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Material Matters: The materials changing today's definition of luxury

09 November 2022

Despite the amorphous definition of luxury, there is at least one tangible element: material. That said, material trends in the luxury sector are also subject to shifting societal circumstances: what was sought after just five years ago, might not be in demand today.

“Gabriel Scott has always been built upon quality craftsmanship and traditional techniques. We’ve found in the last year in particular that people are much more interested in the process of making and the quality of craft behind the items they invest in. We’ve responded to this increased demand through our latest releases of our Luna Kaleido and Welles Textured Glass series. Both of these collections explore different traditional glass blowing techniques, highlighting texture and imperfections in the material and bringing a sense of individuality to each piece.

"Our latest collaborative launch, Welles Reimagined, brings together six designers to reimagine the Welles fixture each exploring different materials and techniques, showing the versatility of the design and their desire for material exploration.” - Scott Richler, Founder of Gabriel Scott

Here, we speak to three designers from our community about the materials defining today’s definition of luxury.

For the New York-based interior designer, Elizabeth Bolognino, luxury is “defined by the time.” According to Bolognino, the materials we’re seeing in today’s interiors are a direct result of the pandemic. “Right now, we're seeing a lot of soft bouclé, which is very comforting and very relaxing. It’s the kind of material that people are drawn to because they need to feel cosy. Compare that to say the 70s, when everything was very shiny and glamorous. Silk, velvet and chrome became symbols of luxury during that time because people wanted to reflect their newfound prosperity.”

For Bolognino, the need for comfort also extends to form: “We're seeing a lot of amorphous furniture right now, à la Jean Royère. I think that's also a response to the pandemic. Oversized, curvaceous shapes in bouclé are what people want right now.”

Designer Kelly Hohla's clients are also craving comfort in the form of bouclé fabrics made with strokably soft alpaca. (“Rosemary Hallgarten is our favourite vendor for fabrics and rugs,” she reveals.) Durable velvet fabrics that can be used both indoors and outdoors are also on the rise: “Velvet outdoors feels like luxury to me!” she says.

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Myriad glass chandelier

A stunning and intricate chandelier hangs from the ceiling, composed of countless pieces of glass in various shapes and sizes. The overall form is reminiscent of an elegant, abstract sculpture.

Technological advances also have their part to play in the changing palette of materials. Designer Holly Hollenbeck explains: “One of the great fabric advances of recent years is in extremely durable poly and poly-blend fabrics. In the past, performance fabrics felt scratchy; nowadays, they are as beautiful and soft as any natural fabric, with the added durability and cleanability of a man-made material.”

Alongside technological advancements is the growing need to source environmentally and socially sustainable materials. But, as Bolognino explains, making sustainable material choices is not straightforward: “For me, sustainability should be quiet. I don’t want to buy a material because it is green. I want to purchase something beautiful for a client because of its design and detail. If it can be both beautiful and sustainable, then that is the winning ticket.”

Another factor affecting material moodboards is an increased demand for uniqueness. In the digital age, luxury is no longer dependent on availability – it has become increasingly defined by skill and uniqueness. “Coming out of the pandemic, there's a sense that clients want something that is beyond what you can buy with the click of a button. That's where artistry comes in,” says Bolognino

Gabriel Scott Harlow Pendant Light

Gabriel Scott Harlow Pendant Light_Custom Green_Kelly Hohla Interiors_Jackson Hole

“I always encourage our clients to purchase something that cannot be easily replicated,” she continues. “If it's easy to copy, then it's going to devalue their investment. With lighting, for example, we’re always looking for unique, sculptural pieces with fluid forms and hand blown glass.” Hollenbeck also notes an increased demand in coloured glass in lighting – “but done in a very clean, modern way.”

For Bolognino, the demand for artistry extends beyond decorative objects to surface materials. “Applied or decorative finishes that require more of an artisan’s hand are defining luxury right now,” she claims. “Marmorino plasters made from lime putty and ground marble are a certain sign of luxury right now, as are lacquered walls – simply because it takes a skilled artisan to create that look. It’s about artisanal detail.”

Reassuringly, there are certain materials that have unwavering longevity in the luxury sector. For Hohla, it’s bronze, marble and lacquer. For Hollenbeck, classic, natural materials such as marble, honed stones, wool, mohair and linen will remain part of her materials library. For Bolognino it’s wild silk: “A wild silk rug is powdery and puffy – it’s like walking on clouds. It feels incredibly luxurious and it’s sustainable.” The winning ticket.

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City Condo in the Sky 1

With special thanks to Elizabeth Bolognino, Kelly Hohla & Holly Hollenbeck. To discover more of their beautiful work, please visit their websites.

Elizabeth Bolognino

Kelly Hohla

HSH Interiors

Explore Gabriel Scott's latest collections, Luna Kaleido, Welles Textured Glass & Welles Reimagined, each exploring the possibilities of material exploration and customization.

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