The luxury apartment market is booming, with buyers and owners demanding only the best when it comes to design and fit-out
As the popularity of prestige urban apartments grows, so does demand from wealthy owners for a bespoke home offering much more than a pared-back colour scheme and comfortable scatter cushions. Luxury-apartment owners want to customise their homes with fireplaces, steam showers and luxurious baths as well as custom furniture, according to Melbourne-based Mim Design director Miriam Fanning.
Maximising aspects and using space are among the key requirements of wealthy apartment owners, along with custom furniture such as coffee tables, side tables, mirrors and pendant lights, she says.
“We’re seeing a change driven by owners of penthouse apartments and developers of multi-residential projects wanting the highest possible level of detail and the same attention you would give an individual house,” Fanning says.
“We are having a growing number of clients seeking completely unique penthouse designs that give the home a bespoke feel. Clients want the best of the best from Sub-Zero, Wolf or Gaggenau appliances to entire rooms dedicated to their wardrobe.
“It comes down to planning, looking at the footprint and realigning the spaces to ensure size, aspect and views are befitting of such a space. It’s about creating an apartment that captures that feeling of serenity so that when the owner walks in it makes them feel great but they’re not able to put their finger on just one thing.”
Penthouse owners happily push the boundaries as they seek a lifestyle they’ve been accustomed to in a more traditional family home, as luxury apartments become more accepted and readily available.
Property developer CostaFox director Michael Fox, who is launching a four-level premium project on a 1189sq m site in Sydney’s beachside Manly, says there’s already significant interest in the six luxury apart- ments, priced between $7 million and $8m. Designed by award-winning Japanese architect Koichi Takada with interiors by Mim Design, the apartments range from 150sq m to almost 300sq m and are part of what Fox describes as an emerging market where there is plenty of scope and demand for such homes.
“I’m an apartment dweller by choice and that’s what I create,” the father of three says. “Living, eating and breathing the apartment lifestyle allows you to create something wonderful in the marketplace. I’ve come across a lot of high-net-worth individuals who haven’t considered the apartment lifestyle that much, but when they look around there isn’t much choice for them.”
The Koichi Takada Architects and Mim Design brief was to create “something special and unique” taking advantage of the views and combining them with high-end finishes to a level not currently on offer.
With prices reaching $30,000 a square metre, Fox says a high-end customised finish is the new norm.
“If you want to attract the right people with big money that’s the level you have to go to,” Fox says.
“They want something stylish and customised with authentic finishes, top-quality stone, appliances, great location and a minimum of two car spaces. You see so many cookie-cutter apartments no one is really focused on the high end.”
Architect Kerstin Thompson says one of the greatest changes she has seen in client work is more of an awareness of design, materials and appliances, usually gleaned through the internet, media and their social networks.
Kerstin Thompson Architects recently completed a striking Flinders Lane Apartment in Melbourne’s CBD, designed around the client’s love of books, resulting in the project being shortlisted in the residential category for the 2016 houses awards.
The 1920s apartment is organised around a series of
‘Living, eating and breathing the apartment lifestyle allows you to create something wonderful’ MICHAEL FOX
bookshelves that form a central core — the library — defining the spatial boundaries of the rest of the apartment and its arrangement of bedrooms, kitchen and living around the perimeter.
A palette of perforated steel works within the industrial-era shell to create a dark heart with a light perimeter.
Thompson says clients often have a beach or country home and want to create an urban getaway or sanctuary within their apartment or penthouse.
“There are many similarities when designing a home and an apartment. You still have to factor in orientation, adjacencies and amenity,” she says.
“The difference often lies in connecting the design to its surrounds and creating a flow between the two. In the countryside or by the beach, the connection is to landscape. In urban environments, designs instead reference other built forms.
“For the Flinders Lane apartment it was referencing the history of the building envelope, its heritage and the existing palette of materials (such as large steelframe windows and handsome proportions).”
Ultra Properties director Kevin Carlin, whose highend southeast Queensland listings include a double apartment in the Riparian building in Eagle Street, Brisbane, says buyers with $5m or more to spend ex- pect all the bells and whistles in their penthouse, as they would of a luxury car.
“Buyers now want to see all the extra features where everything is automated and luxurious,” he says.
“I’m seeing fit-outs where there are concealed rooms and personalised lifts. A lot of them are being built on spec by the developers and they’re being taken to the next level.”
From a sales perspective, Ray White Surfers Paradise principal Andrew Bell says penthouse owners rarely customise their properties to sell them.
Having recently been shown through a completely customised penthouse with “spectacular cabinetry” and additional windows to create what he described as “the best apartment” he’d seen, Bell says redesigning an existing penthouse is a costly, time-consuming and arduous process.
“From a sales perspective customising a penthouse means you’ve got a far more impressive apartment to offer but people don’t do this with a view to selling, this is about creating a space for them to enjoy,” he says.
“What it does do is bring a high-quality range of apartments into a marketplace such as ours, where buyers expect it. It enhances our reputation to offer such stunning apartments, but it’s more about a personal desire to create something sensational.”
Miriam Fanning, from Mim Design, main picture; top and above, a 1920s warehouse apartment in Flinders Lane, Melbourne, redesigned by architect Kerstin Thompson