21st Century Housekeeping
What does it take to ensure seamless running of the home? We took a look into the modern world of housekeeping in a fully staffed formal 21st century private household.
To outsiders, traditional formal housekeeping might appear to be an anachronism. However, this is not the case – it definitely has a place in today’s modern culture, and we are currently assisting with a number of international roles. There are an increasing number of prestigious homes being built and a larger number of high net worth and Noted individuals now than at any point in history. In addition, lifestyles are very career-oriented and busier than ever – people are simply too busy to juggle their busy and demanding careers and the maintenance of their homes to the highest standard. A first-rate housekeeping team will ensure the upkeep and maintenance of the property, including specialised care of modern luxury furniture and surfaces. Housekeepers are a vital part of a fully staffed home and their importance should be highlighted.
A fully staffed home consists of various teams, with housekeeping being one of the most important, so it is essential to have a head housekeeper to oversee it. This individual needs a wide range of qualities in order to manage, train, schedule, provide quality control, restock products, and ensure the principals have full day coverage. A head housekeeper needs to be very flexible, and hands-on when necessary, leading by example and not just delegating. They might need to step in and cover anything the team could encounter, so experience in every area is absolutely essential. Excellent leadership skills are a must, as is experience in a private household, which is very different from the corporate and hotel housekeeping world. A head housekeeper can stay with a family for many years if they have these attributes, along with a natural eye for detail and an approach attuned for longevity.
Two other roles that are often considered to go hand-in-hand with housekeeping are that of the laundress and the wardrobe manager, which can appear to be similar roles but have important differences. Principals with over 50% of their wardrobe taken up by couture, luxury or delicate fabrics which require special care should consider having a full or part time wardrobe manager, as well as a laundress. A skilled laundress will have excellent skills in washing, ironing, pressing, steaming and good knowledge of various types of garment care. A wardrobe manager’s skills are somewhat different: organising, packing before and unpacking after travel, and knowledge of various garments (for example, not to put sequins next to cashmere). They’ll be able to organise tailored wardrobe systems according to the principal’s preferences and lifestyle, rotate seasonally, ensure trends are kept up with, keep track of inventory and maintain storage of sentimental and vintage items.
With a strong housekeeping team in place, a client can expect their home to be maintained to an exceptionally high standard on a daily basis. There should not be a requirement for micromanagement, as a successful team runs smoothly with minimal input from the Principals. The team can be trusted to diligently care for unique luxury items, furniture, fixtures and belongings, including valuable artwork, silverware and delicate surfaces. Principals can expect a fully functioning wardrobe which is managed and refreshed frequently in line with seasonal trends and their personal preferences, at home and when travelling.