The Transition

Cover photo ©istockphoto.com / Evgeny Zhigalov

Of all the changes brought on by the pandemic, what is here to stay?

From a drone’s eye perspective of 50 years, real estate might resemble a Mobius strip, a never-ending roller coaster of ups and downs with each boom-and-bust cycle sparking small changes and adaptations. But none have had an impact comparable to the pandemic, which ushered in an avalanche of innovation, new ways of doing business and a profound shift in consumer values. Some effects are a temporary response, while many reflect a significant transformation.

“The way that real estate as an industry operates has changed, and I believe it is a microcosm that can be applied to 90 percent of the economy out there. No one is going back, and that means the way we live, work and play changes forever,” observes Marci Rossell, former CNBC chief economist and chief economist for Leading RE. “COVID drop-kicked us into 2030.” 

Ask agents if any prior cycle compares to the experience of the last year and a half, and they will tell you the pandemic boom is unparalleled. “I don’t think any Realtor in the country has had the experience we’ve had this last year! Yes, there have been good upticks in certain years in certain places, but never anything like this!” shares Trinkie Watson with Chase International in Lake Tahoe.

“We’ve certainly seen periods where you had to pivot skill sets and be really aware of the market and things that would impact clients, but we’ve never seen anything like the last year and a half, (and) that’s been compounded by a lack of availability,” shares Tami Simms, with Coastal Properties Group in St. Petersburg, Florida, who is also trainer for the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing.

“I think that last year was the most significant year of change from a tech perspective,” says David Marine, chief marketing officer at Coldwell Banker Real Estate. The pandemic market accomplished what major brands had been working on for years. “In 90 days,” he says, “every single real estate agent figured out a way to move the transition online. Now it’s commonplace. It’s no longer an issue.”

“Agents basically skyrocketed 10 years into the future, and they did it in a two-month period,” says Rossell. Rather than an abrupt switch, industry experts see real estate’s seemingly overnight embrace of new technology as acceptance of tools already available. Think of it as “escalating trends that were already underway that would have happened, but they are going to happen almost a decade faster than anyone expected,” explains Rossell.

Will it be a virtual world?

Prior to what Simms dubs “the Zoom age,” she says, there wasn’t a widespread understanding or trust or proficiency with virtual apps. “Now,” she says, “we know how to use it. We’re reasonably proficient at it, and there’s a level of trust. So, we’re able to embrace this technology. You know I don’t ever want to go back to having to communicate with out-of-state buyers purely by telephone.”

Virtual Sales are touted as the main advancement sparked by the pandemic, but an even greater benefit has been an industry-wide recognition and adaptation of virtual apps to enhance and expedite the process from initial views of a property to consumer education. “FaceTime is an effective tool, but really more to give a prospect a better idea of the home, not to induce an offer … though it could,” says Watson. 

Looking ahead, agents don’t expect virtual sales to disappear, but they will continue to be a rarity. “I don’t think we’ll see many escrows where the buyer hasn’t physically seen the property. Yes, Zoom and similar will continue to be a part of our lives. Also, more defined photography for our listings … the importance of a comprehensive ‘walk through’ so prospects can get a good feeling for how the house flows,” says Watson.

Detailed virtual walk-throughs became more important than ever, with platforms such as Matterport leading the way. 

©istockphoto.com / fizkes

“In-person viewings have been very limited. No one wants to go to open houses. No one is walking about a house just for fun. People are looking online. They are viewing the pictures of a listing maybe 10 times before they see a house. So, a showing is more like a fourth showing, and agents need in-depth knowledge of a property,” says Joanne Nemerovski, with Compass in Chicago.

©istockphoto.com / joakimbkk

Dreaming of Home

The ability to work remotely is often cited as the main driver for the surge in sales, but even more fundamental are new consumer values regarding home and lifestyle. Citing millennials, who now comprise a substantial portion of buyers, Nemerovski says many were starting careers and literally were never home, so home basically was a shoebox they visited. “I think that sentiment has changed. Home is where the heart is. It has become the center of people’s lives. People are also more respectful of their homes.”

Everybody wants their dream home,” says Frank Aazami with Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty in Scottsdale, Arizona, “because they just cashed out of another home that maybe they inherited or maybe were there for 20, 30 or 40 years.”

Buyers’ expectations of quality are high and will continue to be so. “People understand the level of finishes better than ever before. We’ve gotten so much better with respecting architects, good architects’ work, good designers’ work,” he says.

“All of a sudden, consumers are finding that now it’s not all about a commute. It’s about ‘does the place that I live offer me the things that I want to do when I have a little extra time, both inside and outside.’ Outside spaces have always been a luxury item, but more so now than ever,” says Simms. Topping wish lists are beautiful recreational facilities, inside and out. Also becoming more desirable is access to nearby outdoor venues such as parks and trails. Before COVID-19, outdoor living was a growing trend; now a connection with nature has become almost an essential for homes, particularly new construction.

Skills Put to the Test

With properties selling days or hours after going on the market and multiple platforms broadcasting new listings, it would seem agents’ skills are not essential. However, the pandemic market has proved the opposite. “It’s been a really intense time for real estate professionals in terms of making sure that their communication skills are absolutely the most important thing that they have, setting expectations, both on the seller side and the buyer side,” says Simms.

“There’s more attention to vetting prospective buyers, making sure they are qualified to buy before showing them property,” adds Watson.

Price is only part of an offer’s appeal to sellers, and crafting a winning offer has been an important skill for agents and buyers in the current market. Even when multiple offers become less of the norm, this aspect of buying will continue to be important.

An intense market tempts buyers to forgo contingencies. “It has been definitely challenging to counsel people on strategies to be successful in acquiring properties, but also in making sure that they truly understand the ramifications of releasing contingencies and know the risks they are taking on,” shares Simms.

“A downside of the intensity has been buyer’s remorse, cancellations before closing, some attempted lawsuits … a result of no inspections, jumping too fast without thorough exploration, et cetera. This would be a small percentage of the purchasers, but certainly a reflection of ‘herd mentality’ going the wrong way!” says Watson, referring to the pressure buyers felt to make a decision.

Cooldown Ahead

With days on market hovering just over 14 in July, prices rising in 99 percent of all metro areas, and double-digit price increases in 94 percent of metros (according to NAR), the current pace might seem no less fevered. Still, indications of a transition are beginning to filter out from a number of locations. Days on market are increasing ever so slightly, and overblown prices are being reduced. Or, as Katie Treem at Keller Williams Realty in Portland, Maine, explains, it might be that a property receives 20 offers instead of 40. “We’re still seeing people moving from New York, Boston, Connecticut and D.C.,” she says.

