Big Gardens for Small Spaces

All photos courtesy Horticus Living.

Having a large collection of plants is amazing, but it can get a little crowded with our floor space disappearing pretty quickly. This is particularly true for city dwellers.

43 percent of Londoners live in a flat, the most of any region in the UK, promoting the move of our gardening skills to our balconies and our living rooms. With the mean average UK one-bedroom home being 46 square meters ( or 495 square feet), according to Riba, space is one of the issues these horticulturalists face.

By focusing on a desire to nurture carefully grown fauna, UK company Horticus Living has rethought the living wall, made it more flexible, and kept the practice of cultivation while keeping a minimalistic lifestyle.

Horticus is a modular living wall system that can grow in keeping with your botanical demands. You choose the size and layout according to your preference and it doesn’t have to be all plants either. Use an empty planter for mementoes or select from pods with different functions.

You can grow your living wall at your own pace. There is no need to get a lot of plants straight away to have the impact.

Horticus Living’s small kit consists of 1 powder coated steel frame and 3 terracotta planters and can add a touch of jungle to a bathroom, bring fresh herbs to a kitchen and a sense of calm to a living room. Planters are made from terracotta and can be lifted in and out of the frame. Even better, the planters can be watered from above through a grid of watering holes.

The combination of powder coated frame with terracotta brings a natural feel to interiors while offering a fantastic contrast to the greenery.

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How To Make Your Home Sports-Friendly

By Jordan Fuller
Golf Expert / Editor-in-Chief
E: jordan@golfinfluence.com | www.golfinfluence.com

Whether you’re looking to add a basketball or tennis court, or something more adventurous like a putting green, home golf simulator or bocce ball court, having the ability to play these sports while at home can provide countless hours of enjoyment.

Here are a few ideas that can convert that downtime into a fun time.

Tennis Court

If tennis is your game, and you have the room, a backyard tennis court can be a convenient solution for stepping up your game. Traditionally, tennis court surfaces are made from clay, grass or asphalt, all of which are available for backyard construction.

Opting for synthetic grass makes a better option for an all-weather court, providing a lower-impact playing surface that can be easier on your ankles and knees. Another benefit of opting for artificial turf for your court is that it can be easily converted into something else if your interests shift. 

Keep in mind that tennis courts take up more space than almost any other common backyard sports court, so unless you have an unused space that is at least 130 feet long, a backyard tennis court might not be an option.

Basketball Court

Most homeowners with a driveway, and kids, will have a basketball hoop assembly of some sort. Of course, there are ways to take that to another level. If you went ahead with the tennis court and opted for an asphalt surface, the same area can be utilized as a full-court basketball court as well.

However, if you’re only interested in a half-court setup, you’ll only need about 50 feet of court space in front of the hoop, and about 40 feet of overall width to provide the realistic feel of being on the hardcourt.

There are several options for surfaces available, with court designs and graphics to suit your style.

Baseball/Softball Batting Cage

Depending upon the available size of your project, there are batting cage setups that range from a full-length pitching distance to a shorter, screen protected delivery. 

Pitching machines are now readily available from simple, self-fed models to those with sophisticated automatic feeds. It’s probably a good idea to incorporate some artificial surface for the batters’ boxes to provide a level, sturdy, and most importantly durable spot to take your swings.

Golf Simulators and Putting Greens

Installing an outdoor putting green is a great addition for any golfer’s backyard, particularly if you are wanting to work on your short game and is a great way to get your kids interested in taking up the game. 

Artificial turf is a common choice for most at-home greens and is the best way to ensure a proper putting surface without the maintenance that comes along with using natural grass. If you’re looking for an all-year option, there are many indoor putting greens available as well.

For those seeking a more advanced golfing experience while at home, indoor golf simulators have become increasingly popular. Golf simulators have revolutionized how golfers experience the game, and playing and practicing indoors is now more realistic than ever. Simulators allow for a good game of golf regardless of the weather. There are many options to suit all purposes and budgets.

Interesting read: 5 Trends In Kid Bedroom Decor

Bocce Ball Court

Bocce ball is an easy, low-impact game enjoyed by players of every age, making it a popular choice for many backyards. Courts for bocce ball can be made of clay or by manufactured grass, which provides an easily maintained, level surface that is necessary for a good game of bocce.

An advantage to a bocce ball court is that it can be installed in an underused area of your yard, and without much maintenance can give a lush, green appearance when not in use. The long and narrow dimensions of the playing court allow for some flexibility in locations, and many players opt to install them in little-used side yards.

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Centered on the Earth

Photo by Sally Guillaume.

These three travel companies offer sustainable opportunities to see — and even help save — the planet.

Aracari

Ahead of its time when it was originally founded in 1996, South American travel operator Aracari is highly regarded in the sustainable travel industry. Founder Marisol Mosquera defines sustainable travel simply as travel that does not destroy the
destination, which in today’s standards means low impact, low-volume tourism. These pillars of tourism have been part of Aracari’s mission since it began, in order to promote natural landscapes.

One of the most important ways Aracari maintains such high standards of sustainability is by educating guests throughout their trips, to “treat the local communities and sensitive environments with great respect,” Moquera states. To follow through, the company works tirelessly with the other businesses they work with to help ensure their self-imposed regulations are effective across the board. For example, Mosquera says the company seeks boutique hotels that are more stringent on standards like waste management, energy consumption, community involvement, et cetera. With these methods incorporated into their business model, Aracari is able to fulfill
clients’ travel needs while making a smaller impact on the surrounding environment.

