Buyers Crave Something Old, Something New

We all love “grand designs” but do we want to buy one? Property writer Sharon Dale thinks not.

I love a box set and my current must-see is The Bridge with its winning combination of Nordic noir, a fascinating female detective and great title music.

But there is a limit to how many grisly murders and unhappy endings I can take.

Two episodes a night is my max, which is in contrast to my all-time favourite TV programme, Grand Designs.

I could binge watch those self-build odysseys back-to-back, 24 hours a day and I’m not alone.
Grand Designs remains one of the most popular series on TV, both here in the UK and around the world where the format has been replicated. We drool over the bold, contemporary architecture and the ultra-modern interiors. We often imagine ourselves living in those homes, and yet there seems to be a disconnect between our fantasies and reality.
The majority of developers will tell you that British buyers prefer a traditional looking home, at least from the outside.
One of the best examples of how to combine traditional style and modern building techniques is in Redrow’s hugely popular Heritage range, which is marketed as “something old, something new.”

It was inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, which began around 1880 and grew out of concerns about the effects of industrialisation on design and traditional crafts. The architecture and interiors are characterised by craftsmanship and the natural beauty of materials. 

The Blenheim and Highgrove house types by Redrow Homes that were inspired by Arts and Crafts architecture

The driving forces behind the movement were the writer and critic John Ruskin and the designer William Morris. 
“Most people want something tried and tested rather than something very contemporary because modern architecture can be like Marmite. You either like it or you don’t. We chose the Arts and Craft style because it is very attractive, familiar and it has a lot of character,” says Stuart Norton, Design and Technical Director at Redrow Homes.

While tradition and familiarity are important on the outside, buyers want a modern interior.
Top of their wish-list is a gorgeous en-suite bathroom. The idea of having an en-suite was imported, says Stuart, who adds: “When people started holidaying abroad in the 1960s and 70s, they stayed in hotels with en-suite bedrooms rather than in B&Bs with shared bathrooms. 

“The style of the en-suite has evolved and now people want wet rooms rather than separate shower cubicles and trays. In some of our houses we spend more money on the en-suite than we do on the house bathroom.”

A large open-plan living kitchen with space for cooking, dining and relaxing is also desirable, although noise can be an issue if the design has not been thought through.

Buyers love open-plan living kitchens.

“Our buyers like to have an open-plan element and they want the kitchen to be the hub of the home but we tend to include a separate utility area for the washer and dryer as noise from these appliances can be an issue in an open-plan area. We also like to have a separate sitting room, if space allows, so there is an option to sit quietly and watch TV or read,” says Stuart, who adds that new home buyers are also demanding bigger areas of glazing.

This is almost certainly a trend influenced by Grand Designs. Now standard 7ft-wide patio doors are seen as inadequate and many buyers are upgrading to much wider folding sliding doors. Those investing in a newly-built property are also keen to have the latest technology. So paying extra for smart home additions, such as lighting, sound and security systems is becoming more common.

On the horizon is the first-floor laundry room. Top-end developers are including these in properties and, like the extra bathroom, it’s another imported idea that makes perfect sense. Why cart the washing up and down stairs when there is no need? And why have an ugly, noisy washing machine in the kitchen? The Americans don’t do it and neither do the Australians.

Article provided by Sharon Dale, property and interiors journalist and lifestyle bloggerShe has a passion for architecture, design, vintage furniture and Angie Lewin prints.

Publish date: 20/04/2016