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The battle of the brands

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There are people who get a thrill out of picking out new furniture and appliances when they move house – and then there are the rest of us, which explains the growing appreciation of, and demand for, integrated appliances.

Kent Gush of Kent Gush Properties has played a role in marketing and selling some of Johannesburg’s premium developments, including the likes of Eye of Africa and Steyn City. While integrated appliances are now de rigueur at most estates of this calibre, Gush remembers the first time he worked on a development offering this concept: It was The Emperor in Sandton, back in 2005. ‘At the time, we offered integrated appliances as an option, but we found that most buyers chose to upgrade – so it made sense to introduce this as a standard.’ Small wonder, then, that most kitchens in newly developed luxury estates are fitted with double-door fridges, washing machines, tumble dryers, and everything else the modern domestic god (or goddess) could wish for. ‘It just makes sense,’ argues Tim Kloeck, CEO of The Houghton. ‘Filling the spaces intended for appliances with beautiful high-end product immediately makes them more appealing.’ Naturally, that has significant implications for a property’s value. Kloeck imagines that it might add at least 10% to the purchase prices. That’s good news not only for developers, but also for owners looking to sell their properties.

It’s also a matter of convenience, according to the Amdec Group’s Tersia Taljaard. She notes that several of the company’s developments, including Melrose Arch in Johannesburg and The Yacht Club and Harbour Arch in Cape Town, have been fitted not only with appliances, but with furniture, too.

 

Many of the buyers in these markets are investors who are buying to let, and their tenants are usually professionals, often from overseas. They have neither the time nor the inclination to go shopping for their own furniture; they’d far rather move into a fully furnished space. And, of course, this enables the property owners to obtain greater yields from their rentals.

 

The growing demand for this service has prompted homeware retailer Weylandts’ interiors division, Weylandts Spaces, to create a specialised offering ideal for local and international investment buyers. Says business development consultant Riaan le Roux: “Given today’s hectic work demands, we are able to save the buyer a lot of time that would otherwise be spent searching for the perfect item. We’re also able to draw on our expertise to find pieces that complement the space and enhance its attractiveness – something that ultimately helps clients save money, as many retailers have a ‘no return’ policy. It ultimately adds up to peace of mind for the owner, and makes their property stand out in the cut-throat rental market.”

This is also why flooring has become a new focus point for developers. Nick Gluckman of Oggi Flooring observes that, while most developers have traditionally opted for materials like vinyl and laminate, many are awakening to the fact that it costs only slightly more to fit a home with the warmth and tactility of natural wood. ‘This certainly gives estates an edge over their competitors, making the homes easier to sell, and developers are able to incorporate the cost into the selling price,’ he notes.

Aesthetics are definitely a consideration – hence the increasing popularity of Smeg as a top choice for developers. But other brands are chosen on the basis of their reliability and after-sales service. Bosch is a case in point here, according to Amdec’s Clifford Oosthuizen, managing director of Westbrook, while others recommend Siemens or Miele.

Managers of the sought-after brands agree that a sound track record is a major selling point for any developer. It’s about cohesiveness and sophistication, says Ashveer Jaganath of Bosch Home Appliances, adding that ‘integrated’ doesn’t mean ‘prescriptive’. On the contrary, there’s a great deal of flexibility and customisation.

This view is shared by Elizabete Nelson of Gaggenau: ‘Gaggenau bases every design decision on a practical benefit by taking seamless kitchen, appliance design one step further. It focuses on attraction, not distraction.’

 

For Lisa Greenwood of Siemens, the seamlessness of integrated appliances means less stress for the property owner – the ultimate outcome of a kitchen that is flawlessly co-ordinated and extremely pleasing to the eye.

 

Integration is just one facet of the prevalent design aesthetic, which favours open-plan living. The accent is firmly on minimalism, and with this comes the desire for simplicity. Ironically, as our options expand, the need to consolidate becomes more salient – and integration undoubtedly creates a more streamlined look. It’s a prime example of a straightforward idea that immediately uplifts a space, so that the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. Or, as Kloeck puts it, it’s the difference between walking into a kitchen and seeing the gaping holes where appliances will one day go, or walking into the same space and seeing sleek, beautifully designed items that add to its slick appearance.

The final word goes to Gush: ‘The appliances selected by developers have a high aspirational value. They’re brands that are recognised globally both for their design and efficiency – so it’s not merely a case of making sure that, by supplying every gadget they could possibly need, purchasers have one less thing to think about. It’s also about upping the pizzazz and wow factor of the space.’

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