You know it when you see it, that house that makes your heart skip a beat
or your jaw hit the floor. It may not be the biggest one of the street, or
had the most money spent on it, but it’s the one that stands out from
the rest, says Georgina Blaskey.
Gone are the days when every house ‘Between the Commons’ looked the same. Now when you enter a Victorian semi in SW, it’s like opening the Tardis door. Have they done the side return? Is the loft a master suite? What’s in that basement? For the inside track on what goes on behind the front doors of Wandsworth, we asked the experts – our property partners who have seen more open-plan kitchens than we have dirty nappies…
1 Curb appeal
“When you’re driving down the street and you see rows of houses, you spot one with well-presented, smart frontage and hope it’s that one,” says Tamzin Incledon from Douglas & Gordon. Smart bin stores, off-street parking and hard landscaping definitely make a great first impression. “It’s also about quality – if someone has gone to the effort of spending time and money on the outside, you can pretty much guarantee they’ve also spent money on good plumbing and fixtures and fittings inside,” says Jonathan Dyson from Hamptons International. Joel Baseley of Rampton Baseley agrees. “Rendering over pebbledash can add value to your house and give it the wow factor, creating that all-important great first impression, and off-street parking is always desirable around here.” Charlie Streatfield of Marsh & Parsons emphasises, “It doesn’t have to be OTT but good quality bin storage or painted railings means the hard sell is done.”
2 Inviting hallways and landings
Whilst many of us have no choice but to trip over the Bugaboo when we enter our homes, what you make of your entrance hall can be the difference between ooooh and eeeewww. “Original Victorian tiles in the hallway look wonderful,” says Jonanthan. “And a sunken doormat, rather than a loose one shifting around,” suggests Tamzin. “It’s all part of that all-important first impression,” reminds Charlie. “Having the same carpet runner flowing between floors looks good too,” says Joel.
3 Floored by flooring
“Parquet, concrete, pale ash wood, these can give the average room the wow factor: carpet is over!” says Tamzin. “Using the same tiles, or even the same shade of tiles, in your kitchen and garden seamlessly link the two areas and create a fantastic feeling of flow.” This results in an expansive space that looks well thought through with a quality finish.“And using the same flooring throughout a flat can really open it up,” adds Charlie.
4 A serious wine cellar
“When you walk in to a brilliant wine cellar, it oozes style and luxury,” says Joel. “The best ones have underlit racks, display sections and glass frontage so you can admire the collection.” Usually located in the basement, they add an extra dimension to a property. “You can even make a feature of it under the stairs if you don’t have a basement,” suggests Jonathan. “Spiral cellars are also popular,” adds Charlie.
5 Utility room seduction
Yes it may be the least glamorous room in your house, but it’s the one many of us spend more time in than we would like! “If a space has been well planned, there’ll be a utility room,” says Jonathan. Taybridge Road “Whether it’s on the lower ground or ground floor doesn’t matter too much,” advises Charlie. “Taking the white goods out of the kitchen and putting them in a purpose-built space pleases potential buyers,” adds Joel. “A tanked cellar housing the laundry room is a good selling point,” agrees Tamzin. There’s a growing trend for laundry rooms upstairs too – after all, what’s the point in carrying loads of washing down to a cellar, just so you can walk it all back up again?
6 Hotel-style bedroom, ensuite and dressing room
“Most people work hard and many travel too, so when they come home, they like the luxe feel of a hotel-style bedroom,” say Tamzin. Over-sized headboards, deep-pile carpets and decorative lighting are just some of the interior touches that seduce buyers and dwellers. “Losing a bedroom and creating an ensuite will not diminish your property’s value, far from it,” adds Jonathan. And walk-in dressing rooms with dedicated shoe storage and well-designed joinery means we can all live out our Carrie Bradshaw dreams.
7 Kitchen dreams
As opposed to kitchen nightmares…. “Marble remains popular and islands are much desired,” explains Jonathan. Tamzin agrees: “A well-designed kitchen where, for example, the recycling bin has been hidden away and there’s a boiling water tap, is basically expected these days by anyone looking for a turn-key property.”
And the agents beg you to put your cooker in the island, not your sink. Why look at piles of dirty dishes and cook with your back to your guests when they come over? Switch it around and have the sink against the wall. Yes, it means putting an extractor fan above the island, which involves extra cost, but it’s money well spent.
8 Rooms with a view
Whether you get there through crittal-style doors or huge sliding glass ones, a kitchen/living area leading out to the garden is essential to wow. “Fake grass is simply brilliant – no maintenance, it’s always green and looks great,” says Jonathan. “But if you’re able to maintain a real green lawn, that’s a real wow for some buyers too.” “Some kind of garden feature, such as a kids’ climbing area or a sunken trampoline, is warmly received by buyers in this area with young children,” explains Joel. “And like with the front of the house, spending money on proper hard landscaping, such as tiered flower beds and dedicated decked social areas, is a good investment.”
“Due to the area’s low-rise architecture, you can get some roof terraces with great views,” says Charlie. “If you’re lucky enough to have a roof terrace, you can maximise your view with a glass balcony – or install wraparound windows on a high-floor dining area,” advises Tamzin.
