The New Luxury Home: Sanctuary

  • story by David M. Brown
  • photos by Pearl Blossom Photography
  • posted on 03/2021
  • posted in: Highline Living

Self-sufficiency is the new luxury.

COVID-19 has transformed our lifestyles, including new attitudes toward our homes. Many people, for instance, are renovating and building with self-sufficiency as a goal. It’s the new luxury.

If you’re staying at home more, why not ensure you are protecting your family’s health and safety while optimizing comfort? Some are buying or building larger homes that may be more rural or have more land in town; in this way, social distancing expands to residential distancing.


Self-sufficiency is never-have-to-leave independence and an assurance that if another pandemic or other threat occurs, you can comfortably transition to more at-home time.

“It’s a private-resort feeling, bringing that high level of amenities into your home,” says interior designer Tanya Shively, celebrating 16 years leading Sesshu Design Associates, which provides sustainably focused interiors at her new downtown Scottsdale office. The firm’s name honors the 15th-century Japanese artist, Sesshū Tōyō.

For more than two decades, she has completed large and small renovations as well as whole homes based on her “WELL Designed” principles, combining Wellness and Wellbeing, Eco-consciousness, Luxury and Livability. She explains, “It takes the idea of living well into emotional concepts of wellbeing and wellness, which rating systems such as LEED do not address.”


The New Luxury Home

Because of the pandemic, people are moving to Arizona from west and east coast urban areas, making the Arizona real estate market robust, explains Mark Candelaria, AIA, principal of Scottsdale-based Candelaria Design Associates, the award-winning luxury-home architectural firm.

One aspect of this market strength is that square footages have begun increasing again after decreasing during and just after the Great Recession of 2008–2011.


In addition, sellers are reaping more and more per square foot for homes farther away from urban areas, explains Frank Aazami, principal of the Private Client Group at Russ Lyon | Sotheby’s International Realty in Scottsdale. Luxury-niche selling costs in the Valley are exceeding $1,000 per square foot, especially in areas such as superhot Silverleaf in north Scottsdale, next to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, with its trails and open space. New-build costs are reaching beyond those figures, he adds.

“Buyers prefer more outdoor living spaces and privacy,” Aazami adds. “Larger spaces and homes are back in demand, with high-speed internet for digital connectivity and gaming and green living features for better cost efficiency. Because of the pandemic, air circulation is of importance, especially windows that are operational, not solid glass, he says. And lap pools are more and more appealing because they can easily be part of a daily work-out regimen; they aren’t just beauty elements for the property or light-recreational components,” he says.

In addition, the new luxury home is better insulated, often constructed with concrete walls, ICFs and foamed. And, mold-, sound- and fire-proof homes will be more requested, Aazami adds. “Fewer steps, inside and out, greater functionality and better use of space is in. Homes with custom closets are selling at record highs, and floating shelves are in high demand.”


At the beginning of COVID-19 in early 2020, about 20 percent of working Americans worked from home at least one day a week, according to a recent Pew Research Center Report. By May 2020, more than half were working from home, and now 70 percent are still doing so.

“We are definitely seeing more home offices, often one for each partner as well as separate study and home-school computer areas for the children,” Candelaria explains. And, Aazami notes that owners and buyers are asking about Zoom walls on each side of the house for two independent offices.

Renovating or building, Shively’s clients are requesting home gyms or expanded, more luxurious versions; meditation and yoga rooms; spas and spa amenities in master bathroom suites such as steam, sauna and body jets in the shower; separate home theaters or mini-versions integrated into a living room. Sports simulator rooms, for golf, soccer, baseball and other sports are also trending, integrated into a media center or as a stand-alone room.


Aazami adds that because urban roof-top work-out areas are rare and further improve selling prices. And Candelaria notes some others his firm is being asked to add: Amazon receiving and delivery rooms, hair salons, bowling alleys, golf and sports simulator areas and Pilates rooms.

“Indoors, they want green walls and water walls to improve humidity levels, bringing a feeling of nature indoors,” says Shively, ASID, one of the Arizona’s first LEED-accredited interior designers. Administered by Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification documents that a building is environmentally friendly.

“I am also receiving more interest in better-used outdoor living spaces,” she explains. People are planting more gardens with flowers as well as herbs, fruits and vegetables, for example. And, because so many people have curtailed restaurant dining, outdoor kitchens are almost necessities with more at-home dining.


Shively adds: “People are requesting more realistic cabinets, made from weather-proof material rather than less outdoor-friendly versions built from block with stucco and metal doors, which can rust.”

Health and Safety

A self-sufficient home is a healthy home. “During COVID-19, people have realized just how important their health is and also how their living environment can impact and affect both their physical and mental well-being,” she says. “Our homes are our sanctuary and refuge from the world, and creating a space which lifts your spirit and functions throughout your daily activities is something we all deserve.”


Extensive natural lighting through windows, skylights and solar tubes and a connection to nature, with courtyards, fountains and plants, further these health goals. Smart home technology also allows you to control comfort and increase utilities savings.

Clients have also asked her to investigate high-performance polarized media electronic air filters; UV-disinfecting lights, which can kill almost all germs; and touchless door-entry systems and touchless faucets in the kitchen and bath, which are becoming more popular and help minimize the spread of germs.

“Concern for wellness is a big trend, and we will see more advanced air and germ filtering systems and light guided by our personalized circadian rhythms; these systems make us more alert during the day and help us sleep better,” Candelaria explains. “In addition to your bedroom, we may see sleep chambers including in-home ozone therapy.”

And, with people more at home, energy consumption increases; solar panels are therefore also in demand. Home automation systems can also automatically control window coverings to open and close according to the sun patterns, helping reduce energy consumption from air-conditioning and eliminating uncomfortable, stressful glare. “The drapes/blinds/shades close during the hottest part of the summer day,” she says, “and they can also open to allow passive solar heat gain during winter months.”

For some, Feng Shui (“wind water”) provides energy flow into the home. These centuries-old Chinese principles consider home siting and the placement of doors and windows and even furniture. “With so many people working from home, the proper layout of your workspace for both comfort and function is so much more apparent,” she says.

Luxury is not just the best things or the finest technology; it’s the best lifestyle you can create for yourself and your family, and the pandemic has intensified demands for it. “Everyone deserves to live in a home which makes them feel comfortable and secure and which helps them stay healthy,” she says. “Luxury is wellness and well-being, the joy you feel in your space, sharing with family and friends, the connections you feel with them and the world around you.”

Tanya is available at 480.275.2968,, and through Brown is an Arizona-based writer (