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The Sunday Times Home - 18 March 2018

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March 18, 2018
HOUSING
MARKET
ANALYSIS
MAKE YOUR OWN
STYLISH SPRING
STATEMENT
What?s for
sale in...
Travel
INSIDE
2 March 18, 2018 The Sunday Times
Home Cover
BELINDA LAWLEY; JUSTIN MIHULKA
INSIDE THIS WEEK
SOUTHEAST
�0,000
The pricist, poshest
retirement pads
8
Classic country gets
a cool makeover
28
LONDON
TUFNELL PARK, N7
Flowers for every
month of the year
30
PLUS Home Front 4
Home Help 20 Overseas 22
The Edit 27 Time and Space 34
The cult TV
comedy Spaced,
starring Simon
Pegg and Jessica
Hynes, was filmed
at this grade II
listed home on
Carleton Road.
Its owner, the
costume designer
Chris Winter, has
turned several
semi-derelict
bedsits into a
house with more
than 4,000 sq ft of
living space, nine
bedrooms, four
eclectically styled
receptions and an
80ft garden.
020 8341 6938,
www.stonebridge
andco.com
�
GUILDFORD
This double-fronted Edwardian house is in Fox
Corner, a 15-minute drive from the town centre.
Next to a nature reserve, and within walking distance
of the Fox Inn, a friendly gastropub, it has four
bedrooms, a Neptune kitchen, an orangery and an
artist?s studio behind the garage. Trains from
Brookwood station, two miles away, will whizz you to
London Waterloo in a commuter-tastic 35 minutes.
01483 905242, hamptons.co.uk
The Sunday Times March 18, 2018 3
IN ASSOCIATION WITH
�95M
SOUTHWEST
BODMIN
Lower Polgrain Farm, five
miles from Wadebridge, is a
mini estate of 90 acres where
the five-bedroom main home
has been restored. There are
five more bedrooms in the
converted millhouse and
barn; put the car collection,
horses or Pilates studio in the
outbuildings. Bodmin Parkway
station is 12 miles away.
01392 848822, knightfrank.
co.uk; 01872 306360,
rohrsandrowe.co.uk
�0,000
NORTHWEST
CHESTER
A plot within the Roman
city walls is for sale, with
planning permission to build
a detached home with four
bedrooms (three of them
ensuite), an office and
open-plan living spaces. You
could have a walled garden,
and terraces on the first and
fourth floors with views of
the racecourse. You?ll need
another �0,000 to build it.
01244 328361,
jackson-stops.co.uk
�5,000
WALES
MONMOUTH
It?s an easy walk to the centre
of the classy country town
from this three-storey semi.
With two bedrooms, two
receptions and one bathroom,
�5,000
�5M
�5,000
N IRELAND
BALLYHACKAMORE
At the heart of the affluent,
food-loving Belfast
neighbourhood ? known as
?Ballysnackamore? ? this
five-bedroom period villa
has airy living spaces and lots
of unspoilt original details.
It?s behind electric gates on
North Road, opposite an M&S
Simply Food and a five-minute
walk from the frozen yoghurt
shop on Spoon Street.
028 9065 0000,
templetonrobinson.com
SCOTLAND
MELROSE
We?ve chosen our favourites ?
here?s a taste of what?s on offer
�5,000
NORTH
WETHERBY
Chantry House is a key part
of the street scene in the
pretty village of Linton, two
miles from the friendly West
Yorkshire town. The unlisted
property has three bedrooms,
three bathrooms, views of the
green and secluded garden
areas. Linton is best known
for its 450-year-old pub, the
Windmill Inn, which serves
gluten-free fare. It?s a half-hour
drive to Leeds or York.
01937 586177, dacres.co.uk
it?s roomy enough for a young
family: there?s an enclosed
garden with a shed and the
first-floor balcony has views
across the water meadows of
Vauxhall Fields.
01600 772929,
roscoerogersandknight.
co.uk
Look beyond the blank
office-style interiors to see the
potential ? Eildon House is a
handsome B-listed Georgian
building in historic Melrose,
�995M
MIDLANDS
BUXTON
In the centre of the Derbyshire
spa town, overlooking
Pavilion Gardens (home to
farmers? markets and an art
gallery), seven-bedroom
Thorneycroft is a grand
Victorian home. Lavish
modern improvements such
as the Osborne of Ilkeston
kitchen sit well with the period
features, which include
stained-glass windows.
