Luxury Trends

The All-Black Kitchen Makes A Statement In Luxury Homes

2015 design trends move away from the all-white kitchen

Luxury Kitchen - Modern Rustic


In addition to being a hub of family and social life within the home, kitchens are an important way for homeowners to make a statement about their property, identity, and taste. As a result of their place at the heart of a home, kitchens are the second most frequently remodeled room in the house—second only to bathrooms. This year, the pendulum has swung away from the popular all-white kitchen and toward the opposite extreme: the black kitchen.

Kitchen Design Goes Over To The Dark Side

In 2015, bright-red cabinets and white tile are being eclipsed by darker colors. The beginning of this trend can be seen in the stunning 2014 Kitchen of the Year, designed by designer Steven Miller for the San Francisco Decorator Showcase, which featured all-black cabinetry, dark tile backsplashes, and a steely grey ceiling. But why the turn toward darker hues? Black kitchens—or ones dominated by other dark shades—make a statement about the home and its owners: bold, strong, sleek, and luxurious. This design idea is particularly fitting for the luxury homeowner who craves a high-end kitchen that leaves a lasting impression.

Here are a few tips for incorporating darker tones into luxury kitchen design:

  • Cabinetry or countertops are perhaps the easiest way to introduce dark tones into the luxury kitchen. If all-black cabinets seem overwhelming, why not balance them out with a white marble countertop or soften the look with distressed or textured wood?
  • To darken the kitchen further, consider bringing in black or dark-colored appliances.
  • Dark wood flooring. If you want to go black but worry that the look will be too overwhelming, dark wood floors are a fantastic way to give the space a warm, rustic feel.
  • Black and green. Perhaps the only look more luscious than an all-black kitchen is a black-and-green kitchen. Apartment Therapy suggests this color combination as a way to make the black kitchen warm, earthy, and even more unique.
  • Look books. The internet is brimming with image-rich resources. Use these to show your clients just how stunning their high-end, on-trend black kitchen could be. (For example, check out this Pinterest board.)

China’s UHNWIs Invest In Top-Tier Homes & Higher Education

For luxury real estate professionals in certain markets, international buyers are a growing source of opportunity. According to the Knight Frank 2015 Wealth Report, there are 172,850 individuals globally who have a net worth of $30 million or more. An estimated 32% of an UHNW individual’s assets are invested in real estate, and that 81% of UHNWIs are most interested in the residential market. Amidst the growing pool of wealthy international investors, Chinese clients stand above the rest.

The NAR’s 2015 Profile of Home Buying Activity of International Clients showed that, for the first time ever, international buyers from China exceeded all other foreign buyers in both units and dollar volume, spending $28.6 billion on United States residential real estate last year. While Chinese buyers are undoubtedly attempting to shelter their wealth from a chaotic domestic market, reports show that they are dually motivated by an interest in the United States’ prestigious universities.

Chinese students account for approximately one third of all international students in America, and an estimated 10% of Chinese UHNWIs send their children to college in the United States. It is becoming increasingly popular for wealthy Chinese parents to invest in residential property near their child’s university, constituting a simultaneous investment in real estate and education. Chinese buyers show a strong preference for American cities on the west coast, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, which boast a wealth of educational and business opportunities, as well as relative proximity to China.

Learning To Work Effectively With Chinese Clients

Shake Bow Book Series

Chinese buyers have a unique set of customs and perspectives concerning social and business transactions. Luckily, there are many resources available to luxury real estate professionals who want the tools to attract Chinese buyers and exceed their expectations.

The Luxury Shed: So Much More Than A “Man-Cave”

She Shed
I know what you’re thinking: luxury shed? Sheds have historically been used as a place to store farm equipment, garden supplies, firewood, and seasonal sports equipment. Not so long ago, you would’ve been more likely to find a possum in a backyard shed than someone reading a novel on a rainy day! But you can forget the corrugated metal and plastic siding. Luxury homeowners today are recasting backyard sheds as a vessel for their dreams, built and decorated with the same attention to detail and quality of materials as the main household.

You Call That A Shed?

A “man cave” is a room in the house dedicated to a male head of the household—essentially a no-girls-allowed clubhouse for adult men. The trend of tricked-out sheds really took flight when homeowners began moving these so-called “man caves” out of the house and into the outdoors. The women’s equivalent, which some refer to as the “she-shed,” is becoming increasingly popular.

In general, luxury sheds are designed to provide a private hideaway for working or relaxing. (Because sometimes being behind a locked door in the same house just isn’t enough space!) Sheds also offer an opportunity for homeowners to attain the home of their dreams. If the existing floor plan doesn’t have a room with adequate space or privacy for one of the homeowner’s needs, a luxury shed can offer the perfect solution.