“People travel to learn and experience new things, and our region is very rich with cultural and natural attractions,” Mosquera says, attractions that they strive to find new ways of highlighting through their bespoke travel tours. One upcoming tour in May 2020 is an eight-day excursion in Bolivia, hosted by National Geographic photographer Max Milligan, based in Kachi Lodge which is located on Sachar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. Nestled next to Tunupa Volcano, these transparent igloo tents afford wonderful views and a unique sense of isolation while guests enjoy delicious food, hot water and comfortable accommodations.

Kachi Lodge | Bolivia

Kachi Lodge is located on Sachar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat.

Photo courtesy of Aracari.

Machu Picchu

Guests can travel to archaeological sites like Machu Picchu with Aracari’s Peru tours.

Photo by Marcella Echavarria.

Another tour featuring Milligan is an adventure through the mountains of Peru at El Albergue Ollantaytambo, where guests can visit local communities, archaeological sites like Machu Picchu, and an organic garden that stretches from the glacial snowline to the tropical cloud forest.

Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp | Kenya

Photo by Stevie Mann.

Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp | Kenya

Cottar’s Safari Camp provides an authentic and individualized safari experience by ensuring a legacy of wilderness, wildlife, comfort and security.

Photo courtesy of Steppes Travel.

Steppes Travel

Steppes Travel creates eco-luxury holiday trips that are tailor-made for people who are interested in wildlife. While it highlights giving a behind-the-scenes look into many different sensible wildlife environments and discovering different cultures, at the core, Steppes Travel focuses on giving back to the environment and communities their teams visit. An avid traveller himself, Rob Gardiner fit in perfectly at Steppes Travel as the Commercial Manager for the Africa sector with his overall knowledge and love for travel. “I love the people that you meet, I love the lessons that you learn from it, and I think it breaks down barriers, changing our perception of different places and alters our prejudices,” Gardiner says.

Gardiner says that the company’s focus on sustainable travel is driven by a need to look after the communities they visit and keep those wilderness areas as pristine as possible. Steppes Travel also works with community members and conservation groups to ensure proceeds are given back to those areas, noting that, as a whole, travel can be a force for good. “If you’re lucky enough to go to Zambia, Tanzania or Botswana on safari, for example, there should be money that goes back into the local economy so they too are incentivized to look after what they have.”

Regarding the tours, Gardiner says that the wildlife aspect is what helps keeps sustainability in mind for both guides and travellers. He notes that often these trips provide a unique educational experience, granting travellers a new, real perspective on conservation while taking part in projects like tracking rhinos in South Africa or working on a jaguar safari project in Brazil. Tourists can go further by becoming ambassadors for certain regions and work with communities around the world to be more conscious of endangered environments.

“As much as possible, we don’t believe in cocooning our clients away from the streetlife in Delhi or living with a nomadic family in Mongolia,” Gardiner affirms. “I think it’s about getting to know the people and about having that personal human connection.”

Undiscovered Mountains

According to Sally Guillaume, owner and founder of sustainable travel company Undiscovered Mountains, her reasons for starting the company were driven by a personal drive to create a better world, “to do things in a way that everyone benefits without exploiting people or environments.”

Focusing on trips located in and around the French Alps, Guillaume wanted to steer away from mass tourism and “build a sustainable approach to tourism both for the communities and the rich natural environments they live in.” In doing so, she built a business that not only focuses on preserving natural environments, but also helps clients to discover authentic Alpine communities, not usually found in mainstream Alpine travel.

Guillaume’s vision of a sustainable world includes less consumerism and a deeper appreciation for experiences. And while Undiscovered Mountains, Steppes Travel and Aracari are all model companies, there is a long way to go in sustainable tourism — from updating local infrastructure to promoting lower-impact travel methods such as train or “green” vehicles. She notes, however, the ethical standards of travel companies have become more and more important consumers in recent years, as well as the destination and activities involved.

From touring preserved natural environments with abundant wildlife and flora on the southern French Alps, to immersive tours in both Nepal and Norway that are launching soon, Undiscovered Mountains will continue to make its mission about serving the environment, which has always shaped the culture around them. “The type of food people eat, the architecture of old buildings, the choice of where villages are situated is all to do with how people have survived living off the land of the mountains for centuries.”

The French Alps

Travelers can learn to paraglide and fly above the mountains on one of Undiscovered Mountain’s paragliding courses.

Photo courtesy of Undiscovered Mountains.

The French Alps

From ski touring to dogsledding with huskies, …

Photo courtesy of Undiscovered Mountains.

The French Alps

Undiscovered Mountains offers a wide assortment of winter activities that are fully customisable, all in the French Alps.

Photo courtesy of Undiscovered Mountains.

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Salt of the Earth

Surrounded by the natural beauty of the pink himalayan salt blocks, salt spa visitors are encouraged to focus on their breathing as they embrace the benefits of the salt-infused air. 

Dry salt therapy, or halotherapy, is a practice that originated centuries ago in the natural salt mines of Eastern Europe. Dry salt therapy is thought to provide an array of health benefits, helping with stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as skin conditions, arthritis and asthma.

“People are seeking more natural and alternative ways to feel better and relieve pain,” says Maryann Corcoran, co-owner of the Corcova Salt Spa in Genesee County, Michigan. “They are tired of taking pills and getting little or no relief and often additional ailments due to the side eff ects from their medication.”

 

 

Royal Salt Cave & Spa. Photo by Rafal K Gdowski. 

“With medications you have to worry about side effects and short- or long-term effects on the body, but with salt therapy, there’s none of that. It’s simply a healing process that also throws relaxation into the mix,” adds Izabela Przybyla, founder and owner of the Royal Salt Cave & Spa in Frankfort, Illinois.

 

A man-made salt cave reproduces the climate of a natural salt mine. Surfaces are covered with layers of himalayan salt and saline aerosol is
dispersed into the room to create a space that feels authentic. 