01530 410840,
fishergerman.co.uk
40 miles from Edinburgh. It
served as the HQ of a local
housing association, but with
a bit of imagination (and the
right consents), the detached
property could be turned
back into a 5,350 sq ft home
with five bedrooms.
01896 824074, rettie.co.uk
�0,000
EAST
SAFFRON WALDEN
It?s in need of renovation ?
you?ll need to put in a new
kitchen and bathroom, for
starters ? but this pale blue
18th-century cottage on
Bridge Street, in the centre of
the Essex town, heaves with
historic detail. Set over three
floors (plus a basement), the
grade II listed house has two
bedrooms, exposed beams
and red-brick fireplaces.
01799 523656,
cheffins.co.uk
4 March 18, 2018 The Sunday Times
HELEN
DAVIES
C
hoosing the right
location to put
down roots is one of
the most important
decisions you?ll
ever make. Which is why we?re
here to help ? and what Best
Places to Live in Britain is all
about. Today, The Sunday
Times reveals our choice of the
best places to live in 2018 with
a 48-page magazine ? and, in
Home, we show you some of
the properties on sale in our
106 favoured locations.
The judging is a team effort.
We use robust statistics,
consider a wide range of
factors, from jobs, schools and
broadband speed to culture,
community spirit and local
shops, and combine it all with
our expertise and insight.
We?re championing York
this year, in honour of its bold
approach to bringing the
historic city into the hi-tech
21st century. I am curious to
see if the local reaction is
similar to Bristolians? response
after their city was named
overall winner last year, when
stickers and Trump-style
baseball caps saying ?Make
Bristol S*** Again? popped up.
l It is for all the same reasons
@TheSTHome
? and perhaps, in a few cases,
potentially murkier motives ?
that so many Russians have
Will the reaction
in York be similar
to Bristolians?
response when the
city was named
Best Place to Live
2017 ? stickers and
caps saying ?Make
Bristol S*** Again??
chosen Britain to be one of
their best places to live. Since
Roman Abramovich bought a
small flat on Lowndes Square,
in Knightsbridge, in the late
1990s, any self-respecting
oligarch has snapped up
property in the UK capital.
Yolande Barnes, director
of Savills World Research,
estimated that Russians
spent �0m on prime
London property in 2014.
Estate agents learnt Russian
and opened up offices in
Moscow, and Britain became
obsessed with the spending
spree of the buyers who came
in from the cold.
The late tycoon Boris
Berezovsky invested in
London and Surrey; Vladimir
Lisin snapped up Aberuchill
Castle, Perthshire, in 2005;
Leonard Blavatnik beat off
competition to buy a mansion
on Kensington Palace Gardens
for �m in 2004. Leon Max
has made himself at home at
Easton Neston, a stately in
Northamptonshire; and
Andrey Borodin set a record
in 2011 when he spent �0m
on Park Place, near Henley ?
aka Kremlin-on-Thames.
Yet Knight Frank estate
agency found that in 2015, no
deals were done by Russians in
the �-plus country market.
There were two last year: the
Monaco-based Yevgeniy
Strzhalkovskiy, son of one of
Putin?s KGB comrades, bought
Knockdow House, Argyll, for
�; and the vodka billionaire
Yuri Shefler paid �m for the
21,000-acre Tulchan estate,
on Speyside.
They may be the last. Agents
don?t expect many Russians to
come in 2018. Instead, James
McKenzie, head of country
houses for Strutt & Parker, says
the best international buyers
are now British expats.
l They are just the sort of
househunters who might head
to Salisbury. There have been
rumours that the town?s new
reputation as a centre for
international espionage has
led to a post-poisoning plunge
in property prices, but estate
agents assure my local source
? observing from a safe
distance ? that everything is
carrying on as normal. In fact,
the marvellous aerial shots
on TV have really shown off
the Wiltshire hotspot, and
the agents claim the centre
of town is actually becoming
more popular, overtaking the
surrounding villages.
That said, there has been
resentment at reports that the
city is known as Smallsbury
because nothing ever happens
there. ?That?s a bit rich,? one
resident says. ?In the past year
alone, we?ve had this Russian
spy scandal, the centre of the
city has been shut down after a
bomb scare and, of course, the
police have been criticised for
standing outside Ted Heath?s
house in the cathedral close
and appealing for evidence
that he was a sex offender.?
It?s all go there, obviously.
What?s going on where you are?
Get involved on @STHome,
or email helen.davies@
sunday-times.co.uk
MOVING ON
HOME FRONT
Home Opinion
Alan Bennett?s new play
about the NHS, Allelujah!,
will have its premiere this
summer, but the writer has
less to celebrate when it
comes to selling property.
