Sotheby’s International Realty is pleased to announce the release of its inaugural 2021 Luxury Outlook report which examines high-end residential markets across the globe in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The comprehensive report provides insight into the world’s top primary and secondary markets and the anticipated wealth trends that will drive discretionary investment in the coming months. The report reveals that global wealth is forecasted to grow and pandemic trends are expected to persist in the year ahead. With priorities shifting toward larger homes with special amenities, including “Zoom rooms,” multiple offices and workspaces, and an increased interest in sustainable homes with wellness and technology features, the Luxury Outlook highlights new spending habits and homebuying trends.
“As a leader in luxury real estate, it was important for us to analyze trends emerging from the most unparalleled year in modern history,” said Bradley Nelson, chief marketing officer for Sotheby’s International Realty. “The pandemic recalibrated interest in larger, greener properties, secondary cities, and geographies with favorable tax and emigration policies. These preferences are likely here to stay for the foreseeable future, and it was important for us to provide a resource to those looking to navigate the months ahead.”
In sharp contrast to the “slacker” stereotype that has defined their generation, millennials aren’t living in parents’ basements. They’re buying multimillion-dollar homes.
At 38%, millennials—adults born from 1981 to 1996—represent the largest share of home buyers in the U.S., according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors released last year. “They’re just as interested in owning a home. They just waited longer to buy their first one,” says Bradley Nelson, chief marketing officer of Sotheby’s International Realty.
Breaking from the notion of a “starter home” that older generations embraced, wealthy millennials, Nelson says, are going big.
“In the past, people bought a modest property, lived in it until starting a family, and then traded up to a larger property,” he says. “Millennials are finally coming out of the gate, and it’s not uncommon for the first purchase as a first time homebuyer to be a multimillion-dollar luxury home in the U.S. or internationally.”
As a result, millennials are quickly becoming a dominant force in high-end real estate.
Millennials are the most educated generation in history, have higher earnings, and are set to inherit more than any prior generation, according to a May 2020 report by the Brookings Institute.
Characterized by their tech savvy and environmentally conscious values, millennial preferences are poised to dramatically shape the market, a dynamic that has been on display during the Covid-19 pandemic. Beginning almost immediately after the coronavirus hit, for instance, buyers began to flock to areas that offered walkability, nature, and a well-rounded quality of life. (Think food and an art scene.)
Total sales volume in Aspen hit a record high of more than $1.5 billion in the third quarter, while in some neighborhoods of Park City, Utah, median sales prices spiked by more than 50% during the summer, according to Sotheby’s 2021 Luxury Outlook.
Outside the U.S., the Mornington Peninsula outside Melbourne on Australia’s southeastern coast has also seen a similar influx, the report states.
Going forward, developers are likely to integrate touchless, high-tech features into more homes and focus on bolstering sustainability credentials in new buildings, Nelson says.
From energy-saving geothermal systems and solar panels to green roofs, “these are the features that are most attractive,” he adds. “If a home is move-in ready and environmentally conscious and has a Tesla charger installed in the garage, those homes are generating a premium, because you have so many buyers interested in competing for them.”
Overall, the luxury real estate market is ripe for growth.
According to a December Sotheby’s International Realty survey, 63% of affiliates polled said they expected luxury home prices to rise over the next three years in their respective markets. More than 70% of respondents reported heightened demand at the end of 2020.
In the short term, however, disjointed vaccine distribution and renewed quarantine restrictions could hamper foreign buyer interest. Only one-third of Sotheby’s affiliates expect to see an uptick in demand in the first half of 2021, according to the report.
Additionally, amid indiscriminate declines in overall tax revenues caused by the pandemic, governments globally are reassessing property and wealth taxes as a means of filling budget gaps.
“Across all buyers, tax implications are going to be larger part of their home-purchase consideration,” Nelson says.
For the fast-growing cohort of young, affluent buyers eager to snag their dream homes, millennials face slim pickings for options that meet their unique tastes. “Inventories are at near-record lows in general, and especially for the homes with the features they’re looking for,” he says.
Still, Nelson adds that with “wealth creation growing and cost of capital declining, it’s a promising storm for the high-end housing market.”
From the sale of the highest-priced home in the history of Vail, Colorado, to that of an architectural masterpiece in Las Lomas, Mexico, highlighted here are 10 Significant Sales from 2020 represented by the Sotheby’s International Realty® global network.
Sold for $57,250,000 | Tye Stockton, LIV Sotheby’s International Realty
When walls collide with geometric shapes, an uninspired space can suddenly have a strong point of view. Whether iterated as patterned wallpaper, mirrors, or artwork in shapely frames, the effect can be subtle or statement making.
