Creating Change: A Q&A with Patricia Anastassiadis

Headshot courtesy of Victor Affaro

 

From the Jumby Bay private island in Antigua to the palatial Palacio Tangara hotel in Sao Paulo, Brazilian architect and designer, Patricia Anastassiadis has collected a long, robust list of high profile international projects. Anastassiadis blends her love for anthropology, art, nature and history to create timeless and minimalist furnishings that create a dialogue. 

 

 

 

 

Most recently, she was chosen to be the Creative Director to design Artefacto’s highly-anticipated 2019 collection, which hit South Florida showrooms this past summer. Unique Homes spoke with Anastassiadis to discuss her journey to create Artefacto’s 2019 collection, her style and the future of design in a changing world. 

 

 

 

 

 

What was the first time that you ever thought about being a designer? Did it coincide with your original career path?

As a child, I was always put to sleep listening to Greek Mythology stories told by my father (who is Greek) and that exposed me at a very early age to the power of storytelling and the classics. My mother, on the other hand, is a fashion designer, a writer, and a painter. So as a teenager, I’ve always known that I would take part in the creative business …  At 17, I decided to apply for an architecture major as we’ve realized that architecture has always been a reference and a part of my life. 

 

Why do you do what you do? What about interior design draws you into it doing it every day?

Architecture itself tells a beautiful story about our time on this planet and the relationship we establish with our surroundings. That idea completely amazes me.

I don’t make a distinction between my work as an architect and my work as an interior and product designer. They are all extensions of my work. For me, it is all connected as I enjoy working with design on different scales, but most importantly, I like living with the idea of creating something that puts you in contact with another human being.

How would you describe the style of the new Artefacto collection?

This new edition is the continuation of the previous one launched in spring 2018 and our aim was to promote a dialogue between the two of them. I believe a good design piece ruptures its timeline without losing its aesthetic or functional relevance. Thus, my intention with this edition is to design furniture that is truly timeless. We are proposing a more holistic aesthetic linked to values that, despite the strong visual appeal, are not a synthesis of a trend. 

What do you draw inspiration from to form your own unique perspective?

My inspiration comes from nature, materials, architecture… All those different elements are part of the repertoire that moves me to create and design products of my own.

 

What can a client expect from you when you take on their project?

What marks our work is how we evaluate the location where the project will be held. I take into account the cultural characteristics; the local materials we can work with; the vernacular architecture of the place, and how people interact with it or behave there… I also really enjoy exploring and connecting materials, textures and colors… The aim of my work is to turn it all into an enhanced experience that will bring out the real essence of that location to visitors.

What recent changes in the industry have you noticed and want other designers to take part in?

I’ve been really concerned with the environmental issues, and consumption plays a big part in it as we’re also discussing discard. I believe we’ve really passed the time where we could just raise a flag over the problems we’ve been noticing in the world as a consequence of our damaging exploration of natural resources. We’re right now sensing an imminent call for action regarding the environmental issues. Change really is urgent. It’s essential that we, as designers and architects, are able to engage in the cause and make conscious choices when developing a project.

What can people expect from your new collection?

We’re now working with the concepts of a brand new edition. We’ve been inspired in the past by Japanese architecture, culture and design so we’ll keep developing that. We’ll also create a brand new chapter of furniture design with natural fibers and materials, inspired by food. We’ve also been experimenting with shape, adding volume to new pieces.

Any goals for this year, both for you and/or your brand?

Right now, I’m working on an upcoming Four Seasons hotel as well as a brand new collection of furniture design for Artefacto. There are new projects to be announced as well. But we can’t reveal much just yet.

Photos courtesy of Artefacto

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On Location: Entryway to the Sea

Upon entering Puerta Cortés — a 500-plus-acre property in La Paz, Baja California, I was immediately intrigued by its essentially untouched landscape and its proximity to the marvelous Sea of Cortez.

Puerta Cortés, is surrounded by the world’s richest body of water — home to rare sea life such as whale sharks, dolphins, grey whales, humpbacks, orcas, sea lions and more. Nearly 40 percent of the world’s sea life is represented in the Sea of Cortez, making it a prime destination for snorkeling, scuba diving, and sea life exploration.

With seven marinas, Puerta Cortés demanded that I spent a day out on the water to discover Isla Espiritu Santo, swim with whale sharks, and explore sea lions habitats. I followed my day-long boating excursion with an ocean-view dinner as the sun set on the water.

Vista Mar

El Cortés Golf Club

Only two hours from Cabo San Lucas, La Paz offers an experience that heavily contrasts the bustle of a major city. Downtown La Paz offers an authentic Mexican city experience, while Puerta Cortés exudes an unparalleled feeling of privacy, serenity and comfort.

“I love the fact that even though you are in the city, you have this feeling that you are not really in a city,” says President of Ascendancy Antonio Davila, who admires the small town feel of La Paz.

El Cortés Golf Club, boasting sweeping views of the Sea of Cortez from 17 of its 18 holes, is accompanied by a cliffside Clubhouse with views unlike any other. The perfect destination for a Mexican-style breakfast, the Clubhouse evokes a peaceful atmosphere — complete with a calming morning breeze coming off the sea, views of the course’s lush greenery and the crystal blue Sea of Cortez, and an assortment of growing cacti to complete the mountainous desert landscape.

Las Colinas

After spending a morning at the golf course, I headed to Blue Cortés — the signature beach club at Puerta Cortés — to enjoy an afternoon soaking in the sun, relaxing in the infinity pool, and indulging in fine international cuisine while poolside. 