“The salt cave is climate-con-trolled to recreate a micro-climate as if you were within a salt mine,” says Shannon Coppola, founder of Montauk Salt Cave in New York City. “Salt is super sensitive to heat and humidity. There is a very intricate climate-control system to ensure that the air is always moving and super clean to maximize the benefits.”

Chairs, whether recliners or loungers, are added for comfort and relaxation, while dim lighting is used to recreate a true cave-like experience.

One of the most well-known salt mines is the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland, which draws tourists from around the world. It was also the fi rst location to off er salt-related health treatments. In the 1830s, Dr. Feliks Boczkowsk began off ering salt baths when he began to notice the surprisingly good health of the local salt miners.

Mei Leung, a holistic healer at Montauk Salt Cave, uses Reiki and sound to help visitors feel calm and balanced. Photo by Mike Vitelli.

The historic Wieliczka Salt Mine began offering salt-related health treatments in Poland as early as 1830. Photo by Ryszard Tatomir. 

United States spa owners draw inspiration from Wieliczka Salt Mine, which has played a pivotal role in the rise of halotherapy. Cheryl Krouse and Jim Fittante, owners of the Samana Salt Spa in Lewiston, New York, traveled to Poland to gain a deeper understanding of the ancient form of wellness therapy. “We were able to see firsthand how the Wellness Center in the salt mine has been operating since the late 1800s,” explains Krouse.

Another notable salt mine in Eastern Europe is the Salt Mine Berchtesgaden, which is the oldest active salt mine in Germany. The mine attracts visitors, who are able to tour the mine and learn of its history while taking in views of the natural salt. “Enjoy the underground, starting with a train ride. Go down two long slides (which were used by mine workers in former times), take a raft ride over a mystic salt lake, and see traces of colored salt in the rocks,” says Peter Botzleiner-Reber, tourism manager for Salt Mine Berchtesgaden.

“I’ve known about salt therapy my whole life, since I’m originally from Poland. Salt caves have been popular in Europe for more than 70 years,” says Przybyla, who has seen the trend grow in the U.S. in recent years. “There’s no doubt in my mind that salt therapy is on the rise simply because it’s relaxing and beneficial to your health.”

Salt Mine Berchtesgaden is home to two long slides, which are surrounded by salt and were once used by mine workers. Photo by Georg Grainer Fotografie, courtesy of Salt Mine Berchtesgaden, Südwestdeutche Salzwerke AG. 

The salt used in halotherapy is antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antimicrobial, according to Shannon Coppola. To fully take advantage of its ben-efits, Coppola suggests a 30- to 60-minute session in a salt cave at least once a week — preferably two times a week.

While most salt therapy sessions are a solo experience, Montauk Salt Cave also offers guided sessions with experienced healers. The healers elevate the typical salt cave experience — whether it’s promoting peace and tranquility through the use of tarot cards and astrology, a meditative soundscape, or Reiki therapy.

Luxury developments and real estate properties are also experimenting with the benefits of halotherapy. “There has been an increase in awareness of the benefits of halotherapy and in turn a rise in demand for locations to off er it,” says Alison Howland, vice president of wellness programs and resourcing at Amrit Ocean Resort & Residences in Riviera Beach, Florida.

The luxury development will soon debut its inhalation halotherapy chamber, which will off er residents the opportunity to experience salt therapy from the comfort of their homes. “The concept of luxury is changing. No longer is standardized luxury acceptable. Personalized luxury is the new standard,” says Howland of the develop-ment’s decision to open the salt chamber.

For luxury spa owners, the choice to open a salt cave is often much more personal.

“My daughter was my biggest inspiration for opening this business,” says Przybyla. “She struggles with asthma and severe allergies, which tend to act up a lot seasonally. I wanted to help get her healthier in a natural way.”

Coppola echoes a similar message. “Ultimately, our inspiration for opening the spa was our son,” she says. Coppalo and her husband discovered salt therapy in 2014 when searching for a cure for their son’s respiratory issues. “We had tried everything under the sun — nebulizers, chambers, adenoidectomy, tonsillectomy, Flonase, Nasonex, and more. A friend suggested salt therapy. After one session, he slept through the night for the first time at 4 and a half years old,” says Coppola.

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The Spirit of Giving

For years, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has been at the pinnacle of style, class and design. What people may not be aware of is the company’s dedication and connection to art. The iconic luxury car company continued its expansion into the art world for a good cause in September, teaming up with famous British artist Marc Quinn.

 

The production line of Rolls-Royce in the founding location of Goodwood, West Sussex, England provided the stage for the company’s “Evelina Art for Allergy x Dine on the Line” philanthropy event where a generous £1.7 million was raised through an auction to support allergy research by Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

“Rolls-Royce was introduced to the charity Evelina London via connections in the art world,” says Jessica Persson Conway, manager of Art Programme & Philanthropy. As the largest allergy service of its kind in Europe, Evelina London provides specialized care to children across the country who suffer with an allergic condition.

 

De Pury led the successful night featuring Quinn’s mesmerizing work. ©2019 David M. Benett.

“Marc is a world-renowned contemporary artist,” Conway continues. “Rolls-Royce has great respect for his work and particularly admire his Iris paintings, which is the subject chosen for this collaboration.”

Everyone locked eyes on the big prize of the night, a Phantom designed with one of Quinn’s pieces from his collection entitled “We Share our Chemistry with the Stars.” The ongoing collection features large, colorful paintings of irises from eyes.

Art auctioneer Simon de Pury, who led the vivacious auction compared the artwork to that of the psychedelic Phantom V owned by John Lennon, calling it “the 21st century equivalent.”

 

Phantom is the apex model of Rolls-Royce and the company, encompassing the luxurious experience of driving and owning a Rolls-Royce.

 

“The car has been the canvas of some of the most extraordinary expressions of bespoke craftsmanship,” Conway says. “The Rolls-Royce Bespoke Collective work hand-in-hand with patrons around the world to bring unique and highly personalized creative visions to fruition.”