9 Well-designed storage
Whilst we all love a tidy house, that only works if there’s something to tidy things in to – and storage really comes into its own in the playroom. Whilst floor-to-ceiling doors concealing doors and baskets are functional and smart, you can have some fun with playroom or children’s bedroom cupboards too. “Round cubby holes, bright colours and clever display shelves really raise the design stakes in what can be an overlooked room,” explains Joel.
In awkward places such as eaves and under stairs, convert it into cupboards to make the most of this otherwise dead space.
“Garden storage is also a great addition to keep small spaces tidy,” says Jonathan.
10 Quirky touches (but not too quirky!)
“I saw a house with an adult’s height sink and a children’s height sink alongside in the family bathroom. It was so cool, I’ve actually done the same in my home,” reveals Joel.
“I’ve just put in a free-standing wood burner,” says Tara Sinclair from Hamptons International. “They’re environmentally friendly and they look great.”
“In a house on Bramfield Road, they’ve put a vacuum hose system on every floor, so no more lugging the Hoover up and down stairs, as well as a laundry shoot that goes down to the utility,” explains Tamzin.
“It’s a small thing but recently I went to a house where the plugs all had USP sockets – simple but brilliant,” says Charlie.
If you want to add the wow factor to your house without embarking on a building project, here are some top tips from our favourite interior designers.
Phil Robinson from Paint the Town Green
“Often hand rails and newel posts can look a bit tired and tatty and the cost of French polishing to restore them to their former glory can exceed budgets. Picking them out in a bold colour can add a modern twist to a classic Victorian stairwell for a fraction of the cost,” suggests Phil. “In this example from a house in Clapham, we used one of our colours, Fisherman’s Blues, which matched the carpet runner perfectly.”
“Bold use of dark colours can create an intimate, relaxing atmosphere. This photo shows a dark wallpaper we hung but a similar effect can be created using paint. A dark grey such as Dark Side of the Moon from our exclusive paint range would be ideal – go as dark as you dare!” Phil advises. www.paintthetowngreen.biz
Emma Green from Emma Green Design:
“Storage is often seen as a necessity, but when done well can add instant interest and uniqueness to a room,” says Emma. “For example, with this bedroom I designed, the storage is not only functional, as a means to both hide away and also display books, but it is also used to display treasured artefacts and create a wow factor. It adds depth, differing layers and interest.”
Also with this seating area designed by Emma Green Design for a client’s kitchen, the bespoke storage feature provides a practical means to store children’s books and cookery books, as well as room for toys in a drawer underneath the seating and in the cupboards either side. It also provides a natural area to display artwork for maximum effect.
“Lighting is something I am passionate about as it’s rarely done well, but when it is, it can elevate a room from the ordinary to the extraordinary. There are four main means of lighting a room: ambient, task, accent and candlelight, and when combined and done well, it creates a wow in any scheme!” www.emmagreendesign.com
Dee Gibson from Velvet Orange
“I love to add a little sliver of something citrusy or metallic to a client’s space, and they absolutely love it,” says Dee. “Recently I have been channeling yellows, mustards and metallic wallpapers, blended with more muted, classic tones or materials. For example, we upholstered this chair which was originally white in this gorgeous Designers Guild fabric and installed it in the window of a more classic kitchen – the result is little intake of breath… when you walk into the room, immediately lifting your spirits and the entire space.”
“In another very modern kitchen extension we built and created, the client was brave enough to say yes to this fantastic Graham and Brown wallpaper – mustard and silver. It looks fantastic and she tells me how much she loves it as does everybody else. It’s a wonderful contrast to exposed brick and zebrano wood elsewhere in the same room.”
“Don’t be afraid to experiment with bold, vibrant colours – they will not kill an interior, quite the contrary they can be the blast it needs to lift the whole look to a completely new and breathtaking level.” www.velvetorange.co.uk
Claire Burrage from Clara B
“Getting just the right balance was the most crucial aspect of this child’s bedroom. We wanted the upper section to reflect ‘calm and cosy’. Every element of safety had to be considered along with accessibility to all storage so it could be reached and enjoyed by a little girl. Blackout Velux blinds were essential for above the bed. The lower section of the room was designed for work and play. Areas here for consideration included colours, flooring, storage and easy accessibility to resources. Originally the lighting consisted of a single pendant light to the lower section. Lights are of huge importance and setting the right ambience to promote healthy sleep is vital. Therefore if using overhead lights, always ensure a dimmer is installed. A mix of overhead lighting and lamps work best.” www.clarabee.com
“To create the wow factor use wallpaper and use it everywhere – not just one wall but all walls and even your ceiling – it can transform a dull lifeless room into a vibrant welcoming space that can truly reflect who lives there,” says Nicki. “It is not a surprise that the craze for vinyl wallpapers is ever increasing given how durable they are. By using a vinyl wallpaper in an entrance hallway, suddenly it becomes a space that not only reflects your personality and hits visitors as soon as they enter the house, but on a practical level imagine no more scuff marks or handprints from sticky-fingered children as you can wipe – if not scrub – the marks away. But, you say, wallpaper is so expensive – not really when you think how often you have to phone your decorator to come and touch up your scuffed hallway – a good quality wallpaper that has been properly fitted will last you for years and years and will look fantastic throughout. And don’t forget to wallpaper that downstairs loo – the madder the better! Instant wow and not a huge amount of wallpaper required,” advises Nicki. www.nickicox.portfoliobox.me