Some of the most popular uses for luxury sheds:

  • Cozy, private reading room complete with coffee maker
  • Gardening shed and greenhouse for growing things year-round
  • Master bathroom expansion (if you want the bath to be really relaxing, put it in a different building)
  • Woodshop, workshop, or hobby space
  • Artist’s studio for painters or sculptors
  • Recording studio
  • Backyard home office
  • Adult tree house (for the young at heart)
  • Backyard bar or cocktail lounge

Endless Possibilities

For luxury real estate professionals, sheds are a way to expand the client’s possible uses of a given space or piece of property. If you are showing a home and the client says they are looking for something closer to the forest, why not suggest a luxury shed in a secluded wooded corner of the property? If an existing luxury home doesn’t have the right space for a bar and lounge, a private office, a craft space, or a recording studio—why not inform your client about the endless possibilities afforded by luxury sheds?

The best part? They are affordable, comfortable, and customizable. Because of their small footprint, sheds can be built virtually anywhere and erected in a matter of days.

China’s NWBs: Coming to a Luxury Home Near You

According to NAR’s 2014 Profile of International Home Buying Activity, China is the second largest source of international buyers in the United States. Chinese buyers rank first in terms of dollar value of sales because they most often buy high-end luxury homes. The recent drop in Chinese stock markets, however, wiped out an estimated US$3.35 trillion of wealth. Where U.S. luxury real estate professionals are concerned, these turning economic tides might bring a change in clientele.

What’s an NWB?

Have you heard of NWBs? If not, you should make yourself familiar. The world’s fastest growing wealth segment is that of the NWBs—or “new wealth builders”—who hold financial assets between US$100,000 and US$2 million. While high-net-worth individuals (those with more than US$2 million in assets) accounted for US$43 trillion in global wealth last year, the NWB segment accounted for more than US$88 trillion. Translation: NWBs have a total of double the wealth of high-net-worth individuals! China’s NWBs, in particular, are amongst the world’s wealthiest and fastest growing economic group. It is estimated that China’s NWBs will hold double the wealth of American NWBs by the year 2020.

Most importantly, China’s NWBs seem to be fairing the economic storm better than most, and they are consequently in search of investments that protect their wealth, appreciate over time, or provide stable revenue streams. This makes them prime prospects for luxury real estate professionals in the United States.

Chinese NWBs: What They’re Looking For

A recent McKinsey Quarterly report shows that 69 million Chinese citizens possess the wealth to invest in U.S. properties. This figure is expected to reach 220 million by 2022. These numbers will likely yield an uptick in the number of Chinese buyers who invest in luxury homes abroad. In general, Chinese buyers are likely to be looking for these key features in U.S. real estate:

  • Great educational institutions. As far as Chinese buyers are concerned, education is king.
  • An expanding market with room for new businesses. Chinese buyers are looking to set down roots, and many want to open a business in the U.S. city where they buy a home.
  • Long-term ownership. Property laws in China effectively dictate that individuals hold long-term leases on properties, but can never fully own them. Chinese buyers want to own their homes outright so that they can pass them from one generation to the next.

Amongst Chinese buyers in general, NWBs are unique. Here are some things that luxury real estate professionals need to know about them:

  • Compared to individuals in the higher income bracket, NWBs are younger, more internet savvy, and more likely to rely on online resources when making investment decisions.
  • Chinese buyers take six months to research properties before they begin visiting and making purchasing decisions.
  • NWBs are more likely to look for investment opportunities in secondary cities.
  • NWBs are likely to only visit properties or work with real estate professionals that were visible online (and behind the Great Firewall of China).
  • Chinese prospects prefer to do their research in Chinese, on websites hosted in China.

China’s NWBs seem to be fairing well amidst economic upheaval and will likely be looking to make stable, long-term investments in foreign markets. For luxury real estate professionals, marketing your services and listings on Chinese sites will be paramount for reaching this growing group of international prospects.

Follow the money!

The very wealthy are on the move.  According to New York-based international  law, firm Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, which specializes in immigration services, the last ten years have seen the largest inflows and outflows of high net worth individuals (HNWI) relocating in history. In the last decade 11,000 HNWI left Switzerland, 14,000 left Russia, 32,000 left France, 43,000 left India and a huge 76,000 exited China. Many will keep assets and property in their home countries, yet most will buy real estate and set up bank accounts in their new locations, according to Fragomen.

Where did these HNWI move?  Over the same period, 212,000 relocating households and their destinations were identified by Fragomen. About 14,000 HNWI relocated to Canada, 20,000 to Hong Kong, 22,000 to Australia, 42,000 to the USA and an impressive 114,000 to the UK. The remaining 36,000 went elsewhere in the world. 


Film producer/developer building $500 million spec residence in Bel Air

Film producer and speculative residential developer, Nile Niami, is pouring the concrete for a spec residential compound including a 74,000-square-foot trophy home and three smaller companion homes which he says will hit the market at $500 million.  The project will exceed 100,000 square feet, including a 5,000-square-foot master bedroom, four pools, a 30-car garage and a “Monaco-style casino.”

