The Meaning of Luxury

The Elite London photographed by Smartstyle Interiors

There are a few words in the interiors world that I feel are a bit overused and have lost their essential meaning. Words like boutique, filament bulb, and, most of all, the word luxury. Flip through any magazine or scroll through any blog and you’re sure to see the word luxury describing some sort of everyday item, like hand soap or towels. But if everything is so luxurious, then what exactly is luxury

I found myself pondering this as I visited The Elite London show at Biggon Hill last week where private jets, personal helicopters, super cars and yachts were common fare. Nestled amongst these treats for land, sea and sky were the interior designers, property developers, fur coats salespeople (yes, these are sadly still for sale), furniture designers, and just about everything else you may need to outfit a high-end lifestyle. 

Mayfair Design Studio showing at The Elite London and their **** chair at The Elite London

As I ogled the opulence around me, I really tried to get a handle on what, exactly, luxury is. After all, I’ve seen the word stamped on a box of biscuits at Tesco! Could eating a biscuit possibly offer the same luxurious experience as flying in a private jet? To me, the answer to this question is a resounding no and it turns out the dictionary agrees as it provides the following definition: 

luxury |ˈlʌkʃ(ə)ri|
A state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense.

Bingo! In my career, I’ve had the great pleasure of working with some truly luxurious products and for me, it’s the combination a few key factors that makes something a true luxury product. Let's take a moment to explore each one.  

Pad Lifestyle showing at The Elite London and their Pols Potten tea cups

Craftsmanship 

True craftsmanship is key in creating a luxury product and an exquisite attention to detail should be seen in every aspect. Not only does a piece of furniture need to look stunning from across the room, it should also deliver the wow-factor in every stitch, hinge, and dovetail joint. During my time at Mark Humphries, the thing I valued most about his work was that every component was thought out. I remember once opening a veneered wardrobe to find that the entire inside was upholstered in leather with drawers lined in cedar. Just the smell of the wardrobe was intoxicating! 

The luxury market is keeping old crafts alive as people with classic skills are needed to create high-end furniture and finishings. At Decorex last year, my head was turned by some beautiful straw marquetry end tables. Though the pieces were contemporary, the attention to detail and modern application of this age-old craft resulted in something truly luxurious. Of course, the hours it takes to craft a piece like this will be reflected in the price ticket– hence “involving great expense”– but this is as it should be as these skills deserve to be valued. 

Attention to detail

When it comes to luxury, building a relationship between a customer and a product is extremely important and requires a great deal of care and attention. Every single component needs to be considered and executed to the highest quality possible, even the the things that go unseen. And it’s not just the item or experience in question that needs to be perfectly executed, it’s also the way it’s delivered, which is why exceptional customer service is so important in the luxury market. It’s for this reason that I love the high-end furniture shops that offer clients a beverage to enjoy while they peruse the showroom and consider their next purchase and the way designer boutiques beautifully wrap each garment in tissue before tucking it into a sturdy shopping bag. 

Unique

Would you be interested in buying a diamond ring that looked similar to the rings worn by all your friends? Of course not. In order to be truly luxurious, a piece has to be rare or wholly unique. If the item in question is mass produced or something that everyone can have, then it loses its charm. 

A peek inside a luxury coatroom on a private jet at The Elite London

Quality

it all comes down to quality. I’m interested in the way a curtain fabric flows and drapes, the straightness of a seam on an upholstered armchair, the density of the wool in a rug. These elements need to feel elegant and sumptuous in order to be luxurious, and when they are, they make me very happy. 

I’ve worked on a number of luxurious interiors in my day, and it’s often a great deal of fun to design with such spectacular pieces. However, I know that 90% of us aren’t playing in the luxury field, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t own something that is luxurious. Sometimes a handmade candle, a bowl thrown by a local potter or a hand-knit blanket is luxurious. Even if you can’t afford an exorbitant lifestyle, you can still seek out the qualities that make products luxurious in the items you part your hard-earned cash for. Is it the same kind of luxury as a private yacht? Perhaps not, but if it’s delivering the key components that make you feel that you’re buying something truly special, then that's luxurious enough. 

Read more about craftsmanship in this post and share your interpretation of luxury in the comments!