The prized Phantom featuring Quinn’s artwork. Photo courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. 

The winning bidder of Quinn’s creation won the opportunity for the artist himself to create his own bespoke artwork featuring the iris of the bidder’s daughter, using the Phantom as the canvas. The drivable work of art raised an outstanding £888,000.

Rolls-Royce’s affiliation with art stems from its beginnings as a company, with the different models of cars becoming an “expression of creative will.” Conway noted that for over 100 years the bonnet, or front-hood, of each car is “graced with the Spirit of Ecstasy, a figurine created by sculptor Charles Sykes.”

The “Spirit of Ecstacy” by sculptor Charles Sykes. Photo courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. 

In 2014, the company founded the Rolls-Royce Arte Programme, an initiative made up of commissions with leading artists and institutions. Recently, the company announced a new vision for the program called Muse.

“Muse will further Rolls-Royce’s relationship with art through two new biennial initiatives, the Dream Commission and the Spirit of Ecstasy Challenge,” Conway says.

The company also prides itself with its devotion to philanthropy, emphasizing how events, such as “Dine on the Line,” bring important attention to charity organizations.

 

“Patrons of Rolls-Royce are often highly successful, noteworthy individuals, many of whom are major philanthropic donors,” Conway says. “It gives us great pleasure to introduce the Rolls-Royce network to such a worthy cause.”

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Selling Near the Stars

star property itself, this private estate offers incredible attention to detail and elegant interiors that exude sophistication.

Patrick Fogarty of Hilton & Hyland represented the buyers, German national Ekkehart Hassels-Weiler and his new husband Omar Romero, who were eager to acquire this unique home. Fogarty says the home was on the market for less than a month and bought in under four.

Externally, the home is almost mysterious at first glance, as the long driveway affords complete privacy from the street. That mystery transitions into pure awe once the house is in full view, as Fogarty says the home’s proportions and classic design give it a grand feel that enhances with every meticulous detail. “The style is timeless rather than of the moment,” he says, adding that the overall aesthetic is tasteful yet opulent.

Built and developed by the seller, British property developers Ian and Richard Livingston, the estate greets visitors with a graceful motor court that features both trees and fountains. The front doors open to a striking grand entry with 30-foot ceilings and walls of marble, all opening up to a grand staircase and detailed floor plan. A strong yet beautiful harmony is felt in every room, from the dramatic kitchen to the tasteful master bedroom and baths. Interestingly, Fogarty notes that though “the home is grand in scale, [it] still manages to feel like a home.” Other features of this estate include a master wing, gym, theater, guesthouse, staff quarters and bocce court. The expansive backyard also boasts an ozone pool that highlights the perfect California indoor-outdoor lifestyle.

Only approximately five minutes from Rodeo Drive, the 8-bedroom, 11-bath home remarkably reflects a sense of tranquility and serenity, allowing the new owners to relax with complete privacy. The blend of rich landscaping and natural materials, such as stones, wood, steel, and brass, also enrich its character and depth, making it a true sanctuary.

Photos by Berlyn Photography 2019.

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE GLOBAL 2019 ISSUE OF UNIQUE HOMES. TO SEE THE DIGITAL VERSION OF THIS STORY, CLICK HERE.

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Footloose Fortunes

©istockphoto.com / ClaudioVentrella

While the pace of wealth creation may be slowing, the story now is how it’s spreading around the globe.

“The increasingly footloose nature of wealth.” That’s how global consultancy Knight Frank characterizes today’s trend in affluence. When it comes to real estate, all it takes is a quick look at the worldwide activity of major brands to see a clear illustration of this concept.

The locations of new affiliates of Sotheby’s International Realty in recent months include Oklahoma City, Arkansas and Kansas, along with Cyprus, Slovakia and Qatar. Qatar is the second location in the Middle East for Sotheby’s. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices has extended its reach to global hubs, partnering with major firms in Europe and the Middle East. Now, they count Berlin, London, Milan, Madrid, Barcelona, Dubai and Frankfort in their network. Coldwell Banker has offices in 49 countries. Luxury Portfolio International, the luxury arm of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, has affiliates in more than 70 countries.

“The fact that the world is becoming smaller and smaller, the speed of information flow, and travel contribute to people’s interest in owning properties elsewhere, both for Americans and foreign nationals,” explains Joyce Rey, executive director, Coldwell Banker Global Luxury.

Markets may go through cycles and new partnerships emerge, but the foundation of global real estate hasn’t changed. “The luxury buyer understands that one of the best, if not the best, investments they can make is property,” explains Michael Jalbert, executive vice president, Global Field Operations for HSF Affiliates, the parent company of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.

Chatter regarding a potential recession might form a smokescreen, but wealth creation will continue to be a constant, according to Knight Frank’s annual Wealth Report, which forecasts a rise, over the next five years, of 22 percent in the number of individuals whose net worth exceeds $30 million, a group often classified as Ultra High Net Worth, UHNW. Over the next year, existing UHNW, especially in the U.S., expect their wealth to increase.

When Rey began her career in the 1970s, foreign buyers were a rarity, especially in Southern California. Today, she says, the percentage of foreign buyers purchasing ultra-luxury properties, those priced above $20 million, has remained pretty steady. “Usually it waffles between about 20 percent to 25 percent. And that hasn’t changed over the years.” For the first nine months of 2019, foreign buyers accounted for 31 percent of purchases of $20-million plus residences in Los Angeles’ tony west side.

Rey was one of the first to reach outside U.S. borders to forge connections. After the increase of Japanese buyers in 1980s, she traveled to Japan to meet one-on-one with agents and potential buyers. “I feel if a quarter of your buying population is foreign, you should be reaching out to the foreign market,” she says.

