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They're seen as the epitome of sophistication and architectural extravagance, and their price tags reflect their desirability and exclusivity. But what, apart from amazing panoramic views and lack of upstairs neighbours, makes penthouse living so great?
Dubai's astonishing transformation over the past 20 years has seen the rise of multistorey buildings, most famously the iconic Burj Khalifa at the heart of Downtown Dubai, which at 163 floors is the world's tallest building. However, it's not just the Burj that offers the lure of a penthouse suite — developments all over Dubai, most notably at the Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Lakes Towers and Jumeirah Beach Residence, among many others, have seen a proliferation of high-rise developments, all of which are topped off with the most desirable property on the block.
The first skyscraper was built in Chicago and was opened in 1884. At a modest height (by today's standards) of 42 metres, the Home Insurance Building was revolutionary in design and technological advances such as fireproof, iron-framed construction, elevators and electric lighting. In growing cities, where space was at a premium, the fashion for tall buildings, which occupy a small footprint, soon caught on and skyscrapers began to spring up all over the world. These early skyscrapers reserved the upper floor for technical utilities such as elevator controls as well as heating and cooling system service units. It wasn't until the 1920s, in New York City, that the idea of creating a luxury living space on the top floor was considered. It was an immediate success and subsequent buildings incorporated one or more into their design — the penthouse suite was born.
Penthouses are usually the most luxurious and spacious apartments in any given development and their floor area can equal that of two or more apartments on lower floors. In recent years, duplex penthouses, which retain the feel of a multistorey villa, have also become popular. Most penthouses feature large terraces or wrap-around balconies, which add to the feeling of spaciousness. In many exclusive developments these outside spaces may also have private swimming pools, hot tubs, roof gardens and plenty of covered space for sitting and enjoying the views.
In every multi-occupancy development taller than two storeys, there will inevitably be a penthouse — in these types of properties, however, it's usually just called the top floor. It's in the soaring tower blocks that the accommodation we associate with the word penthouse truly lives up to its reputation. In Dubai, there are 144 completed buildings that are more than 150 metres in height, and 25 are under construction.
Of the buildings taller than 300 metres, 18 are complete and more than 10 are being built. The next tallest after the Burj Khalifa are the Marina 101, which is due to open this year and will rise 101 floors with six luxury duplex penthouses, and The Princess Tower, also in Dubai Marina, which will be officially the tallest residential building in the world.
Dubai's penthouses have a reputation for extreme luxury, as one would expect from a city where opulence is common.
Let's look at one example of a penthouse for sale today in Dubai Marina. At more than 875 sq m with four double bedrooms, each with an en-suite bathroom and walk-in dressing room, and three reception rooms, this four-storey property is larger than most average independent villas available elsewhere in Dubai. It has wrap-around balconies on three of its floors, two large terraces and its own private swimming pool. As the location suggests, it has views both over the sea and the marina, which can be appreciated through the floor-to-ceiling windows. In addition, it also has a luxurious fitted kitchen, family room, study, private gym, a library/games den as well as a large sitting area.
Residents of this apartment will be spoiled by the view at any given time of day. With a 360-degree panorama of the cityscape and light spilling in through the large windows, occupants have the benefit of uninterrupted views. We've all seen photographs of Dubai's skyscrapers shrouded in the mist on foggy days, but most of us are looking up into the gloom. Penthouse dwellers have the unique perspective of looking down on the clouds from above while enjoying the blue sky. They also have spectacular views of stunning sunrises and sunsets.
Penthouses invariably have high-end fixtures and fittings in kitchens and bathrooms and make use of the latest technology in terms of water-saving and other high-tech devices, including sound and ambient lighting systems. Expect the very highest-end fitted kitchens and bathrooms combined with luxury extras as standard.
Accommodation has usually been designed to offer spacious living, sometimes over multiple floors. Dressing rooms often come as standard and most, if not all, bedrooms will have en-suite bathrooms.
Many properties offer a separate study/library and children's play dens, and some come with dedicated home cinema rooms and a private gym.
All this exclusivity comes at a price. Our recent Knight Frank prime residential research reports that out of a random sample of 40 penthouse apartments currently for sale in Dubai, the average price is Dh22.8 million. Clearly, location, size and amenities will influence how much you pay for your pad in the sky and some are considerably higher in price than this figure. But if your dreams involve a home at the top of the world, it is a price worth paying.
Emirates Crown, Dubai Marina
Price: Dh23.75 million
Description: This four bedroom penthouse is the only front-facing lateral apartment in the building, located in Dubai Marina's Millionaire's Mile. The property has two master bedrooms, one large double and a master suite. It also has a majlis, which offers panoramic views of the Palm Jumeirah, as well as a family room with views of Atlantis the Palm.
Built-up area: 8,000 sq ft
Other features: two reception rooms, five bathrooms, leisure facilities, a private elevator, spa facilities, swimming pool, staff accommodation, partly furnished
Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai
Price: Dh28 million
Description: Each of four large double bedrooms have en-suite facilities. It offers different views across Dubai via floor-to-ceiling windows. It has an expansive sitting room, which leads on to a large terrace with Jacuzzi and views of the fountains.
Built-up area: 6,141 sq ft
Other features: Reception room, five bathrooms, leisure facilities, lift, balcony, garden, secondary accommodation, spa, swimming pool, staff accommodation, private parking, utility rooms
Oceana Atlantic, Palm Jumeirah
Price: Dh15 million
Description: This three bedroom penthouse features an open-plan reception and dining area, including a fully equipped kitchen. The master bedroom suite maximizes views of Atlantis the Palm with floor-to-ceiling windows. There are two additional en-suite bedrooms and a maid's room. The property's terrace has a large Jacuzzi, bar, gym and seating areas.
Built-up area: 5,300 sq ft
Other features: three reception rooms and bathrooms, communal garden, rooftop terrace, swimming pool, staff accommodation, sea view and utility rooms
Did you know about property buyers turning scarce in Dubai
Source: Gregory Lewis, Special to Property Weekly
The author is a Senior Negotiator at Knight Frank Dubai with more than 14 years of experience in the property sector