In many ways, Clodagh is a pioneer of wellness-focused design. The Irish-born interior designer has been using sustainable materials and biophilic design and feng shui principles in her work since she started her eponymous firm in 1983.
Clodagh (who grew up in Oscar Wilde’s summer house in County Mayo, Ireland) started her career in the fashion industry, moving to Spain, and then finally New York in 1985.
While her interior design studio is based in New York City, its work spans over 24 countries—and projects from residential buildings (including The Caledonia and Abington House in Manhattan) to hotels (like the Six Senses Hotel and Spa in Douro Valley, Portugal, and the Miraval Resort and Spa in Tucson, Arizona). She frequently collaborates with an energy healer on her projects.
Among her most recent projects is Citizen360, an 84-unit luxury residential building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The lobby has a green living wall made of a variety of live plants with a self-watering system.
We caught up with Clodagh to discuss how wellness has extended from hotels to residential buildings, why it’s important to have a luxurious bathroom and more.
Mansion Global: Describe your dream property.
Clodagh: I’m torn between my poetic quiet side—my desire to have a small retreat by a river somewhere in Ireland, or to have a condo in a building where all the amenities are available and I don’t have to do any maintenance at all. As much as I like to potter around a garden, it’s much nicer to have a wine in hand while lounging by a fragrant rose bed that has been maintained by someone else. This, of course, would have to be in downtown Manhattan, with all the fun pubs and mini restaurants, galleries and a building that has a dog spa so I don’t have to hose down my pet after he’s rolled in something terrible.
MG: What does luxury mean to you?
C: I’m all about low-maintenance luxurious comfort; embracing authentic materials that are sustainable, stand the test of time and make you feel good. That’s luxury. Everything should have a place with meticulously-planned storage. For me, total design is true luxury—where all the senses are addressed and celebrated, and all the elements are incorporated. Everywhere you walk, everywhere you look, you should see something beautiful.
Luxury is having the time to share experiences with my friends and family—to stroll and read and write bad poetry. Luxury for me is not about stuff, it’s about experiences and the creation of a home that is not demanding in terms of maintenance.
Luxury is having a gym in your own building, a sauna in your own building—that it’s all there for you and that daily wellness opportunities are made possible by simply living there. If you live in a building that has extraordinary amenities, you can have spontaneous moments of wellness too. That’s what brings me most joy about Citizen 360—knowing that we’ve created those luxurious wellness opportunities for those residents.
MG: What area do you think is the next hub for luxury properties?
C: One of the most important developments is going to be for luxury living in buildings designed by architects and interior designers that understand universal design. The hub can be anywhere—there are aging populations and handicapped populations everywhere.
MG: What’s the biggest surprise in the luxury real estate market now?
C: The boundaries are blurred to almost invisibility between luxury hotels and luxury homes.
The real surprise is how thoroughly the hospitality industry has affected residential buildings. Bill Gates’ home probably functions exactly like a luxury hotel. One of the nice surprises is, due to the leadership of the major hotel groups like Six Senses, a huge emphasis is being placed on wellness in the home so that cleaning materials and the use of non-toxic materials are used within the building and for the maintenance of the building. Wellness travel has proliferated, as has wellness in the home.
MG: Where are the best luxury homes in the world and why?
C: The best luxury homes are found internationally. The word “luxury” is so personal and subjective—it could be a barefoot villa in Kathmandu or a massive estate in Montecito, California.
MG: What’s your favorite part of your home?
C: As a spa-designer, I’m big on creating luxurious bathing experiences. We spend as many as seven hours a week in the bathroom—cleansing, shaving, applying makeup, lounging in a scented tub, listening to music in the shower, ridding our bodies of toxins.
A bathroom should really be a sanctuary, and these days it’s easy to do so—having luxurious bath time with scents and candles has been a ritual for all my life.
My second favorite place is my kitchen. I absolutely love to cook. It allows fast-track creativity. My spice rack cupboard looks like the U.N. I tap into my inner travel video as I cook, and often I play the music from the country whose dishes I’m celebrating that night. The kitchen floor should be big enough to dance while you’re cooking.
MG: What best describes the theme to your home and why?
C: My ethos is “Life-Enhancing Minimalism” —it’s about having and loving everything that you need but nothing more than what you need. Your home is an extension of yourself, so I’ve made sure the materials, colors and objects in my home work together to create “ahhh” moments. I have six stone Buddhas between my design studio and my home. I love them because they remind me to live in the present moment.
In a home, the seen and unseen are equally important. There should be a place for everything and good organization whether behind the doors of your closet and medicine cabinet, or in your kitchen. Invisible clutter has a bad effect on your psyche. Nothing is inanimate.
MG: What’s the most valuable amenity to have in a home right now?
C: I design spaces wanting to help the inhabitants feel more in harmony with who they are, and I do that by making every step a wellness ritual. We are so excited to be incorporating infrared spas into our soon-to-be-opened Citizen 360, as an amenity to support the fitness and yoga floor. I’m a huge believer in the tenets of integrative medicine that address the entire body and psyche as a whole. Promoting natural healing and prevention, the in-home spa experience of an infrared sauna may be your ticket to achieving your ultimate wellness goals.
There’s a kind of “amenities war” going on with developers, which I think is fantastic because it means people living in the building can have more fun.
Cities are now offering the kind of amenities that, until now, have only been seen in five- star hotels and stately homes. Multi-residential buildings have become vertical villages with quiet rooms, communal event spaces and wellness opportunities like gyms, infrared saunas.
MG: What is the best area now for investing in luxury properties?
C: The historic Yorkville area near New York City’s Upper East Side has, up until now, been a relatively untapped area. Since working on Citizen 360, we’ve noticed a whole influx of developments and activity. The opening of the Upper East Side Second Avenue subway stop has been a game changer.
MG: If you had a choice of living in a new development or a prime resale property, which would you choose and why?
C: I love a property with “good bones.” I was raised in Oscar Wilde’s summer home in Ireland so am quite partial to a house that has lived many lives. That said, new developments offer so much more than ever before in terms of amenities, and I truly believe that they’re the key to maximizing wellness in one’s 21st century life as they provide daily wellness opportunities that the average person can’t access in your simple single-family home.
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