Bob Hurwitz, founder and president of the Hurwitz James Company (HJC), was also on the leading edge of the global outreach. “In the early 90s, I recognized that the buyers for my highest-priced properties were more and more often originating from overseas. This was actually before the Internet was even a reality for marketing purposes. As a result, I started focusing a significant percentage of my marketing to exposing my listings here in the states to affluent foreign buyers.” He also created a network of HJC representatives to promote his listings overseas. Currently, Hurwitz represents nearly $3 billion in luxury properties and developments worldwide.

Even those who work in the global arena today are occasionally surprised by the geographic diversity of investors and buyers. “One stat that recently jumped out at me is Aruba is home to 90-plus nationalities and ethnic groups, which I thought was fascinating,” shares Stephanie Anton, president of Luxury Portfolio International. “One of our affiliates there also pointed out that many of their buyers are coming from India.”

And this isn’t an isolated instance. Indian buyers are cropping up in many other primary and second-home locations, including Portugal. Among foreign buyers in the U.S., India ranks third after China and Canada. India is expected to lead the five-year growth in Asia’s ultra-high net worth population with a 39 percent increase, followed by the Philippines (38 percent) and China (35 percent).

Increasingly, the ultra-wealthy are not necessarily tied to one country or one region. Approximately, 26 percent plan to emigrate in the next year. Already, more than a third hold a second passport and 22 percent plan to buy outside their country of residence, according to Knight Frank.

However, 2018 saw only a marginal increase (0.8 percent) in the size of the ultra-wealthy population, which Wealth X describes as a “marked slowdown” from the year earlier. The combined net worth of the ultra-wealthy declined 1.7 percent, the first annual fall in three years, according to Wealth X. However, it’s important to view these changes in context, because 2017 saw dynamic wealth creation with double-digit growth in the number of ultra-wealthy and impressive gains in asset markets.

The global outlook this year is nuanced. Rising interest rates and the end of quantitative easing means we are reaching the end of super-charged returns on everything from classic cars to art and property, according to Knight Frank. Government policies continue to transition as some countries seek to attract wealth, with a record number offering citizenship and residency through policies regarding investment, while others restrict outflows of capital. Others, including Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK will continue to make it more difficult for wealthy non-residents to purchase properties.

Looking ahead, expectations are for slower price growth in key markets. But, as with any correction, a shift in values is an opportunity to which buyers respond, something that is already happening in London, where agents see a potential turnaround, particularly for higher-priced properties, underway.

“London’s general property market has experienced a slowdown and fall in housing prices. That said, the luxury property market is certainly bottoming out and we are experiencing buyers returning to the market, which is demonstrated by our revenues being up 146 percent year on year,” says Martin Bikhit, managing director at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Kay & Co.

“Given all the uncertainty of Brexit, values in London have come down significantly. It’s a buyers’ market,” says Jalbert.

The exchange rate of the U.S. dollar to sterling makes the value equation even more appealing. “American buyers have been able to take advantage of savings up to 45 percent compared to the 2014 peak of the market. U.S. buyers believe that the market is going to spike post-Brexit and there is now an opportunity to buy competitively. Indeed, this is illustrated by the fact that American hedge funder Ken Griffin was the buyer behind two of London’s most expensive property transactions within the past year,” according to Bikhit, who calls this surge a “pre-Brexit boom.”

Hurwitz sees luxury penthouses in many traditional hot markets, including London, as good opportunities for buyers, since those prices have seen a big decline. Other recommendations in Europe include France as well as Tuscany, which, he says, has an appeal that transcends the strictly financial. “Finding something totally renovated in an authentic manner is key.”

A flat or pied-à-terre in Paris has become a rite of passage for Americans, says Anton, noting reports of particular interest coming from Silicon Valley. Paris is one of the bright spots in Europe, placing third on Knight Frank’s list of the

fastest-growing luxury markets.

“France and Italy are still two of our top locations and our offices are expanding in numbers and experiencing a very solid claim in the market,” says Craig Hogan, vice president, Coldwell Banker Global Luxury.

Berlin is Europe’s rising star. It has topped Urban Land Institute’s list of markets to watch in Europe for four years in a row, and currently ranks second after Madrid on rankings of the fastest-growing luxury real estate markets. Luxury residential here is a small but vibrant niche, with the number of privately owned apartments selling above 1 million euros growing by 17.5 percent from 2017 to 2018.

Stefan Schulze, COO, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Rubina Real Estate, says, “If Berlin succeeds in further expanding its potential in scientific and culture fields and remains one of the influential centers in Europe, it can be deemed certain that not only the number of premium new development projects but also the quality of luxury real estate will continue to grow sharply.”

Global Buyers in the U.S.

From the perspective of foreign buyers in the U.S., Hurwitz says, the market has changed multiple times over the last few years, fueled by factors as diverse as the attitude and oversight of a foreign buyer’s own government regarding money leaving their country, to crushing economic changes in their country of origin, to U.S. government restrictions on shell companies buying, to various others. Hurwitz says, “I still believe the U.S. is a safe bet and I am telling my clients to buy here.”

During the 12 months from April 2018 to March 2019, global purchases of U.S. properties fell sharply, with purchases declining by 36 percent. The dollar volume as well as the average price also declined. Rather than lack of interest from potential buyers, Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, cites what he calls “a confluence of factors — slower economic growth abroad, tighter capital controls in China, a stronger U.S. dollar and a low inventory of homes for sale.”

John Smaby, NAR president, adds, “There is still significant interest in U.S. properties across the globe, and the U.S. is still seen as a safe, secure place to invest.”

