Luxury homes cannot afford to offer similar owner experiences. Even subtle changes can offer much by way of differentiation. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Luxury living is a hard-earned privilege for the fortunate few who can afford it... and willing to pay a premium to live the experience. But the one thing that doesn’t bode well with opulence is uniformity and standardisation.

The commoditization of luxury living spaces is quite prevalent in the UAE, as indeed in other parts of the world with fast-growing city sprawls. That’s bad news for discerning seekers of opulent living spaces who value personalisation.

But there are certain reasons for this - government policy being the main one. Building zones and zoning rules define the framework. It is usually the municipality that provides a set of guidelines that dictate the framework for architects and developers.

Plain-vanilla luxury

The problem is defined by the fact that we usually come out with similar types of planning and finishes that don’t add any value and are very commercialised. This static thinking is not conducive to the elevation, enrichment and enhancement of luxurious spaces.

It is important to avoid falling into the trap of repeating similar types of planning over and over again.

The needs and lifestyles of 20 years ago were so much different from what today’s seekers of luxury apartments demand. Millennials are so different in terms of their outlook on life, which is reflected in their lifestyles. These trends cannot be ignored when it comes down to designing and creating living spaces.

Change the mindset

There are many responsible parties who can change this approach - architects, developers, policymakers, and, of course, end-users need to have a say. And it doesn’t necessarily need to be limited to the development of the next batch of housing units in the pipeline. With today’s remodification techniques, homes deigned 15 years ago can be made fit for millennials... and even for Generation Z.

At a micro, quick-fix level, this can be achieved by leveraging technology. Today, we have sensors that inform the home when it is empty or that someone is inside. We have apps that are connected to a centralised electronic system, so that there is no need to have switches on the walls to turn the lights off.

We even have tables and standalone furniture that can generate their own energy and serve as charging stations if placed next to the windows in a way that they can absorb natural sunlight.

Build to order

At a more macro, longer-term perspective, it is important to understand who the end-users are, their needs and how these will change tomorrow. In the UAE, for example, the typology is that of a family with a live-in helper, not only because of comfort reasons but also because of the actual need to have domestic help as both spouses usually have day jobs.

So, a maid’s room is considered an essential part of the house. Designs should strive to incorporate plans that cater to having a separate unit with a separate entrance and access to allow privacy for both parties. Using the latest security technology any associated risk of having a separate access to your own living space can be prevented.

Another example are the areas which you use for less than an hour a day... like the dining table. The dining table and kitchen counter can be combined, and taken onto a new level. Such small design innovations and interventions in space can change the entire ambience of the house.

- Cem Kapancioglu is CEO of CK Architecture Interiors.