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The School of Flaunt
Back when "Flying Was Fun" Alexandra Smythe and Cate Clarke were Flight Attendants with a Major International Carrier. Prior to Private Jets coming into vogue, Alexandra and Cate traveled in the First Class World, meeting and greeting the top celebrities, politicians who would become Presidents, nouveau riche, and yes the occasional Headline Grabbing Criminal in Handcuffs!
What the two ladies viewed and experienced became fodder for the School of Flaunt, so much money, such bad taste and oh those terrible manners. Something had to be done! Hence, The School of Flaunt Handbook was born. Read More
Living the Luxurious Life by Gerald Forsburg
So you've just made your first Billion (or perhaps hundred million) and are now interested in updating your lifestyle with a fabulous New Home. Where to start? Below we will share just a few pointers for getting the house of your dreams.
Firstly, do NOT call a builder, even a good one. They will be all too eager to start construction, and you will be putting the cart before the horse. Quality homes happen on paper, and with countless meetings with a designer or architect first.
Secondly, it's time to get your priorities straight. Primary residences are rarely investments. Instead, they are places of retreat, often times showplaces for the countless new friends you are sure to have, and should be designed to your desires, not the designers' or architects' whims, and definitely not by a builder/contractor. Simply stated, you need to interview designers and/or architects. But where to find them? Ask around. Look at architecture and design magazines and see who the architect or designer was on a project you admire.
To be certain, you will want to see a portfolio (fortunately, many have websites that act as portfolios), but you also will be having a very close working relationship with this person for quite some time - so there needs to be a synergy. You need to like them, and you need them to like you - or at least be able to tolerate you.
Also, get the notion that Bigger is Better out of your head. It's all about Design, Quality and Elegance. Largeness has its place, but Quality and Elegance speak volumes more about your success and character than does size. You're striving for opulence, not garish.
Yes, the goal is about getting what you want, but you are entering into the world of Patronage or Matronage of the Arts. Approach it this way. You could be working with the next great Architect or Designer who will become part of history.
Palladio, often called the "father of architecture", wrote "I am called a fortunate man, for I have found people of rank, noble and generous in mind, and of excellent judgment, who vouchsafe their belief in my ideas…"
How satisfying to have been the ONE to introduce this person to the World! This means you are becoming part of that history too, and you want to keep your name clean. You don't want to go down in history as the client who could never make up their mind and stiffed the designer. Design comes with a price, and the better you pay the designer, the better they will work for you to ensure you get what you want. Do not expect "free design". It rarely happens. If money really is no object, feel free to entertain off-the-wall ideas only so long as they support your principles and sense of design, but be wary. You do not want to be the next emperor with no clothes. If you have no real sense of design, share this and then trust your designer to educate you. Along the way there will be opportunities for you to say "Oh, I don't like that" or "Wow, I love it!"
If you are like most wealthy individuals, your home will be in the media at some point during your lifetime. What do you want it to say about you? Your home will serve to brand you, whether you like it or not. In fact, if you already have a brand that you are maintaining, your home should ideally compliment that brand that you have so diligently worked to build.
THE FIRST MEETING
When you interview your designer or architect for the first time, be sure that you are meeting with them. It is fine to have an assistant make the arrangements and to bring an assistant to take notes and handle the administrative things, but do not send only the assistant to the first meeting. Also, you may need to ask your assistant to leave for some privacy, so you can talk freely about the design you want. The designer wants to get inside your head, not your assistant's. If this home is being designed with a significant other, be sure to bring them along for the first meeting as well. Be prepared that your significant other may have quite different expectations. Compromises and treaties abound in joint designs.
The first meeting is about getting to know you, your likes and dislikes. By this time in your life, you probably have a good sense of what you like. Your designer needs to know this. Do you like to have coffee on the veranda in the morning? Tell them. Do you entertain? The design needs to accommodate this. Maybe you have a specific style you like. Perhaps you have a special piece of art or furniture that will be in the new home; your designer should know this in order to design around it. The questions could be as basic as "what's your favorite color?"
