High-net-worth individuals are passionate about their collections and their homes, but to what extent do they influence each other? Andrew Shirley, editor of the Knight Frank Wealth Report Series on Luxury Investments investigates, with contributions from Cultural Comms clients Louise Bradley and TM Lighting.

“It was really the gallery that sold it to us, it was mind-blowing,” recalls John, a Californian real estate developer, tech entrepreneur, and philanthropist.

He is describing Knoll House, the family’s Pasadena home that is now for sale, but which for the past 12 years has played a pivotal role in their collecting journey.

And when John, who prefers not to share his family name for privacy reasons, says gallery, he’s not talking about a room or two in which to hang some paintings, but a standalone commercial-grade museum. Built in the 1970s and designed by the influential architectural practice Ladd & Kelsey, the 20,000 sq ft facility was originally created to house the European Modernist collection of former occupant and arts patron Virginia Steele Scott.

Despite the gallery clinching the deal, John admits that he and his wife weren’t quite sure what they were actually going to do with it. Although they collect art and sculpture, the couple didn’t have the thousands of pieces needed to fill the space, which is linked to the property’s more traditional house, built in 1916, by a secret underground passage.

What followed was a fascinating symbiotic journey that merged property with passion. “Our collecting tends to be a bit strange,” says John. “I get obsessed with certain things, collect them and then move on to other things.” Restoring the colonial revival mansion, designed by Myron Hunt and Gordon Kaufmann, but left in a sorry state by its previous owner the televangelist Eugene Scott, kickstarted a number of new enthusiasms, including collecting original fixtures by the renowned metalsmith E F Caldwell. “It was definitely a labour of love, wherever we could, both in the house and the gallery, we tried to maintain the architectural integrity.

“For me architecture is the ultimate collectible. With art you can live around it, but with architecture you can live inside it, interact with it and bring others into it.

The house itself, I would say, is the ultimate collectible,” reckons John. “For example, it has a pub that's 100 years old in a beautiful wood-panelled room, so we ended up collecting antique beer trays for a while and that became a passion. They're very beautiful and interesting. Some are serious. Some are kind of comical.”

The tunnel to the art gallery from the house even inspired John to create a collection of antique mining ephemera around a mock mineshaft entrance. Chatting to him though and it’s clear what his biggest passion was. “As we didn’t have enough art to fill the entire gallery, we decided we would use it both as a display space and as an extension of our home,” he says. “One thing that we did was to build a little museum within the museum.”

What emerged was the ultimate Tiki bar designed by the world’s leading designer and complete with genuine carvings from Papua New Guinea and bespoke Tiki mugs, apparently a collectible in their own right. “There's a huge Tiki community still in the United States and beyond which is obsessed with this concept of Tiki,” explains John. “Frank Sinatra, the Rat Pack, they were all into it. Tiki was kind of the coolest thing going at one point, and for many people, it still is.”


Not every collector has such eclectic or evolving tastes as John, but space to show off their prized passions is often top of the wish list for wealthy home-hunters, according to my colleagues from across Knight Frank’s global residential network.

“With family offices and HNWIs, it’s part of the standard conversation: seven bedrooms, a swimming pool, exceptional wine storage, space for x Ferraris, a safe for watches and jewellery,” explains Jason Mansfield of our American desk in London. “Their level of disposable income means all the buyers we deal with will have an art collection and you need a house designed for art to make it shine. These assets have gone up in value and people like their money where they can see it,” he says.

“From the first viewing, it was clear that space to hang his art was a high priority, specific areas of the house were definitely being considered as areas for art,” recalls Jack Mogridge, a partner in our Baker Street office who has just sold a unique Robert Adam townhouse in West London to a keen collector of wine, art, and classic cars.”

“In the prime market, it’s not about square metres anymore, it’s about cubic metres,” confirms Madrid-based Ana White who deals with many art-collecting HNWIs, including a large number relocating from Latin America.

“The buyer arriving in Spain is very sophisticated and is more than ever looking for a house in a classic city centre building with high ceilings and mouldings but refurbished with all modern facilities.

“This buyer loves receiving family and friends at home. And for them art generates meaningful conversations and stimulates the exchange of ideas. By having artwork in your home, you invite your guests to immerse themselves in artistic dialogue. Each work becomes a starting point for sharing experiences, perspectives, and emotions.

Art has the power to transform our homes. It is more than just decoration, it is an expression of our identity and a constant source of inspiration,” adds Ana philosophically.

The concept of collecting as a communal activity is influencing a growing number of residential developments, says Luke Hayes, a project marketing specialist from our Sydney office. “We're creating individual communities for our buyers who are generally like-minded people. For example, we have Royale, a beautiful development that we're selling on the Gold Coast in Queensland. In it, we've created a members' club lounge where everyone has their own Sub Zero fridge and whisky locker.

“We’ve also recently sold some townhouses in the Southern Highlands of NSW, and every single townhouse had its own wine cellar and wine room. The Southern Highlands area is known for its green hills and vineyards, so the properties were reflecting that environment.”