Also, agents like Treem are just beginning to see a few who bought in 2020 reselling. Sometimes they improved the property, but in others, decided the lifestyle was not what they desire or the commute, even for occasional days in the office, was too difficult.

In Tahoe, Watson says, “I believe the intensity has certainly calmed down, and I suspect very few listing agents will accept an offer from a buyer who hasn’t physically viewed the property. That goes for waived inspections … I’d be surprised if many are doing that any longer.”

No Bubbles Here

Bubble talk has become almost a perennial for real estate, but experts such as Rossell do not subscribe to this characterization of the market. Rossell says, “It’s not a bubble. It’s simply real demand bumping up against severe supply constraints. But this doesn’t mean house prices continue to go up. But what it does mean is you’re very unlikely to see the bottom fall out of the market, the way that you did in 2007, 2008.

“September 11 forever changed the way that we thought about terrorism. And I think in the same way, the first round of COVID in March of 2020 forever changed the way that we thought about public health, and pandemics. I think we’re all going to be living with the reality that at any given time something like this could happen, just like terrorism.”

Days on market are increasing, and overblown prices are being reduced. It might be a property receives 20 offers instead of 40, says Katie Treem at Keller Williams Realty in Portland, Maine.
 

©istockphoto.com / sara_winter

This story originally appeared in Unique Homes Fall ’21. Click here to see the digital version.

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Mindful Drinking

Featured image courtesy Camille Vidal.

 

A movement started across the pond is reshaping the relationship people have with alcohol, and starting new conversations about the topic.

When Laura Willoughby sought to change her relationship with alcohol, she found that there weren’t many options to turn to in the United Kingdom that suited her well. So she created her own. What started out as a Facebook group grew into what is now a movement that swept across the UK and eventually parts of the globe. Club Soda, the mindful drinking community Willoughby co-founded, was just the start of a conversation about how people can drink mindfully.

Camille Vidal, founder of La Maison Wellness, describes what a mindful drinker is best. For her, there are many different types of mindful drinkers, but there is not just one label. “Often, because the movement is expanding and there are more and more people becoming vocal about their sobriety, about cutting alcohol out of their life, very often people assume that if you are a mindful drinker, it means that you’re sober,” Vidal says. “But actually, mindful drinking, and being a mindful drinker, is being mindful, being aware, being conscious of how much, how often and what you drink.

For Willoughby, she identifies as being alcohol-free, and has been for eight and a half years. Club Soda was born from Willoughby’s realization that seeking a change in a relationship with alcohol was met with the disease model of addiction, which may help some people, but not all. “Alcohol is an identity, not a medical condition,” Willoughby says. “I’m alcohol-free because that suits me best and alcohol doesn’t have anything left for me; I definitely took everything that was possible from alcohol.”

Eventually the mindful drinking conversation began to shift to the beverage industry. According to Vidal, today there are about 90 different alcohol-free spirits available around the world, but one company was the catalyst for this category. “Five years ago there was one brand that launched the world’s first alcohol-free spirit — that’s called Seedlip.

Seedlip is a botanical spirit,” Vidal says. “And they really paved the way for rethinking how we drink.” Seedlip’s roots were planted in London in 2015 by the brand’s founder, Ben Branson. Starting with one spirit, the company grew to include three choices, each with an individual flavor profile. One interesting spirit Vidal notes is its Garden 108 spirit that is made with traditional herbs and its signature, peas, giving it a refreshing, gin-like flavor.

Vidal uses Seedlip and other brands — another one she recommends is a company called Lyres that is based in Australia — to create her mindful cocktails that she features on her company’s website. When the pandemic lockdown began in London, where she currently resides, she started “happy hours” on her social media where she showed people how to make her cocktails. Vidal also collaborates with companies and people, such as Willoughby, to spread the awareness of drinking mindfully.

Another category of alcohol-free spirits that has taken to the market are alternatives that are inspired to bring a new way of drinking and a new overall experience, explains Vidal. Three Spirit, another brand Vidal enjoys, specializes in spirits — they call elixirs — that are powered by plants. The elixirs not only taste good, but make the drinker feel good. “They’ve all been built to recreate the experience you have when you drink alcohol and the very reason why people drink alcohol,” explains Vidal. “For example, they have one that is called the Night Cap that helps you to relax, to ease stress, to calm you down, to help you with sleep — because it contains valerian, which helps with sleeping.”

Above: Camille Vidal; Below: Laura Willoughby

Willoughby herself enjoys drinking Three Spirit as one of her non-alcoholic options along with kombucha, which is something that Vidal says is a great addition to any non-alcoholic or low ABV cocktail. According to Vidal and Willoughby, choosing to become a mindful drinker doesn’t really have any setbacks, as it opens the door to a new lifestyle and way to enjoy nights out or time spent with good company. “People believe they have to give up their social life if they change their drinking, but what happens is your social life changes,” Willoughby says. “And guess what? Your social life changes anyway as you go through life.” On Club Soda’s website, the organization offers courses that help guide people down a mindful drinking journey that works for their lifestyle. “If somebody’s desire is to try and drink moderately,” says Willoughby. “Then that’s absolutely fine by us as well.” She goes on to say that there is a binary view of alcohol, which in actuality, there isn’t.”

Whether someone is choosing to phase alcohol out of their lives or is looking to start a new relationship with it, there are plenty of options that are just as delicious as their alcoholic counterparts. “I always say ‘tasty doesn’t have to be boozy,’” says Vidal. “For me, there’s something magical about having a low-alcoholic or non-alcoholic cocktail, and it’s not about the alcohol content, it’s about the moment, the celebration and appreciating the experience we’re having.”

Café Soirée
Strawberry Fields
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Q&A with Chris Goddard of HGTV’s Design Star

Photos by Mark Jackson/CHROMA Photography.

Designer Chris Goddard grew up in Arkansas in a house full of built-in furniture. As his love for design started early in life, he says this situation “drove me nuts.” Now, as the principal founder of Goddard Design Group, he credits these hurdles, as well as the creative nurturing of his family, for his love of change, which continues to inspire every facet of his work.

It was the need to produce something new every time, and the drive to push himself past his own creative limits, that helped Goddard become a finalist on the most recent season of HGTV’s Design Star: Next Gen.

We spoke with Goddard about his whirlwind experience of creating interior design for TV, and how his reality TV appearance inspired an even deeper love for design than he’d had in 30-plus years.

For those who haven’t watched the latest season of Design Star, can you relay to audiences your method of design?

I’m a big proponent of change, if you’re doing the same thing you did 3 years ago you’re doing something wrong. I never do the same thing twice, so in 30 years we’ve never used the same fabric twice, the same piece of furniture twice — it’s kind of my trademark. I don’t want anybody to have something somebody else has.

What has been your biggest inspiration, since you were young, to work in such a creative field?