Located only two hours from Cabo San Lucas, La Paz offers an experience that heavily contrasts the bustle of a major city. Downtown La Paz offers an authentic Mexican city experience, while Puerta Cortés exudes an unparalleled feeling of privacy, serenity and comfort.

“I love the fact that even though you are in the city, you have this feeling that you are not really in a city,” says President of Ascendancy Antonio Davila, who admires the authentic, comfortable and small town feel of La Paz. 

When Davila visited the property with his wife six years ago, he immediately fell in love with the serene landscape of La Paz. 

“My wife and I were amazed by the fact that La Paz wasn’t better known, because we just found it to be the most beautiful place we’d ever seen,” he says. “I was mesmerized by its beauty, spectacular scenery and extraordinary amenities.”

Last year, Ascendancy — a Mexican-based family office and asset management firm — purchased the property and launched a $5 million renovation, which should be complete within the next 12 to 18 months. 

Currently the property offers two residential options — Las Colinas and Vista Mar, and Ascendancy is negotiating the construction of two, five-star hotels. The property will also soon sell cliffside, ocean-view lots. Other upgrades will include additional restaurants, an expanded on-site market, and a complete face lift for the beachfront.

“Puerta Cortés is an exclusive hideaway for those seeking unparalleled, coastal living and adventure in one of the most privileged locations in the world. I have met so many well-traveled visitors and residents who have seen and experienced some of the most incredible destinations in the world and have decided Puerta Cortés is where they want to be,” Davila says. 

The biggest draw of Puerta Cortes “to me is the gateway to the Sea of Cortez, its beautiful colors and wonderful sea life.” Davila says his favorite thing about living in La Paz is “being about to go out on the water with my family and experience all of the beautiful sea life. I love the quality of life that my family gets living here.”

Photos courtesy Puerta Cortés

This editorial appeared in the Unique Homes Ultimate ’19 Issue.

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With Bundles of Joy

Lauren Behfarin saw a need for sophisticated design geared toward growing families.

Arriving home from the hospital with your newborn for the first time, rocking your infant child back to sleep, reading a book with your talkative toddler — a nursery will become the setting for endless, lasting memories as your child grows.

From falling in love with their first smile to cheering along their first steps, parents will inevitability spend many heartwarming hours in their child’s nursery — which means the space should bring joy to both parents and children for years to come.

Designing the perfect nursery may seem intimidating, but luckily this interior designer understands the importance of creating a space filled with love, care and joy.

Five years ago, Lauren Behfarin designed her daughter’s nursery in preparation for her first child’s arrival. She quickly discovered a gap in family-friendly design, and created Lauren Behfarin Design. “Once I had a family, I wanted to do more work geared toward children and younger families,” says Behfarin, who previously worked for Drew McGukin Interiors.

With a growing clientele, the trendy NYC-based interior design firm now designs spaces for new parents and growing families that are vibrant and sophisticated yet comfortable and livable. Understanding the emotion and love that goes into each space created for a child, Behfarin has found that “nurseries and children’s spaces often become an extension of a home.”

Although she designs a range of spaces, Behfarin’s favorite projects are always nurseries for first-time parents. “Nurseries are always so fun, and so full of hope, life and excitement. It is such a special time to watch new mothers experience pregnancy and for parents to experience a baby for the first time. We are always honored when families include us in that time,” says Behfarin, who works alongside her associate, Abby Gruman.

As a parent of two, Behfarin values convenience and function. After designing a nursery, first-time parents may soon realize that a makeover is required less than two years later. In order to keep the transition as simple as possible, Behfarin tries to “anticipate the next steps of a child’s life” with her designs.

Using various patterns, textures and bold colors, the team is sure to incorporate fun elements that feel young while also considering the next five or 10 years of a child’s life. “As I experience these phases with my own children, I am really learning what works and what does not work long-term in a space. We are learning what elements transition with your child and which do not,” Behfarin says.

Born and raised in Manhattan, Behfarin also understands the need for storage in a compact apartment. Utilizing items such as cribs that turn into toddler beds or bunk beds that double as two twins beds, Behfarin “makes sure that clients have the best items for their children to grow.”

Whether it’s furniture that won’t cause injuries to a newborn or toys that won’t grow tiresome, first-time parents often look to Behfarin and her team for more than simple design tips.

“They’re looking for great design, but they are also looking for advice. We take relationships to heart when we have clients who are experiencing this for the first time,” Behfarin says. “I am here to guide, push and challenge clients, but I always deliver something that they love.” 

How to Design the Perfect Nursery

Accent Walls — “There is always an accent wall, whether it’s a really cool decal, cool paint color or interesting wallpaper,” Behfarin says. “There should always be a fun backdrop to one of the walls in a nursery, and it’s usually the one with the crib.”

Minimal Themes — Cautious to not take a theme too far, Behfarin always suggests incorporating components from a theme, such as accent pieces or different colors. “There are ways to bring in a theme that are not too thematic,” she notes.

Neutral Colors — “There has been a shift toward gender neutral colors, such as grays, creams and whites,” Behfarin says. “People are prioritizing style. The standard pink and baby blue are not popular right now, and I think it is because style, form and function are so big in the city right now.”

Acrylics — This year, Behfarin is seeing a lot acrylics. “Homeowners are loving acrylic cribs with acrylic bars, or chairs with acrylic legs,” she explains. “Acrylic accents have shown up a more recently, I think as way to make a nursery modern.”

