Blog contributions are provided exclusively from Luxury Real Estate members throughout the world.
In southern France, where my wife and I have been for the last ten days, every meal is an occasion. The French are generally not snackers, but they take their meals seriously. Last week, at about noon, my wife and I passed a car parked by the side of the road; the driver and his two passengers were sitting a few feet into the nearby field, at a little folding table, eating a full lunch with cutlery and glasses for the wine. Hard to imagine at the side of the Taconic State Parkway!
Here, food is the fulcrum around which family and social life are organized. That in turn dictates both the rhythm of life and the way real estate is organized. Kitchens are important. Dining spaces are important. "Efficiency" is not so much of a priority.
Although New Yorkers consider a renovated kitchen with top notch appliances a priority, many never cook. In innumerable apartments, sellers have said to me "This oven should be good as new. I have never turned it on" or "The only thing I have ever made in this kitchen is coffee." We are constantly on the run, foregoing breakfast, eating a sandwich or salad at our desks at midday and dinner with our friends in restaurants after staying at the office till 8 PM. We glimpse those we love in passing while assuring ourselves that "quality" time makes up for its lack of quantity.
These rooms which New Yorkers buy but rarely use have a real function. I am a strong believer in using the living room to actually LIVE: to converse, to read, to hang out. The dining room, or the dining area, can in fact be used to dine - as a place for family or friends to eat, to deconstruct the day, to relax.
There is actually a message in what the spaces in our homes are named and how they are sized. The largest room in every apartment or house is the living room, in prewar units the second is always the dining room (nowadays, in newly constructed luxury units, the master bedroom is usually the second largest room, with the master bath not far behind!) These living and dining spaces were designed to create community. As New Yorkers, it might not be a bad idea to heed what our apartment layouts are telling us. Slow down! Cook a meal or two! Talk to each other! We don't need to carry a folding table and wine glasses in the trunk of our cars to remember that.
You can read more on www.warburgrealty.com/blog.
When my wife and I first bought our apartment, in the spring of 1977, we were in our mid-20s. I was a graduate student; she was a psychologist/teacher. We had no money, and the apartment was in estate condition. It had been lived in by only one family (the builder’s daughter and her husband) since the building went up 50 years before. We painted the apartment ourselves, hired my wife’s brother to redo the floors (I had previously sanded and stained the floors in my rental apartment but it was NOT pretty), and made do with the 1929 kitchen, complete with a laundry drying rack which could be raised to the ceiling like a Venetian blind.
Over the years, as we were able, we re-did the kitchen, the bathrooms, the floors, the paint job; we replaced the windows and put air conditioners through the walls. This all happened over a period of 25 years; over that same period, we also bought furniture, gradually discarding or repurposing the things we had scavenged from the basements of our parents. The apartment has been through much iteration (we are actually just completing a total redo of furniture, lighting, window treatments, and wall colors). The fact that we bought it as a wreck and then, as we figured out our own taste, made it our own, has contributed strongly to our feeling of possession, of having it truly be OURS.
Renovation is time consuming and tiring. Hundreds if not thousands of decisions must be made – doorknobs, cabinet handles, wall colors, bathroom fixtures, tiles, backsplashes, countertops – the list is endless. We did it five years ago at our house in Connecticut; it began as a redecoration and ended as a total upgrading of every system and structure in the house. But we did not “gut” the house, any more than we “gutted” our apartment. One of the great advantages of being willing to undertake a renovation is that you have the opportunity to respect and enhance a great design, and great materials. We could not have duplicated the gorgeous flooring, plaster walls, or gracious room sizes in either of our homes by “gutting.” When you buy a place with great bones, rule number one is to leave the bones alone. As I have often said to my customers over the years – chances are Rosario Candela or J.E.R. Carpenter was smarter than you when it comes to apartment design!
In today’s New York real estate market, there are innumerable new condominiums which provide beautiful, pristine, recently built luxury. For many people, who don’t have the time or inclination for renovation, these are a great choice. Similarly, there is always mint condition, beautifully renovated older apartments for sale; if you like the taste, then it saves you the trouble. In my observation though, few people actually leave their mint condition apartments alone. They buy them, then they change this, then they change that, they decide they don’t really like the kitchen counter surfaces, then the bathroom tile, and before you know it they are renovating the entire already renovated apartment. But in our family we love a wreck.
