Step away from the magnolia paint. The latest property developments are teaming up with star interior designers to give their homes the wow factor
Showhomes can be a bit like churches – beautiful to look at but once you’ve seen a few they all merge into one. The trouble is that they’ve become so neutral, with palettes of dove grey, café latte and cream, and their ubiquitous “luxury hotel” look that buyers struggle to distinguish one gloss white open-plan kitchen diner from the next.
If last decade has been all about the big-name starchitect building, the next will be about the interiors, too, as some brave developers are enlisting the help of the biggest names in interior design and styling.
“The public is demanding more interesting spaces; social media such as Pinterest is making people increasingly aware and excited by architecture and design so the more pedestrian, beige look just isn’t cutting it anymore,” says Albert Hill, director of the Modern House, an estate agency that specialises in architecturally interesting homes.
“I also think that developers themselves enjoy working with more interesting designers rather than churning out the same old product – they are trying to stand out from the crowd,” suggests Hill.
One development that will definitely stand out from its neighbours is Maine Tower, part of the flagship new Galliard Homes’ Harbour Central development of 901 homes, retail, commercial and leisure facilities that is about to launch in Canary Wharf. Stephen Conway, CEO of Galliard, which is London’s second largest residential developer, has called upon Madonna’s interiors style maven Nicola Fontanella of Argent Design to create an opulent Art Deco look that will bring the Manhattan glamour of the Great Gatsby era to Docklands. It’s a collaboration that came about by chance, when the two met on holiday and got chatting– but the results are far from your ordinary new-build specification flat.
Planned as a ‘vertical village’ the 41-storey tower will have pockets of social space woven into the different levels, from a gym and spa, to a private cinema, cocktail bar and club lounge, and a library. All will have the trademark Fontanella stamp on them – expanses of glass, bronze-effect panels and polished plaster and stone walls, softened by deep sculptural sofas and glamorous soft furnishings.
The apartments add a touch of Miami Glamour, with blues, turquoise and splashes of gold and bronze, while the rich stone kitchen worktop and warm wooden floors make a contemporary update to the gloss kitchen and stripped floors of most new-builds. Studios will start from £350,000 and Harbour Central launches this Thursday [25 JUNE], www.galliardhomes.com.
It’s a move that will surely have cost the Conway far more time, effort and expense, but one that he hopes will pay off. As Hill explains, “Developers are trying to move the public perception of developments from just being purely money-making vehicles to something with a little more vitality and integrity. And buyers are ready for that.”
Over the water at Greenwich Peninsula, the former creative director of Habitat, product designer and head of his own Design Research Studio, Tom Dixon is responsible for the interiors of the Loft Collection, a limited edition release of 35 apartments at Upper Riverside (lofts from £720,000, www.themodernhouse.net). Featuring his signature use copper and with a strong industrial edge and a nod and a wink to British design heritage (think green enamel metro-style tiles reminiscent of a Victorian pub or tube station), the playful, bold scheme has had hipsters flocking to the area to get a slice of his residential style.
Expect bright jewel–hued sofas, emerald green kitchen splash-backs, metallic tables and surfaces, industrial steel beams in the bathroom and incredible iridescent glass shower screens that refract the light like a rainbow. “The colours work to connect you either to the ground or the sky,” says Dixon. “They are strong and bright – they seem very modern and fresh but in fact they inspired by old painting of the area, the sunsets and the surrounding nature.”
Even if you don’t manage to bag one of the remaining lofts, Dixon will have a hand in designing the public areas covering everything from street lamps to gardens, pavilions and he has already created the interiors for Craft, a sleek restaurant and bar on the peninsula. It’s all part of a wider “place-making” scheme, designed to attract a creative crowd of artists, theatre companies and designer-makers. Having a big-draw name on the design team, not only sets the style, it sets the tone that the master developer, Knight Dragon, is trying to achieve.
“Tom Dixon is such a rare talent and such a bold designer that we knew he would create an alternative to the usual bland vanilla apartments so often found in new developments,” says Kerri Sibson, sales and marketing director for Knight Dragon. “We are creating a vibrant new destination with stunning modern architecture, and amenities including a skyline pool, so with Tom’s interiors we knew we would attract the sort of design-savvy crowd who would enjoy this. We intend to work with other such world-renowned designers in the future to continue to offer something different and exceptional.”
In Fitzrovia, developer Derwent London has collaborated with designer furniture store Heal’s on the homeware brand’s first residential development in its 200-year history, which will breathe new life into a converted office building – the vast amounts of glazing and industrial hangover from the property’s former life will lend themselves perfectly to the understated, pared back aesthetic of the Heal’s style.
“Curating the look and feel of the apartments of The Corner House has been a great experience,” explains Heal’s creative director Carmel Allen. “Both Derwent and Heal’s believe in creating personal spaces rather than over-stylised designs so each room has a very liveable feel. Sometimes show flats are just that, all ‘show’, but we believe that giving a space a relaxed, modern feel is the right direction.”
What’s more, residents will be able to use a Heal’s stylist to help design their own bespoke interior to complement their apartment, and as part of the collaboration, they will be entitled to a home consultation from a stylist and a 10 per cent discount on and purchases, as well as invites to design events, previews and workshops at the store, which is handily, just across the street on Tottenham Court Road.
The first six apartments have just been pre-released ahead of the remaining five, but et in quick as a new home on Charlotte Street won’t hang around long. Two-bedroom apartments from £1.75 million, www.cornerhousew1.com.
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