I grew up in a very creative family, always surrounded by creativity and the arts. My family, especially my mother and my grandmother, were big on travel and exposing me to as much as possible. So I traveled a lot and spent a lot of time in museums. They would always take me out of school for weeks at a time; they always said ‘the best education was travel and experiencing things.’ I grew up a little globe-trotting kid, seeing the world, which was wonderful and super inspiring.

You received both design and business degrees in college. Have you found this type of structured education helpful as well?

I’ve found that having a business degree really makes a huge difference. Most designers are creative but can’t always run a business, and I’ve been able to strike a good balance. That’s not to say I haven’t ever screwed up — we all have — but those are called learning experiences.

You mentioned loving to travel, what’s one of your favorite places to visit?

One of my favorite places is Morocco. I try and go once a year. I’m super inspired by the colors and textures, anything that’s handmade. When you have something that’s made by hand, at least one thing in your house, it gives your house a soul and gives the room a sense of place, like it’s always been there. That’s my whole deal, creating timeless rooms. I don’t want anything to look like it was stuck in time, and the key to doing that is layering in parts of the past, present and modern so you get something that never really goes out of style.

A traditional Southern estate with hints of modern elegance in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

What is your primary focus when you’re designing a space?

I’m designing for the client, or if it’s commercial, for the space. You want to create an experience that is singular to them. I think the death of most design is becoming a trend or doing anything trendy, so I always try to be very specific in what I’m doing and make sure it’s uber-tailored to the space or the client.

I think as a designer the biggest compliment I can ever get is when someone comes in and says “Oh this looks like the homeowner,” instead of “this looks like a Chris Goddard house.” The biggest compliment is that it’s a reflection of the homeowner or the space.

What was it like to be on an HGTV show? Did you enjoy your time on set?

When I started my business I taught myself how to do everything, how to put on wallpaper, how to paint — to be a good designer you have to have an understanding of all the people that work for you. I haven’t done that [in person] in over 25 years, but [on the show] it all came back to me like riding a bike. … Each episode was like a day and a half, so cranking everything out and then being judged on it was a little tricky. In our career, our clients are the judges and you kind of have an idea of what they want, but when you go into things blind, you don’t know.

For me it was more fun because I got to push myself out of my comfort zone, which I really needed. I kind of looked at the whole experience as an opportunity to reignite my passion for design. It’s easy when I get to the level I am at and get comfortable — and I think I was feeling a little comfortable — which was the reason I wanted to compete. Doing it, I came back and I couldn’t have been more excited about design than I had in my whole life. It was the best experience I could have ever had.

What lessons have you taken away from the experience?

It’s best to go with your first thoughts. If you get too much in your head, it throws off the creative process. Don’t be afraid to try anything new. The main thing [I learned], though, was to trust my gut, be authentic and keep pushing myself. And to learn something new. I learned so many new design tips, technology tips — everyone had so many things to share. It was nice to just be able to soak it all in.

How have things progressed since going back to the firm? Any big plans for the future?

I’m excited to see what happens in the next few years, as design is having a Renaissance. Right now we’re busier than ever, since people have been stuck in their homes and they see things they want to change. They want multifunctional spaces, beautiful spaces, there’s been this huge resurgence in an interest in design. The whole world is once again interested in how they live.

The design style of this home evolved from Spanish Mission into an eclectic mixture of modernism and neoclassical, created through thoughtfully curated collections, from vintage Chinese rugs to contemporary art.
A key component to the design of this Fayetteville penthouse was the incorporation of pieces from the client’s extensive modern art collection, seen above and below. “It was a lot of fun to pull modern furniture and art together to create a new space that still resonates our client’s unique, eclectic personality,” according to Goddard Design Group.
Top photo by Rett Peek Photography.
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Dazzling Diamonds

All photos courtesy Vanleles Diamonds.

Vanleles Diamonds — focused on producing jewelry sourced from ethical mining — is the first-ever female-owned African fine jewelry brand.

Living and working all around the world has allowed Vania Leles to develop an edge in her work, drawing from her experiences to shape Vanleles Diamonds into a global luxury brand. “Growing up, I studied in between Guinea-Bissau and Portugal, returning to Africa during breaks to travel around the continent with my family,” Leles says. “Upon graduating from NOVA University Lisbon, I moved to London to learn English and became a social worker. I changed careers after being discovered by a modeling scout, and lived and worked as a model in Paris and New York for a few years.”

Leles’ ties to her African heritage are evident in her designs. “Then came that fateful day when I decided to join the jewelry world,” Leles says. “All these events and influences are reflected in details of the Vanleles collection. Some people expect my jewelry to be tribal or ethnic, but it is a combination of my memories of Africa and my experiences traveling throughout the world and living in Europe.”

Leles is no stranger to the world of luxury. While working as a model, she was inspired by the fine jewelry on set, and connected this to her home in Africa. “Around 2003, I was modeling on a shoot with fine jewelry when someone on the set told me that all precious and many semiprecious stones can be found in Africa,” Leles explains. “Intrigued, as I am from the West African nation of Guinea-Bissau, I did some research. I discovered that at that time, there were no African haute-jewelry designers working with these materials native to their continents.”

With this in mind, Leles set out to begin her own company. “This was enough for me to decide that I would establish the world’s first female-founded African high jewelry house,” Leles says. 

Leles’ breakout into the world of jewelry was not immediate. “When I told my mother about my plans, she suggested I get 10 years of experience before launching my own company,” Leles reflects. “This seemed like a long time, but I agreed, quitting modeling and enrolling in classes on gems, design and business at the Gemological Institute of America.”

Leles then traveled to New York City, learning and graduating from the Gemological Institute of America. Heeding her mother’s advice, Leles spent over a decade working and learning from world-renowned fine jewelry brands GRAFF, De Beers and Sotheby’s. To launch the jewelry business she had dreamed about since her modeling days, London’s New Bond Street, the heart of the international fine jewelry world, was a clear-cut choice for the location of Vanleles Diamonds flagship atelier. “I came here over 20 years ago to learn English and never went back.”

Vanleles Diamonds offers a variety of jewelry styles, including rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets, each crafted by skilled jewelry makers. Leles explained that her goal is to allow the wearers of her jewelry pieces to feel “empowered, happy, and with a knowledge that we created their jewelry in the most transparent and ethical way possible.”

Pieces from The Nile Collection, inspired by Ancient Egypt.
The Nile Yellow Gold and Diamonds Fringe Earrings.
Enchanted Garden Titanium Paraiba Flower Earrings.
Legends of Africa Grand Bangle.

According to Vanleles Diamonds’ website, its “unparalleled belief in responsible mining” and commitment to the ethical sourcing of gemstones and precious metals has brought a new direction to the world of fine jewelry, one that is based in purposeful luxury and beauty.

