Even greater expectations

PUBLISHED: 16:01 09 November 2007 | UPDATED: 14:54 20 February 2013



Well-heeled home buyers these days are demanding more from potential properties. Tessa Harris finds out what's hot and what's not on the luxury housing scene...

Berkshire Life, November 2007

Over the last three years the number of property millionaires in the UK has risen dramatically to around 80,000 in England and Wales and most of these are, of course, in the South East. Outside London, areas like Wentworth, Sunningdale and Gerrards Cross all top the millionaire's league.

So what are affluent - £1m plus - property buyers looking for in terms of a new home?
While location continues to be a crucial factor for the affluent home buyer, Rectory Homes founder and chairman Simon Vickers says that discerning clients are demanding more in terms of architectural design, intelligent layouts, well proportioned rooms and good use of space with plenty of storage.

His wife Sarah, who is the firm's design consultant, says: "It is amazing what people have to say in terms of preference in design. I think that many people are influenced by TV programmes and films, but not so much by TV makeovers. Glossy magazines and the accessibility of international travel have influenced the design of homes."

In fact clients at the high end of the house market expect so much that the demand has given rise to a whole new field within the interiors industry called architectural specification. This is a stage or more before interior design, and involves the identification and co-ordination of every fitment and finish that is required in a new home, from coving and cornice selection to door furniture specification, flooring material, stone, tile and ceramic choices and the positioning of electrical circuitry and sockets.

When it comes to new builds of £2 million plus, however, then the sky really is the limit on specifications. Sarah continues: "It is fair to say that purchasers are more demanding in terms of expectation of quality, and that is understandable. If it makes us feel good, it is worth it, that is, the things that make our lives more enjoyable, and allow us to read, cook, play and relax alone or with family. It is important to visualise how people will use space, to recognise that everything must have its own place, such as space for wellies in the utility room. Demanding is good if it means we get it right every time."

Architect Annika Hatchwell, a director of Inspiration, based in Newbury, agrees. "In general people are far more interested in good quality architectural design in their homes ie the 'wow factor', as opposed to just adding floor space," she says.

Her firm, which deals in high-end houses, has also been asked to design some extraordinary extras, such as a dedicated dog shower and a snooker table stored under the floor of a home cinema on a hydraulic lift.

Luxury developer Belvedere has taken the bar to another level however, with its latest house, Willowbrook, on the Wentworth Estate, near Sunningdale. One of its specifications is an advanced fire sprinkler system that employs immediate targeted fire suppression. In so doing the firm has been able to introduce a significant amount of glass into the infrastructure of the building, including glass balustrades to the staircase and landing, an inspirational floating glass bathroom and the extensive use of glass doors.

Architect Stan Beanland said: "The diffused water application allows the flexibility of the extensive use of glass in doors as an architectural feature, so, for example, we can design the hallway as a living space rather than a corridor."

The increasing specification of underfloor heating also gives designers more freedom to use space creatively.
"At £1m plus people are more concerned with green issues, recycling and saving power. Sensors and power saving devices are becoming increasingly specified, it costs more initially but there is a saving in the long run and people feel better about doing something positive," says Sarah Vickers.

On the prestigious Wentworth Estate, Rectory is set to create a £5m luxury detached family residence with indoor swimming pool and ground source heat recovery system. In taking on board new requirements with regard to sustainability and carbon neutral objectives, the firm constantly assesses the latest innovations in terms of products and techniques that may contribute to energy efficiency. Says Simon: "In practice this could result in the introduction of new designs of window or wide-format folding glazed door panels to permit maximum use of natural light, heat and ventilation, the use of new work surface materials in kitchens or energy saving appliances."
And he adds: "Ultimately, purchasers will know that new product introductions will be useful, attractive and appropriate."

Willowbrook is for sale with with local agent Buckinghams at £2.95m and is scheduled for completion this autumn. www.belvedere.uk.com

What's hot and what's not

Here is architect Annika Hatchwell's list of what's hot and what's not in today's property market

Turn ons

  • Large kitchen diners used as living spaces - not just for cooking.
  • At least one bathroom per two bedrooms.
  • Home automation; ie wiring your home with computer cabling. This allows not only the connection of a PC in every room but unlimited ability to programme and remotely control everything from your lighting to drawing curtains, and even running the bath. You can even control automated systems via your mobile phone when you are on holiday.
  • Radio controlled light switches - so that you don't have to touch switches with wet hands, just wave you hand across.
  • Built in audio systems allowing selection, in any room via a local remote control, from your music collection.
  • Home cinemas.
  • Sustainability related features, eg waste water recycling, on-site power generation. The use of hemp as a new building material that can dispense with the necessity for heating your home.
  • Home spas and hot tubs and swimming pools with swim jets, like the luxury pool pictured left.
  • Rain showers/power showers and body massage jets. In general, higher quality finishes to bathrooms.
  • Designer kitchens can now be viewed as 'status symbols' and a showcase of impressive gadgetry!
  • Two side-by-side dishwashers - no need to pack crockery away.
  • Kitchen taps that can deliver either ice cold filtered water or boiling water for your tea!
  • Touch screen internet connected computers built into kitchen cabinets
  • Intelligent fridges: These scan the barcode of your last bottle of milk and add it to the list of shopping that it will order automatically for you.

Turn offs

  • Stripped pine or any unfinished woodwork.
  • Patterned wallpaper borders or stencilled designs.
  • Short curtains.
  • Matching fabric patterns on curtains, bedcovers and bedroom upholstery.
  • Wood effect plastic laminate flooring.
  • Coloured bathroom suites and shower curtains
  • Austrian blinds.
  • Timber effect PVC window frames.
  • Stick on glazing bars.
  • Bright blue garden furniture.
  • Central ceiling lights as main light source
  • Small bathrooms.
  • Paint effects.
  • Patterned obscured glazing.
  • Plastic conservatory roofs.

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