Bennett, 83, put the north
London home immortalised
in The Lady in the Van up for
sale at � in November.
The three-bedroom house,
which he has owned for
nearly 40 years ? and where
he let a homeless woman,
Miss Shepherd, live in her
van in his driveway ? soon
went under offer, but the sale
has fallen through. It?s back
on the market with a hefty
�0,000 price cut
(davidbirkett.co.uk).
Beatrix Potter wrote
illustrated letters to the
children of her former
governess, Annie Moore,
who lived on Baskerville
Road in Wandsworth,
southwest London.
Noel, 5, who had been
ill with scarlet fever,
received the first
incarnation of The Tale
of Peter Rabbit. Moore?s
former six-bedroom
home is now being sold
for �25m (knightfrank.
co.uk), but there?s no
veg patch in the garden.
Alexandra Goss
8 March 18, 2018 The Sunday Times
Home Retirement
Golden age
CGIs of flats at
the Elysian
Residences show
envy-inducingly
stylish homes ?
but service
charges average
�,000 a year
SENIOR
MOMENT
Swanky American-style ?later living?
communities are coming to the UK.
Will they lure our wealthy baby-boomers
into downsizing, asks Caroline Scott
CURRENCY SERVICES
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I
f you?re in your fifties
and sixties, and still
juggling a job and family
demands ? including
caring for elderly
relatives ? you may not have
put much thought into what
the American property market
calls ?later living? (retirement
homes to you and me). Gavin
Stein, the preternaturally
young American founder of
Elysian Residences, which
plans to shake up this hitherto
dreary sector, visibly shudders
at the word ?retirement?. He
says it suggests ?withdrawal
from life?, rather than the
jubilant embracing of a
glorious new phase.
The Elysian vision is far,
far away from stairlifts and
commodes. Everything about
Stein?s plans for the UK market
suggests that the 500 or so
octogenarians who secure
flats at one of his four new sites
in and around the capital will
be living in private members?
club-style surroundings with
like-minded seniors, staying as
fit as fleas thanks to on-site
personal trainers and wellness
co-ordinators. There will be a
Facilities at
the residences
will include
restaurants, a
spa and a 24-hour
concierge
service. The
Hampstead
site will also
have a pool
LIFE BEGINS
AT 80
l Homes in Elysian
Residences include discreet
walking-frame storage
inside the restaurant, so
diners won?t know who
suffers from dodgy hips
l Most of the apartments
have two bedrooms rather
than one, ?because older
people may no longer
sleep together?, says
Gavin Stein, founder of
Elysian Residences
l The lifts are designed to
fit a stretcher (or a coffin),
and ambulances arrive at
a covered loading bay
l Residents won?t notice
many of the features until
they need them ? including
stone benches in shower
rooms, for assisted bathing,
and wide ledges around all
the bathtubs
24-hour hotel-style concierge
in all buildings, and access to
?discreetly administered?
round-the-clock nursing
support should a resident?s
circumstances change.
To give an idea of the level
of discretion involved, Stein
has placed walking-frame
storage inside the restaurant
so that, when the residents
are dining, no one will know
who suffers from crippling
arthritis and dodgy hips, and
who doesn?t.
The key to all this is rather
obvious: we want to enjoy the
nicer things in life for as long
as possible, unhampered by
slow physical decline. We don?t
want to spend our later years
in a rapidly shrinking
environment, surrounded by
ugly mobility aids. Yet Stein,
39, says the UK is years behind
other developed countries, and
thinks our OAPs are ?crying out
for a more luxurious,
hospitality-led offering?.
In the US, about 12% of the
elderly population live in
some form of purpose-built
community ? and on the
West Coast, that rises to 30%.
The Sunday Times March 18, 2018 9
Here, however, many more
empty-nesters are staying put
in large family homes ? Key
Retirement Solutions reports
that UK pensioners own
property worth more than
�0bn, and owner-occupied
retirement housing accounts
for less than 1% of the market.
This is partly down to lack of
choice, as developers have
been slow to wake up to the
opportunities, but there is also
a stigma around retirement
villages ? a whiff of life ending,
rather than a new beginning.
Stein, who has joined forces
with the American company
One Eighty, has four sites
under development: in the
north London suburbs of
Hampstead and Stanmore;
at Loughton, Essex; and in
Runnymede, Surrey.
Construction of the Landsby,
in Stanmore, will begin next
month. CGIs show art deco
brickwork and graceful curved
balconies for the 101 one- and
two-bedroom flats, which will
include 10 penthouses, all set
in leafy landscaped grounds.