Organized Spaces — Whether it is a bunk bed with shelves, a coffee table with compartments or an ottoman with storage inside, Behfarin appreciates and understands the fluidity of space. “Homeowners are constantly reimagining how their space is being used,” she explains. “The hustle and bustle of the city has caused us to pay attention to creative and innovate ways to save space.”

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Digital Art Curation

Photo courtesy Niio.

Smart technologies and artificial intelligence are changing the way we consume art.

While many treasured works of art are safely contained in notable museums or in the homes of experienced collectors, a new tide is cresting along the shores of the art curation field with the influx of digital art.

Digital art, more widely known as new media art, is an interesting sector of the art industry to define, even for Beryl Graham, who is a professor in New Media Art at the University of Sunderland. She notes that the roots of this art form have drawn inspiration from a range of movements, from conceptual artwork to video art, which also began in the 1960s.

“It’s broadly digital but [it’s also] the kind of art that works in different ways in different kinds of behaviors,” Graham notes. One fascinating example would be an exhibition of software art in which the software, sometimes even artificial intelligence-based artwork, can learn and grow on its own. Graham explains that an artist might start a piece of software and watch it evolve, perhaps give it a virus and watch, showing to the audience that the “end point isn’t quite under the control of the artist.”

Magdalena “Magda” Sawon, owner of the contemporary art gallery Postmasters Gallery in New York, says that the digital age has only heightened the senses of curators and artists, who are traditionally at the forefront of new developments in culture and technology.

“Technology is a tool,” she notes, “it is also a moving target and changing constantly. The question is to be aware of new developments and adapt it intelligently to one’s needs and benefit.” Fittingly, as artists have been harnessing the power of technology within the art industry, curators and galleries have had to “keep up with the times,” and embrace digital forms of artwork and the systems and methods in which they are displayed.

 

Donna Holford-Lovell, director of The North East of North festival (NEoN), notes how the incorporation of interaction and participation into art displays appeals to today’s technology-savvy audiences that have been gradually reinvigorating focus on the digital art world.

“The idea of ‘curation’ has become ubiquitous and our audience is seen to be curating many aspects of their own lives,” Holford-Lovell says. NEoN is an organized event that aims to advance the understanding and accessibility of digital and technology-driven art forms by having the artist and curator work together to translate “the spectacle of experience,” via digital platforms within physical spaces, like virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and even social media.

JONATHAN MONAGHAN (US)

The Phoenix and the Medusa (2018), Video, 7 min 69 sec, Edition of 30, Niio Commission Series.

With systems and platforms, from artificial intelligence to online-based forums, both artists and curators now are developing larger platforms and databases to contribute toward. As well as an educator, Graham is co-founder and editor of the Curatorial Resource for Upstart Media Bliss, or CRUMB, a resource for curators of new media art that aims to help overcome any challenges presented from this rise in digital art, from installations to networks of artists and individuals versed in these practices.

PERRY HOBERMAN

Suspensions (2018), VR and mixed reality installation, Postmasters April 2018.

QUAYOLA (UK)

Camouflage (2018), Moving Image, 6 min 4 sec, Edition of 30, Niio Commission Series

On the luxury spectrum of art curation, Niio is a brand integrating digital art and technology-driven forms of collection and distribution that surges past the limitations of traditional artwork. Niio is an art and tech company aimed to enable the exposure of digital artwork in a time that to the company feels like a fourth industrial revolution.

“Art has always reflected the world we live in,” says Rob Anders, CEO and co-founder of Niio, “and artists will create their art with any tool they can access.” In today’s world, that tool has come to be technology. Anders, who understands the eclectic background of digital art from conceptual and video art, wanted to help designers and architects best fit homes with the art of today, and after speaking with top galleries he found that what’s really needed are new models of both the business and technological side that reach a broader audience — even better: one with a subscription.

 

“We envision a world where in homes people will have more digital canvases with interactive or immersive works, all on a centralized connected system that can very easily change,” Anders says, with access to top artists in the world in this ecosystem of artists, galleries and collections all on the Niio platform. Luckily, the CEO notes, the technology is “already there,” from artificial intelligence in devices like Amazon’s Alexa devices to smart televisions, all devices that can easily work with the Niio platform to display digital artwork.

To those interested in having access to the “world’s finest art accessible on-demand,” Niio is open as a limited edition membership at about $5,000 a month, with access to curated exhibitions and collections, or art “playlists” of over 7,500 art pieces on the platform that can be easily changed and displayed on devices like smart TVs, projectors, screens, et cetera, which can be installed by Niio technicians as well.

“Art curation is telling a particular story,” he says. “In order to give people these digital works, it’s not about just finding the individual works, it’s about giving people the ability to learn about the works they are looking at,” he says.
Rob Anders

CEO, Co-Founder, Niio

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Making a Statement

These bold staircases are making a statement.

In 2019, designers are paying attention to creating staircases that leave a lasting impression — whether the staircase is made of wood or metal, or shaped as a spiral or curve.  

Regardless of style, a staircase can often serve as a home’s focal point. These staircases have been intently designed to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Spiral

The free-standing, white-plaster spiral staircase at luxury condominium 277 Fifth Avenue was designed by famed interior architect Jeffrey Beers with a custom-made, commercial-size chandelier composed of 18 strands of brass-trimmed pendants that suspend down its center.

The staircase was intently crafted to create a visually stunning and dramatic connection between two floors that house 7,000 square feet of amenity spaces, including a game lounge and state-of-the-art fitness facility.

