Interiors & Design Luxury Real Estate

High Style: Design Lessons from 7 Modern Luxury Penthouses

Experts share their insights on how penthouses are elevating interior design and bringing back the demand for city living

According to trend forecaster WGSN, a demand for penthouses is an unexpected side effect of the pandemic. “Inquiries are high,” says its creative director, Lisa White, “and are likely to increase, driven by a desire for privacy and nature. Outdoor space is a particularly important luxury, and landscaping is key: residents expect the terraces of their modern penthouses to resemble parks and mini forests.”

These sky-high properties offer a feeling of seclusion and a certain lofty lifestyle, says White—although she points out that layouts are shifting in line with the desire for fully functional living spaces. “Luxury penthouses have always offered open-plan living, but we’re now seeing residents asking for modern ‘broken plan’ areas partitioned by walls and room dividers,” she says. “In other words, people want to ‘travel’ within their homes depending on their activities.”

Here’s how seven of the world’s most exclusive penthouses are interpreting these requirements, and what we can learn from their elevated approach to design.

1. Let Lifestyle Take the Lead

The living room with sea views at Upper North Sky Villa, one of Miami's modern luxury penthouses

Will Meyer, co-owner of award-winning, New York-based design studio Meyer Davis, says, “A penthouse should showcase a lifestyle that’s in tune with its surroundings.” For the Upper North Sky Villa penthouse at Jade Signature, Florida, the wraparound views of Miami provided his team with the defining trends to follow. “Relaxed glamour, baby blue and gold tones, the glow at dusk and dawn. We brought these elements into the residence with polished metal finishes, luxe rugs, and textured wall coverings—all elements that add ease of living.”

2. Invite the Outdoors In

View from the terrace into the dining room of a penthouse in Hong Kong

“Our recent development, Homantin Hillside in Hong Kong, exemplifies one of the central foundations of penthouse design, which is to create a seamless flow between indoors and out,” says Ed Ng, cofounder and principal of interior design and architecture studio, AB Concept in Hong Kong. “More than ever, architects and designers are seeing the importance of blurring these boundaries.”

3. Go Grand

View over Manhattan from a minimalistic penthouse sitting room

New York’s One Beacon Court is the very essence of penthouse living,” explains Adam Zucker, managing director of the Erin Boisson Aries Team at Christie’s International Real Estate Group. “Its proportions are grand—palatial, even—and revered architect Charles Gwathemy crafted every element of its design with the helicopter-high, sweeping views in mind. The layout, with its incredible separation of space, is on trend. At over 4,500 square feet (418 sq m), the lower ground floor is perfect for entertaining, while the upper floor provides privacy.”

4. Push Boundaries

An indoor garden courtyard at Vancouver House

For Michael Leckie, principal architect at Leckie Studio Architecture & Design in Vancouver, Canada, great penthouse design usually incorporates, “Space, high ceilings, enormous windows, views that stretch to infinity.” But, he says, innovation and creativity are also key. “You can break the templates, as we’ve shown at Vancouver House, where we created a courtyard garden that spans all three floors of the penthouse. Entirely walled in glass, this giant terrarium is filled with the dense foliage of a Pacific Northwest rainforest and has huge sliding doors that open into the living room.”

5. Step Outside

“The ability to step outside has become one of the most important amenities in a luxury city property,” says Kate Meier, principal of Meier Estates and Ventures at Christie’s International Real Estate Group. “A penthouse with a large outdoor space is one of the most sought-after assets on the market right now, and terraces with open views are in even higher demand—especially in residential neighborhoods, such as One Jackson Square in New York’s West Village. Surrounded by beautiful tree-lined blocks and close to the water and the promenade, it’s the ideal setting in which to spend time outdoors.”

6. Set a Sustainable Trend

The modern metal dome atop Yoo Quito's penthouse

“A defining trend is sustainability,” says Natalia McLean, head of design for Uribe Schwarzkopf in Equador. The firm’s newest project, Yoo Quito, in Quito, is an entirely eco-efficient building, and McClean and her team created a penthouse that is both eco-friendly and immersed in nature. “The building is situated on one of the highest points in the city—1.86 miles (3 km) above sea level—and basks in 12 hours of direct sunlight a day, all year round. Our intention was to make the most of that. When you step into the penthouse, large windows and the surrounding balcony create an open façade, allowing the interiors to merge with the Andean mountains, the sky, clouds, and light.”

7. Embrace Exclusivity

A modern living area with views of the Bangkok skyline

“There’s an emerging trend for exclusivity that extends to penthouses’ modern facilities and services—many new developments now have private lift access, for example, and for many clients, a private rooftop swimming pool is an essential, not a luxury,” says Tim Skevington, managing director of Richmont’s Luxury Real Estate in Bangkok, Thailand. “At Baan Chaopraya, a fine duplex designed by Patricia Frost, trophy indoor and outdoor entertainment spaces, and expansive terraces provide that element of seclusion—all with views over Bangkok’s Temple of Dawn and the Royal Palace.”

Banner image: The terrace and surrounding views of Upper North Sky Villa at Jade Signature, Florida