The Oren, in Hampstead,
is due for completion in
bathroom walls, hidden
brackets mean mobility aids
can be attached if needed.
Stein mentions a term
that originated in America:
compression of morbidity.
?A MacArthur Foundation
study found that people
live on average two years
longer in communities like
ours,? he says. ?They?re less
likely to suffer a gradual
decline ? they?re frail and ill
for a much shorter period at
the end of their lives.?
So how much would it cost
to live the Elysian dream? At
the Hampstead flats, where
the staff to apartment ratio
will be close to 1:1 (40 staff for
46 flats), the average service
charge will be �,000 a year.
At the Landsby, where the
staff ratio is one to every 2.5
properties, it?s about �,000.
This covers utility bills and
maintenance, cleaning and
housekeeping once a week
and all on-site activities, with
the exception of organised
trips to the theatre, dining and
additional healthcare. If your
requirements increase a little,
you pay for nurses and care
assistants by the hour as and
when you need them.
The practicalities
The minimum age for
residents is set at 65, but Stein,
will be navigated
recognising that his wealthy
discreetly ? lifts
target group aims to stay
healthier and fitter for longer,
are designed to
expects the average age of
fit a stretcher
residents will actually be
80-82. Inevitably, the Elysian
(or a coffin)
community will have to deal
with death and dying on a
more regular basis than most,
2020. It will have 46 two- and
and the practical aspects will
three-bedroom flats in four
separate blocks, so people don?t be navigated discreetly. Lifts
feel as though they?re living in a are designed to fit a stretcher ?
or a coffin ? and no one leaves
large scheme, but everything ?
via the lobby. Ambulances
lounges, library, restaurant,
arrive instead at a covered
spa facilities and event space ?
loading bay.
will be connected by glass
Stein?s grandparents, now
walkways on the ground floor.
All the flats will have standard nearly 90, are happily
ensconced in ?later living?
luxury detailing: ceilings are
accommodation in San Diego,
high and floors are solid wood
California. It was the thought
or stone, with underfloor
of his grandfather, Ben, an
heating everywhere. But the
space around beds is especially Auschwitz survivor, that
sustained him through the
generous, ?because people
don?t want to feel they?re getting often gruelling two-year
planning process. ?He had the
a smaller bedroom than they
toughest life ? he left school
had at home?; and, although
at 11, and lost his entire family
there are no grab bars on
and everything they owned.
I?m constantly amazed how
that generation survived the
war, then rebuilt the country
in the 1950s and 1960s.
?All the material wealth and
comfort we had as a family
was down to my grandparents
working hard. I?m driven by
the idea that, in our first
community in Stanmore, there
are going to be 150 elderly
people enjoying a quality of
life that is so much richer and
more luxurious than they
would otherwise have.?
The Landsby, in Stanmore, is
due to be completed at the end
of 2019. Prices start at �0,000
for a one-bedroom flat;
two-bedders start at �0,000,
penthouses at �25m. For more
details, visit elysianresidences.
com or contact Preston
Bennett; 020 8954 8626,
www.prestonbennett.co.uk
10 March 18, 2018 The Sunday Times
Home Market
MEET THE
Would you band together with your neighbours
to transform your street? Todd Gillespie charts
the ambitious rise of the ?yes in my back yarders?
D
o you live in
London? Do
you want more
living space?
Would you ? and
all the rest of your street ?
be brave enough to extend
your homes together? Yes?
Then John Myers wants to
meet you.
The former private-equity
financier is trying to solve
Britain?s housing shortage, but
he needs your help. Last year,
he outlined his prodevelopment campaign,
London Yimby (Yes in My
Back Yard), in a paper he
wrote for the Adam Smith
Institute think tank. Now he
needs your help.
?There?s no need for the
housing crisis,? Myers says.
?We can just build as many
homes as everybody wants
and it?ll be fine. The Victorians
did it, the Edwardians did it.
It?s not rocket science.?
Myers, 44, who studied
mathematics at Cambridge
before heading to Harvard
Law School, wants to prove
that there are win-win
solutions to Britain?s housing
crisis. He believes that a
successful planning
application could push up the
price of your property, inspire
solutions to the generational
home-ownership gap, which
is growing wider by the year,
and, ultimately, prove that
putting the power back in
the hands of owners can
produce beautiful and
functional results.