Classic car enthusiasts are some of the most community-minded collectors, but often their requirements are hardest to satisfy because their collections take up so much space. “The need for an expansive garage not only allows for secure and organised storage of their prized possessions but also serves as a showcase for their automotive treasures,” says Yulia Sgroi, a private client adviser in Dubai.

“For clients with car collections, finding a mansion with a spacious garage is a top priority. I strive to identify properties with exceptional automobile storage facilities, but in Dubai these options are scarce so finding a plot of land for an entirely new bespoke project often makes much more sense, particularly financially,” notes Yulia.

In the UK’s Home Counties, buyers are also looking further afield, reports Theo James Wright of TBS, Knight Frank’s specialist property search agency. “I’ve had a lot of recent requests for large agricultural buildings so that they can be converted into personal car museums and storage arrangements.”

Classic car collectors also fret that mounting environmental legislation will one day force their cars off the road. This has led to the creation of a number of specialist developments riffing on the traditional gated-community-for-golfers concept, but with a professional racing circuit replacing the fairways at the ends of their gardens.


The work of many interior designers and architects is also heavily influenced by their clients’ collections. From installing the perfect lighting system to creating bespoke rooms specifically for displaying a particular treasured collectible, good design can completely change the relationship between house, object, and person.

"As an interior designer I find working with clients who are also avid collectors of art and design objects is often an exhilarating journey,” agrees Shalini Misra. “I have always believed that art holds the power to transform spaces, and with personal collections this is more true than ever – a person's art collection can reveal so much about them, their world and their life, and it can shape the very essence of the places they call home.”

Richard Angel, co-founder of Angel O’Donnell, concurs: “Art enlivens a space, whether it’s adding colour, texture, movement, drama, humour or all the above. When you place a sculpture on a plinth or hang an expressive oil painting on a wall, it’s like slotting the final jigsaw piece into a giant puzzle. It simply completes the scene. We love to curate art for our clients. Many will see interior design as an opportunity to start afresh and reimagine the way they emotionally connect to their surroundings. Art plays an inspiring role in that transformation.”

Designers will often work around specific pieces of art or even suggest new acquisitions that will complement a particular project.

When hanging artwork, it is always important to consider where the eye will fall and create the space between pieces so that each can capture the viewer's attention individually and as a group,” emphasises design guru Louise Bradley.

"Over the years, I have worked with clients to incorporate their favourite pieces into the homes we design as well as guide and select artwork that provides harmony in an interior. In one elegant drawing room I designed, a framed Lucian Freud etching adds depth and balance to the space, leading into the inner drawing room where a Maria Luisa Hernandez oil painting is displayed to full effect over the fireplace, flanked by two intricate wall lights.”

Modern lighting solutions can be transformative, particularly in period properties, says Andrew Molyneux, co-founder of TM Lighting.

He cites one project at Waddesdon Manor, a palatial country house originally built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild for entertaining his friends over summer weekends, that involved transforming the building’s magnificent dining room from a flat-lit area into a truly three-dimensional space.

“We used custom gold-painted spotlights concealed in the chandeliers to define the richly decorated table setting, tapestries and murals. As you enter, you are taken on a journey of the room which plays with the visual hierarchy of the light; your eye is first drawn to the late 18th century Meissen dining set on the table, then to the murals at a higher level and finally to the tapestries that adorn the walls,” explains Andrew. “It was fantastic to overhear a member of the curating staff saying they had fallen in love with the collection all over again.”

Some collections require unique solutions. “One client asked us to design a room just to show off her collection of hundreds of rare Barbie dolls,” says Charu Gandhi, founder of the Eliycon studio. “For another, we installed a beautiful wall feature comprising the client’s precious vintage hat collection creating a dramatic focal point and conversation piece for the room. Other briefs have involved installing a two-metre diameter watch winder and display case in the client’s study, and even a collection of rare parrots.

I believe that if you love something and enjoy collecting it then it should be on display.”

But protecting collections as well as displaying them is also important, adds Charu. “When designing for a client with a particular collection we always begin by taking a deep dive into that subject area so we can confidently propose solutions that are not only beautiful but genuinely practical. For delicate collectibles, we look at how we can arrange and display these in innovative ways that allow them to be appreciated while also protecting them from any risk of damage.

“For example, when asked to create storage for a client’s extensive collection of designer handbags, we sought guidance from luxury French fashion house Hermès, which provided expert advice ranging from the ideal level of room humidity to the importance of avoiding exposure to direct sunlight which may otherwise lead to fading and other deterioration of the leather.”


It’s clear that collection, collector, and home form a unique trinity. And although John says he will miss his Pasadena art gallery, “it ended up being our favourite part of the house”, and plans to create something similar at the family’s new home in Nashville, he can take comfort from the words of designer Scott Maddux for a job well done:

“Functionality is key. We are creating homes not museums.”