Crash pad, micro-flat, pocket apartment, plain old studio: call it what you like, but the one-room home continues to be reinvented as developers search for ways to deliver small flats that don’t cost a fortune. Planners and policy makers need to cast off their prejudices about “living in a shoebox” and embrace small but stylish “Jimmy Choo flats” with an innovative use of space.
Pocket Living, a specialist developer, makes a virtue of small spaces. It targets singles and couples who earn too much to qualify for affordable housing yet are priced out of the most central locations. Typically, the homes are 20 per cent below market value, achieved through a clever business model and cost-cutting factory production. More than 200 apartments priced from £160,000 have been built at schemes in Camden, Hammersmith and Maida Vale. Coming soon is a development in Ealing. To register, call Pocket on 020 7291 3682.
Stephen Conway, chief executive of Galliard, says: “We should follow the example of fast-growing Asian cities.” Next week, Galliard unveils a new scheme of 38 studios at Falconwood Court, Blackheath Village. Created from a Sixties hotel annexe, the 380 sq ft homes are priced from £250,000.
“Many more projects like this are needed across the capital. They are a viable proposition for investment funds, meaning thousands of units could be built from scratch or brought to the market via refurbishments.” The Blackheath scheme follows a sales bonanza at a development of studios in Bloomsbury, where “buyers queued to write out cheques”.
Studios have been around for more than a century and were popular in Edwardian times when “gentlemen’s chambers”, often for bachelors of independent means, were built in districts such as Marylebone, Mayfair and Victoria. They fell out of fashion after the Second World War when builders overpriced tiny flats for maximum profit. But the housing shortage, and more creative input from designers and architects, means a return to popularity.
London is home to more singletons and couples than ever before, while the longer working day is driving demand for housing close to the office. Savills, the property consultant and estate agent, reports a correlation between growing demand for luxury studios and the rise of cities such as Singapore and Hong Kong, where extended office hours are the norm.
Other factors include the spread of 24/7 convenience stores, the takeaway food culture and lifestyle coffee shops, all of which have lessened reliance on the home as a place to do much more than sleep for many, while micro gadgetry — laptops, electronic books and wall-mounted slimline televisions — reduce the need for storage.
Yolande Barnes, global research director, says: “We should stop being so prescriptive. Different sizes fit different people.” Typically, studios in London range in size from about 300 sq ft to 500 sq ft, though some loft developments such as the Jam Factory in Bermondsey have considerably bigger spaces.
In general, British homes are the smallest in western Europe, with an average floor space of 828 sq ft, much less than the 1,493 sq ft in Denmark, which has the biggest living accommodation. The Royal Institute of British Architects has condemned “shameful shoebox homes” being built in the UK, but developers argue that smaller equals cheaper. Studios provide a way of buying into an area that would otherwise be too expensive, while first-timers have a chance to get on the property ladder at a price below the £250,000 stamp duty threshold.
Thoughtful interior design is helping to sell compact flats. Ballymore’s Pan Peninsula in Docklands has set a new standard. Homes of just 300 sq ft are called “studio suites”, part of a hotel-type development with concierge, valet parking, room service, spa and exclusive cocktail bar.
Though small, the studios are very space-efficient, with a pull-down bed, foldaway “transformer” kitchen, marble-lined bathrooms, bespoke shelving and storage cupboards. This is the design template for most new-build studios. Underfloor heating liberates wall space. Resourceful designers are even using fake floor-covering that lifts up, according to estate agent Douglas & Gordon. Mattress manufacturer 1907 Beds reports record business for custom-made shapes and sizes.
Clever space ideas
Berkeley Homes is pushing the space boundaries by offering studios with private courtyard gardens connected by full-height glass doors, more than doubling the amount of usable space from 382 sq ft to 799 sq ft. These homes are in Cambridge city centre and cost £209,950. Call 01223 656 010.
The same developer is offering “Manhattan apartments” — 436 sq ft studios where the internal space is split by a sliding glass wall — at its Kidbrooke Village scheme in south-east London, from £210,000. Call 020 8150 5151.
Double-height studios provide a greater sense of space even though the footprint, or floor area, of the apartment is relatively small. Incorporating a mezzanine level or bed deck frees up living space and there is potential for clever storage solutions higher up the walls. The Junction next to Tufnell Park Tube station has one-room duplexes. Prices from £428,500. Call 020 3667 5598.
The Square, Teddington, is popular with Heathrow and airline employees. Studios are from £210,000 (Featherstone Leigh on 020 8977 8118), while one-bedroom flats in the development range from 450 sq ft to 550 sq ft.
Flanagan Apartments at Bow Trinity are handy for both Canary Wharf and the City. Prices from £185,000. Call Telford Homes on 0800 883 3624.
Penthouse studios (379 sq ft) on the higher floors of One Commercial Street, a new tower above Aldgate East Tube station, cost from £410,000. Call Redrow (020 3441 2000).
Renaissance, part of a large scheme in Lewisham town centre, has studios priced from £198,000. Call Barratt on 08458 71005.