May 23, 2019 | By Cassandra Gagnon
Oct 31, 2018
London-based company Duke of Design specialises in adding value to homes with luxurious interior design, renovations and extensions. We spoke to CEO Ash Chawla to find out how home renovation priorities are evolving, the impact of social media on home design, and whether perceptions of luxury are changing.
What kinds of extensions and refurbishments are your clients requesting, and what does this say about broader lifestyle shifts?
The property trend, up until a few years ago, was to primarily focus on houses as investments rather than homes. The term ‘climbing the property ladder’ implied that people would purchase property as stepping stones to their eventual dream home. However, with the rising stamp duty, mortgage relief restrictions and lack of low-deposit mortgages, the trend seems to be changing. Interior designers are noticing a market change with homeowners willing to spend more on their existing properties with the intention of living in them for a longer period of time.
We are also seeing a demand for larger and more luxurious living spaces. These days we rarely see houses with all their original walls intact. These demands seem to be fuelled by people hosting more events in their houses and being influenced by the social standing of a well-designed house. We have worked on quite a few projects in the recent past where the entire budget has been spent on designing the living rooms and open plan kitchens.
We are currently working on a new development where the entire ground floor is open plan, with large bi-fold doors at the rear. With longer hotter summers, large glass windows and bi-fold doors are in demand like never before. Social media and ‘sharing’ has also been a contributing factor towards Londoners being less worried about privacy and more inclined towards the use of glass in their houses.
With grander living spaces becoming a trend, the adjoining gardens cannot be left far behind. It is not long before homeowners start wanting a garden to match their newly refurbished majestic living rooms. We anticipate bespoke designer gardens to be the next big thing.
What defines luxury today, and how is it evolving?
Heritage has become an important focus of the luxury market: people want to feel connected to the items and brands they are buying. Through the act of purchasing, they become a part of the brand’s history.
Authenticity has also become an important marker of luxury. People are not as interested in polished shiny surfaces as they are in distressed and reclaimed wood surfaces. As technology becomes a focus of luxury, therein lies a new trend of the smart/rustic home where smart-phone controlled energy-saving lights and electricity are counterbalanced with raw earthy materials.
Eco-luxury is also a trend that will continue to grow. Having a low carbon footprint and sustainable home has become a marker of one’s intelligence and social standing. Therefore, we are seeing an increasing trend of furniture and adjustments made to people’s houses with the earth’s ecology in mind.
Is social media and the rise of Instagram having an effect on how people are renovating and decorating, and if so, what changes or trends are you seeing as a result?
Websites such as Instagram and Pinterest are having a huge effect not only on consumers but on designers as well. As a result, homes are getting similar around the globe. We are seeing less of area-specific designs. Do you remember visiting a European city home around 20 years ago? Homes in different cities all had their quirks only found in that particular area. In Portugal we had the intricate tiles, Greek villas with their rough chalky white walls, etc. That is slowly reducing: newer home interiors and developments are very similar in look. Stark white walls, plain laminate, tiled floors or carpeted floors, basic lighting design, modular kitchens, etc.
What materials, colours or overarching design styles are most often requested by clients?
Honestly, white is still the most requested colour by our clients. We really encourage our clients to take small risks which will make their house a home.
Our luxury segment clients love metal work: be it in accessories, fretworks panels, furniture. Copper and rose gold became immensely popular a few years ago. We are seeing that trend follow into lower segment shops as well.
Wallpapers and carpets are immensely popular. In the last five years, we have seen the range expand 100 fold and some of the designs are just incredible. One of the solutions to ordinary interiors is a splash of colour with carpets and wallpapers.
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