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.

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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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