us? The most famous Modernist Architecture quote is "form ever follows function' (Louis Sullivan), and the modernist movement lead to the stripping out of fluff and extraneous detail down to the machinations of living, ironically often leading to fairly uncomfortable interiors and houses. I am (obviously) not a minimalist in this sense, and love detail, ornamentation and the softening and comfort that it brings, but I think this still gets to what is what is true attainable luxury.

If your house works well, then that is what luxury is about - ease and comfort. If it looks good to you, then that is also what it is about - attractiveness. It's not about what you experience on holiday in a 5 star hotel, or what another might think is luxury. It's about an Interior that provides a haven to you from the world, that works for your life, that gives you that feeling of satisfaction, pause and expansiveness that is a luxurious sensation in itself.

That, to me, is luxury that is achievable, and the rest is just marketing hype and noise.

So over to you reader, I'm curious to hear what makes you feel luxurious in your home.

6 comments:

  1. Hello Heidi, agree completely.
    My version of luxury is a 'normal size' house with 2 bathrooms and a less than gargantuan tv. It has comfy beds made with my version of luxury cotton sheets, has deep, upholstered (not leather) lounge chairs, always has flowers and is surrounded by a green garden. Modest I know. Zero gilt, Zero brand names, minimalist tech. Luxury to me.
    On a second topic, I know that you are a William Morris fan... you will be interested in the upcoming exhibition at the National Gallery in Canberra. It is on the Pre-Raphelites and includes their friend William Morris. Judith from Canberra

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    1. I love your list Judith, and completely agree with you about technology - great when it works but when it breaks (and it inevitably does) it is expensive to fix and seems to take forever.
      My garden is definitely my biggest luxury - and I have to say that you can spend a fortune in plants!
      I will have to look up that exhibition on Morris - I'd say they'll have a fair bit from our gallery as the new director of the National Gallery is formally from Adelaide and he'll no doubt have raided the storage rooms! xx

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  2. Great post Heidi. Luxury to me is clean sheet day, a cup of tea in a pretty china cup, curling up with a good book and a G & T. Sleeping in on a Sunday morning. Being lucky enough to have someone to offer to cook dinner and even luckier having someone offer to clean up after said dinner (unlikely). Luxury is spending time in my beautiful garden courtesy of my gardener (husband) and the satisfying feeling of getting to the bottom of the ironing basket. I am a fan of quality over quantity and willing to pay for function, rather than what the label says. Have a great week Heidi. Jo xx

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    1. Hi Jo, Isn't clean sheet day the best! I think all of the things on your list are in the little pleasures list, and a lot of the are on mine too. Nothing better than a sleep in (says she who is incapable at the moment of having one!!!). Lovely to hear from you, and hope all is well in your world, xxx

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  3. Interesting - and so lovely to hear from you in 'long form'.
    We have lived in all sorts of homes, from tiny to now rather 'unnecessarily spacious' more recently (and quite by accident) and I don't think luxury is in anyway connected to size and house value and the price of the items in it. I've never been one for branded items (luckily!).
    I felt fleetingly like I was living in luxury when my last home was styled for sale and half our stuff was in storage, a stylist had delivered lovely designer cushions and artfully draped throws and I was shopping twice a week for armfuls of lovely spring flowers. I felt like I was living a luxurious life (even though I knew it was staged and over in weeks and frankly exhausting). I think it was that my house was finished, the garden was at its best, we had rugs on all the floors (finally!), it was freshly painted and the spare paintings I always have stacked waiting for a 'spot' were gone. Perhaps for me the fantasy organised and finished home will feel luxurious - and I should action my to do list well before we sell.
    For now I will luxuriate in the northern sun and look at the water view - honestly beats any Hermes throw ! Ann x

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    1. I know... I went a little AWOL - trying to avoid the computer as I spend so much time on it now for work. But I miss blogging and as we all know from insta I'm not a born photographer!!
      Funny your experiences with the stylist for selling the house- I think a lot of what people love about going away to a resort is that you leave all the general clutter of daily life behind, similar to what you do when you're selling a house. All the paperwork is banished, the ironing pile, the random things put somewhere temporarily that stay for a few weeks until moved or tidied up.
      I envy you your water view- there is something so peaceful and mesmerising at looking out over water. Truly luxurious! xx

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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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