This, Myers says, will prove
to the government that flexible
and hyperlocal planning laws
can work, exploiting unused
space in sought-after areas and
helping to fill the nation?s
housing shortage. The
potential is endless, he claims:
semi-detached properties can
become elegant terraces,
potentially doubling the
number of houses on a street,
or you can turn flats into
maisonettes, add additional
floors, or build entire homes in
large back gardens. Even just
obtaining draft planning
permission will set a precedent
meaning homeowners can
take back control ? at street
level, rather than council or
regional.
?The whole point of a street
deciding to do it is that you?ll
be sharing the benefit and the
burden,? he says.
The scale of such a task may
seem daunting, but London
Yimby wants to help change
YIMBYS
JASON HAWKES/GETTY IMAGES
The Sunday Times March 18, 2018 11
The London Yimby group
wants to give homeowners
more planning power
minds (you can invest in a tote
bag and a mug), supported by
an army of architects and
planners ready to jump at the
opportunity to extend and
harmonise Britain?s streets.
?People don?t even conceive
of this as a possibility right
now,? Myers says, sitting in a
cafe near his own 1820s
terraced home in Euston,
central London. We are
surrounded by latte-sipping
university students gazing out
at Georgian terraces, the likes
of which he believes should be
affordable to them one day.
He points out that this project
could not only produce
immediate short-term
financial benefit for those with
homes, but trigger a
liberalisation of policy.
While Myers is particularly
enthusiastic about highdensity terraced housing, the
Yimby movement is also about
?liberating? homeowners to
build how they wish.
In 2010, the Fitzroofs
project saw 12 owners in the
north London conservation
area of Primrose Hill granted
permission to build a roof
extension for their entire
terrace. The development
was opposed by
conservationist campaigners,
who complained that it would
alter the fabric of the original
buildings. But the owners ? a
mix of growing families,
landlords and homeowners
who simply wanted to
increase the value of their
properties ? were undeterred.
Myers thinks something even
bigger than that project is
possible.
The earliest known use of
the word Yimby was in The
New York Times in 1988. The
London group is part of a
movement that started in
Stockholm in 2007 and has
since spread across the world.
JOIN THE
MOVEMENT
l Pipe up in favour of more
high-quality housing ? even
if it?s just at a dinner party.
Get a conversation going on
your road. ?Just one voice
can make a massive
difference,? Myers says.
l Set up a Yimby group in
your town or city. ?It?s super
easy ? you only need a
The San Francisco branch
started after property prices
rocketed during the tech
boom. The annual salary
required to afford the median
house in the city is now
$303,000 (�7,000).
Responding to the crisis, the
Californian group is now
making progress at city and
state level, having already
successfully pushed for more
affordable housing. A recent
proposal has been devised to
allow much denser housing
within walking distance of
public transport. ?They?re way
ahead of us,? Myers says.
Now he wants to emulate
their success in the British
capital, where a salary of about
Twitter account or a
Facebook page, and we can
help with that.?
l Chat to your local
councillors. ?This is a local
problem; it will get solved
locally.?
l Talk to your candidates in
upcoming elections. ?Ask
what they?re doing on
housing, and ask your MP.?
l Get in touch at
londonyimby.org.
�2,000 is needed to buy a
typical terraced house.
Myers hopes getting streets
to band together will prove the
viability of community-driven
housebuilding, but says it?s
only one of many reforms the
planning system needs. He
wants more leeway to develop
ugly and underused sections of
the green belt, and more
planning powers to be
decentralised to regional and
city mayors.
The Yimby plan to shred
Britain?s planning laws may
have been devised at a north
London dinner party, but the
people behind it are far from
metropolitan snobs.
?It?s totally crazy. When
people say there?s no crisis, I
say: if you can?t buy a home for
something in reasonable reach
of what it costs to build that
home, then there?s a problem.
We wouldn?t tolerate that in
cars, we wouldn?t tolerate that
in food, and housing is a basic
human need.?
The maths makes his
political crusade seem well
founded. ?A hundred years
ago, a house cost the same as
a car. Since then, the car
industry has made incredible
progress. People buy a car
if they want to buy a car;
people rent a car if they want
to rent a car.?
Myers concedes that the
concerns of Nimbys deserve
respect, but believes they are
detached from the realities
of a burgeoning population,
and their grumbles need to
be answered with visible
solutions, such as the highdensity neighbourhood
building projects he is
proposing.
And they don?t have to be
in London. The campaign
?absolutely? has a national
vision. The housing debate
should be about the quality of
homes just as much as the
quantity, Myers says: ?There?s
no reason why we can?t have
ethereally beautiful places if
we just put our mind to it.?