Courtesy of Pentagram

Suspended

The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Miami Beach features a unique multimillion-dollar lobby designed to cater exclusively to art enthusiasts and world travelers boasting a $500,000 Piero Lissoni-designed staircase as its focal point. Leading up to the second floor library, the staircase is designed for both beauty and function.

Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Residences

Wood

Skyline Tower’s glistening bronze and wood staircase was crafted to create a dramatic entryway to the condominium’s expansive Residential Lounge, cascading elegantly into the open-air common space, which was designed to feel like an extension of each resident’s home.

Courtesy of Binyan Studios

Floating

The graceful floating stairs that take you from the foyer to the rooftop in the penthouse at Nine on the Hudson. The staircase leads you to a modern glass atrium that captures the sunlight and serene Zen garden, bringing in natural elements into the home.

Courtesy of VDP

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When Worlds Collide

Natural stone unites with modern metals in the new Eccentric Stone collection by Australian kitchen and bathware design manufacturer Rogerseller.

 

A celebration of the beauty in balance when two become one, Eccentric Stone is a new collection sculpted from natural stone and highlighted by hints of metal. In perfect harmony, these signature elements explore the power of duality; the raw and refined, subtle and strong, timeless and modern.

Presented in Carrara marble or Emperador Grey stone, the collection features new round and oval basin designs, a shelf and the acclaimed Eccentric Mixer.

“Curved lines and generous proportions add an understated luxury to the pieces, while the refined shapes and considered details continue to demonstrate the craftsmanship Rogerseller is revered for” says Jo Jackson, group manager of

Designed to be paired with Rogerseller’s signature Natural Elements finishes, each piece incorporates metallic hints, making this stone and metal duo truly unique. The metal finishes drawn from the Natural Elements collection include Chrome, Brushed Chrome, Satin Chrome, Graphite, Brushed Nickel, Bright Nickel, Twilight, Matt Black, Bright Gold and Brushed Gold, creating styles defined by the individual.

Finding inspiration from the Earth’s raw resources and the untouched qualities that come from years of metamorphosis, the Eccentric Stone collection shows the result of a “whole made greater by the sum of its parts,” according to the brand. “While individually, the elements of stone and metals are well-known and loved, brought together they create a new harmony, making for an unstoppable duo.”

All photos courtesy Rogerseller.

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Real Estate Executive Commits to Giving Back

REAL ESTATE EXECUTIVE TAMI HALTON PARDEE IS COMMITTED TO GIVING BACK, EMPOWERING THOSE WHO HAVE NO ROOF AT ALL.

Founder and CEO of Halton Pardee + Partners, Tami Halton Pardee is one of the nation’s premier real estate entrepreneurs, leading her Los Angeles-based firm to sell more than $3.8 billion worth of properties since its inception in 2004. Halton Pardee is also a prominent philanthropist who created the Life Change Warriors foundation in 2017 after years of promoting a culture of giving at her company.

In 2001 Halton Pardee was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a devastating blow to a vibrant young woman just entering her thirties, but she drew inspiration and energy from this adversity. “That call from my doctor taught me I had to start planning my life, not just letting it happen,” recounts Halton Pardee, who adds, “I needed to start living my best life.”

Photo courtesy of Halton Pardee + Partners.

Halton Pardee founded Life Change Warriors to help people move beyond their own traumas, whatever those may be, and as a real estate professional and mother of four she focused her attention on homeless women and at-risk kids. The real estate executive had always been committed to returning some of her good fortune to the community, and Halton Pardee + Partners maintains a policy of donating a portion of all commissions to local charities, totaling more than $1.3 million over 14 years. But with her newfound sense of purpose, Halton Pardee yearned to be more hands-on in her giving, and those charitable proceeds are now directed primarily to Life Change Warriors.

The foundation translates Halton Pardee’s long-held philosophy of creating one’s best life through human connections, but presents it through a more structured methodology. Life Change Warriors offers six weeks of classes — she teaches them herself along with two life coaches — for people unable to get beyond their respective traumas, often relegated to living on the streets.

“Everybody lives in the past and believes that it dictates their future, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” insists the entrepreneur, who personally overcame her own traumas. “I want them to live their best lives,” reports Halton Pardee, who hosts students at her home for graduation dinners. The graduates receive a monetary gift to use as a deposit for an apartment or to pursue a degree or career goal, finally breaking the cycle of homelessness with a newfound sense of empowerment.

One of Life Change Warriors’ many success stories was a single, homeless mother named Sylvia, who after graduation from her six-week class went on to receive her high school equivalency certificate and was placed by the foundation in a job with a nonprofit affordable housing developer, where she has since been promoted to property manager.

“After selling a $10 million home, how can any agent not think of giving a portion of that commission to people who don’t even have a roof over their heads?” asks Halton Pardee, who notes the real estate industry is ideally suited to this kind of charity. “When you believe in someone, it can really change their life,” she says, noting that until many of her students begin classes, they have never before had anybody truly believe in them. “They need to know they’re worthy and that there’s a way out of homelessness, that they can escape whatever happened in their past,” explains the inspiring philanthropist.

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Realtors Become Agents of Change

FOR YEARS, NEW TECH COMPANIES HAVE BEEN THOUGHT OF AS THE ‘DISRUPTERS’ IN THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY. BUT SAVVY REALTORS ARE POSITIONING THEMSELVES AS THE AGENTS OF CHANGE.

