Design News Reflections

What does Affordable Luxury mean?

When I first heard the term affordable luxury I dismissed it as an oxymoron. Either something is luxurious or its affordable. It cannot be both. But recently I watched a great documentary episode on Netflix called Abstract, about the interior designer Ilse Crawford, and had second thoughts.

Crawford defines luxury as “attention”. A “special sauce” method to make the ordinary extraordinary, rather than relying on luxe materials. She hints at the Danish concept of “hygge”:

Hygge (/ˈhjuːɡə/ HYOO-gə is a Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment.

Our custom plank chair

What is Ms. Crawford’s special sauce? Years and years of meticulous practice. Imagine an interior design practice where the goal is to make the normal special. To create openness among and between people. To have spaces emanate hygge: comfort, conviviality and contentment.

When framed that way, affordable luxury is more of a way to approach particular ideas about being human, than about choosing fancy materials.

With limited physical space I found the above table and chair design on Pinterest and had my furniture maker create a unique version of it for our four loft rooms

During the construction of Ohana Retreat Bali I had hired an interior designer that I later had to fire, as she became overwhelmed with other projects. So I took it upon myself to design the spaces, while trying to stay open to the ideas of others as they joined the project. Luckily I found a great mural artist, as well as a husband and wife team of furniture / fabric makers. Together we took our cues from the structural constraints of each space and fashioned an interior design that I can safely say encompasses the ideal of affordable luxury. Some of the materials, such as the mattresses, are 5-star, as sleeping well is priceless. On the other hand, for example, using recycled teak and suar wood allowed us to go higher end but because of its status as a used material, was less expensive than new wood from lesser materials.

A wardrobe made of recycled wood stands in contrast to the flowing display of flowers from floor to ceiling

In the end, the decision to include several unique murals in each and every room and to use custom built furniture throughout the hotel (95%) allowed us to convey a (perhaps) slightly whimsical conviviality, while the solid wood pieces offer a sense of lasting, reliable comfort.

Come find out for yourself!

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