“For my collections, and depending on which gems I need, I will mainly source them in Africa; Zambian for emeralds, Mozambique for rubies, tourmalines of all colors, Namibia for diamonds and Madagascar for pink and other multi-color sapphires,” Leles explained. “Most recently, Nigeria for blue sapphires. When I can, I travel to these locations personally to buy my gems, other times we work with suppliers that adhere to human rights policies and have strong corporate social responsibility.”

Vanleles Diamonds’ strong commitment to responsible mining and the African community is evident in its philanthropies, mainly the Malaika Foundation, a charity that seeks to empower Congolese girls and their communities through education and health programs.

“The funds we give go straight into these communities that so desperately need them, and in a very fast manner,” Leles says. “For Malaika, for instance, they only have one employee outside Congo, and no real estate rent, so the money is really going into the community and not to pay high salaries and rents in the West. We sponsor girls, and I can see tangible results directly. We chose charities that are small and the employees are on the ground.”

For an especially unique piece, Vanleles Diamonds offers bespoke consultations for custom made, handcrafted jewels. “The design process always starts with the client’s wishes.” Leles says. “During our meeting, I am able to capture their true desire, understand their lifestyle and then we embark on a unique journey to create something exceptional that will last generations to come.”

Finding friendship in diamonds allows Leles to focus on the most important things in her life — her family and business. “[I have] freedom of creations, where to source, how to send my message and freedom for being a mother of young children, I can work when I put them to bed and not miss many matches and activities,” Leles says. “But I certainly work longer and harder!”

Above: Out of Africa Fan Earrings crafted in 18k Rose Gold with Mozambican responsibly sourced rubies and rubelites.
Below: Statement Cocktail Ring
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Tidal Waves of Elegance

Featured image: ©istockphoto.com / Chinnapong

It’s time to discover these 10 extraordinarily refined places, each with distinctly different waterfront experiences.

Birmingham, Michigan

What’s tucked inside a Great Lakes luxury property? The better question is, what’s not? Aside from fantastic lakefront views, plenty of room for entertaining, and a spot for any water toys you may fancy, the area itself is famously well-known. Janine Grillo, a Keller Williams Domain Associate Broker, tells Unique Homes that the Great Lakes region is the
No. 1 freshwater boating destination in the U.S.

“The sheer size of this territory affords boaters a whole world of fun and a number of diverse places to explore on the water,” she says, noting that every day here feels like a vacation. “This summer, we are finding buyers are looking to enjoy life more, relax (and work) from home. The updated, roomy waterfront properties sell fast,” Grillo says.

Lake Tahoe, Nevada & California

“The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine. Bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be? It is the same the angels breathe,” said Mark Twain in describing Lake Tahoe. Chase International President and CEO Shari Chase characterizes it in the same way, recounting this quote from where she calls home, on the Nevada side of the iconic area.

“Lake Tahoe is a real treasure,” Chase says in painting a picture of the 22-mile-long, 12-mile-wide body of water, which is majestically surrounded by mountains. “Everything has a very spiritual essence to it here. The water is beautifully pure, with blues and crystalized greens,” she continues. The land boasts an outdoor lifestyle, where residents can easily take in treasured hiking trails, ski lodges, boating, beaches, art and more. Within one hour of the space are gems such as Virginia City, Genoa, and Jackson, California, which all are filled with wonderful recreation.

Prices here range from $3.75 million to $48 million, with most buyers prioritizing a spacious pier when considering their search.

Chase International Broker Trinkie Watson says that diversity of year-round outdoor activities, alongside good restaurants, art galleries and unique shopping are a huge draw to the area, as well as convenience to Sacramento and the Bay Area. Residents can easily take in treasured hiking trails, ski lodges, boating and beaches. “Whether it’s at the lake or on a beautiful trail in the mountains, it’s all gorgeous,” Watson says.

Londonderry, New Hampshire

The New England waterfront is known for its variety of seasonal landscapes throughout the year. Residents are able to experience the full extent of floral springs, fluttering snowflakes, peaceful waters, and crisp autumn leaves. And right now, in the summertime, the sights could not be better, says Morgan Smith, a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Verani Realty.

“We have hundreds of clean lakes with 360 degrees of spectacular scenery. Owners love to watch the loons, fish off the dock, kayak and waterski, and lazily soak in the clear, fresh water warmed by the sun,” she says. Coastal properties in New England feature properties with rocky ledges, crashing waves, and beaches that can be strolled for miles and miles.

With regard to how the market is faring, lower-than-average inventories are leaving very few properties for sale at a time. Prices of waterfront properties range from $1 million to $25 million, with buyers privy to direct access to the water, spacious frontage, and plenty of room for a watercraft, Smith says. She enjoys her daily life in the area, and wishes to share the elegance with new buyers. “I love spending time in Cape Elizabeth,” she says. “If I can be on a boat (or a hammock), and smell fresh air next to a body of water, I’m happy.”

Coronado, San Diego, California

The California oceanfront is star-studded with luxury at every turn. Coronado, San Diego is absolutely no exception. Broker Associate Scott Aurich of Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty has lived in 17 different houses throughout the town and loved every second of it. To get away from it all, Aurich enjoys his early mornings more than anything else; he spends it surfing in tranquil waters, golfing through immaculate links, or entranced by friendly creatures at the stables. He stressed that Coronado camaraderie cannot be replicated anywhere else he’s seen.

Whether it’s the unique amenities the town has to offer, the community center with a gym, or the iconic $34 million Crown Manor estate he is representing, Coronado is truly special. But his favorite piece of home, he says, is the people. “The best thing is the people; it’s hard to describe,” Aurich mentioned. He finds that the kindness of his neighbors is where he feels the most pride. It’s not just Aurich that has noticed the grandeur; the temperature of real estate in Coronado is booming, to say the least. The demand is so high that at press time, only 54 houses were for sale. “The market is white hot,” Aurich said, explaining that the value of homes has gone up exponentially in the last 20 years.

Egg Harbor, Wisconsin

Door County, Wisconsin, is a gorgeous peninsula with 250 miles of coastline — it’s surrounded by the waters of Lake Michigan on the eastern side, and Green Bay on the western side. For weekenders or vacationers, the area boasts incredible opportunities for sailing, water sports, fishing, boutiques, restaurants and quaint villages that dot the shoreline, explains Jamie Sanger, a managing broker with Coldwell Banker Realty.