I believe that buyers with taste should never choose redone properties (unless they really don’t have the stamina for a renovation.) Designing and decorating with finesse and simplicity, a smart buyer can add value to a purchase well beyond the investment. And the process of doing that work and making those choices makes you the owner in a comprehensive way. You know every pipe, every light fixture, every marble slab. Your home is fully, uniquely, your own.
You can read more on www.warburgrealty.com/blog.
Courtesy of Lake Norman Realty
CORNELIUS, NC - The Lake Norman Art Project was recently launched at the LKN Family Fun Day, which was held at the Lake Norman YMCA in Cornelius. Chris Durant and Shannon Edwards, partners in RealLKNLiving with Lake Norman Realty, (formerly Shannon Edwards Group) and The Community Arts Project teamed with the Lake Norman YMCA to integrate the launch into the YMCA LKN Family Fun Day event.
The event was created in an effort to create a community wide impact on children, the arts, and a love of Lake Norman living. The Lake Norman Art Project was officially sponsored and created in connection with the Community Arts Project. The event also included local businesses and artists collaborating, as well as an art contest for participants. The art contests theme was “What I love about Lake Norman Living” and included work from ages seven years old to adult participants.
The event was a huge success and there are four winners from the contest including; Cate Thomas, Madison Hopkins, Angela Corcione, and Mark Eberhardt. Each of the participants won great prizes donated by local business sponsors; Ballas Chiropractic, The Melting Pot, Café Elie and Meg Art. The Lake Norman Art Project will be an annual event and will integrate a new art medium each year, for more information regarding the project please contact Shannon Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-516-4800.
Debra Johnston, a prominent real estate agent in the Atlanta market, has rejoined the prestigious Haute Living Real Estate Network. This exclusive circle of leading real estate agents is invited to bring opulent estates and luxury properties to Haute Living readers. Haute Living Magazine will feature Debra as an exclusive Haute Living Real Estate professional.
About Haute Living Real Estate Network
Haute Living Real Estate Network specializes in selecting top real estate professionals, creating the most prominent directory for exclusive listings. The network website is an online destination for all things real estate-related and features daily blog posts providing up-to-date news on affluent markets and real estate developments. Access all of this information and more by visiting http://www.hauteliving.com/hlrn
About Debra Johnston
After a successful career as a corporate executive, Debra Johnston entered the real estate industry with 25 years of sales and marketing experience. In a very short time, she became one of Atlanta’s major real estate agents honored among the top 5% of agents in the Atlanta Board of Realtors and conducting the city’s 2nd largest sale in 2011. Last year, Debra had a sales volume of over $6M and a listing portfolio in excess of $30M, representing some of Buckhead’s most distinguished properties.
Hiring Debra Johnston provides you and your luxury home with the greatest exposure among consumers and the local real estate industry alike. Whether it is featuring your home as the Estate of the Month for her legendary broker open houses or leveraging the powerful marketing arm of the Sotheby’s International Realty brand, each and every client is given special consideration and provided a bespoke marketing/buying plan . To Learn More: Visit Debra Johnston’s Haute Living Real Estate Profile
Luxury Real Estate member Debbi DiMaggio of Highland Partners – Better Homes & Gardens Mason McDuffie explains the process of developing her new book:
“This is my story as to how Contained Beauty came to be…
As you know, my name is Debbi DiMaggio. I am Midge and Vince’s daughter, Michael’s sister, Adam’s wife, a mother of two amazing children, Bianca and Chase, a Realtor, an avid volunteer and now an author.
The first question I am asked most frequently is just how Contained Beauty came to be and what does the title mean. Contained Beauty: Photographs, Reflections & Swimming Pools.
In my book, the word “Reflections” refers to both, the reflections in a swimming pool and the reflections in my life.
Swimming Pools are Contained. For me, they are a place of beauty and comfort. Throughout the journey and putting this book together, I realized that I was like a swimming pool. I was living contained trying to keep a tight hold on my life and everything in it.
If you know me well, then you will know that when I get an idea I have to follow through with it or it will stay with me, keep me up at night and will occupy my mind until I do something about it.
A coffee table book about swimming pools was one of those ideas that kept repeating. I could picture my coffee-table book in hotels and resorts around the world and in people’s homes and in all of my real estate listings.
