A new generation of buyers is demanding a new way of living in our cities, marking a decisive shift away from the traditional, rigidly defined ideas of how we use our living space.
Architects are responding energetically with bold and versatile layouts and researched design elements that appeal to a growing number of young couples moving out of flats for family space; families who are by-passing gentrified terraces in favour of clean and easy new-builds that chime with the way they live.
'People want luxury en-suite bathrooms, home cinemas, low-maintenance gardens and eco-friendly everything'
Glass is still popular for walls, both exterior and interior, with highly sophisticated ventilation. Open-plan reigns, with the "super-room" - or combined kitchen and family hub - here to stay.
Bedrooms with luxury en-suite bathrooms are coveted, as are home cinemas. Eco-friendly everything, including solar panel installation, is popular for economy - and for savouring that saintly, planet-saving feeling. Outside space needs to be low-maintenance and again, the green factor counts - rainwater collection points are a plus.
Inspiring homes for townies are coming on to the market with reasonable price tags - especially when they are on less-expensive plots in cheaper parts of London.
These homes are boosting the regeneration of suburban areas where planners are keen to attract middle-class families, who will always be in the vanguard when it comes to the push for better schools, libraries, parks and neighbourhood shops.
"Younger clients with children want open, dramatic and contemporary," says Nick Davies of Clerkenwell-based Grove New Homes.
"Older period houses tend to be tall and narrow, lack good-quality living space and have hopeless insulation. They have traditional, formal drawing rooms which are generally a waste of space."
To work well, super-rooms - where kitchen, living and dining areas flow into each other - require "design continuity". The spaces have to blend seamlessly, meaning the choice of materials and finishes is crucial.
Kitchen rooms have become a design statement, but there is a trend for appliances to be less conspicuous. Sinks are under-mounted, while big larder fridges with integrated fronts "disappear" into the run of cupboards - they are streamlined, not sticking out like those old American-style fridges.
Using previously redundant hallway space (handy for parties) is another trend. UK house-builders are mixing home-grown designs with those imported from the US and Scandinavia, where open-plan layouts and clever storage have been in use for decades.
New England-style four-bedroom houses at The Hamptons, a 60-acre community in Worcester Park, southwest London, make use of natural timber and warm-coloured rendering, and cost from £389,950. Call developer St James on 020 8337 3425.
Waterfront Mews backs on to the Regent's Canal at handsome Arlington Square, Islington. Seven houses on a former industrial site have striking aluminium façades and roof terraces. Prices from £825,000. Call Chesterton Humberts on 020 7288 0330.
A pair of contemporary-design houses created from the shell of a 19th-century workshop have been artfully slotted into an Islington conservation area. Lightwells have been carved out and a master suite incorporated into the roof pitch, while a courtyard and two terraces link with glass-walled internal spaces. The address is Compton Avenue. Prices, £1,495,000 and £1,795,000.
Developments are rare in Barnsbury, another prized Islington enclave - hence the draw of a new terrace of 15 houses at Barnsbury Park. The homes sit back from the road behind railings and have up to four bedrooms and 1,850sq ft of space plus small gardens. Modern interiors are airy and well-planned. A white-gloss open-plan kitchen/day room connects to the garden via glass double doors. Priced at £1.25 million. Call 0845 177 0006.
Horses and carriages for London's first omnibuses were kept at Shillibeer Place in Marylebone. Just completed is a boutique scheme of three town houses, one new mews house and a pair of refurbished Georgian houses. Classic architecture on the outside sets off clean-cut contemporary interiors. The houses have integral garages, too. From £2.75 million. Call Savills on 020 7016 3860.
At Whitfield Street, Fitzrovia, seven modern town houses will be launched later this year. Each has 1,775 sq ft of space and costs £3 million. Call Jackson-Stops & Staffs on 020 7664 6644.
At The Mews, a gated scheme in Weybridge, well-crafted modern town houses behind period-style façades spring a surprise. Each has four floors of flexible space, including a basement with direct access to an underground car park.
At the rear, a family room has concertina doors that fold all the way back, opening on to the garden. Luxury finishes include Poggenpohl kitchens, a computer-controlled AV system and generous amounts of storage. Prices from £895,000 to £1.95 million. Call Consero Homes 01932 850390.
What developers are incorporating:
* Laundry rooms on upper floors, close to bedrooms for efficient washing, ironing and storing away.
* Temperature-controlled wine "libraries", pictured right (off the kitchen rather than in less-accessible cellars).
* Walk-in larders with marble shelves for produce, cheeses and other foods not suited to being kept in a fridge.
* Jogging tracks, with non-slip surfaces, laid around the perimeters of developments.
* Rubbish chutes inside apartments, linked to communal rubbish bins on the ground floor.
A passion for the latest in fashions
Rachel Munro-Peebles, 36, turned the skills she learned in the fashion industry working for Harvey Nichols to starting a sideline in property design and development, and as a mother of two living in the city she understands what sells to a modern London family.
She lives with her video artist husband Neal and their children in a Shoreditch warehouse and specialises in transforming run-down period houses in east London. Rachel can be contacted on 07956 439520. The properties are either sold or rented out, or used for film or fashion shoots. The family's own home is a 3,000 sq ft loft.
"Often the buildings are listed so there are limitations on what you can do but we know how to add modern design elements where we can," explains Rachel. "Currently we are talking to English Heritage about putting in a glass extension at the rear of a Georgian house near Spitalfields. People love the new-old combination. We seem to have found a niche and have a following in the area.
"Bigger developers are not interested in these projects because they are complicated and time-consuming. But the properties sell for a premium and we never have trouble finding buyers or tenants." Reuse content