London

©istockphoto.com / _ultraforma_

Tuscany

©istockphoto.com / mammuth

Paris

©istockphoto.com / Givaga

Madrid

©istockphoto.com / SeanPavonePhoto

Global Bright Spots

Along with real estate professionals from over 27 countries, Stephanie Anton recently returned from her company’s international conference in Athens. “It was thrilling to hear and see firsthand about so many bright spots in the market,” she says, including places where property markets were hard hit by political and financial turmoil during the recession. “One that was particularly obvious was our host city itself. The optimism of the Greek people was palpable.”

Both Spain and Portugal are seeing an influx of buyers and a surge in sales. Both suffered during the recession and are experiencing a strong turnaround.

“I think there is a sentiment of Europeans kind of holding their breath and waiting to see what happens with Brexit. But yet, there are also bright spots and the bright spots are more of those second-home markets because they’re lifestyle purchases. And so people are less concerned about the economic impact of Brexit because of making decisions on purchasing second or third homes,” Anton observes.

Some of the strongest luxury markets this year have been in resort locales. San Miguel de Allende continues to rank at the top of best cities and second-home destinations. “Our typical luxury buyers are investors looking for properties to take advantage of the lucrative vacation rental market, or shopping for their second or third vacation homes,” says Nancy Howze, with CDR San Miguel.

“Upscale consumers tend to have a broad world view,” says Jalbert. “They understand markets and are attracted to a range of places. Buyers in different parts of Europe are looking for a weather change, so it’s no surprise to see the resurgences of locations along Costa Del Sol and Portugal.” Jalbert adds that almost 100 percent of the luxury transactions in their eight offices in Portugal are from buyers outside the country. “It’s just an incredibly enchanted place where they have beautiful properties, but where there has also been significant investment in infrastructure,” he says.

One thing that has remained constant across the globe is the attitude of the elite regarding buying. Some of the highest sales in the last year can be tracked to global buyers, according to Hogan. “They will spend the money but need to know it’s a wise decision.”

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE GLOBAL 2019 ISSUE OF UNIQUE HOMES. TO SEE THE DIGITAL VERSION OF THIS STORY, CLICK HERE.

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The Art of Writing

Exclusive writing instruments elevate the tradition of putting pen to paper — a ritual technology cannot erase — into fine art.

Writing a check or signing a document is generally a routine task, one far too often facilitated by an 89-cent piece of plastic and aluminum. But a bejeweled, limited edition writing instrument can transform a simple signature into a truly artistic expression.

Nancy Olson, a leading authority on fine writing instruments, reports, “Unlike many other luxury collectibles, a pen is portable, user-friendly and has a cultural element because of its link to writing and the arts.” Olson, who is also a prominent commentator on timepieces, notes the parallels between the two instruments, stating, “Pens and watches are both small, mechanical objects that provide a healthy hit of extravagance and enjoyment when worn or used.”

Among Olson’s favorite designers are German manufacturers Pelikan and Montblanc, the latter the high-end brand with the greatest mainstream name recognition. Montblanc pens have long been considered luxury items, but many are surprised to learn that some of the company’s limited edition writing instruments cost not hundreds, but hundreds of thousands, of dollars.

Montblanc collaborated with elite jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels on a $730,000 pen bejeweled with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires to commemorate both companies’ 100th anniversaries in 2006. The manufacturer’s Meisterstück Solitaire Royal LeGrand fountain pen is copiously embellished with more than 4,600 diamonds and valued in excess of $200,000.

Olson reports the qualities collectors admire most in pens are craftsmanship, scarcity and the ability to convey a story. 

Les Quatre Couleurs from David Oscarson commemorates the evolution of playing cards. Courtesy of David Oscarson.

The 1010 Timekeeper by Caran d’Ache celebrates the watchmakers that share the company’s hometown of Geneva.           Courtesy of Caran d’Ache.

Few brands have mastered storytelling better than St. Louis-based David Oscarson, whose eye-popping writing instruments encompass a remarkable diversity of themes. In addition to celebrating the natural world, art or architecture, Oscarson pens commemorate historic figures such as the Romanovs of Russia, Lewis & Clark and Sir Alexander Fleming, the bacteriologist who discovered penicillin. Most Oscarson issues are priced at about $5,900, but special editions command more than $250,000.

One David Oscarson pen — a blue and silver piece featuring the Star of David and the Three Crowns of Sweden — honors Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who harbored thousands of Jews during the Holocaust. The limited production of each theme often involves a bit of trivia, such as the 63 pens honoring Alfred Nobel (the philanthropist’s age when he died). For most David Oscarson pens, enamel is applied over metal manipulated through the painstaking technique of guilloché, an ornamentation process pioneered by Fabergé.

“There aren’t a lot of choices for gentlemen who like accessories,” states Oscarson. “Beyond wristwatches, there are very few pieces of men’s jewelry that are sustainable in style,” adds the industry veteran.

A one-of-a-kind special edition fountain pen from the company, crafted from solid 18-karat gold and encrusted with nearly 35 carats of white, yellow and caramel diamonds, has been offered on the resale market for $755,000.

“I judge a manufacturer by the quality of its pens and its creativity in putting a fresh face on what, in essence, is a very small canvas,” says pen commentator Olson. She cites Caran d’Ache’s 1010 Timekeeper, a limited edition that cleverly pays homage to the art of watchmaking, the industry that dominates the company’s hometown of Geneva. 

That fountain pen ($11,500) features a reinterpretation of the elements of a watch dial. Its silver- and rhodium-plated cap was inspired by watch strap design and a piston pump with a ruby accent is reminiscent of a watch’s winding crown. This model follows a 2008 limited edition of ten 18-karat gold 1010 pens, currently priced on the resale market at about $150,000.

