On a long, bright summer evening the reward for a day at the office is the joy of coming home to a small piece of outside space. Whether a traditional garden, a roof terrace, a wraparound balcony, a private courtyard, a landscaped piazza, even a wildlife sanctuary or a river view. We just want to get outside with friends or relax quietly on our own enjoying a chilled glass of wine.
© Carl Everingham
A recent YouGov survey commissioned by the New Homes Marketing Board revealed that out of 20 important features listed 53 per cent of homebuyers said that outside space was the single most important thing they looked for when buying a new home.
Well conceived outside space can be an extension of the home itself, offering somewhere to socialise with neighbours and friends. It provides a sense of scale and place, and adds value to a development. As there is now a higher density requirement, planners are insisting that builders put more thought into outdoor space. In the past, there was nothing more soul-destroying than houses lined up like soldiers, with small garden plots left unturfed.
What's on offer
Now, schemes have architectural variety and uplifting street scenes, with tree-lined avenues, crescents and squares. At Queen Mary’s Place in Roehampton, a listed Palladian mansion with a historic sunken garden forms the centrepiece of a new walled estate of 447 homes. Houses start at £499,950. Call St James Homes on 020 8246 6748.
At sites such as redundant Victorian hospitals, developers can make the most of the mature landscape by improving the grounds, protecting habitats and creating footpaths and cycleways.
A 19th-century water tower at The Galleries in Brentwood, Essex, has been turned into a spectacular one-off home with a 322sq ft terrace. Prices start at £635,000. Call City & Country Group on 01277 202122.
When building from scratch, communal areas can be brought to life with sculptures and ornamental water features. Niche top-end developers say gardens are accorded the same status as a house.
“Many buyers treat gardens as an outside room, to be used for entertainment as well as relaxation. The best landscaping creates an indoor/outdoor synergy allowing owners to enjoy the space in all seasons,” says David Smith, sales director of Octagon, an environmentally sensitive company that builds expensive homes in the commuter belt.
At some glamorous riverside developments, big and curvy glass balconies are an integral part of the bold architecture, while “winter gardens” - enclosed conservatory-style spaces - can be used year-round. The latter are a feature at Barratt’s Dalston Square development in Hackney. Sliding glass panels and louvres can be opened in summer and closed in winter, extending the living space by 200sq ft. Prices start at £290,000 for a two-bedroom flat. Call 020 7241 1883.
Brand new contemporary-design “yacht homes” - or luxury houseboats - moored next to Kingston Bridge are for sale. Each has 1,455sq ft of space plus deck terraces. Prices start at £625,000 plus £7,000 annual mooring and parking fee. Call Featherstone Leigh on 020 8549 9449.
Estate agents say even a small balcony or terrace can add £50,000 to the price of an apartment. Genuinely large terraces are quite rare and normally come only with penthouses. Canalside penthouses at the Wenlock Building in Islington cost from £1.3 million. Call Chesterton on 020 7288 0330.
At Imperial Wharf, a 32-acre estate on the Fulham waterfront, homes overlook a riverside promenade and 10-acre park with a boating pond and Sensory Garden, which has three landscaped themes - Aroma, Sight and Touch - plus a picnic lawn. Apartments are from £1.25 million to £4,950,000. Call St George Homes on 020 7610 9693.
© Carl Everingham
'One of the most peaceful places I've ever lived'
Sean Fletcher, 37, was one of the first residents to move into Kingsway Square a year ago. He moved from Kingston because he wanted to be close to the central London action yet says his courtyard apartment is one of the most peaceful places he has ever lived.
Mr Fletcher, who runs a handyman service called House Hero, adds: “I don’t have my own balcony so I use the communal roof terrace quite a lot. “Barbecues are not allowed but people go up there with deck chairs in the summer.”
Kingsway Square is a redevelopment of listed Battersea Polytechnic. Two-bedroom apartments with large terraces (from 315sq ft to 651sq ft) overlooking tranquil courtyards cost from £499,950 to £695,000. In addition, there is a huge communal roof terrace. Call 0870 850 7674.
© Mark Bader
Close to the heart of the city
Communal roof terraces are being built at inner-city apartment schemes popular with young singles and couples. VoguE1, in Whitechapel, is one such development.
The modern-design block of 58 apartments sits discreetly in a backstreet of rag-trade premises and design studios, and from the communal roof terrace it is immediately obvious how close it is to the beating heart of the capital.
Elisabetta Bucciarelli, 39, who works for an online gaming company, bought a one-bedroom apartment there. “The views from the rooftop terrace are amazing. On a sunny day it’s a great place to relax with a glass of wine. Though communal, it still feels private because of the clever landscaping. I can invite a few friends up for a get together whereas that’s not possible if you have only a small balcony. And it’s an opportunity to get to know neighbours better. ”
Prices start at £329,995, including separate storage lockers, a useful extra. Split-level flats on the top two floors of the building cost from £550,000. Call Higgins Homes on 020 7377 7511.