Culture impacts almost everything we do - including interior design!
As such, regardless of the business we work in, one should always be aware of cultural differences.
When thinking about cultural differences, interior design might not be the first area of business that comes to mind.
However, in a great article on Prime Resi, Joe Burns explains that luxury homes will only meet the client’s wishes if the designer knows the ins and outs of the buyer's culture.
According to Burns, managing director and co-founder of interior design company Oliver Burns, central London’s property market is increasingly dominated by international buyers.
These buyers might be looking to buy a second home or an apartment where their children can stay when they travel to England’s capital for their studies, but they all have one thing in common: all nationalities have their own culture that shapes their lifestyle preferences.
Burns believes buyers and developers must try to understand the cultures of their clients to create a suitable home for them.
He says that even though many rich clients have the same “international” taste that focuses on unique items of high quality, there are also individual preferences that need to be taken into account.
People that come to Oliver Burns often have specific and complex wishes, Burns says. However, all wishes may be different, but almost all clients have limited time due to their busy international agenda. This is why Oliver Burns tries to find out the clients’ needs and lifestyles immediately to make the most of their customers’ limited time. The company employs a multinational team that, according to Burns, can meet every single expectation of the client.
Burns says clients are greatly influenced by their families, which is especially true for British and Indian families.
A client’s choice for a new home is often dictated by the property style that he or she knows best, he says. When investing in foreign property, international buyers are looking for a “home away from home,” after all! Burns states that the British, Indians and Russians, for example, are interested in period detailing. This is why people from these countries often opt for London homes in the Mayfair, St James’s and Knightsbridge areas.
Middle Eastern clients, Burns says, are interested in homes with an older style and a luxury feel. This is why they often request textures such as marble and velvet, for example. They also like to walk barefoot in their homes, which is why they ask for carpets and rugs. Furthermore, Burns points out that people from the Middle East might ask for a prayer room, a separate sink to wash their feet in before they go into prayer. In addition, according to the Islam, Muslims mustn’t face the direction of prayer when they go to the toilet, so these cannot face the south east (in UK anyway).
Burns states that Chinese and Malaysian buyers have completely different demands, however: they like their homes to be designed in a clean and minimalist style and prefer apartments in modern style, as this is what they are used to in their own country. As Chinese investors are increasingly turninig their attention to Britain, Burns thinks it will become more and more important for designers to master the Art of Feng Sui. Chinese clients often have their own experts on the style that review properties and give orders to British designers.
Next to cultural preferences, clients have personal wishes as well, for example to have a separate his and her bedroom suite. Burns states that security is also a key element in the design of a house. If they move into an apartment, his clients expect round-the-clock concierge services, much like a hotel. This is especially true for people from the Middle East, he says, and even more so when their property in the UK is not their first home.
According to Burns, when designing homes, it is very important to understand and act upon the culture of a client. If the culture is completely understood, he says, designers can meet and even exceeds the client’s expectations. I guess that's the message all businesses need to take away with them - pay attention to culture!