Caran d’Ache also produced an 18-karat gold fountain pen — another piece valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars — sheathed in more than 4,100 brilliant diamonds and accented by a band of 108 emeralds. This unique writing instrument, whose precious stones were set by Geneva jeweler Pierre-Yves Bonzon, took about six months to complete.

Gregory Hengesbaugh, national sales manager for Creative Art Materials, Ltd., the exclusive distributor of Caran d’Ache in the U.S. and Canada, reports the venerable firm enjoys a worldwide cult following. 

“The brand benefits from Swiss manufacturing traditions, whose exacting precision in watchmaking carries over to fine writing instruments,” says Hengesbaugh.

Top: Italian manufacturer Aurora is renowned for its meticulous craftsmanship. Courtesy of Aurora.

Above: David Oscarson’s elegant Russian Imperial series reflects techniques pioneered by Fabergé. Courtesy of David Oscarson.

The limited edition samurai fountain pen reflects Montegrappa’s elaborate themes. Courtesy of Montegrappa.

No company on the planet celebrates the pen as an objet d’art as well as Montegrappa, Italy’s oldest manufacturer of fine pens. Last year it released a limited edition Samurai fountain pen ($15,000) that is a wealthy grown-up’s version of a toy soldier. Each of the 177 sterling silver sets (packaged in a black lacquered box) includes an armored warrior, along with a katana sword case that contains a letter opener.

Aurora

www.aurorapen.it

Caran d’Ache

www.carandache.com

David Oscarson

www.davidoscarson.com

Montblanc

www.montblanc.com

Montegrappa

www.montegrappa.com

Pelikan

www.pelikan.com

Tibaldi

www.tibaldi.it

Prices of limited edition luxury pens can be stratospheric, but the $8 million reportedly paid at a Shanghai charity auction has remained a safe record since 2010. Commanding that astonishing figure was the Fulgor Nocturnus from Italian manufacturer Tibaldi (a subsidiary of Montegrappa), copiously embellished with 945 black diamonds and 123 rubies.

Aurora, another venerable Italian pen maker, claims its Diamante fountain pen — whose graceful platinum form is sheathed in 1,919 De Beers diamonds totaling 30 carats — is the most exclusive writing instrument in the world. Almost too exquisite to use, just a single Diamante, priced at more than $1.4 million, is available each year.

Nancy Olson reports many collectors place a premium on the provenance of pens, collecting almost everything produced by a specific brand. Acknowledging pen aficionados’ diverse motivations, she states, “Some use all the pens in their collections and really appreciate the art of writing while others keep their pens in their original boxes, never to see a drop of ink!”

Either way, luxury writing instruments are in no danger of going out of style. “There’s something about a fountain pen that’s majestic,” suggests pen maker David Oscarson.

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Lady Globetrotters

Courtesy of Explorer Chick.

Women are influencing all facets of the travel industry as they acquire more spending power.

Not only are women earning and spending more in 2019, but they’re traveling differently — from the activities pursued, to the destinations visited, to the companions chosen. And they’re making an impact. Women currently make 70 percent of all travel decisions, according to Bridget Brennan’s “Why She Buys.”

“It’s a really interesting time for women globally — more and more women are getting an education, having careers, managing their own finances and disposable income. As a result, these women are beginning to seek travel experiences that are purely for themselves,” says Lauren Bates, founder
of Wild Terrains — a women-only group travel company that supports female-owned businesses.

Although it’s not the case for all women, more female travelers are breaking away from “stereotypical” female-catered trips. Instead of yoga retreats, spa weekends and relaxing getaways, women are pursuing high-intensity travel experiences, driving the rise of Adventure Travel — travel that typically involves physically challenging outdoor activities.

Seventy-five percent of travelers pursuing nature, adventure, or cultural trips are women between the ages of 20 and 70, according to the Travel Industry Association of America.

“Women have always been a force in the travel industry, but social media has really brought that to light,” says Nicki Bruckmann, founder of Explorer Chick, an adventure travel company for women. “It’s moving from a dream to a reality for many women. Women who may have daydreamed about world travel are seeing that yes, they too can travel the world and have incredible experiences.”

Whether it’s supporting women who want to explore the Grand Canyon, cruise along the Nile River or float in the Dead Sea, the travel industry is shifting as it begins to focus on women, and their increasing desire for exploration. A growing number of female-catered travel companies are popping up, curating female-focused group travel experiences.

“A generation ago, women-only travel was an oddity,” says Debra Asberry of Women Traveling Together, a female-
catered travel tour company. “That is no longer true, but it is not widely known that 
women-only travel exists. Only when a woman starts searching for a travel solution for herself does she discover the myriad of choices out there.”

The growing desire for female-catered travel is closely tied to the type of trips women are pursuing.

“I could only find women’s group trips that were activity-specific, focusing on things like yoga and trekking,” says Bates, of her experience prior to launching her business. “That frustrated me on a personal level, because I’m a more dynamic traveler…. It also frustrated me on a broader level, because I believe globally we tend to market to women in a very one- or two-dimensional way that misses the mark on what women are really craving in terms of experiences.”

Mexico

“Nothing like [Wild Terrains] existed when we started. There were women-only travel companies, but none of them were actively supporting women hotel owners, artists, chefs, designers, architects, and historians in the destinations they visit. We’ve seen a surge in women-owned businesses globally in the last decade. The only way to ensure they keep growing is to support their businesses.” — Lauren Bates

Photo courtesy of Wild Terrains.

Horseshoe Bend, Utah

“In 2014, I found myself in the wake of a divorce. My break-up presented me with ‘the greatest gift of all’ — a do-over. There I was, an athlete, an adrenaline junkie, and rearing to go experience the world but I was out a travel buddy…. I chose to use my second chance at life to create a company that empowers women to be adventurous. There was no way I was the only other woman out there in this predicament.” — Nicki Bruckmann

Photo courtesy of Explorer Chick.