Find out a bit about the designers' aspirations too. What project have they always wanted to build, but haven't had the clientele to support them? Perhaps they have reams of un-built designs that the world needs to see, but have never been built. Many of the world's greatest architects and designers landed prestigious projects much later in life thanks to great clients.
The best projects happen because of having the best clients - YOU!
You need to hire a great designer or architect. One way is to ask friends who they've used, or to comb the web for the latest Starchitect, but these guys (and gals) come with hefty price tags and even heftier egos. You did not get to where you by throwing away dollars, but rather by knowing what is valued. A relationship with your architect and designer is very intimate. They will get to know you better than most who work for you. They need to in order to know what you like and how to best craft a design to your desires.
As they say, "Location, Location, Location." I would add, "And quality design." Your choice of where to live can be based on anything from a desire to be close to work, or like-minded friends and family, to an emotional response to a quaint small town well-situated for access to the places you need to be, and even to a good deal on the raw land.
A well-designed home will retain its value regardless of its location. However, well located homes in hot zip codes certainly make for quicker sales down the road, unless, of course you've decided to build in a remote part of the world and are selling the private jet with the house... But I digress.
"The Devil is in the Details"; so is the beauty of a well designed home. A quality design should be refined and elegant. Elegance is usually achieved through simplicity. That does not mean the final home will be simple, but rather that much effort will go into to throwing out any and all parts of the design that complicate the simplistic nature of what you are trying to achieve. Whether you desire a French Renaissance home or a modern, sleek retreat, a good designer will know how to stick to the task and not "overdo" it.
Also, something to note, great homes are not designed "in plan", but rather "in elevation". Think about it - no one walks around looking at the floor, but rather planes, surfaces, textures, and so on. It is for this reason that stock house plans are not acceptable as quality design. House plans are merely one tool that is used to communicate the final design to a builder, or perhaps square footage to a realtor - floor plans are not the design itself. A home is a complex three dimensional composition rather than a one dimensional sheet of paper showing where the rooms are located.
Most importantly, hire the designer not just for design, but to oversee the project. The designer works for You - not for the builder - and the designer works to protect the countless hours you have spent designing the perfect home. He or she will review construction draws, and the work completed by the Contractor to ensure the protection of your assets. Builders are great people, but they are working to maximize their profit on your project, rather than to protect your interests in the design.
After the level of quality has been established, it is merely an exercise in replicating the quality on a larger scale. If you truly must have a 90,000 square foot home, be sure it looks right and that you have the budget for it. Do not be afraid to phase the project either. Many large projects happen in various stages rather than all at once. Again, it is better to have the best rather than the biggest with no character!
A FINAL WORD
A luxury home is first and foremost a "Journey in Design." It can, and should also be a place where your story is told. Think about the Biltmore, for a minute. This lavish home tells the story of its homeowner, George Vanderbilt. It tells of his desire for escape from his hectic life; his love of all things exotic; it tells of his travels, as well as his status. (Also note that the design does not begin and end with the house, but rather extends to the furthest corners of the estate.)
Whether you are well-travelled or not, your designer may desire to take you to some exotic place to study the architecture with you. Great design does not happen in a bubble. Instead, great design works on precedent of generations of great design, and affords newness and forwardness. This is, in fact, a working trip, but well worth the effort.
Most importantly, enjoy the process, and it is a process. You can afford it and you deserve it!
(And we say "Flaunt It") Cate & Alexandra!
Gerald Forsburg Associates specializes in Contemporary Classical Design, Traditional Urbanism, and Historic Preservation for clients who value beautiful, thoughtful design inspired by the past, wonderfully made for the present.
GFA offers a full spectrum of work - from small remodeling projects and historically sensitive additions, to new houses, retreat houses, cabins, outbuildings, barns, wineries and garden designs.
GFA believes that every home should be warm, livable, and above all, interesting: "The more you experience, the more you should discover."
Find out more about Gerald Forsburg Associates online here:
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