At BoutiqueHomes, we love the idea of simple luxury. When we say luxury villas, we aren’t talking about homes with all the bells and whistles and some extra bling thrown in. But to get what we mean, it helps to look at the history – and changing meaning – of ‘luxury’.
Luxury – the state of being in great comfort at great expense – dates back to the ancient world. The Romans debated the ethics of this kind of extravagance, and how much one should be allowed to indulge in it. How far, they asked, can we go before luxury corrupts us?
For a long time, luxury was considered dangerous and capable of leading us astray. According to historian Michael Scott, “When modern English first emerged in the late Middle Ages, luxury did not mean excess or extravagance but lust.”
Over time, it came to symbolize superior quality and pampering, produced and available in small quantities for an elite group. But in the 20th century, the idea of luxury for large numbers of people took off. With the rise of super labels like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Chanel, high-end products became mass-market, logo-driven brands, available at every mall.
In 2007, writer Dana Thomas penned a book entitled Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster. The luxury industry, she said, “has become part of our social fabric. To achieve this, it has sacrificed its integrity, undermined its products, tarnished its history and hoodwinked its customers.”
She noted that a backlash was beginning – a search for real luxury and traditional quality. She cited French shoe designer Christian Louboutin as saying, “Luxury is the possibility to stay close to your customers, and do things that you know they will love.”
Some say this backlash has been spurred on by millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 2000. They’re young, starting to earn big money, and have ideas about how they’d like to dispose of it. And it’s not on status symbols and bling.
Millennials are free thinkers, individuals, disruptors. They are well-educated and know how to make informed decisions. They’ve grown up surrounded by the relative affluence of their post-war Baby Boomer parents, and traditional job titles and status symbols don’t impress them.
Pam Danziger, a consultant on the spending habits of affluent Americans, has been widely quoted on the subject of this new luxury. Millennials, she says, are looking for substance over style. They are looking for ways of expressing themselves, going beyond the brand. They want to live in the moment. A 2014 survey by Harris Poll for online ticket company Eventbrite found that 78% of millennials would rather pay for an experience than for luxury goods.
As one millennial Lauren Martin wrote on Elite Daily, “The Baby Boomers seem to defy anything that remotely inspires creativity and a different view. They ignore what they don’t know and hate what they can’t understand. But we will be different.” She proclaimed her own generation one of “freedom of expression” (and legal weed).
When it comes to travel, this translates into experience, experience, experience – something to post on Instagram to inspire (or piss off) your friends.
Millennials are looking for “authentic” interactions. So, instead of booking themselves into the Ritz-Carlton, they seek out utopian festivals. But they choose the VIP experience. Like Mark Zuckerberg dropping into Burning Man by helicopter and giving out grilled cheese sandwiches.
But, strange shenanigans in Black Rock City aside, we at BoutiqueHomes think they’re onto something. We grew tired of homogenized, branded luxury years ago.
According to lifestyle commentator Lucia van der Post, old luxury is a thing of the past. “The traditions of old luxury – the luxury of things – are awfully dull for new consumers. They want to be touched emotionally by their experiences, and there are new priorities, such as ethical concerns and sustainability.”
What is luxury? In our opinion, it’s simple. We like to leave the excess to the likes of Marie Antoinette, and the bling to the Kardashians. Instead we find luxury in a perfectly-constructed A-frame cabin in Yosemite, in a geometrical eco-cabin on Easter Island, and in the futuristic cool of a tiny Palm Springs hotel designed by John Lautner. Our luxury villas can be carefully restored farmhouses, characterful chateaux or architects’ dream getaways.
The luxury is in the owner’s eye for design, and the care that they take to produce the very best quality. When we travel, we want our senses stimulated, not over-stimulated. We don’t travel to be waited upon (although that can be fun). We travel to experience how other people see the world, to see their worlds through their eyes.
Our idea of luxury is simple – private, elegant destinations with a feeling of intimacy and seclusion. And yes, if you can make them eco-friendly, even better. In line with millennial thinking, the tourism sector has increasingly been offering opportunities for tourism based on the concept of eco-luxury. What good is your week of self-indulgence if it’s destroying the world around it?
We don’t make shoes, but we agree with Christian Louboutin. We want to get to know the owners of our properties when we stay in their homes. We want to find rentals we know our customers will love. And, like all good millennials, we value the importance of experience, creativity and individuality. That’s true style – and substance.