The New Luxury

A few words stenciled on a shop window got me thinking about this…the very last lure after organic spa treatments were the enticing words  ‘eco-luxury‘.  I would think that eco-luxury would be one ‘green’ term that garden and landscape designers would have already latched on to.   Its marketability as a lifestyle concept has been embraced by interior designers, spas and resorts, and architects–yet I haven’t seen it used as a concept by landscape designers.

Think about it–guiltless, sustainable, ecologically sound design, installation and management practices that appeals to clients who want to lead a pampered, opulent  lifestyle without any earthburger connotations. The possibilities boggle the mind.  The fact is, that many clients do not even  realize that they can have a beautiful and luxurious outdoor environment that is  also eco-conscious.   Pictured below is Bardessono,  a resort/spa in Napa Valley that markets itself as the ‘greenest’ luxury hotel in America.  Seeking a LEED platinum certification, it is sleek, modern and definitely luxurious and it’s part of a larger and fast growing trend in many segments of the design industries.

Bardessono Resort, Napa Valley w/vertical walls by Flora Grubb via the New York Times
Bardessono Resort, Napa Valley w/vertical walls by Flora Grubb via the New York Times

What exactly is eco-luxury in landscape and garden design?  It’s creating the highest level of design, aesthetics, and quality while  maintaining an ecologically sustainable and balanced environment that doesn’t tax natural resources in its creation or its ongoing  maintenance.  What client wouldn’t want a project that met that criteria?  Local sourcing and planned resource use for their garden’s creation and maintenance will save them money in the long run.  Eco-luxury does not have add to the cost of  a project if it’s designed that way from the onset.

For me, as a landscape designer, it  means that  I have to continue to use locally sourced materials and building techniques, create a balanced use of natural resources such as water, establish a recycling plan for the entire lifecycle of the project,  and create opportunities for using renewable energy sources during the creation and life of the built landscape.   I realize that I have been a proponent of the eco-luxury movement for a while now, I just haven’t thought of it that way.  So now it  also means that I can market my design services being environmentally sensitive without sacrificing the ‘bling’.

Photo credit:  The New York Times


14 thoughts on “The New Luxury

  1. Thanks Stephanie. Thinking about sustainable practices as something other than ‘good for you’ will help a lot of people want to participate.

  2. “Eco-luxury does not have add to the cost of a project if it’s designed that way from the onset.” Brava, my friend, thank you a fresh perspective on something that, indeed, many of us have been doing for sometime, but without such a sexy slant! Nice!

  3. Great post, Susan! Thanks for sharing eco-luxury from the perspective of a landscape designer. You are right, the possibilities do boggle the mind. We focus on eco and sustainable practices as they pertain to lifestyle, fashion, beauty and travel on our blog Eco luxury can be pretty much extended to any good that uses tangible resources and can be produced via sustainable practices instead.

  4. Thanks for visiting and reading and for your original tweeted answer back to me. It sped the plow so to speak.

  5. Laura-we all need a sexy slant! If we can create a culture of ‘eco-want’ then it will help the planet and our pockets!

  6. I like this approach. Have a meeting on Friday with client who wants a swimming pool and is open to more natural approach. Already sent him materials from our APLD exhibitors expo from Portland. Their pools are a radical turn from where he was thinking a couple of years back. It would make perfect sense for his site with a natural backdrop of restored wetland, creek, and old-growth forest rising on escarpment into the distant view. In fact, he can see a bald eagle nest just downstream. He is a great example of this approach, working with our wealthiest clients to move them toward more sustainable landscapes.

    Appreciate your perspective on this, Susan.

  7. Thanks for another thought-provoking post. And just in time. I’ve been struggling all day with clients who want instant gratification at all costs – environmental, horticultural, etc. You’ve now given me food for thought, and have no doubt made my trying to sell them responsible practices easier by using language they can relate to. Eco-luxury garden design. What a beautiful thing.

  8. Glad to be of service. I’ve been struggling with it to. Sustainable practices are a difficult sell to my very traditional clientele sometimes.