“Geometric shapes are very dynamic and carry a lot of visual weight,” says New Jersey-based Jennifer Matthews, co-founder and creative director at Tempaper, a line of removable wallpaper. “If they are small, they can add textural interest, whereas larger shapes create bold movement in a room.”
“When mixed with more traditional motifs, they lend a freshness to the designs,” says Los Angeles-based designer Stefani Stein. Meanwhile, the repetitive nature of geometrics lends an organization to a room, so there’s an automatic symmetry.
“Don’t be afraid to use geometric shapes, regardless of your overall style direction,” says Tulsa, Okla.-based designer Mel Bean. “An all-neutral space with limited layering of geometric shapes and patterns is an entirely different experience from a colorful, complex, extensive use of pattern and color.”
Combining different shapes creates an interesting tension, Matthews says, like pairing oval sconces or circled mirrors with scalloped wallpaper and a diamond rug or bold-tiled flooring. New York-based Barbara Karpf, founder and president of DecoratorsBest, an online retailer for high-end textiles and wallpapers, recommends mixing different geometric patterns together when they have varied scales. “A small, tight pattern works well with a large open geometric—one pattern could have a touch of a color that is prominent in the other pattern,” she says.
Marimekko wallpaper, from DecoratorsBest in New York, adds a chic geometric look to a living room space.
WORK WITH WALLPAPER
The easiest way to apply pattern to walls is by using wallpaper. “Geometric wallpapers range in effect from youthful to sophisticated,” Bean says. “The iconic Hicks hexagon wall covering is an elegant classic. And for a bold, modern approach, I love Cole & Son’s Geometric II paper,” she says.
“A wallpapered statement wall can form foyers from simple hallways, home offices from cozy corners, and separate dining areas from living spaces,” Karpf says. Keep in mind, a small, repetitive pattern works everywhere, whereas a big, bold pattern will work best on an accent wall, she says.
And, when considering color, generally, the lighter the hue, the subtler the experience, says Newton, Mass.-based designer Liz Caan. “Geometric patterns with high-contrast colors will always veer into bold and graphic territory, so be mindful when choosing your palette.”
Using geometric prints has another benefit: They can hide a multitude of sins. For one project, Manhattan-based designer Timothy Brown used a multicolor tonal stripe to hide some millwork he didn’t want to remove but also didn’t want to highlight. They also “allow you to control the direction and flow of a space, whether you want to cast focus on an area or guide the eye away from a less savory spot,” he says.
A bathroom with Tempaper wallpaper, a bathroom designed by Alison Pickart with patterned walls.
Combining geometrics with other patterns adds interest and can balance out the look. “A stripe or geometric pattern on a printed grasscloth wallcovering can soften the crisp nature of a bold print,” Stein says. She suggests trying a variegated stripe, monochrome geometric, or tonal variation for a dramatic backdrop that won’t overpower the other elements of the space. Caan prefers to play with “opposites” when it comes to wallpapers, such as mixing a bold stripe or geometric with a floral. “When the colors are copacetic and the scales are varying—creating some relational value—the end result can have a dramatic effect, but one with a softer edge thanks to the floral balancing the sharp lines of the geometric,” she says.
A bathroom with Tempaper wallpaper, a bathroom designed by Alison Pickart with patterned walls.
THINK BEYOND WALLPAPER
There are other mediums in which to shape your walls, too. “Our favorite method, which introduces rich texture and architectural interest, is through applied moldings,” says Chicago-based designer Tom Stringer. “We’ve used a repeating geometric motif at various scales in applied moldings, and then again in other areas in carved screens to layer pattern and texture into a stark white interior.”
Stringer has also utilized painted designs, which he achieved by taping off patterns and then painting in contrasting colors to create geometric motifs on walls.
Geometric shapes, when applied to upholstery, help create depth, says Chicago- and San Francisco-based interior designer Alison Pickart. “I’ve used ceiling-mounted drapery in hallways that have utility and closet doors that needed to be concealed yet still be accessible,” she says. She also loves to use tiled geometric patterns, whether on kitchen walls or bathroom backsplashes to incorporate interest.
A kitchen designed by Liz Caan features geometric tiles.
STRIKE A BALANCE
“The biggest impact comes from either using them in excess or very thoughtfully in small, understated doses,” Caan says.
Brown considers every aspect of the room when working with geometric shapes to create an overall symmetry.
“Any room is a mix of geometric shapes—from added furniture to the decisive lines of windows and doors. Focus on the scale of any pattern or shape so that it all works together,” Brown says.
