London's future-proof new homes come with movable walls and adaptable interiors

Movable walls, "super-rooms" and winter gardens are innovative ideas that are among the latest trends hitting new homes throughout London.
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Adaptable homes — designed to be cheap and easy to alter to fit an evolving family’s needs — are starting to make a big impact on London. It is an architectural response to changing lifestyles and social trends, particularly “inter- generational” living —with parents, children and grandparents living under the same roof, whether for financial reasons or to give each other care or support.

Some London families need to accommodate an au pair, or provide space for stepchildren and youngsters who never quite fly the nest. “We expect this trend to increase over the coming years,” says Stephanie McMahon, head of research at estate agent Strutt & Parker. 

“Future-proofing at the build stage is far more cost-effective than retro-fitting and is ideal for anyone who has found somewhere where they are happy to spend the rest of their life.”


How it's done
Flexible design ideas include movable walls and interiors that can be reconfigured simply, or deeper foundations that pave the way for an integral garage to be converted into a single-storey living space.

Woodview Mews, an innovative scheme of homes on back garden plots in Crystal Palace, has embraced these ideas. Thinking outside the box, architects Geraghty Taylor and developer Guildhouse have pioneered a design concept called LivinHome, which allows a large family house to be transformed with minimum intervention into two smaller family homes or three independent flats.


It all starts with the building fabric, or envelope, and a standardised “floorplate”, with all pipes, cables and  services installed, avoiding the need to cut through external walls, roof or floors when changes are required. Underfloor heating means no wall-mounted radiators.

One of the clever design principles employed addresses what architects call “circulation” areas — space-eating stairs, hallways and entrances. Here, the circulation areas are external, stacked vertically and separated from the internal living space. This allows the same staircase to serve a house, a duplex or each of the flats. A lift can be installed, should that become necessary in the future.

Flexible: homes at Woodview Mews, Crystal Palace, are easy to reconfigure. Call 020 7740 2640

Set in a leafy glade, gated too, behind substantial Victorian villas, the homes have a Scandinavian quality — contemporary design, with restrained and unfussy lines, clad in mellow brick and engineered panels.

In addition, Woodview Mews homes come with covered carports, a forecourt play area and rear gardens backed by a wooded patch. The original planning consent for the plot was for a pair of traditional semis. Local planners are delighted with the outcome and welcome the wider virtues — “not least the benefits to the community, as families are not forced to uproot to other areas”, says architect Karl Taylor, adding that the design concept has a wide application and could be used for public housing. 

Another scenario is that a space could be turned into a buy-to-let flat when kids fly the nest. Arranged as a terrace of six three-storey houses, the scheme actually comprises 11 homes — two houses, three duplexes and six lateral apartments. Each storey has approximately 750sq ft of space, so the loft-like duplexes are more than 1,500sq ft and the houses in excess of 2,100sq ft.

Prices range from £300,000 to £895,000. Call estate agent Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward on 020 7740 2640. Joining two flats or splitting a house into multiple units would require planning permission. Guildhouse has similar schemes in the pipeline in London. Call 020 7881 1900.

£3,555,000: Argyll Place in North Kensington, modern townhouses over five levels with a basement that can be made into a separate self-contained living area

Bonus rooms
Tougher building regulations and changing lifestyles are forcing developers to think more creatively about how space is used. 

Increasingly, designs incorporate “bonus rooms” in the attic, galleries, roof terraces, double-height atriums, basements, winter gardens and conservatories for extra year-round space. There is also a move away from houses with rigidly defined rooms for sleeping, eating and relaxing. 

Remarkably, a lot of houses built today have a layout that is rooted in the Victorian era, with a hierarchical room arrangement, while many older period houses are tall and narrow and lack good-quality living space. Formal drawing rooms tend to be for special occasions, not everyday use, and are therefore wasteful of space.

One popular design solution in modern houses is an informal, light-filled, open-plan, ground-floor space, or “super-room”, where kitchen, living and dining areas flow into each other and connect with the garden. Such homes are the number one choice of more and more young couples moving out of flats when they start a family. Growing families, too, are bypassing gentrified terraces in favour of wow-factor new builds that chime with the way they live.

Often this boils down to a house that has the hallmarks of a loft — open-plan,  dramatic and contemporary. Such features are on display at Argyll Place, a North Kensington scheme of modern townhouses with flexible room designs. Set over five levels, each house has three entrances and comes with a basement that can be self-contained to form a separate living area. Open-plan areas on other floors flow into outside space — garden, terraces and balconies. Prices from £3,555,000. Call Taylor Wimpey on 020 3667 5579.

At Hemington Gate, an infill scheme of four houses in Friern Barnet, buyers can choose from one of two layouts: either a kitchen/diner or a big family room linked to a garden on the showpiece ground floor. Each house has four bedrooms and 2,470sq ft of space. Prices start at  £1.3 million. Call Hamptons International on 020 8883 5997.

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