Educating Yourself on Luxury Design

Published: August 5, 2022

In the latest Houzz Pro research, luxury design is defined as custom, which leaves a nice wide range from which we may designate luxury items. I also believe that luxury is largely about the client experience: How does the client feel? What tiny, courteous acts do you weave into your process to make every interaction feel more than the everyday? For the purposes of this article, let’s assume we are speaking about selling a luxury project experience to our prospective client. Cabinets, countertops, lighting installations, high-tech appliances or fancy organizational features all may be defined as luxury.

Communicating to Luxury to the Client

To do this, you must understand it yourself. To speak about luxury design with authority, your work and your brand need to align with a luxury experience. People believe what they see more than what they hear. When you place a project on your website or on Instagram, be sure it is a clean, well-photographed image. Describe it in careful language that conveys an elegance about your process and a respect for the client as the inspiration for the luxury space.

Learn About New Luxuries

If you would like to learn more about a luxury experience, try studying the best practices of retail brands, hotels and restaurants universally acknowledged as luxury: Tiffany and Co., The Ritz Carlton, Luis Vuitton, etc. When you enter their places of business, how are you treated? What do you notice? Is there a fragrance in the air? A smile on each associate’s face? Are you offered refreshment or a place to sit and rest if you are asked to wait? It’s all nuanced but very intentional.

As a kitchen and bath designer, I like to learn about new luxuries from events like KBIS. I saw so many new, exciting things while I was there in February – from new water-dispensing products to solid surfaces, metal finishes and bidet toilets. There was so much to bring back to clients that piqued my interest and grabbed their attention. Seeing and experiencing things in person is unmatched. I think that’s a truth almost all of us came to realize through the pandemic.

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Share Key Luxuries You Personally Appreciate

I find that it is easy to sell things I believe in or that I believe would meet a client’s particular needs. In today’s world, I see greater value placed on quality sleep, ease of use, a connection to social values and a healthier lifestyle. Once you understand the specific priorities of your client, you may recommend particular luxuries to suit them. To begin the conversation you might ask, “Do you value most in your everyday life? Sleep, health, a Zen environment, movies, music?” (Not all at once like that, but you get the drift.)

Luxury Design Is a Value Proposition: Know How to Sell It

It’s about how you make the client feel…in both a tactile and emotional way. For example, if your client mentioned how much they value sleep, a fantastic luxury recommendation would be a steam shower. Not only is steam excellent for better sleep, it also lowers blood pressure and helps reduce allergy symptoms. The science is real, and it’s a luxury that pays an incredible ROI.

If they are interested in a steam shower, you could tell them about an interesting continuing-education class you may have taken on steam showers. You can tell them what you learned about them. Or perhaps you are working on a primary bathroom for a client with an interest in makeup or glam, so you ask if they’d like a custom-designed vanity station with a styling-tool pullout, makeup organization and lighting tailored just to them.

Ensure You Can Provide a Luxury Design Experience

You might be surprised how far your devoted time and attention to a client will take you. Examples of these little touch moments include:

  • I send a thank you note before I ever start a design project. I thank them for their business and trust in advance and share that I am looking forward to creating the perfect space just for them.
  • I communicate regularly about where I am in the design process and about how things are going once we have entered the construction phase.
  • Make the effort to pick up the phone and speak with your client to meet challenges head on and with grace, accepting responsibility for whatever part you may have played but without throwing anyone else under the bus.
  • Invite the client to lunch “just because,” or provide a delicious little spread at presentation time to make the moment more special.
  • Provide a gift at the conclusion of the project that really fits the personality of the client and the purpose of the space.

Everyone’s idea of luxury is personal, so study your clients and their preferences. Making someone feel comfortable and special is the key to a luxury experience. It’s “that feeling” that will elevate your projects, the client’s interactions with you and your reputation to the epitome of luxury.

By Wendy Glaister, ASID, NKBA, IDS, owner of Modesto, Calif.-based Wendy Glaister Interiors

Photo credit: 4th Life Photography/Adobe Stock

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