The greatest luxury, many would agree, is our health. And the wealthy are doing healthy in serious style in their homes these days.
by Zoe Dare Hall
Wellness has become one of the biggest current trends in luxury property globally – and having a small pool in your basement is no longer enough. Now, pools in private homes are getting super-sized, such as a 94ft x 38ft extravaganza that wraps its way around a lower floor of Heathfield House in Highgate, a ten-bedroom modern mansion on sale through Sotheby’s International Realty for £40m.
Along with a treatment room, steam room and sauna (ideally infra-red – it’s better for you), rich buyers in prime central London are requesting homes with space for their vitamin D chamber, snow cave and cryotherapy tanks. Joining the ranks of professional athletes, who use cryo-chambers to speed up recovery, and Hollywood A-listers, who are mostly in pursuit of eternal youth, London’s super-rich are starting to regard a cryo-room as essential a piece of kit as their home cinema and wine wall.
Until recently, such wellness features were the preserve of prime developments, which have the luxury of space and large numbers of residents paying high service charges to cover the ample costs of maintaining an in-house pool and spa. But now, London’s most luxurious private townhouses are likely to feature extravagant fitness rooms. Take the new six-storey townhouses, priced from £37m, at Chelsea Barracks, the £3.5bn reinvention of the British Army’s former base in 13 acres of prime west London. Each has its own pool and spa, despite being just steps away from the opulent on-site spa that, at 12,000sq ft, is thought to be the biggest private wellness space in the capital.
And when a simple storey devoted to health and fitness isn’t enough, how about an entire wellness wing? The finishing touches are being added to just that at a new-build 44,000sq ft neoclassical mansion in Surrey, interior designed by Stephenson Wright. The west wing includes a hotel-spec gym with a glass wall overlooking a 17m-long indoor pool that runs the length of the house.
It’s not just London’s richest echelons that have gone wellness mad. No surprise that New Yorkers are in on it, too. In Tribeca, the Pool Townhome Collection – part of 11 Beach development – has three triplex townhouses each with their own stainless steel 50ft private pool. One of them, Townhouse A, is on sale for a shade under $10m.
US developers are also going a step further than simply making fitness facilities one feature of a property. They are building entire wellness properties whose very fabric and function are designed to be health-enhancing. There’s an undeniable wow factor in having marble spas and cool pools, or the latest high-tech gimmicks. Finchatton’s design director Jiin Kim-Inoue was particularly struck by something she saw in San Francisco recently: artwork in the yoga and meditation room that pulsates to the rhythm of the client’s heartbeat.
But wellness in its more holistic and all-encompassing form isn’t just about the bling. It’s about the intuitive, often invisible technology that goes into creating the ultimate healthy living environment. On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, The Wellness Apartment – on sale for $25m – is described by Sotheby’s International Realty as “setting a new standard in ultra-clean living”. Built by the co-founders of Hu, a healthy snacks company, the entirely hypoallergenic apartment includes features such as lighting that brightens and dims in sync with the body’s circadian rhythms, a triple-osmosis water filtration system and UV light-blocking windows.
Zip over to the west coast and in San Fran you’ll find a similar concept in Residence 950 – though, at $40.5m, it’s also the city’s most expensive property for sale, and one of its largest, spanning an entire block.
Set in upmarket Russian Hill, the house has a glass-sided, cantilevered pool with views over the city and Bay, and a separate Wellness Cottage, with sauna, steam and massage rooms and a panoramic hot tub. That’s all the trophy wellness paraphernalia. The truly healthy stuff, though, is the “behind the walls” technology, says its developer Gregory Malin of Troon Pacific, including hospital-grade air and water filtration, sound and electromagnetic field mitigation and biophilic design, which enhances wellness through a connection with nature. Given rampant pollution and forest fires in major cities across the world, good air quality, Malin reckons, will become the most sought-after feature of homes around the world.
We’re all starting to think about wellness differently these days – trying to take care of the mental as well as physical, in eternal pursuit of the life/work balance. And property developers are latching on to these new facets of homes that make us feel good. “Whole house wellness curation” is how health consultant Karen Cummings-Palmer describes it: “Homes are literally being turned into the ultimate sanctuaries where everything feels better just by being there.”
Zoe Dare Hall is an award-winning writer specialising in the dominant, luxury end of the property sector. She has spent the last decade travelling the world to cover the boom and bust of global property markets.