The county of Door has fantastic experiences in the arts, theater, and golf courses, but most of all, it is best known for its natural scenic beauty, she tells Unique Homes. With even multimillion-dollar homes and estates selling like hotcakes, any inventory that is available is selling for well over asking price. Sanger feels that her area and the lifestyles awaiting there are in particularly high demand: “I feel the pandemic has fueled our market, in that folks want to be able to ‘get away’ from the urban areas to enjoy a more peaceful, private, and healthy lifestyle,” she continues. This is what she sees in her own hometown as well, Ellison Bay, which she says has stayed tranquil and untouched by development in recent years.

Sarasota, Florida

Over in Sarasota, Candy Swick, president and broker at Candy Swick & Company, is dazzled by the diversity of people she meets every single day. “One minute you are having a conversation with an astronaut, a rocket scientist, an author, or an international ballet virtuoso from Russia,” she says.

Swick describes the water in Sarasota as “Carribean blue,” alongside a breeze that drifts in soft and cooling. Residents can enjoy multitudes of water sports, a world-class ice skating rink where Olympic figure skaters have trained, and ballet and opera performances.

As for the price tag, luxury homes are running from $2 million to
$20 million. Houses are frequently selling the day they enter the market, at list price or often in a situation with multiple offers. A typical bayfront home in Sarasota starts at $2.5 million, where buyers can view the magic, nightlife, and restaurants outlining the entire city. “We know that if an individual desired to enjoy a new restaurant for lunch and another for dinner, it would take more than a year to explore them all,” Swick said.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

“Think of a place that has beautiful beaches, with crystal-clear water and clean, silky-smooth sand; a place that is known as the yacht capital of the world, with spectacular vessels cruising in daily through the port,” says Shai Mashiach, a Coldwell Banker Realty agent, in painting a picture of his beloved home.

He notes that in the bustling housing market, several waterfront neighborhoods in Fort Lauderdale are in high demand; particularly Las Olas and Harbor Beach, where prices start in the millions. Mashiach noted the convenience of the area as well; it’s only a one-hour boat ride to the Bahamas, a 30-minute drive south to Miami or north to Palm Beach, and one hour to the Florida Keys. “It’s a place that has the best restaurants, great nightlife, and magnificent people from around the globe,” he continued.

As far as his personal favorite to-dos, Mashiach and his family enjoy quality time on the water, fishing, or docking at a favorite restaurant on the Intracoastal for a spectacular meal. “From yoga on the beach to amazing deep-water fishing, Fort Lauderdale has a wonderful ambiance and everything you need to enjoy life,” he says.

Cozumel, Mexico

Cozumel, Mexico is known as one of the top scuba diving destinations in the world. A hundred-plus feet of visibility in the pristine, cobalt water is perfect for a deep dive, whether you’re a novice or expert. “The clarity of the water is just extraordinary,” says Cindy Case, a Realtor with Douglas Elliman. The island takes pride in differentiating itself from the mainland; as opposed to cities like Cancun, Cozumel boasts a private, more intimate community.

“It’s a unique, small island with a very relaxed vibe,” Case says. Yet, this does not eliminate the availability of ample restaurants, shopping, and hospital care. There are many properties available for sale along the water, and well-priced at that. Case notes the affordability of property on such a prime Caribbean island. When recalling her favorites, Case enjoys beach hopping along the backside of the island; she treasures the chain of beautiful, wide, white-sand beaches with restaurants and bars.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Picture year-round warm weather and sunshine, vast cultural diversity and delicacies, and a fabulous cosmopolitan lifestyle when thinking of residential life in Honolulu, Hawaii, says Tracy Allen of Coldwell Banker Realty.

“Breathtaking hikes along the Ko’olau mountain ranges and scenic coastal trails offer incredible vistas second to none. Visitors and residents love the vast cultural foods found in Hawaii, and come to the island to enjoy many different dining experiences,” Allen describes.

For purchases on the water, prices start at around $6 million, and can range from $8 million to $20 million as well. Allen says that waterfront homes in the area have generally been built within the last 10 years, and include modern touches such as lighter wood tones, smart technology, gyms, home offices, and large, professional kitchens.

Surfing, paddle boarding, kite surfing, jet skiing, and canoe paddling are just a few activities keeping residents entertained. Allen wants buyers to know: if you’re looking for a diverse experience, Hawaii is for you. And when asked her perfect way to spend a day, her answer is simple; “The beach! You can never go wrong with our turquoise crystal-clear waters!”

Kaua’i, Hawaii

In another part of the islands, luxury on Kaua’i translates to “soulful” according to Hawaii Life broker Neal Norman. It is that very soul and heart that keeps residents smiling in the sunshine, just as Norman found himself when he moved in 25 years ago.

“We’re seeing purposeful buyers who want to live the lifestyle: that luxury, soulful living that Kaua’i provides,” Norman says. In the North Shore region where he is located, buyers and sellers are connected on the ocean view at a variety of prices, ranging from $3 million to $50 million. Dream homes are purchased on the daily in this blue-sky paradise, where residents can spend quality time with loved ones and friends.

Offering numerous outdoor endeavors, hiking, surfing, sailing, snorkeling, swimming, beach combing and biking are just a few of the fantastic opportunities in Kaua’i. “Buyers are finding solitude and serenity on this little island in the Pacific Sea,” Norman says. “Kaua’i is a rare and special place.”

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE UH Summer ’21 ISSUE OF UNIQUE HOMES. TO SEE THE DIGITAL VERSION OF THIS STORY, CLICK HERE.

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Completing the Collection

Featured image ©istockphoto.com / AntonioGuillem

New technology and the need to adapt have transformed the traditional feel of museums and galleries around the world.

From smartphones to staying at home, the way we experience art has metamorphosed into something more comprehensive.

In a world ruled by social media, viewers are allowed an inside look into the lives of artists all over and their unique way of making art. Everything from gathering materials, to creating pieces, to live streaming exhibits are available. Now, we’re getting an inside look at entire collections, and it’s easy and accessible.

In Rotterdam, Netherlands, and part of the lush, rosebush-filled Museumpark, is the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. The museum displays an incredibly diverse collection of art and right beside it, donned in over 1,500 mirrored panels is the museum’s depot.

“Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has a collection of more than 151,000 artworks but — like all museums worldwide — only displays between 6 to 8 percent in the galleries. The remaining objects are kept in storage facilities, closed to the public,” says Ina Klaassen, museum director of Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen. The first of its kind, the depot will transform the way visitors view the museum’s collection.

The Musée du Louvre has never before been so accessible. The museum’s most obscure and most well-known pieces are just a click away.

©istockphoto.com / TomasSereda

Open since autumn 2021, the depot creates a one-of-a-kind opportunity in the art world. “The entire collection will be accessible to the public — a world first — and will be stored at a single location next to the museum,” according to Klaassen. Even the building itself is a masterpiece. Created by the architects of MVRDV — a global architecture practice — the mirrors brilliantly reflect the surrounding museumpark, which allows the depot to seamlessly blend into the existing cityscape.

