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What Makes a “Luxury Home”?

September 22, 2021

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A birds eye view of A Lavish California Beach Villa that's currently on the market surrounded by palm trees with the blue ocean in the background

What makes a "luxury home"? The epitome of a lavish California beach villa, the home pictured above and elsewhere in this post is well-appointed with luxury décor and amenities. High-end properties such as this are awe-inspiring, with their stunning views, palatial scale, magnificent finishes and astonishing accouterments.

READ: The Santa Barbara Luxury Real Estate Market is Booming

The Luxury Home, Defined

A luxury home is one valued within the top 10% of properties on the local market. To be considered high-end, these homes typically possess distinct qualities revolving around their location, price, size, materials, design, amenities, and, in some cases, prestigious pedigree and history.

A prime example is my Sand Point Beach Villa listing. This luxury home is considerable in size, constructed and finished with high-end materials and designed with uncommon architectural details and exceptional amenities. Talk about distinctive; this enclave’s pool house, designed in 1927 by architect George Washington Smith, has achieved Santa Barbara County historical landmark status, and the property itself is one of only 8 Moorish-style residences in prestigious Casa Blanca, an exclusive community near Montecito. The original Hearst Castle-like property’s rich history reads like a movie script, starting with the man who built it back in the 1920’s, Albert Isham.

It was later restored by a Bakersfield oil man and has undergone several transformations since then. Today, this lavish California beach villa is a true oasis, featuring an ocean-facing deck and balcony with sweeping views of the Carpinteria coastline and surrounding mountains. Inside, delicate arches, vaulted ceilings and a dramatic stone fireplace all add to its romantic ambience, while the luxury décor adds to the splendor.

10 Things That Add Luxury to Any Home

A home doesn’t have to be among the small percentage of luxury properties to be considered luxurious. Here are 10 lavish ideas to bring extravagance into any home:

A luxury home dramatically lit up at night

1) Create a WOW! Factor Through Lighting

Homeowners have so many lighting options today, in both design and technology. With improvements in LED technology, it’s as simple as clicking your smartphone, or asking Alexa to turn the lights. Think colorful metals and shades, sconces, and pendants—all add beauty in addition to function. The image above of my Sand Point Beach Villa at night is the perfect example of creating a Wow! factor though lighting.

Luxury lighting can also light up your room, literally and figuratively. Nothing screams luxury louder than a chandelier or custom fixture hanging in the middle of a room with soaring ceilings. The grandeur of the lighting fixture is enough to make it the focal point of the space it occupies. With either a classic or a modern chandelier, make sure to match yours with the room and architecture style to achieve a cohesive look. If possible, opt for a uniquely shaped, or even one-of-a-kind fixture or chandelier for drama.

If you are looking for something more dramatic, check out the Baccarat Zénith Chandelier with 48 Lights. The company known for luxury crystal glassware, jewelry, and gifts, offers a number of incredible chandeliers. Priced upwards of $150,000. Or how about the ultimate show-stopping chandelier from world famous artist Dale Chihuly? It’s reminiscent of museums, botanical gardens, and luxury hotels around the world.

READ: Open, Closed and Beyond: A Real Estate Pro’s Guide to Kitchen Design

2) The Luxury Kitchen

Luxury should be evident inside the heart of the luxury home. That’s why high-end kitchen designs tend to combine the highest-quality materials, leading-edge technologies and top-of-the-line appliances to create magazine-worthy spaces. Most luxe kitchens integrate functions, luxury, and style. Think bold textures, rich hues, and exotic materials—all the qualities that can make kitchens one of the most luxurious corners of modern luxury homes. The bottom line: spacious kitchens are timeless. They make whipping up culinary creations fun and easy, even if there is more than one cook.

If you're contemplating a kitchen remodel or installing a new kitchen, and budget isn't your second, third or even a top ten concern, you'll definitely want to explore the wide range of options available for luxury kitchens. When it comes to appliances, you can’t get any more unique than a Dolce & Gabbana refrigerator. The famed fashion designers, in collaboration with Italian appliances brand Smeg offer limited edition refrigerators that are hand-painted by artists specially commissioned by Dolce & Gabbana. They cost about $34,000.

What do you think about countertops made from glazed lava stone? This ancient and natural stone, extracted from the Nugere crater at the heart of Auvergne’s volcanoes in France, is rare, strong and heat resistant. It costs $370/square foot.

3) Posh Furniture

By definition, luxury is something that is conducive to sumptuous living, and that includes elements that are elegant, plush, and indulgent. Even one luxurious element or piece of furniture can take a space over-the-top.

One of the top luxury furniture brands is Boca do Lobo. Every piece is handcrafted in Portugal and designed to create an exclusive and emotional experience. Essential Home is a mid-century design brand with a modern twist that aims to offer a journey through time. Think nostalgia with a smile. You can even go with Fendi Casa where everything in the collection reflects the designer’s high-end, contemporary tone. Then again, when it comes to luxury, it doesn’t get any better than Versace, and the company’s home collection is about as posh as it gets.

