1. a state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense
1. luxurious or the nature of a luxury -google
“In luxury - ubiquity will kill you. It means you’re not really luxury anymore.”
This claim by Andrea Ahrendts, the CEO of London fashion house Burberry, is a simple yet striking idea that encapsulates the ever evolving term that is luxury in design. Traditionally, luxury has been defined by exclusivity and expenditure rather than by any distinctive style or trait. This means that in general, we want to stand out whilst still maintaining that design edge over our competitors. In a world of contemporary commercial design it can be hard to pin point just what makes something luxurious without that feeling of conformity. So what happens when this so called ‘luxury’ is overused, overemployed and just too commonly inspired? A quick google search (which I’ve already included- you’re welcome) will show you that luxury can be just as ambiguous as it is perplexing; it seems so simple, yet evokes a question that anyone designing a space should ponder.
What makes my space luxurious if everyone is claiming to be luxury?
In order to understand the term in a design context, it is necessary to deconstruct our way of thinking about it. Why do certain things matter so much to certain people? I believe that luxury should be considered through a number of avenues, and many different modes of thinking exist regarding luxury in design. Through engaging with luxury in a way that tailors its very definition with your design purpose and an understanding of your customer base, it can be viewed in the following distinctive ways:
Luxury as a Feeling
A successful commercial space will exist as a combination of product, physical space, and customer experience. The feeling that a customer can attain as a result of the successful execution of these elements can lead to an overt feeling of satisfaction. Such a feeling can change from person to person, in accordance with what we value most in a commercial experience. Do you love the smell of fresh bread when you walk into your favourite artisan bakery? The ambience that surrounds you when you first enter that space can be described as a personal luxury. Similarly, the vibe you’d generally feel in Peppermint Grove would typically be different to that of somewhere like Gosnells, for example.
Luxury as an Identity
For this facet of luxury, considering people through groups based on values is useful. Whilst everyone possesses their own identity, there are design aspects that correlate with the ideologies of particular groups in different societies. So how exactly does this help you in commercial design? For example- let’s look around the globe. If we focus on central Europe, the distinct history and character of opulence emerges; specifically Italy and France. This is because their idea of luxury is historically engrained in their culture, to a point where the presentation and distribution of ‘luxury’ product holds high importance in their daily lives. Therefore, commercial spaces that foster an international clientele such as hotels may use these details in the way they shape the experience of their patrons.
Luxury as a Function
In some cultures and places, heightened functionality is seen as a luxury as it aids in the specific personal experience in a particular space. We can all agree that functionality is important in a commercial setting- in fact, it is crucial; the way we allow ourselves to operate in a professional environment will directly facilitate the manner in which we reach our business goals. This means that it is vital to tailor your space in a way that not only looks and feels great, but serves adequate purpose. Sure, that fancy desk might look great, but is that lack of storage becoming problematic?
Luxury as an Experience
Arguably one of the most important aspects of luxury, more and more business owners are aspiring to provide customers, clients, patrons and patients with the full experience. You’ve no doubt heard it before, so it makes sense that a lot of us will associate luxury with experience. In the contemporary design environment, we are tending to place more value on experience than material objects, and therefore a luxury experience is highly sought after. The good news is that it’s hard to commodify an experience in itself, which lends itself to authenticity and individuality. Many elements existing in conjunction with one another constitute an experience, however miniscule they may be…so using tailored design as a tool for a radical experience is key.
Luxury as Exclusivity
Conventionally, the perception of luxury has generally been that lavish, extravagant reflection of wealth primarily through material possession and physical objects. This, of course, is not untrue. In fact, it’s a broad definition of luxury that most people will agree on. However, a strong factor of luxury lies within its distinction and originality; that is, the way you are different to everyone else. Exclusivity by its very definition highlights a selectness and uniqueness, so when looked at through a design lens it presents a huge potential for stand out luxury that incorporates the other types of luxury that we have looked at as well. In essence, understanding the desires and needs of your customers whilst putting your own twist on your business will provide an elements of luxury that transcends the commodification of many aspects of contemporary luxury design. Did someone say supremacy?
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