The current market shift from buyers to sellers generates the most attention, but the number of sales and pace of price appreciation are only one swell in the wave of transformation rolling through the real estate industry. Technology is typically hailed as the disrupter, but changing demographics, new lifestyle aspirations and evolving buyer preferences are all at play in today’s real estate landscape.

“If you ask anyone that has been in the business more than 10 years, they say ‘here we go again.’  More paperwork, more platforms, more new companies, more new agents. Yet, ultimately real estate is the same. Our clients require handholding, advice, and moral support, deals get negotiated, and transactions finalize or fall apart. Yes, there are slight shifts in the marketplace, but generally, it still functions the same,” shares Lucio Bernal, a broker associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Palm Springs, who is also an expert trainer with the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing.

What is changing is almost every other aspect of real estate from tools to facilitate broker client relationships to virtual reality apps enabling buyers to envision making a prospective property their own. Increasingly agents are looking to their brokerages to keep pace with technology. “They are leaning on their brokerages, more than ever, to help arm them with tools, from digital marketing to smart, proactive customer relationship management systems (CRMs) that will keep them cutting edge, as well as those they can’t afford to leverage on their own,” says Stephanie Anton, president of Luxury Portfolio International. Additionally, affiliate groups like Luxury Portfolio and major brands have amped up marketing capabilities so agents can easily create a cohesive campaign.

There might be a technology revolution taking place in real estate, but market shifts are reinforcing the importance of the agent. “Technology has always been the present. It’s how you use it that benefits you the most,” shares Bernal. “The perfect example is: If you are dealing with a consumer, they are more likely to use you based on reputation and recognition than whether you know a certain app or technology platform. Technology should be used as a resource and compliment your ability to get face-to-face and maintain contact with a consumer.”

At this time last year, blockchain and the impact of virtual reality and artificial intelligence on real estate were being debated. Today, the chatter is about portals morphing from search engines to places to buy and sell homes, a new classification the industry characterizes as iBuyers. Opendoor, founded in 2013, started the trend, followed by others including Offerpad and Knock. Zillow and Redfin have also introduced iBuying in some markets. iBuyers purchase consumer’s homes outright using analytics that enable them to come up with a price based on the home’s perceived value, usually within days. Unlike homes sought by flippers, these are not troubled properties and offers reportedly are close to the value estimation. Other portals are beefing up offerings for consumers, adding mortgage and title services. Startups such as Purple Bricks offer a new twist on the flat-fee concept.

Investor dollars from venture capital and hedge funds are flowing into real estate, fueling many new ventures, which is another change potentially revamping the industry. “Everyone is investing in technology to disrupt or change real estate,” says Mark Choey, co-founder of Climb Real Estate, a San Francisco brokerage, which was acquired by Realogy’s subsidiary NRT in 2016. The real estate industry is rapidly shifting, and innovation is not just welcome, it’s desperately needed,” said founder Chris Lim, whose background is in marketing. Choey hails from the tech sector. Climb was the first brokerage to work with Matterport and continues to incubate emerging apps and work with new vendors.

ENABLING THE AGENT

Among traditional brokers, Keller Williams and RE/MAX are often noted for new tech initiatives, but almost every brand and national affiliate group is boosting technology offerings and platforms, often through relationships with providers and new tech venders including virtual staging, enhanced CRM and 3D tours and imaging. Technology ultimately benefits consumers, but traditional brands and affiliates say their focus is enabling their agents to do a better job.

“Everything has shifted in many different areas from the brokerage level, the buyer level, who the buyers are, what they are looking for,” says Sally Forster Jones, executive director, Luxury Estates, Compass. “I think there is a shift in the way that brokers are functioning. They are more innovative with more technology and more marketing as opposed to the older traditional real estate firms.

“Consumers care about responsiveness. They care about the fact that if they reach out to an agent, whether it be on their website or mobile app the agents gets back to them instantly, and technology can help with that,” says Marilyn Wilson, founding partner of real estate consultants WAV Group and also a founder of RETechnology.com.

“Technology has always been the present. It’s how you use it that benefits you the most. The perfect example is: If you are dealing with a consumer, they are more likely to use you based on reputation and recognition than whether you know a certain app or technology platform. Technology should be used as a resource and compliment your ability to get face-to-face and maintain contact with a consumer.”

Lucio Bernal

Broker Associate, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

Tapped by Google to create a virtual staging app using augmented reality, Sotheby’s added Curate to agent toolboxes last year. Not only can a homeowner visualize a home before buying, but a partnership with a home furnishings company allows potential buyers to virtually furnish the home as well.

“A depth of understanding of what a property has is really important to consumers. The other thing that consumers are responding to online are floorplans,” says Wilson.

GETTING REAL WITH VIRTUAL

In the last year, GeoVC, a tech start-up offering 3D immersive tours and floorplans that can be created using next generation smartphones, integrated virtual staging, exterior 3D scans, and aerial 360-degree panoramas captured with a drone with interior 3D tours. “Outdoor imagery is captured using a regular drone, automatically processed into a 3D model, and integrated together with interior virtual tour. Such an exclusive experience will differentiate luxury properties with beautiful facades and roofs, and spacious lots,” shares Anton Yakubenko, co-founder and CEO of GeoCV.

“Luxury has really turned into personalization now,” comments Thompson. Tools like Curate, RoOomy and virtual staging apps enhance opportunities for personalization. Thompson explains: “Someone can walk into a home and say, ‘not my style,’ but it doesn’t matter because I have the tools that allow me to make it feel like what I want it to be.”

