July 29, 2021

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Curtains Up for the One Percent

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She noted that a living room designed by her in 2021 may include a $21,000 sectional sofa, a $12,000 rug, a $6,000 coffee table and a pair of armchairs for $14,000 and change. “My sweet spot as a Georgia designer,” she said, “is being able to cater to those New York clients because, guess what? New Yorkers are moving down to Sea Island in droves and droves.”

It is not just Georgia, of course. “We have tons of people coming down here and buying horse farms, these houses that used to stay in the families of affluent Kentuckians,” said Lee Robinson of the Lee W. Robinson Company, a decorating firm in Louisville. “A lot of the old guard is having to sell, and the new guard represents a new level of wealth because, in my opinion, there has become a greater distance between the haves and the have-nots.”

By Mr. Robinson’s calculations, to be a have-not in the current landscape of wealth creation is to eke by with a net worth of a mere $10 million. Few, if any, of the 34 clients for whom Mr. Robinson is currently designing houses, fit that description, he said. “The ‘haves’ nowadays are people with a net worth of $100 million plus,” he said. “If you want to see what that looks like, go down to Palm Beach.”

In the Palm Beach of today, Maseratis and Lamborghinis are a dime a dozen, according to the designer and writer Steven Stolman, a longtime resident of the 16-mile barrier island. “A convertible Bentley is an entry-level car.”

If Palm Beach was once a sleepy winter resort of the moneyed Eastern elite, it is now a kind of “zillionaire bedlam,” Mr. Stolman said. “Beverly Hills by the sea.”

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