There’s a restrained beauty about an all-white space; it’s a sophisticated refinement that awes in its absence of color. And, depending on accent features, furniture, and fabrics, the effect can feel warm and welcoming or modern and minimalist.
“White spaces are serene and provide a neutral setting for other more subtle items in the room to shine,” says Amalia Graziani of Noor Property Group, a Manhattan-based real estate development firm. They also create a blank canvas, says Phillip Thomas, founder and principal of Phillip Thomas Inc. in New York City. “You can build a story within the space,” he says. Creating an inspired design is all in the details.
Set against the blue of the water in Miami, this nearly all-white room designed by Phillip Thomas really pops.
VARY THE SHADES
Playing with different tones of white and cream can keep the room from feeling too stark, says Rome, Italy-based architect and designer Achille Salvagni. He suggests incorporating prints that combine shades of either white or cream on the walls, in the upholstery, or even on the floor. “Small or subtle pops of color or metallics introduced into the room, that come from art and accessories, also add warmth and a level of sophistication,” Salvagni says. “I like to use a warmer white on the walls paired with brighter trim and a cooler ceiling,” Graziani says. “Subtle contrast makes the space feel much more inviting.”
CREATE TEXTURAL TOUCHES
Warming up the room and adding dimension is a matter of texture. “Texture is key in keeping a white space from lacking soul,” Thomas says. “Texture reflects light—both natural and artificial—in different ways, and light excites the eye.”
Salvagni prefers materials such as cashmere, boucle, sheepskin, and mohair, particularly for upholstery, to add warmth, depth, and a sense of comfort. For carpeting, he opts for a plush, warm-toned silk. “I love the idea of complementing a white ceiling and all-white walls with a printed carpet that combines different shades of white and cream,” he says. Hand-knotted and handwoven rugs add sophistication and a sense of luxury to a space, says Lance Thomas, co-founder of Room Service, a fine furniture and interior design firm in Lake Charles, La. “I personally like to contrast the style of my rug to the furniture that sits on top of it,” he says.
Graziani prefers chunky sisal rugs for warmth and texture to offset cool walls. She also loves the contrast of a rough linen weave alongside softer materials such as cashmere and boucle. But texture is not just found in textiles. Lance Thomas recommends wallpapering walls in suede or introducing a lacquered finish on a side table.
A white space designed by Phillip Thomas, feels decidedly upscale.
FOCUS ON ACCENTS
Finishes such as metal play a significant role in achieving an impactful all-white space, Lance Thomas says. “Matte black or iron hardware and fixtures can add stark contrast and a contemporary spin on the space,” he adds. And contrast is a powerful tool. “When the eye sees the truest white and the truest black in a space, all of the other variations of white become richer.”
Given the neutral nature of white walls, there’s a chance to play with interesting hardware and doors, Graziani says. “Sharp stainless door handles, antique glass knobs, or a bold door will shine in an otherwise understated room,” she says. For instance, in one of the white rooms she’s designed, she added three sets of double French doors in place of conventional doors to add depth and reflection. “Adding structural details such as bold beams, chair rails, and paneling also elevates the space and creates dimension,” she says. And don’t forget about greenery, “not only for its vibrant color, but to add a sense of warmth, calm, and fragrance to a space,” Lance Thomas says.
Layering is another important tool. “An all-white space looks best when it feels collected over time,” he adds. For example, a mid-century coffee table would play nicely on top of an antique rug. Or, he recommends framing a vintage piece of art in a contemporary lacquered frame. His other musts: a healthy mix of patterns, patina, and personality, wood furniture, at least one antique—even in a contemporary space—as well as a custom-tailored piece. “When a space feels collected, it creates intention,” Lance Thomas says.
In terms of shapes, Salvagni suggests round and organic forms for sofas, chaises, coffee and dining tables, and even carpets. “These round and organic shapes will accentuate the coziness of the room,” he says.
Black and white contrast well in a room by Lance Thomas.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
“Lighting is probably the best way to add another dimension and elemental layering,” Salvagni says. The first thing he looks for is to add warm-hued lighting as well as an appropriately proportioned light fixture. “This will create the dimension needed to enhance the ambiance in the room, and when done correctly, always helps to keep a room feeling warm and looking elegantly stylish,” he explains.
“Ambient lighting is a wonderful way to intentionally create depth through highlights and shadows,” Lance Thomas adds. “I love the way a pair of wall sconces can cast shadows onto the ceiling and highlight slivers of surrounding furniture.”
Incorporating multiple sources of light helps a room feel more inviting, Graziani says. “Instead of relying on a central pendant or chandelier, incorporating soft secondary sources of light, such as picture lighting and task lamps, can make a big difference,” she says.