Even Compass, which touts itself as “The first modern real estate platform, paring the

industry’s top talent with technology,” says technology is there to benefit the agent. “Compass is building for the agent. Every program, tool, and service is (created) with the agent in mind. Many of the other real estate technology companies out there are working to improve the consumer experience and not focusing on the agent. We believe that by empowering the agent, consumer experience will be improved,” says Sarah Vallarino, head of West Region Communications at Compass.

“Talking to agents, the message we consistently heard was ‘give us technology,’” says Thompson. “They didn’t necessarily know what that technology was just that they needed it. They understood that the industry was changing, and consumer behavior was changing. They know because they’re the boots on the ground and so they can feel the shift in consumer behavior.”

As markets shift, agents are retooling, once again looking at how they do business and what skills and knowledge will be required. “It’s always either somewhat of a buyer’s market. It’s somewhat of a seller’s market. You just have to have your tools in your tool shed and the mindset to be nimble enough to adjust as you read the tealeaves, ” is Wilson’s suggestion.

“Luxury has really turned into personalization now,” comments Thompson. Tools like Curate, Ro0my and virtual staging apps enhance opportunities for personalization. Thompson explains: “Someone can walk into a home and say ‘not my style,’ but it doesn’t matter to me because I have the tools that allow me to make it feel like what I want it to be.”

AGENT PIVOTS

“Many long-time successful agents are being the clever, resourceful entrepreneurs that they are and changing with the market as the market shifts,” says Anton. “Agents today talk about how much of their time and value derives from being an educator for their clients. They partner with their clients to keep them armed with as much information, insights and insider activity as they can, so when it comes time, for example, for an agent to recommend a price reduction, the client is completely aware of the statistics, days on market, what is moving and what isn’t. Nobody wants to have an overpriced home that is sitting and not selling even in a hot market.”

“Today, clients will attempt to collect their information on their own, perhaps from incorrect sources, so agents report pivoting, now more than ever, to spend a lot of their time educating their clients,” she says.

Regarding slowing sales or price appreciation, Anton says: “I highly recommend agents tell the truth, focus on educating their following/clients, and in the process, let their own voice be heard and be themselves. If the market is cooling, share the stats and manage expectations. It’s not the time to be overly positive and cheery as you will come off inauthentic and salesy. Focus on the facts, insights and provide professional guidance.”

“Agents have to stay on top of what is available to them and the consumer. It is imperative to be able to explain the data, to have polished negotiation skills, and to know when to assist the consumer in processing that information,” says Bernal.  

“Agents should take full advantage of all the resources that the brands they work with provide. The majority of agents won’t, and that has never changed. Those that want an edge in the industry recognize that there is value in resources and take advantage of some of them. For most agents, resources are overwhelming, and therefore don’t take the time to learn and use them,” says Bernal.

Thompson recalls, “We had to dig in and find out what exactly is it that they (agents) need that will make a difference for them in their day-to-day because they think, you know, there are lots of real estate brands that tout themselves as technology companies, but they really don’t have anything really different.”

“Everything has shifted in many different areas from the brokerage level, the buyer level, who the buyers are, what they are looking for. I think there is a shift in the way that brokers are functioning. They are more innovative with more technology and more marketing as opposed to the older traditional real estate firms.”

Sally Forster Jones

Executive Director, Luxury Estates, Compass

EYE ON THE FUTURE

Mark Choey from Climb says, “I think you’re going to see a lot of change in the next year or two,” most likely from many directions. Choey is head of Climb’s Innovation Lab. Having an innovation lab, particularly for a small company, is in itself an innovation. “You’re going to have some business models that are going to evolve, like Opendoor and Knock, that are really going to change the way people buy and sell homes, but it’s not gonna change everything, right. You’re going to have Redfin, Zillow and others come out with tools and things that are going to attempt to either reduce the commission or to simplify to transaction. On the other hand,” he says, “you’re going to see traditional real estate firms arming themselves with technology.”

And while some tout themselves as technology companies, Thompson doesn’t see traditional and technology as being mutually exclusive terms. “You don’t have to be one or the other. People think of Sotheby’s as a heritage brand because we’re been around for close to 300 years now. But a heritage brand can also be tech savvy. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.”

Looking ahead, Bernal says, “The real estate industry has to take both a broad look and a hyper-local look at where the marketplace is based on data and individual perspectives. We say that real estate is local, yet there are many determining factors that create a web of interconnected behaviors throughout the world of real estate.”

Consider Los Angeles, Manhattan and Miami, where the impact of fewer international buyers extends beyond sales and prices. Post-recession, international buyers became a market force determining  what was being developed, locations and price points. On the West Coast, view properties and contemporary architecture were particularly favored by Asian buyers, and new builds were often geared to these buyers. Now many L.A. buyers, particularly in higher price points, are local or hail from the U.S. and have different expectations of luxury with walkable locations and neighborhoods taking precedence over views. “That’s a shift and it will continue to be a shift because we have a lot of properties coming on the market geared toward that international buyer,” says Jones.

The desire for the ability to walk to shops and restaurants is happening across all price points, according to Jones, and these new preferences are not limited to L.A. Walkability has been associated with urban settings, but increasingly this characteristic is being applied to suburbs, towns and master-planned communities.

Traffic and gridlock also add to new preferences for locations. In the not too distant future, traffic itself may be seen as even more of a disruptor than it is now, changing where people live and property types.