If the property sells for anything close to this amount, it might set a new world record as the world’s most expensive residence sold.  The priciest home sale to date was a $221 million London penthouse which changed hands in 2011.  Competitive properties include a $425 million estate in France’s Cote d’Azur, a $400 million penthouse in Monaco and a $365 million London residence.

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High-End Security Systems: Really, Really Safe

In luxury homes, security often goes beyond a simple alarm system (and sometimes beyond the bounds of imagination). For luxury real estate professionals, it’s important to be in touch with the particular security concerns of high-end clientele, and the most popular and effective luxury home security systems available. Also, be aware that it’s commonplace for sellers to ask real estate professionals and prospective buyers to sign non-disclosure agreements covering their safe room or bunker.

Home security systems favored by high-income homeowners all share the same central goal: fast and secure isolation from potential intruders.


  • Safe rooms – The most popular luxury security option is the safe room, or panic room, which is typically centrally located so that it can be quickly and easily accessed in an emergency. There are dozens of companies that specialize in designing and installing bulletproof, entry-resistant rooms, which vary in size and comfort. To add an extra layer of security, many luxury homeowners ask that their safe room’s entrance be disguised. Companies like Creative Home Engineering specialize in customized and secure secret passageways, hiding safe room entrances behind bookshelves, mirrors, or even movable staircases. These security features could also be used to securely store your wealthy clientele’s art, valuables or guns.
  • Bunkers – Another less common security option is the bunker. Bunkers are hugely expensive and meant to withstand not only home invasion, but also natural disasters and even bombs. Bunkers are (of course) underground and typically designed to allow people to survive there for weeks or months. Check out this Forbes article about the trend of millionaire’s in-home bunkers.

There are a plethora of security solutions for luxury homeowners, but the best of today’s high-end security companies are offering all-in-one smart home technology that allows the homeowner to control things like climate, energy consumption, lighting, entertainment, and security, remotely and with ease.

Golden Visas - Real Estate Investment, Residency & Citizenship

There is an interesting article on WealthX today looking at the current trends in countries offering residency or citizenship to “immigrant investors” and in particular the shift among the Chinese from the US to the EU. The full article is worth a read. Here are some highlights:

  • In recent years 80%-90% of foreign investment visas in the US, Portugal, Canada and Australia are taken up by People’s Republic of China (PRC) nationals, but this is starting to change.
  • The US, UK, Australia and Canada are limiting some of their programs while they deal with the backlog of applications, or make them more expensive.
  • The US’ EB-5 visa requires investment of between US$500,000 and US$1 million in return for a conditional green card. There are just 10,000 of these visas issued annually and a cap on each nationality.
  • This year Canada stopped accepting applications for its immigrant investor program and the federal entrepreneur program, of which around 90 percent of applications were from China.
  • Investor programs for residence, like in Portugal, Spain, Greece, Hungary, UK, Canada, US, Australia, where the investor receives only Permanent Resident (PR) Status, are more popular in China. Under these programs it is legal for them to invest abroad and obtain PR, while applying for immediate citizenship is against the law in China.

Just for fun, here are the details on the Greek program that affords residency to real estate investors: 


Living the Multinational Lifestyle

RiseThe number of high net worth individuals in the world is increasing. Fewer of them have inherited wealth and more of them are entrepreneurs and business owners. The world has "shrunk." They are increasingly mobile, increasingly multinational, and they're looking for more than just tax shelters.

If you'd like to better understand who's buying where and why, Barclay's recent research report Wealth Insights: The Rise of the Global Citizen? (PDF) provides some interesting insights into the increasingly multinational lifestyles of the affluent.

As Barclay's puts it, "The Rise of the Global Citizen? report aims to explore the mobility of today’s wealthiest individuals, and to assess whether their choices of where to live, work, study, retire, invest and donate wealth are indicative of an increasingly international group. It also looks at key trends in the make-up of high net worth individuals, and how these are impacting mobility, financial planning, identity and philanthropic behaviour."

Check it out. It's worth a read.

OPP Reports: Chinese Sales ‘Surging’ in the US

Based on recent data from NAR, OPP News reports a spike in US real estate purcheses by Chinese buyers.

 Chinese spending on US property sold by Realtors almost doubled in the year to March 2014, jumping from US$12.8billion to US$22 billion, according to the NAR.

The sales, which were boosted by the appreciation of the Chinese Yuan, accounted for almost one-quarter of dollar overseas sales, the NAR’s 2014 Profile of International Home Buying Activity states.

Although Canadians bought more US homes, Chinese buyers spent more than double on each home, with the average Canadian median value at US$212,500 compared with US$523,148 spent by the Chinese.


One of the authors of the NAR report, Senior Vice President, Lawrence Yun, goes further, saying, “It’s just the beginning of a tidal wave."