It wasn’t until Bianca’s junior year in high school, when she was busy considering colleges, and Chase was becoming more independent with friends, sports and school when things started to change… I felt a void, similar to that, of an empty swimming pool.”
Courtesy of Nest Seekers International
Luxury Real Estate member Ryan Serhant of Nest Seekers International recently took the stage during the Nolcha Fashion Week:
“New York City real estate brokers are used to pounding the city streets in search of their latest deal, but today two of Manhattan’s best-known dealmakers strutted their stuff in a more official capacity.”
When I travel around the country I am struck by the fact that most of our cities have turned into donuts. This is not an original thought. Many urban planners have noted the way downtowns are dying as cities are increasingly ringed by malls and big box stores where, more and more, everyone shops. Fortunately this fate has not befallen New York. Our downtowns and shopping thoroughfares remain vibrant and engaging in innumerable neighborhoods throughout the city. So how do we make sure they stay that way?
The excitement of New York reflects a mix of old and new. We have wonderful old neighborhoods filled with late19th century brownstones, we have iconic mid-century masterpieces like Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building, and we have new luxury residential towers from Costas Kandylis, Jean Nouvel, Richard Meier, and Frank Gehry, not to mention the ubiquitous Robert A. M. Stern. This dynamic between old and new energizes our skyline and creates the complex poem of our urban life.
Preservationists and developers are often seen as antithetical groups. Actually every city needs both. On the one hand we ARE our history. No urban area can be at peace with itself unless its history is cherished. The designation by the Landmarks Commission of such iconic areas as the Central Park West skyline and the homes on Hamilton Heights and in Ditmas Park remind us of our city's cultural heritage as well as the sweeping changes in how we live over the past 150 years. By the same token, cities either change or they die. Without new buildings, especially those by significant architects, a neighborhood can become a mausoleum, a tribute only to its past and not an open door to its future.
So we as citizens need to support the need for appropriate landmarking while at the same time recognizing that age alone does not create value. Not every item in a junk store is an "antique", and not every building built in the 1890s or 1920s should be preserved. Cities, like businesses, or people, have to change or get left behind. We need buildings and businesses, old and new, which create a vibrant street life and keep pedestrians interacting with their environment and each other. We need innovative ideas like the High Line and the wonderful Hudson River greenway stretching up Manhattan's West Side. We need support for business, small and large, since these businesses are the engines driving New York into the future.
And most of all we need to remember that the ecosystem of cities is fragile. They can die from the center out as so many have across the United States. My job, and that of every urban citizen, is to make sure that doesn't happen. I shop and dine locally, often in small owner operated stores and restaurants; as a small business owner myself, I strongly believe in the job and buzz creating power of small businesses. I support preserving the historic legacy of New York while at the same time making way for transformational change. There is no either/or choice between the past and the future. To keep the hole in the donut full we need both!
You can read more on www.warburgrealty.com/blog.
Courtesy of Frederick Peters, President of Warburg Realty
I have spent the last 25 years working on how to be an effective leader. I always knew that integrity and honesty mattered to me more than anything, but I wasn’t sure how to build those into a corporate culture based on collaboration rather than fear. An inspiring recent interview in the Times helped me crystallize some of my thoughts and got me thinking more proactively about what I believe. The article can be read at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/business/bill-flemming-of-skanska-usa-building-on-leadership.html.
Here’s what the years have taught me:
There is, as Bill Flemming notes in his interview, a great distinction between being a leader and a boss: a leader helps people figure out what to do while a boss tells them what to do. This resonates strongly for me. People will often come to my desk looking for solutions. Increasingly, I am out of the solution business. I try to ask “What do you think is the best way out of this situation?” I am a guy with a lot of opinions, but these days I try to bite my tongue. More often than not I find that people already know the best solution. They are looking more for affirmation than problem solving.
An important corollary of this is the discovery that people solve problems in different ways. My agents and managers often arrive at solutions I wouldn’t have thought of. Sometimes I think my solution would be better but usually I find that this interaction can be a significant learning experience for me. I often don’t have the best answer. My job, I increasingly understand, is to bring out the best in those around me.
This brings me to another great statement of Flemming’s: “I work for the people below me.” I think this notion lies at the heart of the management philosophy of any successful leader. As the president of Warburg, I am only as successful as the agents and staff working for the company. And their success, in turn, depends on my leadership. How well do I empower them to make good decisions? How well have I communicated my vision for the company? How good am I at listening to suggestions and complaints? Do I facilitate teamwork?