Photo of Lucio Bernal by Cherie Johnson for Moncherie Fotography. Photo of Sally Forster Jones by Lauren Hurt. Photo of Kevin Thompson courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

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400 Years New

Nestled upon a hill in the Tuscan countryside, this centuries-old farmhouse has been meticulously restored — merging 400 years of history with modern-day features.

With an original structure dating back to 1598, Podere Paníco features authentic wood beams, cotto flooring and roof tiles. Restoration architect Fulvio Di Rosa also purposefully hid modern infrastructure — such as plumbing, electrical, and insulation — to maintain a sense of authenticity throughout the home.

Additional, age-old building materials were sourced to maintain an historical presence. When encountering modern elements — such as indoor staircases, indoor lighting, or pools — Fulvio embraced contemporary materials to curate a luxurious touch as well.

“Fulvio has amazing attention to detail and a strict adherence to authenticity in the structural elements of the home,” says listing agent Bob Hurwitz of Hurwitz James Company. “Stonemasons and carpenters were tasked with problem solving using only methods and techniques available during the era of original construction.”

The abandoned property was rediscovered in 2013 with many of its beams and arches still intact. “What separates Paníco from other restorations, in addition to the unparalleled authenticity, is the open concept design that was achieved.… Paníco’s interior is spacious and light, with beautifully large, arched windows opening views in multiple directions from virtually anywhere in the home,” Hurwitz says. With over 7,000 square feet of living space, Paníco is the ideal setting for multiple families, corporate retreats, weddings, or any large gathering. Both homeowners and guests can relax in three distinct living areas — one on the main level, one on the upper level and one in the barn. Meanwhile, the open-concept kitchen with a traditional Tuscan fireplace allows for a range of culinary adventures. When you step outside of this one-of-a-kind home, you are greeted by unrivalled, sweeping vistas. “With its hilltop location, the 360-degree views from the property are amazing, particularly from the infinity pool,” Hurwitz says.

With a row of cypress trees that guide you up to the five-acre property, Paníco offers the utmost privacy, “with your only neighbors being other ruins in the distance and a herd of sheep that sometimes graze nearby,” says Hurwitz.

Located mere minutes from the historic streets of Siena, the location is another key selling point of this luxurious, Tuscan farmhouse. Hurwitz recommends that guests “spend the day exploring the classical and gothic architecture, the afternoon shopping in local markets, or [get] swept away with a romantic Italian dinner.”

“Pedal through the wide-open landscape of Crete Senesi, past ancient hilltop towns, brick farmhouses, iconic cypress trees, and lush vineyards. Then stop to savour delicious Pecorino cheeses, homemade pastas, fruity olive oils, and celebrated Tuscan wines,” adds Hurwitz.

This fantastically located home has more than 400 years of unique history, and once was even “used as a base of operations for the commander of the French army during the Allied campaign in Italy in WW ll,” according to Hurwtiz. More recently, the farmhouse served as home to countless families and animals. As the home is currently on the market, Hurwitz says that Paníco’s casual luxurious style will draw in large families in search of a first or second home. “Paníco also attracts affluent travelers and a high weekly rental rate, making it an ideal investment property,” he adds. “The quality and authenticity of the restoration will allow for maximum capital appreciation in the future.”

Photos by Marco Grillo.

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A Look at Today’s Home Offices

After a period of declining popularity, home offices are back. Sort of.

Ask designers and architects about home offices and chances are the responses will range from “no one wants them” to “we’re including them in every house.”  When it comes to home design headlines, it’s hard to compete with au pair suites and pet rooms, which tend to generate colorful images. Home offices might be humdrum, but they are gaining their share of the spotlight as more individuals spend some time working at home. And the more substantial the work, the more likely they are to look for a private office or work space.

Not too long ago, designers would have told you that home offices were passe as owners preferred to work in various spots around the house. Today, offices are back as a growing number of homeowners and potential buyers tick off a room to work at home, even a private office, on wish lists. The American Institute of Architects’ most recent home design trends survey shows offices as growing in importance, up to 39 percent from 33 percent a year ago. Interestingly, 58 percent of architects say interest in outdoor living, which tops the list of features growing in popularity, is increasing. Au pair/in law suites grew to 41 percent.

“A few years back we had a lot of homeowners requesting desk space in kitchens. We don’t get that as much anymore as people are looking for more private desk spaces that can be closed off from the rest of the house” says Sean Mullin AIA, director of design at Anthony Wilder Design Build in Cabin John, Maryland.“We’re adding office spaces in almost every house these days. I am working with a lot of empty nesters who are keeping additional bedrooms for future resale but converting one of them into a home office. They often want an isolated location for privacy with pocket doors or some other features to close off the room for privacy, while leaving the space otherwise open as a study or formal sitting room,” says Luke Olson, project manager at GTM Architects in Washington, D.C.  

The 20-Hour Work Day

Today many jobs can’t be crammed into a single 8-hour time slot. Traffic and congestion also mean more individuals work at home at some point during the week. “With new technology making it easier than ever before to be in touch with people at any time of the day or night, it’s hardly surprising that workers are demanding that their increased efficiency is offset by great choice of location,” was a conclusion of a recent report from the International Workplace Group, which drew on insights from 18,000 professionals in 96 countries. And for a growing number of affluent individuals, including those opting to make their second homes a full-time residence, their base for work might be the home.

Instead of a completely dedicated individual space, many home offices today might start as a flex space or found space in an alcove, or even under a stairway.

