The changing face of home

It astonishes me to think that over 15 years have passed since Philippe Starck and I first discussed our initial hopes and dreams for YOO. It was the late 90s and we both felt a pull within the property market for a project that was about people. We wanted to create homes that would be the ultimate authentic experience, and appeal to a certain aesthetic mind set – as Philippe calls them, ‘the smart tribe’.

Design touches every aspect of our lives, so in a way it seems such an intuitive concept; that the home in which you live and spend many of the most important, and most vulnerable moments of your day, should be designed from the inside out. Yet this was a pioneering concept and 15 years on it still is. Desire for homes with styled-for-life quality and design prowess represents a growing market share that relatively few developers have yet responded to. Philippe and I aimed to redress the balance by teaming up with a host of iconic designers who are leaders in their field.

YOO, in its very name, has always been a way of conveying that this is your home, and your life. Rather than grafting lives into the building, our intention has always been to create a way of life that grows from within it through incredible amenity spaces, lobbies, spas and restaurants as well as the personal spaces. As Philippe says, designing with humanity, respect, honesty and humour.

I’m fascinated by how expectations of ‘home’ and ‘luxury’ are evolving. Today there are more ultra-high-net-worth individuals in the world than before the 2008 global economic crash. The number of millionaires has more than doubled. These new UNHWI’s are emerging as a driving market force within property, owning on average 2.4 second homes. In cities like Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Mumbai, St Petersberg and Buenos Aires their numbers are set to explode over the next 10 years. It’s an exciting time for us. This is a glomadic society of people with unprecedented access to travel. They are hungry for experiential luxury, and interested in buying beautiful, high profile homes that reflect their lifestyles and interests.

The property sector has been slower to the ‘brand’ party than other industries, but in recent years this area has spearheaded growth in the prime global residential market. It’s great to find ourselves at the forefront of a movement that’s still very much in its founding phase. Since we started our international reach has spread outside of the 100 cities I initially identified for us to target. Even though in India and South East Asia, branded luxury living is still in its infancy, a sizable chunk of the market share in India – approximately as much as 7% – belongs to luxury housing. The originality of what we do has huge appeal to newly affluent buyers in these emerging markets – especially those who are widely travelled and aspire to a particular level of living that they have experienced elsewhere.

In London we’ve had a front row seat to how these changes can and will shape the world over the last few years. The city has been experiencing an influx of the international wealthy seeking second homes, and change has been fast and palpable. You see it all around, from what is sold in iconic stores like Harrods to the location and growth of art galleries, luxury fashion houses and cultural hotspots. And of course there has been a 30% rise in property prices here over the last five years too.

The appeal of luxury property investment shows no sign of waning, but the luxury property market has a limited supply. Definitive architecture, prestigious interior design, luxury integrated services and amenities, privacy, security, private parking, concierge services – this is now just a list of basic expectations that we must offer our customers. There is intense competition and intelligent, insightful branding is really coming into its own. Again and again, our work has helped developers add definition to their offering by association with our familiarity, credibility and iconic flair. This year, highlights have included our YOO inspired by Starck project, YOO Montreal , which sold 45% within 72 hours of launch. In Dubai, during March, YOO Studio’s project The Atria sold out within just a five hours of its launch. These results make us immensely proud and demonstrates that connecting with a respected name or icon garners a level of trust that a customer might not otherwise feel when purchasing abroad.

Modern communications, sub-orbital travel, the sharing of ideas, products and culture through social media – every day it seems the world is getting smaller. While our ability to move about the globe more easily is exciting, as people travel more, they become increasingly homogenised, the search for a connection with our “own people” becomes more powerful. Ironically though, we’re often doing this while being physically isolated from those people at a desk, and via an internet connection, and this effect is compounded by the fragmentary, fast-flowing nature of city life. In this changing world I am proud to say that we continue to carve out a niche for creating spaces that unite people in likeminded communities, and put the most innate and key aspects of life at centre stage – family, hearth and home.

How lucky we are! We work on some of the best developments, the most interesting projects, with the best designers on the planet. We travel to wonderful places, create beautiful objects and projects. Our 15th year has been an exciting one, with the launch of our YOO Home furniture brand in Harrods, and a new phase where a number of YOO Hotels are soon set to open. I look forward with enthusiasm to the next 15 years.

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