By LISA KLEIN
After decades of teardowns replaced with cookie-cutter mansions and new-build homes without much thought put into them, luxury real estate is looking once more towards quality materials, custom details and master craftsmanship.
Perhaps spurred by spending a bit more time at home since 2020, the affluent are paying special attention to what goes into their homes and how long they will last.
“People are thinking much more carefully about the quality of their homes,” said Peter Pennoyer, founding partner of New York-based Peter Pennoyer Architects, during a Luxury Portfolio International webinar.
“Ultimately our clients have to decide their level of investment, but when offered a choice we find that most of our clients elect for quality and longevity,” he said.
Mr. Pennoyer was in conversation with Mickey Alam Khan, president of Luxury Portfolio, during the Luxury Hour webinar last week.
In the details
Clients of Peter Pennoyer Architects are paying much more attention to the details in their homes, from the quality of the materials used to their provenance and makers.
In a New York brownstone renovation, master plaster workers were called in to create custom moldings on walls, arches and ceilings.
“The owner was intrigued,” Mr. Pennoyer said. “They liked the story of where this came from, and they were excited to see that there was a studio of artists who could produce this kind of work.”
For a house in Palm Beach, Florida, the couple invested in bespoke materials such as glazed green roof tiles. Mr. Pennoyer traveled all the way to Italy with another client in Ohio to choose the perfect marble for his fireplace mantle.
“That tendency to be interested in how things are built, how they’re finished, where the stone comes from, where the plaster comes from, who’s making it – that’s an incredible spur to investment that we’re seeing in the residential area,” Mr. Pennoyer said.
“It does give the clients a feeling that what they own is special and unique to them,” he said.
This interest even extends to multi-family high- and mid-rise buildings.
A New York building designed by the firm was constructed entirely of limestone with custom metal windows. Another building features carved limestone on the façade, bronze doors and custom metalwork balconies.
Old is new
Mr. Pennoyer is also seeing people gravitating towards historic homes that have already stood the test of time, carefully renovating them.
“People are willing to take on houses that were once considered white elephants – incredibly beautiful but degraded, tired, unmaintained historic mansions,” he said.
“It has been typical for years, especially in very high-end markets in the suburbs around New York, that buyers simply didn’t have the appetite to invest in top end restoration. That has changed.”
The firm, which has a conservation division and often works on older homes, restored one such house north of Boston that had fallen into disrepair.
“It really does have that feeling of being an older mansion,” Mr. Pennoyer said. “We had such a great time restoring all the stonework.”
People have also been gravitating towards historic high- and mid-rises in cities, even looking for those designed by specific architects, such as a 1920s Rosario Candela co-op renovated by the firm.
“There are buildings that were once considered quite dowdy – these old co-ops,” Mr. Pennoyer said. “We’re able to renew these. It’s encouraging that clients are now sophisticated about who designed what.”
Many clients of the firm who choose to build their own home from scratch are creating their own legacy.
“We have been really lucky to have a few clients over the years who center their developments on their collections,” Mr. Pennoyer said, including American contemporary artist Jeff Koons.
One client is an avid contemporary art collector and built a family home in Ohio that centered around his collection.
“It’s sitting on top of an art gallery, which is underground,” Mr. Pennoyer said. “The land itself has 37 works of sculpture art which are considered significant in the museum world.
“This house will be deeded to the Cleveland Art Museum,” he said. “This is someone who is pursuing a passion project around his dedication to design.”
Even on a smaller scale, clients are building homes that reflect their lives and house not just them, but the things they hold dear, like that of another Peter Pennoyer client who lives outside of Cleveland.
“At first blush, it looks like it could be for an older couple, but in fact it’s for a young family,” Mr. Pennoyer said of the home. “They wanted to celebrate their life and their lifestyle and create a house where they could raise their children, with the idea that perhaps there’d be a wedding on the lawn someday.”
This dedication to a home is encouraging to Mr. Pennoyer, not only for the craftsmanship inside, but for the sustainability of something built well that will last for generations – something many say they are looking for, according to a Luxury Portfolio International report.
“That kind of long-term commitment to the real estate that seems to be increasing,” Mr. Pennoyer said.
“There is a whole category of families we work for who are looking at establishing, if not a multi-generational feeling, at least a house for life,” he said.