Skogafoss Waterfall, Iceland

“I wanted to do more than just offer trips for women. I wanted to focus exclusively on the woman traveling solo. I wanted her to feel like a priority on our tours, not an afterthought. I had been a solo traveler on a traditional couples tour and felt like a 5th wheel. It was depressing and lonely, but my other option at the time had been to plan my own trip and go by myself, something I did not feel safe doing alone.” — Debra Asberry

Photo courtesy of Women Traveling Together.

West Virginia

Courtesy of Explorer Chick.

Old Havana, Cuba

Courtesy of Damesly.

Dominican Republic

Courtesy of Explorer Chick.

“I often hear (and as was my case as well), that women just don’t have friends or family they can travel with in the way in which they want to travel,” says Bruckmann. “This is especially true for our adventure trips, since the itineraries are more challenging. So, instead of downgrading their vacation or compromising, women are booking group trips that meet their travel needs.” 

Plus, these female-led businesses are not simply offering one-of-a-kind travel experiences, they are connecting and empowering women across the globe.

“When you have the non-judgemental support of 10 cheering women as you stand on the edge of a waterfall 35 feet in the air, your fears shrink, your courage grows, and you make that leap,” Bruckmann says. “Women overcome their fears on these trips, which often carries over into their daily lives.”

Kelly Lewis, CEO of Damesly — a boutique tour operator for women, says “it is very rare, in my experience, that women will find us just because they want to go to a specific destination. I think women find us when they need to, because they want to travel and they want to make friends.”

“Wild Terrains exists for women from all walks of life, in all stages of life. We want to give women not only a safe space to explore the world, but also a space to nourish their creativity and build relationships with each other,” Bates adds.

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Sleeping Soundly

Organic non-toxic mattresses and bedding offer a luxury that will help you rest a little easier.

We spend approximately one-third of our lives sleeping. Why not choose the very best surfaces on which to sleep? 

We take special care of the food we consume and the products we use but our mattresses and bedding are often overlooked. In reality, they can largely affect our overall wellbeing. Based on the tips, tricks, and articles scattering the internet, we are desperate for a good night’s sleep, and with good reason. As we overload our schedules and take on more responsibilities, the need for a solid night of rest continues to grow, just as the importance to rejuvenate and reset does.

According to Jack Dell’Accio, CEO and founder of Essentia, synthetic mattresses and bedding introduce low-level toxins into our environment, which our central nervous systems continuously need to fight while we rest. The chronic exposure to the harmful chemicals found in synthetic mattresses and bedding can interfere with our sleep, which can affect everything from productivity and mood to weight loss and eating habits.

Mark Abrials, co-founder and CMO of Avocado Green Mattress says, “Countless studies show that the chemically treated materials commonly used in our manufacturing and building processes negatively impact human health.” The toxins slowly release over time, all the while contaminating our environment “through the processes of volatilization (off-gassing),
abrasion, leaching, and oxidation,” according to Abrials.

Unfortunately, most people “tend to not realize the hidden dangers hiding in synthetic mattresses that can cause health issues over time,” says Dell’Accio. Essentia and other companies are handcrafting mattresses, pillows, bedding and more with materials that are safer and environmentally responsible.

White Lotus Home offers mattresses and bedding that are handcrafted from organic cotton and other chemical-free materials. Essentia uses a natural memory foam that is made from hevea milk — the white sap from the Rubber tree — and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified organic wool. While Avocado and Happsy avoid polyurethane foams and harsh flame retardants. Dedicated to a good night’s sleep, these companies are improving the environment and sleeping habits.

White Lotus Home

whitelotushome.com

White Lotus Home proves its dedication to healthy living by creating safe, chemical-free hand-crafted mattresses, duvets, pillows, toppers, and more. Wool latex, organic cotton, green cotton, and other materials make these products a healthier choice for consumers. Marlon Pando, the president of White Lotus Home — a company dedicated to creating sustainable and healthy products — says “our integrity and craftsmanship are the main reasons why we have been in business since 1981. We are experts in handcrafting mattresses, pillows, and bedding from the finest fibers on Earth.”

Photo courtesy of Lotos Homes

Avocado

Avocadogreenmattress.com

The Avocado Green Mattress is beaming with several certifications and standards, such as GREENGUARD Gold Certified, GOLS organic certified latex, and OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified latex that ensures its mattresses, bedding and more are reliable products. “We follow a farm-to-bedroom approach when manufacturing our organic mattresses,” says Abrials. “Ours is more sustainable and responsible than the conventional alternative and is truly
built-to-last.”

Photo courtesy of Avocado Green Mattress

Essentia

myessentia.com

Essentia products are making a difference even while we sleep. The company offers a variety of mattresses, pillows, and accessories that are healthier for the average person, but with options that also cater to athletes and children specifically. “Essentia is completely uncompromising. Our products don’t just focus on being natural, our biggest plus is performing for the sleeper. This means truly helping you rest and recover from your daily grind and waking up more refreshed,” according to Dell’Accio.

Phots courtesy of Essentia

     

This editorial originally appeared in The High End Fall 2019.

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Exclusive writing instruments elevate the tradition of putting pen to paper — a ritual technology cannot erase — into fine art

Bedding for a Cause

The Good Sheet, a luxury bedding brand based in Tasmania, Australia partnered with non-profit organization, One Tree Planted, is planting five trees in its home state of Tasmania with every bedding set sold.

Modern Midwestern Makes

These two Midwestern brands, both with a reputation for timeless design, craftsmanship, and innovation, will debut a new collection in January 2020.

Concrete-Inspired Gift Guide

Looking for inspiration this holiday season? Check out this gift guide with an edge. These concrete-inspired items are perfect for your home or office and will stand the test of time to celebrate for years to come.
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