READ: Outdoor Living Spaces for Luxury Homes: Builders Follow the Santa Barbara Example

interior-exterior of California beach villa

4) Bringing the Outside In

The movement to bring the outside in, with its roots here in Santa Barbara, has emerged as one of today’s most embraced luxury trends. Blending the outdoor and indoor living spaces offers an excellent opportunity to create lavish interior and exterior spaces. Moreover, this comes with infinite options. Where else in the world could you be treated to a sunset like that on a daily basis?

Even more, modern luxury homes are making ordinary backyards luxurious by adding features like fire pits and fountains. And, of course, no luxury home is complete without an entertainment space and a fully equipped outdoor kitchen that incorporate amazing views.

5) Lavish Bathrooms

A luxury bathroom is an antidote to the hectic modern life. Bathroom extravagance means spa-worthy products, along with features that add beauty, comfort, and innovative functionality. Lush towels and the clean scent of soap milled from natural ingredients add to the ambiance.

A typical bathroom has either a tub or a shower. But when both the tub and the shower are amazing, then you have a luxury bathroom. Think freestanding soaking tubs as a focal point, next to a Roman shower stall inspired by the original historical designs making the shower a sort of alcove or separate room.

Don’t forget to add beveled mirrors, soothing lights, heated floors, and alcove walls. Solid hues and walls produce a relaxing setting tied together with chrome taps and other high-end touches. Think saunas, smart mirrors, and steam rooms as well.

READ: A Luxury Realtor’s Guide to Home Security Systems

6) Home Security Systems

Most luxe homes go beyond the simple alarm system. They have monitored systems linked to a 24/7 security professional at the provider’s office, plus armed response. These systems can speed up the process of notifying authorities in the event of flooding, fire, and break-in. Also, they help reduce the incidence of false alarms.

READ: How Santa Barbara Homeowners Can Create a “Smart” Healthy Home

7) Smart Tech Features

Convenience is what makes smart home features a must for luxury living. That’s why today’s upscale home is outfitted with cutting-edge network-connected systems, equipment and appliances that can remotely and automatically be controlled. There is motion sensor lighting, and internet-connected security cameras, thermostats that adjust automatically, and draperies that open to lavish grounds or a sunrise or sunset over the ocean.

There are even high-tech devises to help you sleep, smart standing desks to give your home office a lift, smart fitness mirrors for home workouts in your private gym, smart fire pits to spark the beautiful Santa Barbara night, and much much more.

8) Spacious Dressing Room

A high priority for luxury homes is a lavish dressing room, providing owners a place to store and display high-end garments. A huge walk-in closet, or better yet, a spacious and intimate room of its own defined by a unique ambiance are a must have. These closets must include proper lighting along with extravagant mirrors. The top-of-the-line racks and shelves are the perfect way to display purses and shoes.

Affluent homeowners match their closet to their home’s architectural style, adding glamour in small details.

9) Exercise Room

Home gyms are more than a separate space for equipment and weights, but also include built-in televisions, wireless speakers, indoor pools, massage tables and jacuzzis for post-workout relaxation.

Companies that offer gym designs that are not only functional, but beautiful include:

  • Italian kitchen, living and bathroom design company Scavolini. The entire range of fitness room designs revolve around one classic piece of equipment: a gymnastics wall bar. Not only is it a design element, but attached to the wall bar is a lifting bench, traction bar and pull-up rings, plus bathroom storage, hangers, a sink, lighting, and mirrors. It’s functional for both the bathroom and the gym, while simultaneously looking like a minimalist and modern piece of decor.
  • FitnessDesignGroup has options that make a gym a natural part of a home’s design. The Los Angeles-based firm has designed gyms in multiple office locations for Apple, Nike, Starbucks, Snapchat, Google, and the Los Angeles Lakers and has created fitness centers and tailored in-room fitness amenities for hotel corporations including Hilton and Accor. They know what they’re doing when it comes to at-home workouts.
  • Fashion aficionados might be more drawn to Polish company PENT Fitness which creates custom luxury gyms for residences, hotels and yachts. PENT creates custom gyms using rich materials like wood, steel, leather, bronze and more. In addition to gym creation, PENT has a line of products including dumbbells, kettlebells, a weight bench, weighted balls, wall bars and more. The wide range of products are available in only two color schemes: gold and silver.
The inside pool at a California Beach Villa

10) Other luxury amenities

The amount of detail and customization that a luxury home offers can be nothing short of amazing. Pools, like the indoor swimming pool pictured above and found at the Casa Blanca enclave that’s home to my California beach villa listing, saunas, in-home gyms, backyard tennis courts, game rooms, and fully stocked kitchens are all part of the luxury lifestyle. Local resident Oprah Winfrey has a separate tearoom on her property. Other high-end homeowners like to include a library, yoga studio, and meditation space. Due to the large population of celebrities and entertainment moguls in Montecito, home theaters are plentiful here, as are game rooms. Some even have their own at home salon. And don’t get me started on the pet amenities!

READ: Creating a Dog-friendly Home?

If this list of luxury home amenities, or the possibility of owning the California beach villa shown here have you inspired to start anew in Montecito, Hope Ranch or any of Santa Barbara’s upscale communities, please call me at (805) 886-9378 or email me at I would be happy to help you find your dream home here, or to add your listing to my portfolio of luxury estates in the area, using my time-tested marketing tactics to sell your property. I’m looking forward to putting my knowledge and contacts to work for you!

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Client Reviews

“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch