Luxury homes are as much about perceptions and image, as about their uber-luxe facilities. In a market where everyone is offering spiffy add-ons that make the houses look as opulent and lavish as luxury residences anywhere in the world, how do you differentiate yourself from what’s already available? One answer — a bespoke home, the ultimate in luxury lifestyle.
Mumbai’s upmarket suburb of Bandra is home to 30 Union Park, a new nine-storey luxury residential enclave with nine Tribal Art Homes, a project by Le Sutra, a group that also runs Le Sutra Art Hotel in the same neighbourhood. Every floor in this exclusive residential enclave is designed like a tribal home, with a twist of course. The artwork on the walls, the fixtures, the furnishings are all tribal, with references drawn from the ancient folk art forms of states such as Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar.
The ninth floor home, for instance, is inspired by the delicate Gond art. “Gondtribals use customary motifs and tattoos to adorn their dwellings as well as their floors. Gond paintings materialise like a collage of dashes and dots. The collage combines into bright images of animals and plants, articulating folklore,” says Mitali Bajaj, who heads the design studio Dr.Art+Design, the people behind these art homes. “Gond artworks have not only gone through theme-experimentation, but have also made the medium go through innovations. The interiors are a manifestation of the Gond tribe.” The design team, headed by Bajaj, has abstracted Gondartefacts and converted them into functional pieces. A Gond comb became a chair, while architectural motifs became headboards, television units and wardrobe handles.
While the Art Homes are an extension of the art hotel they run in Bandra, Om Ahuja, CEO (Residential Services), Jones Lang La Salle India, attributes the race
towards designer homes or design-led homes to the intense need to market homes differently.“Homes by high-profile names or with designer residences make a lot of sense from the marketing perspective. They help in creating differentiation in a market that has been deluged with launches of residential projects.”
The trend, however, isn’t new. Almost six years ago,The Imperial at Tardeo, in Mumbai, was among the first to leverage the star power of designers. Said to be the most expensive apartments in India, it came appended with hanging gardens, two-storey high decks, custom-designed apartments and a fancy home automation system. The 65-storey building with ten levels of parking and a two-level lobby was designed by architect Hafeez Contractor while the fancy bespoke apartments were the handiwork of designers and architects such as Pinakin Patel and US-based Craig Nealy. The 8000-10,000 square feet house, with a price tag that started at Rs 85 crore, has a two-level deck and an indoor swimming pool that stretches all the way to the picture window. Each apartment has a personal lift that opens into an opulent apartment lobby.
Among others, developers who have been offering designer homes include Pune-based Panchshil. Their portfolio includes homes designed by well-known names such as Shobhaa De and Twinkle Khanna. De’s contribution was a signature line at the company’s upscale Silver Woods condominium. Atul Chordia, chairman, Panchshil says, “She brought her trademark creativity, colour and vibrancy, which makes her writing so irresistible, to the homes that she designed.” For the 3500-sq ft condominiums she chose bespoke international furniture — Italian sofas and beds, wooden flooring from Germany and lavish fittings. She also helped the home buyers pick art for their homes. Since then, signature homes have become a permanent feature of Panchshil projects. “We are not just selling apartments. They are stylised products with works of art, expensive furniture and fittings, and valuing it is a complex process,” says Chordia.
Twinkle Khanna, who has her own design business, has designed projects like One North, a fancy residential enclave in Hadaspur, Pune, fringed by four acres of forests, yet close to the central commercial district. The eight towers of the project have two large apartments, besides penthouses designed by Khanna. “The Indian luxury homeowner is looking for a space that is a reflection of their sensibilities as well as a space that has the most modern functional capabilities,” she says. “That is what I try to achieve. In India, especially the metros, another strong desire is to maximise the usage of space and to use areas as multifunctional entities. My spaces also tend to have a strong cultural influence running through them. For instance, the One North penthouses have an eclectic mix of global design with a definite Asian element.”
Even Shah Rukh Khan’s wife Gauri Khan was roped in by Kolte Patil Developers to design couture penthouses for their project Glitterati at Pimple Nilakh in suburban Pune. Each penthouse is about 6000 sqft large and Khan is planning a Mediterranean theme with landscaping and ample open spaces. While a client can suggest changes to the apartments she designs and is free to pick the colour palette, about 85 percent of the decor will be left to Khan. “The apartments perfectly fit the area we are in,” says Yogesh Mehra, senior vice-president (Business Development), Sales and Marketing, KPDL. “These river-facing couture homes are coming up in the vicinity of Hinjewadi, an area that houses IT parks and big names in the auto industry. For an area like that, designer homes are the ideal perfect match,” he says. “Besides, she [Gauri Khan] lives the lifestyle, so, when she designs a space using her aesthetics, it reinstates confidence in the customer.”
In Delhi, celebrity designers such as Raseel Ansal and Sunita Kohli are often roped in by developers like DLF to create bespoke homes that sell for higher than the market price. Market watcher and real estate analyst Vibha Dastur (vice-president of Realty Watch, a company that offers consultation services to people looking to buy luxury homes), says, “Star wives are in big demand, but so are big designers like Pinakin Patel or Bijoy Jain. Sometimes, a project like 30 Union Park, with a strong sense of design and aesthetics, also comes up in the luxury residential market, offering that edge it requires. The whole game is about luxury branding, especially when a trained designer or celebrity is involved.”
The tussle for consumer confidence and attention is driving more developer-designer partnerships. Designers help raise the bar and offer homeowners a sense of exclusivity. “It’s like co-branding. The designers are big in their own way. They help bring a different flavour to a residential project,” says Khanna.
By Deepali Nandwani