A new luxury concept challenges conventional thinking.
When Fred Carl founded Viking Range in the mid-1980s, he challenged the status quo in the appliance world by creating a new category of professional-style cooking equipment created exclusively for the home. My colleagues and I had the great pleasure of working with Fred and Viking for 25 or so years, until he sold the company in late 2012.
Now he is about to challenge the status quo again – this time in the modular housing space. It will be fascinating to watch his concept and new company, C3 Designs, take flight. Once again, I think he will turn conventional thinking on its head, by dispelling the myth that modular is only for low-end, cookie-cutter housing for the masses.
Several years ago, I crawled under a modular structure at Calistoga Ranch, the luxury resort in Napa Valley. Fred pointed out how the modular features (prefabricated offsite and shipped to the site) synced perfectly with the high-end finishes (granite counters, Viking appliances, slate flooring). The resulting indoor-outdoor living area was so cool that every time I visited Calistoga Ranch, I found myself thinking “if only I could get one of these” on my family land in the country. Well now that’s about to be possible.
Teaming up with architect David Rockwell, C3 Design recently debuted its first design, called Pinwheel, at Dwell on Design in Los Angeles. The 2,400 sf home consists of four rectangular units that pinwheel around a 500 sf central courtyard. The design is highly customizable through various configurations and materials – and since they are prefab, the units are less resource-intensive and more environmentally friendly than traditional buildings.
The concept of the modular high-end home works for several reasons:
First, I think it’s perfect for the second home market – and I expect that this market will improve as long as the economy improves. It’s estimated that between 6 and 10 percent of homes in the U.S. are second homes. Some recent research from Shullman indicated that nearly two-thirds of affluents ($250k and $500k HHI) plan to buy/sell a primary “or other home” in the coming year.
Home Insight says that the typical second home is typically within 150 miles of a consumer’s main residence: “Most of these second-home buyers are folks in their prime wage earning years who are looking for an escape from their work week realities or an investment – or both. Many of these second homes are located near recreation areas, bodies of water, or mountains.” Modular offers the ultimate flexibility in this regard.
Next, as noted earlier, the high level of customization will provide consumers the opportunity to truly make it their own, whether that’s in the interior fixtures and furnishings or in the exterior aesthetics geared to lake cabin, beach house, or mountain retreat.
Finally, I think Fred is brilliant at building a lifestyle brand – and I look forward to seeing what he does with this one.