Opulence, extravagance, and splendour are words typically used to describe homes of the rich and famous. Those words also apply to Calgary with its fair share of what are considered luxury dwellings.
Historically, Calgary’s luxurious locales have been inner-city neighbourhoods like Britannia, Mount Royal and Rideau Park – established areas characterized by large lots and large homes with unique architecture and proximity to the downtown core.
However, as Kevin Mullen of Empire Custom Homes points out, “There are homes in those neighbourhoods that are 100-years old and are no longer luxurious. They would need a lot of work to make them what we would consider luxury today.”
In fact, many homes in these communities that were once real estate’s crème-de-la-crème are being torn down and replaced by even grander dwellings, a testament to these neighbourhoods’ enduring value and appeal.
Cameron Gerlitz has owned several properties in Elbow Park and Mount Royal. He agrees that the homes in which he has lived – including his current, 1912-era dwelling – do not offer the convenience, comfort and space of contemporary homes.
He echoes the mantra of many a real-estate expert when explaining, however, why he chooses to invest his real-estate dollars in these traditional luxury communities: “Location, location, location.”
“There is only one Calgary inner-city. There is only one Elbow River and only so much land to build around it,” he said, noting he has both renovated and rebuilt homes on his lots.
“It’s the idea that you can design a home to your specific lifestyle and needs that makes it luxurious.” – Scott Silva, Sunset Homes
Luxury communities have also emerged further afield from Calgary’s inner city, including the likes of Aspen Landing, Elbow Valley and Springbank – communities characterized by large, estate lots and homes to match.
Calgary’s lake communities that offer dwellings overlooking the lake, as well as proximity to lakeside recreational activities, also fall into the city’s luxury-location category.
“Location – and where you choose to build your luxury home – is really a personal choice,” said Pedro Ocana Muller, president of Sunset Homes. “Having a luxury home also implies a sense of solitude and privacy when it comes to outdoor living. You don’t have the paparazzi peering in on you.”
While Silva says luxury dwellings are typically in excess of 3000 square feet, he says smaller homes can still fall along the luxury spectrum because of their high-end amenities and choice location.
When it comes to luxury amenities, Silva says they have gone a long way, beyond the once-coveted hardwood flooring and granite countertops. Now, luxury homes include features like saltwater float pools, personal IMAX theatres, lots of beautiful marble, exotic hardwood and Venetian plasters.
Ocana Muller and Silva stress, however, that luxury is no longer defined just by the generic concept of something being expensive.
Instead, Silva explains, “It’s the idea that you can design a home to your specific lifestyle and needs that makes it luxurious.” For example, Sunset Homes is currently working on one project that involves building a dedicated Jiu-Jitsu room for the owner.
“You find a lot more detail in a luxury home than in a standard home,” said Mullen. “These are not starter houses that all look the same and use the same materials.”
Empire Custom Homes just finished an inner-city home, for example, that featured an elaborate wine cellar with detailed metal doors.
Mullen says he has also noticed a trend in luxury home projects toward the elimination of microwaves and the inclusion of steam ovens to meet owners’ healthy-lifestyle needs.
Ocana Muller echoes Mullen when he says it’s “the little add-ons” that differentiate a luxury dwelling from its more standard neighbour – add-ons like in-floor heating in the garage, an elevator in the home, columns made from exotic wood instead of drywall, recessed ceiling lights and curved stairs. Ocana Muller says these add-ons are not as much about functionality as they are about style.
Silva says today’s luxury amenities also go beyond materials and finishing and extend into the technological realm. “Luxury is also about the cutting-edge of technology and incorporating these luxury tech advances into the home,” he said.
While economic conditions can sometimes impact the resale values of luxury homes, Silva says the demand for new luxury homes will never go away.
And Ocana Muller, Mullen and Silva all stress there is no one definition of luxury in terms of style, needs, material or location. As with beauty, luxury is found in the eye of the beholder.