Certainly not alone in their quest to enhance the art world, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, France is also striving for something similar. The museum has moved the impressive entirety of its collection to an online platform and launched a new website, which extends the experience for those who have already visited or hope to visit in the future. “Today, the Louvre is dusting off its treasures, even the least-known,” according to Jean-Luc Martinez, president/director of the Musée du Louvre. “For the first time, anyone can access the entire collection of works from a computer or smartphone for free, whether they are on display in the museum, on loan, or in storage.”

The architects of MVRDV have created an iconic building, giving a boost to the Rotterdam Museumpark. The choice to use mirrors came with the idea to make the surrounding park appear bigger, integrating the building into the landscape.

Photo by Ossip van Duivenbode.

Even prior to the pandemic, museums, galleries, and artists were working to bring art from all over the world to the masses. The British Museum, in partnership with the Google Cultural Institute, created a highly interactive timeline through history with the option to explore multiple eras, continents, and cultures throughout history and art. The Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum offers virtual exhibits that take advantage of the additional space for lengthier descriptions and personal narratives from artists.

These innovative techniques continue to expand the way we experience museums and galleries. “A museum and the new publicly accessible art depot are very different,” says Klaassen. “The museum has three main functions: namely the displaying of a collection in an art/historical context, as well as conserving and researching it. The museum is the showroom, the depot is behind-the-scenes.”

The idea that an entire collection can be available is a glimpse into the future of art and adds an element of freedom when viewing it. 

Typically, art in a closed depository is not accessible to the public; only a small, select group has the privilege. Approximately 95-percent of the Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen is open to the public where they can “witness museum activities such as the packaging of objects out for loan and other conservation and restoration activities,” says Klaassen. 

These new types of displays and virtual tours extend the art — even the most prestigious pieces — to the far corners of the world. “The dynamics in the depot will be different from those of the museum: in the museum, exhibitions are presented, whereas the depot allows for the visitor to explore the collection of more than 151,000 objects in whatever way they like,” adds Klaassen.

France’s iconic museum has integrated an interactive map and its website allows visitors to easily navigate through different mediums, themes, or even specific rooms in the museum. “The Louvre’s stunning cultural heritage is all now just a click away,” says Martinez. Each entry is a comprehensive display of the piece, with data such as the title, artist, inventory number, dimensions, materials and techniques, date and place of production, object history, current location, and bibliography included.

For the first time in history, the art in the Musée du Louvre is accessible for viewers at any time. It is suddenly possible for visitors who missed an exhibit or simply wish to revisit a piece to do just that. These changes are shifting the relationship between art and viewers to a new level, which will only elevate the overall experience of museums and galleries. “I am sure that this digital content is going to further inspire people to come to the Louvre to discover the collections in person,” says Martinez.

The Musée du Louvre’s new website is also a place where original content is made accessible for both in-person and virtual visitors, such as live and recorded podcasts, lectures, and concerts, web series, animated stories, filmed exhibition walk-throughs, interviews, and more. “We look forward to welcoming the public to join us on a journey behind the scenes and experience all facets of working with such a high-end art collection,” notes Klaassen about the depot.

The sleek, modern design of the exterior continues inside the depot. Once inside, visitors will have the option for guided tours or to explore the building independently and peek inside restoration studios and other spaces normally closed to the public.

Photo by Ossip van Duivenbode;

Rendering courtesy of Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen

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Car-Free Communities

Culdesac will be the first neighborhood-scale community with zero residential parking, which will allow for more open spaces that can be used for socializing, events, and getting to know your neighbors.

Rendering by Opticos Design.

A five-minute city, car-free and golf cart centered communities are gaining momentum around the United States, from Port Aransas, Texas, to Tempe, Arizona.

With plenty of extra outdoor space, Culdesac will hold over 150 events per year, including concerts, food trucks on the plaza, outdoor yoga classes, and more that guests can enjoy close to home.

Rendering by Opticos Design.

Automobiles have long been a symbol of freedom and advancement, making it easy to overlook the strain they put on our communities and the environment. Even smaller cities are battling noise and air pollution as the number of cars per household increases. Long commutes, congested traffic routes, parking fees, and pollution have all encouraged a whole new way of thinking when it comes to cars.

Culdesac, in Tempe, Arizona is the first car-free community in the United States that has been built from top to bottom around the idea that cities can be made better. “The vision has always remained the same — to build cities for people and not cars,” says Culdesac’s general manager, Lavanya Sunder. Space that is typically reserved for roads, parking lots, and individual parking has been completely rethought in this rental apartment community. Parking lots and garages have been replaced with wide-open spaces that offer everything from fire pits and hammocks to water features and inviting courtyards.

Tempe, Arizona, offered the ideal canvas for a project like Culdesac. “We chose Tempe for its thriving job market, proximity to transportation, and forward-thinking, action-oriented local government,” says Sunder. These are among the added benefits when considering a car-free community.

“By removing parking lots, we were able to see all of the possibilities, twice the retail, triple the open space, and 55-percent landscape coverage, compared to less than 20 percent from comparable developments,” notes Sunder.

The community was designed as a five-minute city, meaning everything residents might need is within reach and life is at your front door. “Homes at Culdesac all open up to vibrant shared courtyards, versus impersonal hallways in traditional apartment complexes,” says Sunder. Seemingly small details such as this contribute to the overall atmosphere that is created when a place urges its residents to slow down. “Community is a key component of Culdesac. Culdesac will have over 150 events per year, including concerts, food trucks on the plaza, outdoor yoga classes, and more.”

Communities such as Culdesac are finding that residents are drawn to the idea of knowing their neighbors again. A notion that hasn’t been overlooked in other communities around the United States. Port Aransas, Texas, is a beautiful beach destination that is like traveling back in time. The eclectic atmosphere is entirely accessible by golf carts, including the 18 miles of beach, with spacious boardwalks that accommodate the carts and encourage foot traffic. The use of golf carts decreases traffic, noise and pollution, and creates a very relaxed pace around the island. Cinnamon Shore, the 1,000-acre, master-planned beachfront community is very walkable and designed with families in mind who want to enjoy the small-town feel in Port Aransas.

A private luxury community, Haig Point, on the northern end of Daufuskie Island in South Carolina is only accessible by ferry, and the island is almost entirely car-free. Residents and guests never have to worry about traffic, stopping for gas, or finding a parking space, as the island runs mainly on golf carts. Similarly, Fire Island, across the Great South Bay from Long Island, New York, is another popular summer retreat that functions smoothly without cars. Bikes, golf carts, and jet skis are the best way to experience the Fire Island’s top-tier accommodations.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, “the mean number of vehicles in households is 1.9 personal vehicles…. Thus, it appears that households on average have more vehicles than drivers.” American cities, from New York to San Francisco, are struggling to provide enough space to merely park all of these vehicles, nevermind drive them.

Our personal space, green space, shared space, and even sidewalks have decreased significantly over the years as the need to accommodate a growing number of automobiles increases. 

Communities such as Culdesac are hoping it is time for the urban form to be rethought and upgraded. “We also will have an “Extend Your Home On-Demand” Program,” says Sunder. 

Communities such as Cinnamon Shore in Port Aransas, Texas, are embracing the idea that guests want a slower pace without sacrificing accessibility.

©istockphoto.com / IR_Stone

Car-free and golf cart centered communities are designed for those looking to reconnect with the outdoors and spend less time stuck in traffic.

©istockphoto.com / 300dpi

 “Residents will have access to a variety of bookable spaces to allow them to expand and contract their home as needed.” A modern way of living has melded with the traditional idea of small-town communities. “Culdesac will have bookable guest suites, podcast studios, hosting spaces, and day-use office spaces to allow your home to adjust to your needs,” Sunder explains. “Why pay for a guest room 365 days a year, when you only use it a few times a month?”

Forever shifting to accommodate the residents’ needs, a car-free community like Culdesac is ideal for many people, even during these changing times amidst a pandemic. “The idea of life at your front door makes Culdesac Tempe a place that a variety of people with different needs are interested in — young professionals, students, families, remote workers, retirees, empty nesters, et cetera,” says Sunder. More spacious apartments and public workspace are functional for those residents who are working remotely, as they also don’t have to worry about commuting into an office every day. Since the pandemic, “we’ve seen increased interest from folks particularly from New York and San Francisco, and 50 percent of our waitlist are people coming from outside Arizona,” notes Sunder.

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Glass Ceilings: Designed to be Broken

Cover image: ©istockphoto.com / Rost-9D

In the male-dominated field of architecture, women struggle to overcome institutionalized barriers to gender equity.

At her eponymous New York City studio, architect Nina Cooke John creates sophisticated spaces through “high-impact” residential architecture.

Nina Cooke John photo by Ball & Albanese; Below photo by Lisa Russman Photography.

Courtrooms are increasingly occupied by women attorneys and even judges, and world-class hospitals have no shortage of women physicians. But, regrettably, the profession of architecture remains nearly as male-dominated as the halls of the U.S. Senate or Fortune 500 boardrooms. In a field that demands both artistic achievement and construction expertise, gender equity has been painstakingly slow.

There are certainly some bona fide celebrity women architects, such as Jeanne Gang who is dramatically redefining the skyscraper, and Elizabeth Diller whose firm of Diller Scofidio + Renfro created The High Line in New York and The Broad in Los Angeles. They follow Zaha Hadid, the trailblazing Pritzker Prize-winning designer who passed in 2016. The prominence of these women has inspired a new generation of female architects, but that path is still laden with roadblocks.

Despina Stratigakos, Ph.D., vice provost for inclusive excellence and professor of architecture at the University at Buffalo, states, “Architecture is a male-dominated profession by design,” and explains that there was strong pushback when women first started entering the field 140 years ago. “The justifications given then for excluding them from practice, revolving around women’s negative ‘feminine’ influences, became embedded as core values of the professional culture,” says the professor, who reports that a deep-seated bias against women’s abilities continues today.

Stratigakos’ 2016 book, Where Are the Women Architects? was partly inspired by the emergence of a new movement seeking greater gender equity in the profession. “I wanted to raise awareness of this long-standing question and of the voices of activists pushing for answers today,” she explains. “Women have long advocated for greater diversity in architecture, but too often have been ignored by the profession’s leaders,” says Stratigakos.

The professor cites statistics that reflect approximate gender parity among students enrolled in accredited architecture programs in the U.S. but that is not, however, indicative of women’s advancement in the profession after graduation. “Although the gap has shrunk between the numbers of men and women studying architecture, racial and ethnic disparities are slower to change,” adds Stratigakos, who notes that Black women are sorely underrepresented in architecture schools. 

While challenges for women of color can be dispiriting, voices like Nina Cooke John provide inspiration for those entering the field. The Jamaican-born architect, whose New York-based Studio Cooke John specializes in “high-impact” residential architecture — she explains the concept as maximizing and customizing every square inch of the spaces she describes as “machines for living” — and public art.

Cooke John, whose impressive resume includes degrees from Cornell and Columbia, was included in Dwell magazine’s “13 Extraordinary Women in Design and Architecture You Need to Know.” Following faculty positions at Syracuse University and Parsons School of Design, she has returned to Columbia to teach architecture, making the professor well suited to counseling young women entering the field. Informed by her experience as one of the few Black women in her class at Cornell, she advises, “It’s important to speak out and create your own community because support is paramount to your success.” She suggests that if students who feel isolated cannot find that support on campus, they should reach out to practitioners or minority-based professional associations for mentorship. 

After practicing and teaching extensively, Cooke John created her own firm with another woman architect — both mothers of young children who appreciated the flexibility most large firms could not provide — and eventually went solo. She reports, “For many women, it’s about finding your voice and creating an environment that’s difficult to find in a male-dominated firm.” Suggesting women tend to approach the profession differently, Cooke John reports, “When women interact with clients, it’s not so often about ego but listening to the clients and responding to their needs.”

“We interact with the built environment constantly, and while some people view it as in the background, it’s really the foreground of everything we do,” says Cooke John, who adds, “When people engage with one another in public spaces, community-building is much stronger.” Her foray into public art installations further advances her philosophy of placemaking, which transforms relationships between people and the human-made environment.

Julia Gamolina is director of strategy at Trahan Architects, an international firm with offices in New Orleans and New York, whose portfolio includes prominent educational, sports and performing arts venues. She is also founder and editor-in-chief of Madame Architect, an online magazine that celebrates the achievements of women in the field and serves as a digital mentor to young professionals. Explaining that challenges for women are exacerbated by influences beyond their own architectural firms’ cultures, Gamolina observes, “Most professions dealing with the built environment, such as commercial real estate, construction and engineering, tend to be even more male-dominated than architecture.”

The editor of Madame Architect not only laments the lack of gender equity in her industry, but suggests progress is unlikely to be swift. “It’s slow to change because architecture itself takes a long time, from financing and government approvals to design and construction,” explains Gamolina, another accomplished Cornell alumna. She reports the numbers of women in leadership positions is more anemic than overall female participation in the industry, but notes some women start their own firms after becoming mothers.

Other women, reports Gamolina, drop out of the rigorous profession when they have their first child because employers do not offer sufficient flexibility. “It’s not a motherhood problem at all,” insists the architect and journalist, who maintains that lack of flexibility applies equally to fathers and even caretakers of elderly parents. One potential dividend from the pandemic was the recognition by employers that staff can be fully productive working outside the office.

