Luxury homes are not just about Italian marble, Swarovski chandelier, designer upholstery and plunge pool. Elevator, well-equipped gym, massage room, versatile space for parties, multi-level garage and wet-and-dry kitchens are some of what the rich and chic seek to incorporate while planning their homes.

Is this a house? Or a hotel? The question lurks in my mind as I step into a newly-constructed villa in an upscale locality in Chennai. From the spacious contemporary-styled formal living room with streamlined ivory-hued furniture, the space flows seamlessly into a lounge area where an all-glass elevator glistens from a corner. A sliding French door with remote-controlled blinds on the right opens to a painstakingly-preened lawn that leads to a swimming pool. From the poolside you have access to the gym and massage room. Plush indoor pen for the poodle with direct throw from the air conditioner, tiered garage, jamming room for the musically-inclined kids, primary and secondary kitchens… the list of add-ons sound preposterous. But that’s what makes luxury living so different from what it was even a decade ago, when all that mattered to make a statement were flamboyant furniture, oxidised antiques and imported marble.

It’s an era of specialisation. Luxury homes are increasingly designed to specific needs. Builders, architects and interior designers assert it’s not about snob value, but about genuinely feeling the need for these value additions. “Today’s clients are well informed and constantly updated about global trends, facilities and features. They are willing to pay for high-end international features and specifications. The result, an all-new luxury experience,” says Anand Nagpal, CMD, RFPL Properties.

Whether it is an independent home, villa or spacious apartment, the accent is now on taking luxury to another level. People are looking beyond the mandatory branded faucets and modular kitchens for that extra something to make a home special and individualistic. “Upscale in today’s environment is about making a living space as bespoke as possible. It’s about addressing the client’s tomorrow’s needs today,” says Gaurav Goenka of Adroit Urban Developers. “And that starts from efficient space design, which I see as the next big thing.”

Indeed space spells luxury. And that’s why lavish private parties at home are haute and happening these days. Builders are keen on incorporating party spaces in well-laid out landscaped terraces and sprawling gardens. Vijay Shanthi’s ongoing project The Art in upmarket Nungambakkam has a “special garden space that doubles as entertainment area.” According to Suresh Jain, MD, Vijay Shanthi Builders Ltd., “It’s the ‘x’ factor that counts. It can be about allocation of space for private terrace and large balconies or providing facilities such as party lawn, barbeque area, decks, gazebos and lounges.”

The two-kitchen concept is another trend that clients and promoters are gravitating to. “It’s an international trend that’s catching on real fast. It’s practical and allows hassle-free maintenance,” says Nagpal. According to architects/interior designers, the two-kitchen concept is usually executed in homes spanning over 4, 000 sq. ft. The dry one is open to the family room/dining room and features appliances, refrigerator, cooking range for heating, etc. It’s usually a clutter-free modular unit. The wet kitchen is where the heavy-duty cooking and washing take place and the smells are sealed there!

When buyers are talking plan, they are obviously thinking long-term, considering the increasing demand for residential elevators. The non-invasive installation process, compact size, pricing (Rs. 4 lakh upwards) and range of finishes to suit different decors make them a much-sought-after fixture in new homes. It’s a practical solution when mobility is a concern or when you have to carry a lot of weight. Most villas coming up in the city have elevators. People building independent homes too have them on their list of priorities.

That the future is about “smart homes” is evident from the features builders offer. When Akshaya Ltd. launched its 38-floor Abov, wide publicity was given to the touch pad controls. Trend-watchers reveal that this is a new dimension to luxury — to sit in one place, control and monitor the entire home!

Centralised music with touch pad controls, panic switches in bedrooms and even glass-break detectors are add-ons now provided by promoters like the AR Group.

Customised gym, spa, massage and yoga rooms are other aspects that add to the wow factor in affluent living. This is usually a discreet space that’s functional in purpose and motivating in décor. Spa with Jacuzzi, massage room with specialised furniture and accessories and calm-pervading yoga rooms are also becoming a huge trend.

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