  9. Thanks Douglas. We have to create opportunities to make the right thing seductive as odd as that might sound.

  10. I’ve noticed that anything that has the word “luxury” in it at this moment in time is not a big seller.
    I’ve worked in the modest to high end luxury market for years and people are either embarrassed by installing a luxury project during this economic down turn or simply do not want to extend the funds during the time in our history.

    In regards to the word eco-luxury, I think that it is an oxymoron if you really subscribe to the precepts of sustainable ecological design.
    Bardessono has done more than most and deserves it’s LEED badge of honor by installing geo-thermal heating and cooling system and recycling existing stone from the site and wood from local wine casts but more times than not I see this label ” eco” used as nothing more than green washing, especially in the resort and high end residential businesses.

    In my business I have tried to adhere to sustainable practices but I’m not going to fool myself or the public by calling myself an eco minded duhsigner.
    Like Bardessono I have used those wonderful tall Canadian basalt columns in my landscape designs and there is nothing eco minded about them when you consider how much resources were used to extract them , truck them down from Canada and install them with tons of concrete ( so not eco ) to set them in place.

    I’m not poo pooing anyone’s actions in trying to be ecological conscience and prudent in your design practices, but be realistic and don’t get caught up in all the greenwashing just because it sounds good to say.

  11. I actually agree with you Michelle. I think many designers want to be able to make the sustainable practices they are using more salable to clients who otherwise wouldn’t buy in for whatever their reasons might be. The word luxury denotes something precious and scarce and worth obtaining. Perhaps eco-luxury isn’t such an oxymoron as you might think. As for greenwashing any term can be used for that…it’s all in the who and how. A crappy used car with a new paint job is still a crappy used car.

  12. ha ha. loved that one Susan… a crappy used car with a new paint job is still a crappy used car ! So true !

    I’m having cocktails at Bardessono tomorrow and will think of this post and you along with my glass of wine. Cheers.


  13. Very perceptive, Susan. In our research, the next new trend is “luxYOUry” — Here’s what TrendWatching has to say:

    In 2009, you define the what constitutes luxury. ‘Luxury will be whatever you want it to be’. After all, what constitutes luxury is closely related to what constitutes scarcity. And while scarcity in traditional consumer societies was for decades defined by the biggest, the best, and the most expensive ‘items’, the ‘2009 consumer arena’ shows a bewildering number of ‘scarcities’, some of them invented purely to overcome the abundance now found in traditional sectors. More than ever, scarcity is in the eye of the beholder, especially those beholders who are desperately trying to be unique.

    So in the next 12 months, instead of worrying about missing out on the next big thing in luxury, focus on defining it. Declare that the end is nigh for anything that’s getting a little too affordable, too accessible, or just too well-known. Then introduce something very different (if not the opposite), appealing to the in-crowds ready to jump ship anyway.

    Want something to play with? How about DISCREET-CHIC? RECESSION-CHIC? FRUGALITY-CHIC? UNDERSTATED-CHIC? Or anything that’s commissioned? Access? Secrets? Stories? Time with one’s loved ones? Time for oneself? All things local? Peace and quiet, if not escape? Eco-friendly? Human-friendly? Caring? Empathy? PERKONOMICS? Craft? Friends? Having a larger-than-life perspective? Households of six or more? Eccentricity? Appointment-only? Opinionated? PREMIUMIZATION? Fuck You Money? Philanthropy? Bespoke? Knowledge? Skills? Health? Etiquette? Or a mix of any of these?

    Whatever angle you may go for, luxury in this new year will comprise much, much more than ostentatiously flaunting wealth (which, by the way, will still enjoy considerable popularity among emerging middle classes around the world). Find the right (status) trigger for the right audience, then coin it and build on it. This one is all yours. Downturn or upturn.

    Working on our 2010 Trends Report now. Eco-Boosting– going beyond sustainable -, Back to Basics, Natives are rising to the top as big trends.

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