I did not set out to be a business owner; as I have noted before in this blog I began my adult life as a musician. I never went to business school. I am pretty bad with Excel and PowerPoint and my main arithmetical skill is a lightning-fast ability to compute 6% of any sales price! But over the two plus decades during which I have led Warburg Realty, I have learned that this business, probably like every business, is a people business. I strive every day to NOT be the leader who feels entitled because my name (or my middle name, actually) is on the door. I know today that respect may or may not accompany a title; if it does it is only because it is earned. And I know that while I may be impatient, if I lose my ability to listen and really HEAR what my colleagues are telling me, my organization suffers. I may not agree, I may not do what is suggested, but I need to pay attention to it.
I don’t much like being criticized or having people disagree with me. I can get my back up. But it is my obligation, and that of every leader in my firm and every firm, to get over it. We work for our agents, and they often know more than we do. We cannot continue to do what we do because we have always done it. I trust my team: staff, agents, and managers alike. With their guidance, I know Warburg will move confidently into the future.
You can read more on www.warburgrealty.com/blog.
Courtesy of: Claire Adams, Surterre Publications & Events Director
Luxury real estate firm Surterre Properties® is teaming up with American Red Cross (www.redcross.org) to host their semi-annual Life Saving Blood Drive on Monday, July 23, 2012. The event will take place at the company’s Newport Beach Headquarters from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is open to the public.
Someone needs blood every two seconds in the United States. In fact, Southern California alone requires more than 400,000 blood donations per year. Giving blood is easy -- if you have a photo ID, weigh 110 pounds or more, are at least 17 years old and in good health, you can participate in Surterre’s upcoming drive. Simply visit www.givelife.org and enter “Surterre” as the sponsor code to schedule your appointment.
“Our agents take a tremendous amount of pride not only in their work, but in their commitment to the community as well,” remarked Surterre’s President and co-founder Gary Legrand. “Organizing this blood drive is just one of many ways in which they authenticate that commitment.”
Surterre Properties is a leading, full-service real estate firm in Southern California designed to bring an unprecedented level of quality service to the coastal real estate marketplace while preserving the abundant natural beauty that’s shaped the area into one of the world’s most desirable destinations. For more information about Surterre Properties, please call 949.717.7100 or visit www.surterreproperties.com.
Courtesy of: Meagan Griesel, Fuller Properties
There’s nothing quite like a summer stroll. Especially when it’s a 115 mile trek, from Denver to Vail, eight years in a row.
For Fred Wolfe, a member of the Fuller Sotheby’s International Realty team since it opened in 2008, walking from Denver to Vail has become an annual tradition that began in 2005, and for good reason. Fred undertook this journey as a personal tribute to his father who passed away from Alzheimer’s disease. Through donations from his friends and family, clients and associates he has raised more than $327,000 to support the Alzheimer’s Association. In recognition of his fundraising walks, he has personally received the 2010 Helen Ginsburg Visionary Award from AWARE, the Alzheimer’s Women’s Association for Research and Education.
Fred will begin this year’s walk on June 30 at 6:00 a.m., from Alzheimer’s Association’s office building at 455 Sherman Street in Denver.
“Along the way, I get the chance to stop and talk with people, and help raise awareness,” Wolfe notes. “Most everyone I meet has a family member, friend or loved one who has somehow been affected by Alzheimer’s, which shows how vast and far-reaching this disease actually is. I hope that my walk can help in the fight against it.”
If you’re interested in supporting this important cause, you can make a donation at www.alzco.org/fredswalk, or by sending a check payable to Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter 455 Sherman Street, Suite 500, Denver, CO 80203 (please note “Fred Wolfe’s Walk” in the memo portion of your check).
Some important facts to know about Alzheimer’s disease:
- Every 69 seconds someone in America develops Alzheimer’s disease.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. and more people are diagnosed with this disease than prostate and breast cancer combined.
- One out of eight people in the U.S. over 65 will develop the disease.
- 10 million baby boomers will develop Alzheimer’s disease in their lifetime.
- 72,000 people in Colorado have the disease and 70% are cared for at home.
- There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
With the help of so many generous friends and supporters, the Alzheimer’s Association continues to push forward in its efforts to transform how to detect, treat and eventually prevent this disease.
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