Gamolina believes young women need to understand there are exciting roles awaiting them in architecture beyond design itself, and points to her own director of strategy position at Trahan Architects. “Madame Architect showcases all the career possibilities within the field,” she explains, citing specialties in administration, communications and marketing.

Rosa Sheng is a principal at SmithGroup, whose 15 offices create cultural centers, master-planned cities and mixed-use projects around the globe. Sheng also serves as her firm’s director of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, and is founding chair of the Equity by Design Committee created by the San Francisco chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

 

Julia Gamolina is director of strategy for Trahan Architects — the Coca-Cola Stage at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre is a signature project — and is also editor-in-chief of Madame Architect.

Photo of Julie Gamolina by Lily Olsen; Theater photo by Leonid Furmansky.

Equity by Design has conducted three pivotal research studies with the most recent, in 2018, involving a survey of more than 14,000 architecture school graduates. For Sheng, therefore, anecdotal stories from her colleagues are supported by hard data. Her research reveals several “pinch points” in the careers of women architects: pathways to licensure, access and opportunities to leadership positions, caregiving navigation/reconciliation, and pay equity for similar roles or positions. Her committee’s early work focused on the “missing 32 percent,” referring to the attrition rate between women architecture school graduates and those who became licensed.

After giving birth to her second child during the Great Recession, Sheng was experiencing one of those pinch points. “I felt like I couldn’t be a good parent or a good architect,” she recalls defeatedly, and adds, “People say there are barriers, but you don’t believe it until you experience them.” In challenging times, women leave the profession, something Sheng herself considered even after years of success. But her work with Equity by Design has provided a new purpose to complement her passion for the discipline. “It’s that feeling of being swept away by the excitement, like, ‘Wow! There’s something here we can influence and help to change,’” explains the activist architect.

Sheng reports, “In addition to Equity by Design, there are many more women in architecture leading efforts to share experiences, celebrate achievements for justice and equity in the profession, and inspiring a more diverse demographic of architectural practitioners.” She cites organizations like 400 Forward, a nonprofit that inspires women of color to become architects.

“Your success will not be determined by your gender or your ethnicity, but only on the scope of your dreams and your hard work to achieve them.” This is not just any motivational trope, but the words of the great Zaha Hadid, who overcame challenges on both fronts.

Rosa Sheng, a principal at SmithGroup — the UC Davis Teaching and Learning Complex is a recent project — was founding chair of the Equity by Design Committee.

Photo by Scott R. Kline; Building renderings courtesy of SMITHGROUP.

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Personalized Pergolas

Cover photo by Scott Selzer.

Customized pergolas bring the best of the indoors out — whether used as an airy yoga studio, home theater, or al fresco living space.

The pergola, an outdoor structure with support beams and a decorative roof design, is a great way to extend living space and increase the amount of time spent outdoors. Providing shade on a hot day, pergolas are traditionally associated with entertaining in the spring, summer or fall. Now, one company’s personalized, high-tech pergola with a fire pit, hanging heaters, and retractable, vinyl screens can extend the outdoor season into Northern winters as well.

StruXure creates custom exterior pergolas with wind, rain, snow, and freeze sensors that automatically activate the pergola to open, close, pivot, and slide. CEO and Chief Product Architect Scott Selzer was a middle school teacher working part time in construction, until he discovered a niche market in the construction industry — the pivoting louvered-roof structure that could be controlled and customized by its users.

The system can be operated through voice commands by integrating technology such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. “You’re in control of the weather instead of the weather being in control of you,” Selzer says.

When the weather is warm, the  screens will open to allow fresh air to fill the space. The louvers pivot 170 degrees; open and close the louvers as the sun shifts in the sky to ensure maximum comfort.

“Bringing the indoors out can change the way you live,” Selzer says. “The Pergola X and Cabana X serve as an extension of the home, making it possible to spend more of your life outdoors.”

“To me, a pergola is a really cool, personal space,” Seltzer adds. “I’ll go under my Pergola X with my laptop and it’s a great place to get work done.”

Made from fully extruded aluminum, the structure can be used as a home office, outdoor kitchen, workout area, or an additional living or dining space. Selzer has even created an outdoor home theater, complete with motorized screens, an integrated projector, and stadium seating. “I’ve seen it all,” he says. “If you can think it, you can do it.”

The Cabana X is a freestanding structure that can be taken down at any time and does not need to be professionally installed.

Photo courtesy of Cabana X.

The TraX system allows shades, screens, and lights to be seamlessly integrated into the anatomy of the pergola.

From small patios to large decks, the Pergola X can be a great addition to any outdoor space. This structure was built to open, close, pivot, and slide at the touch of a button.

Photos by Shaye Price.

The TraX system allows shades, screens, and lights to be seamlessly integrated into the anatomy of the pergola. Clients can incorporate curtains, speakers, and ceiling fans as well.

Pergolas can be customized to match any architectural style to ensure the structure will blend effortlessly with the rest of the property. Add corbel ends for a more traditional look, or wrap the columns with rough cut cedar for a rustic, woodsy design.

“By itself, the pergolas look super modern, but you can really customize the product to look like it fits right into any aesthetic,” says Selzer.

When asked what advice he’d offer first-time buyers, Selzer says, “I would challenge homeowners, designers, and architects to think about how the structure will function in the backyard and how the homeowner will live in and use the space. Before the structure is built, consider the accessories that you’ll want — such as motorized screens, heaters, and misting systems. Then, uniquely design the pergola to meet those needs.”

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Elite Agent: Mariann Cordova

Mariann Cordova

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties

111 Corporate Dr., Suite. 210, Ladera Ranch, CA 92694
Phone: 949-307-4040 | mc@southorangecountyliving.com | www.marianncordova.agent.bhhscalifornia.com

Mariann is a multi-award-winning Realtor and marketing expert with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties. Her goal always has been successful marketing of residential properties, employing professional ethics, sound planning, persuasive skills and a strong support system. With a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and a certificate of interior design from the Los Angeles Design Center, Mariann carries years of in-depth real estate and current market knowledge. Her fluency in English and Swedish and working knowledge of Norwegian, Danish and German are valuable assets in assisting international clients and those looking to relocate.

 

Featured Property: 23111 Maravilla Lane, Coto de Caza

Stunning Georgian Equestrian Estate on 3.7 Acres

Video: https://vimeo.com/273382691 | www.23111Maravilla.com

Brochure: https://issuu.com/marianncordova/docs/23111_maravilla

$12,900,000

 

 

Mariann Cordova originally appeared as an Elite agent in Unique Homes Spring ’21: Elite edition. See the ad here.

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