Posted by Leonard Steinberg on June 9th, 2012

In this morning’s Financial Times an article addresses how the Danish believe that good design improves lives. I see this trend more and more in New York real estate: the growth of consumer’s esthetic awareness has literally exploded in the past 10 years and their understanding of the benefits of good design keeps improving and accelerating.

While some may argue that the appreciation for good design is something only for the very wealthy, they are wrong: a revolution is taking place in the democratization of design, and great, well designed products can be found at almost any price point.

I do think we have a long way to go in Manhattan residential real estate, but it amazes me how enthused and captivated people are when they witness or visit well designed properties. And there are a few in New york for sure. I have seen this so many times at 200 Eleventh Avenue, the Annabelle Selldorf designed building known by many as the Sky Garage building. While it is true most of the buyers were excited by the ability to park alongside your apartment in a garage accessed by a car elevator, I have found the bulk of buyers were really captivated by the exceptionally designed spaces, with their soaring ceilings, large windows, well proportioned rooms and no hideous mechanical intake grills that litter so many so-called high end properties.

I have seen first hand how a beautifully designed apartment sells for more (and quicker) than an identical, but poorly designed apartment…..even if the poorly designed unit was on a higher floor with better light and views! It’s almost unbelievable, but yes, people’s senses are highly impacted by the feel and mood (and design) of a living space. At 130 West 12th Street, gorgeous design, furnishings and art masked low ceilings that would otherwise have de-valued the entire building. I have seen ‘ugly basements’ transformed to great living spaces (without windows), view-less apartmnents that felt good because the cleverly designed window treatments made the lack of a view not an issue. And while some may not have the budget for a world class interior designer or architect, HGTV and a host of other magazines show how you can practically embrace good design on a shoestring budget.

In Denmark, this year marks the 10th anniversary of Index: Design to Improve Life, a  non-profit organisation that promotes the idea that interior design as a  decisive factor in creating a better world. Now internationally recognised it offers the world’s largest monetary prize for  design at about $650,000.00. There are 400 furniture companies in Denmark producing about $ 2 billion worth of goods: 80% are exported, making homewares the  country’s fifth most important export industry. Much of this furniture is still  influenced by those original designers such as Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner,  Verner Panton and Poul Henningsen, items seen regularly in Manhattan apartments.

In New York, Danish born super-star acrhitect, Thomas Juul Hansen, has become most famous recently for his exceptional, thoughtful interior design of Extell’s One57, New York’s tallest resdiential tower. His work is best known in the Jean Georges restaurants as well as One York, HL23 and One Madison Park, which is planned to re-launch this Fall. His sleek, modernist design is especially loved by those who have lived with it, a style of design that doesn’t compete with your life, yet compliments it and allows individuality too.

At 54 Bond Street and several other propeties since, I have learned the genius of Steven Harris, whose spaces enthuse, calm and inspire all those that visit it. And those who live in a Steven Harris designed property will espouse on the value good design has had on their lives.

I have lived in a Selldorf designed apartment for the past 2 years, and I have to say the sophistication in each of the decisions made, the balance, the proportion, have all truly impacted my quality of life. Esthetics please everyone it seems, and its a potent message to developers not to underestimate its power in the value of a new building. As a large stream of new buildings comes to market over the course of the next 18 months, I strongly believe the esthetic bar in New York real estate will have been raised quite notably…..and about time too!