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September 2007

Ultra-Luxury Sets New Standards
By Joanna Posner

As technology changes the way we do business (think BlackBerries and iPhones) and an environment-conscious society influences our buying choices, it’s no surprise that our homes are evolving with the tides. But nowhere is this more evident than in the multimillion-dollar home market—a segment that’s not only embracing the most opulent design trends but is also demonstrating how technology and green materials help further the lap of luxury.

While there may be a misconception about going green, in that you can’t have an elegant home that’s also an eco-friendly one, that’s simply not the case anymore.

“Going green can be done, and it can be done beautifully,” says Lisa Wilson-Wirth, president and owner of Arclinea San Diego, a full-service kitchen design firm that targets affluent buyers.

Materials Built To Last
At Arclinea, green kitchens are second nature, and the firm’s solid ray cabinets are a prime example. “Solid ray is 100% homogeneous, which means it’s a solid acrylic panel, is fully recyclable, and UV- and scratch-resistant,” says Wilson-Wirth. Arclinea’s stainless steel, too, has green properties. It’s hygienic, manufactured from partially recycled steel, and the material that’s produced is fully recyclable.

Arclinea’s eco-friendly kitchens are so elegant, in fact, that the firm just designed a family yacht with solid ray and stainless steel materials in tow.

“All the constructive components of our cabinetry are also fabricated from ecological panels,” adds Wilson-Wirth. “These panels are manufactured from 100% recycled and regenerated wood, and they’re superior to general wood products. They’re water-resistant, durable and don’t warp.”

Indeed, durability is at the core of Arclinea’s green products. Whether solid ray, stainless steel or other cabinetry, these materials are designed in such a way to last 100 years. “We want to reduce your environmental footprint, so with our kitchens, your need to replace and put a drain on resources is diminished.”

Technology’s Helping Hand
Ironically, in today’s luxury homes, some high-tech products help serve the environment. As a bonus, they also save homeowners where it counts—in the pocketbook. For example, tankless water heaters, which deliver hot water on demand. Monty McCullough, owner of McCullough-Ames Development, explains, “You only burn fuel when you turn on a shower or turn on a dishwasher—that’s where the energy efficiency comes in.”

Equally energy efficient are photovoltaics—a solar power technology that converts light from the sun directly into electricity. McCullough says the larger estate homes really benefit from photo¬voltaics and could save about $500 per month. Now that’s lowering your carbon footprint.

What’s more is that photovoltaics don’t impact curb appeal. Don Jacobs, president of JZMK Partners, an architectural and planning firm, says, “Photovoltaics are visually integrated with the roof, so they’re not an eyesore.”

Also saving high-end homeowners on the energy bill are kitchens and other areas chock-full of brand-new appliances. “New appliances are almost all energy-star appliances,” says Jacobs, “whether your kitchen appliances, or your washer and dryer, you’re going to be saving.”

Joan Marcus-Colvin, vice president of sales and marketing for John Laing Homes, says her team is committed to green building. This is evidenced by the laundry list of eco-friendly features at John Laing’s Sentinels at Del Sur—from exceeding Title 24 by 15 to 20% to landscaping designed to minimize water usage. “So the Sentinels has less grass and more drought-tolerant planting.”

To take water savings a step further, though, both McCullough and Marcus-Colvin have been installing satellite irrigation controls. The device, otherwise known as Weathertracker, hooks up to your irrigation system, and the satellite updates the irrigation system based on current weather conditions. In other words, if it’s going to rain, then the irrigation turns itself off. (Although Weathertracker is not at the Senitnels, Marcus-Colvin says her division is providing them in other communities.)

The Fabulous Life of Multimillionaires
There was a day when a media room with theater seating was an indulgence—even in luxury homes. But not today. “The home theater is now expected in our price range,” says Marcus-Colvin, “and it’s a matter of how many, not if you want one.” So with multiple media or entertainment centers—not to mention a 4,000-plus-square-foot home—it’s only natural that homeowners would expect a home automation system. Combining audiovisual, light control, security, and air and heating, home auto-mation systems allow homeowners to manage everything by the touch of a keypad, whether that’s in the home, from your cell phone or the internet. Home¬¬owners can even manage the movement of their automated window coverings, so as the movie is scheduled to go on, the draperies are set to close.

A wired-world aside, according to the American Institute of Architects, two other growing trends in home design are a desire for a single-floor design and less formal living spaces with a more open layout. And McCullough couldn’t agree more. He emphasizes that affluent consumers are selling their big two-story homes in droves and going the way of the single story.

Within the single-story layout, the inclination toward less formal dining areas is making dining rooms more obsolete. In McCullough’s homes, for example, the large 12-foot islands are replacing the breakfast nook, and the breakfast nook is now the new dining room. “These nooks are huge,” says McCullough. “You can put 10 to 12 people in a breakfast nook.”
As homebuilders meet the demand for a more open layout, the line between kitchen and living room is blurred—what Marcus-Colvin refers to as the great-room configuration. “As the kitchen opens up into the great room, it provides for more lifestyle spaces for family and entertainment,” she adds.

And when people are showing off their kitchen as they do with a great-room configuration, Wilson-Wirth says more and more people are moving toward a fully built-in kitchen, where everything—including all appliances—is hidden behind flushed cabinets. “There are more furniture-like details in the kitchen,” she notes, “so the kitchen retains the elegance of the living room.”

As JZMK’s Jacobs points out, “People don’t want to look at a refrigerator door, but if the whole kitchen is filled with nicer cabinet pieces, the refrigerator just looks like another cabinet door.”

With all these bells and whistles, the benefit is two-fold: There’s immediate value by creating a space that’s uniquely tailored to your lifestyle, while also being able to turn a profit in the future. “San Diego has always had an incredibly high return on investment, particularly for high-end projects,” Wilson-Wirth says. Where owners of multimillion-dollar homes can go from here is anyone’s guess, but at least the investment in everything from high-end toys to environmentally safe products makes it well worth the journey.

What’s Hot
Recycled materials for kitchen cabinets and tile
Tankless water heater
Solar panels
Weather-sensitive irrigation sprinkler systems

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