©IStockphoto.com/MonkeyBusinessImages

Tall windows and sunlight make an inviting office in an alcove off a great room.

©IStockphoto.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Among those who are not self-employed, the number of people who regularly work from home has grown by 140 percent since 2005, nearly 10-times faster than the rest of the workforce, according to The American Community Survey and GlobalWorkpalceAnlytics.com. The number of home-based self-employed grew by 7.3 percent from 2015 to 2016, with the number of home-based incorporated businesses increasing by 43 percent since 2005.  The population that telecommutes at least one day a week grew by 11.7 percent from 2015 to 2016, the largest year-over-year growth since 2008.

Even though mega-companies such as Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard have moved away from telecommuting for some employees, approximately 40 percent more U.S. employers offered flexible workplace options than they did five years ago. Still many companies reserve the option for higher-echelon management. Only 7 percent make it available for most of their employees. The globalization of business is an additional catalyst. A number of the Fortune 1000 around the globe are revamping their space requirements, because many of their employees are already mobile. According to Global Workplace Analytics, they are not at their desk 50 percent to 60 percent of the time.

Home Office Demand

Spans All Price Points

While an office or study might be expected in high-end homes, even production builders are carving space for work at home into their plans across most, but not all price brackets. John Burns Consulting’s recent consumer insights survey shows that 16 percent of new-home shoppers work from home full time, and the number goes up to 53 percent for those who work from home one day a week. Shoppers with higher incomes and at higher purchase prices are more likely to work from home at least one day a week.

“This shift to working from home has shifted demand for floor plans and in-home office needs,” observes Jenni Lantz, manager of Design Lens for John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

“While some workers are comfortable just working from their laptop on their kitchen island or couch, many want something more significant. There is demand for formal offices (or at least informal) at all price points, says Lantz, noting only those with a very low purchase price are willing to negotiate on this space.

 

A high percentage of John Burns’ employees work from home, and everyone has the flexibility to work at home if the need arises, Lanz says, pointing to her own experience to illustrate how requirements for office space can change. “When I first started working from home, I had a desk located to the side of my family room. It was miserable. I had no privacy when the family was home, and it was hard to leave work behind for the day. When I bought my house back in 2014, I got a formal office, which made things so much easier. I have a separate formal office just off my foyer with French doors. This allows me to close the doors if needed, but I like the glass since it allows me to be still connected to the world outside if my daughter is home.”

Flex Spaces, Libraries and Niches

Instead of a completely dedicated individual space, many home offices today might start as a flex room or found space in an alcove, or even under a stairway. Home offices also might take the form of a space that can be configured as a workspace but also be repurposed to another function. Michigan architect Wayne Visbeen says he includes flex spaces in many of his designs, which can then be used as an office.

“People need to think about how they are going to use the space over the day and over the course of a lifetime. You want to make sure that space has the ability to morph over time,” shares Ann Thompson, senior vice president of architecture and design at Related Midwest.  

In other instances, architects say they might include a private study that could be a set up as a formal office or a relaxed, but private, refuge. “In many instances we might make the dining room into a library, so it functions as a multiple purpose space,” explains Jim Rill, principal of an eponymous Washington, D.C. architectural firm. Dining rooms converted to a library might showcase a custom table that gives a place to spread out and play games while still available to host that once- or twice-a-year celebration.

“They are home management spaces, which are little niches that can be very charming, very functional, outfitted ergonomically with counters around and space for a printer.”

Photo by Morgan Howarth, Courtesy Anthony Wilder.

A small desk and a daybed ready a secondary bedroom for work or guests.

© Dustin Peck Photography Inc., Courtesy Mary Cook

The size and location of offices in the house may vary by potential use. “It does depend on the stage of life that you are in and it depends on the level of position that you have and the kind of job. But for sure, almost everybody is working from home in some capacity,” says Mary Cook, a principal of Mary Cook Associates, a Chicago-based design firm, noting the appeal spans generations and life stages from busy young moms to empty nesters. “So, I still say that you need a dedicated place, but that place is smaller, and it can now be flexible and adaptable.”

Many are more functional than in the past and often occupy less square footage. “They are smaller, usually 10-by-10, or 12-by-12, or they are home management spaces, which are little niches that can be very charming, very functional, outfitted ergonomically with counters around and space for a printer. We do a lot of those in back halls or off the kitchen,” explains Visbeen.

 

Putting the Home in Home Office

Other owners, say designers, want to make offices welcoming and warm. “Homeowners want the spaces to feel cozy. Incorporating a small gas fireplace or TV in the room will bring out the home in the home offices. Built-ins for books and plenty of windows for views will make it a space in which the homeowner will feel very comfortable working at home,” says Mullin, who explains some owners want a very simple space with just a desk while others might want a full set up with sofas, coffee tables and ottomans.

“Built-ins for books and plenty of windows for views will make it a space in which the homeowner will feel very comfortable working at home.”

Photos courtesy of GTM Architects.

Developers of new towers, whether for condo residences or luxury rentals, also take the desire for home offices into consideration for individual residences and for amenity spaces. Rather than traditional business centers, work areas may be found throughout amenity levels in some new buildings. And depending on the target demographic, they might take the form of community tables, booths, lofts, reading nooks, individual work stations and huddle rooms.

High-end condominium residences might include a library or study near the main gathering spaces as well as one in a secondary bedroom positioned away from distractions. And luxe work spaces such as these in new super towers might even offer panoramic vistas that surpass those in office buildings, giving new meaning to the phrase, view from the corner office.  

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