He?s hoping you will want to
do that. Knock down your
entire street if you want. Start
from scratch. He thinks this
could appeal in high-demand
areas across the country,
especially in fast-growing cities
such as Oxford, Cambridge,
Bristol and Manchester.
Whether you want to build up,
sideways, or add a whole new
building ? ?We?re open to
hearing from anyone.?
Myers wants concrete
solutions. But when it comes
to extending your home for
this project, any building
material will do ? just so long
as your neighbours agree.
14 March 18, 2018 The Sunday Times
Home Cover
�0,000
DAVID
SMITH
@dsmitheconomics
S
pring used to signal
the coming of the
good times. The days
would get longer, the
birds would start
singing and ?For sale? signs
would appear along with the
blossom. Yet 2018 is shaping
up to be different. What kind
of year will it be for the
housing market? Will the big
freeze last until the autumn?
Some of the finest minds in
the property business are
attempting to work that out.
What they are also trying to
figure out, and in many ways
this is the most interesting
part of the housing outlook, is
what will happen below the
surface: the regional and other
variations that will define the
market in the near future.
The starting point is what
is happening to house prices
now. The latest reading from
the Nationwide building
society revealed that values
fell by 0.3% in February to an
average of �0,402, while
annual growth has slowed to
2.2%, down from 3.2% the
previous month. House-price
inflation has been gradually
weakening over the past two
years, a trend Robert Gardner,
Nationwide?s chief economist,
expects to continue.
?The year ahead will be
determined in large part by
developments in the wider
�5,000
WALES
MIDLANDS
Pen y Parc is set in
a wooded valley,
just half a mile
from the beach at
Cwmtydu, in
Ceredigion. Built in
the 19th century,
the cottage has
four bedrooms and
two receptions
with beamed
ceilings and
woodburners.
Cardigan is 17
miles away.
029 2036 8930,
savills.co.uk
If you fancy playing
lord of the manor,
this exquisite
grade II listed
Georgian mansion
near Sleaford,
Lincolnshire, will
be right up your
street. It has
outbuildings,
coach houses, an
aviary, a pair of
self-contained flats
and two acres of
mature gardens.
01205 361694,
poyntons.com
�5,000
UP
economy and the path of
interest rates,? he says. ?Brexit
developments will remain a
key factor. Overall, we expect
house prices to be broadly flat,
with a marginal gain of about
1% over the course of 2018.?
He?s not alone. Grainne
Gilmore, head of UK
residential research at Knight
Frank estate agency, also
anticipates only a 1% price
increase in 2018, though with
scope for stronger rises in
future years once the
uncertainty over Brexit lifts.
?Average house-price
growth across the country has
been broadly stable over the
past few months, in line with
our forecasts for modest levels
of growth this year and next,?
Gilmore says. ?There is
potential for price growth to
outperform in some areas,
especially key regional cities.?
Howard Archer, chief
economic adviser to the EY
Item Club, which uses the
Treasury model to analyse and
forecast the economy, also
expects a modest rise this year.
Supply shortages will limit the
weakness of prices, but he
argues that they will be held
back by other factors, including
the extended squeeze on
�0,000
London falling, Northern Ireland
booming; supply low, interest rates
rising. The Sunday Times economics
editor guides you through 2018
DOWN
OR AS YOU WERE?
consumer purchasing power
and fragile confidence about
engaging in big transactions.
?Buyers also look likely to
face further interest-rate hikes
in 2018,? Archer says. ?We
expect the Bank of England to
raise rates twice in 2018.
Furthermore, prices are quite
high relative to incomes.?
Not for the first time, the
big picture disguises the full
story. The Royal Institution of
Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
thinks prices overall will be
flat this year, but within this
context, values in London
and the southeast will fall,
RICS thinks prices
overall will be flat,
with falls in London
and the southeast,
but strong gains in
Northern Ireland,
Scotland, Wales
and the northwest
alongside weakness in East
Anglia and the northeast.
The strongest gains will be
seen in Northern Ireland,
Scotland, Wales and the
northwest, where prices have
yet to get back to the levels
seen before the financial crisis
in 2007. ?It is not a market
but a series of markets, as
surveyors keep reminding me,?
says Simon Rubinsohn, chief
economist at RICS. ?London
and the southeast do not
represent the whole country.?
The Centre for Economics
and Business Research
(CEBR), a consultancy, points
SOUTHWEST
EAST
In the pretty village
of Ramsbury,
six miles from
Marlborough and
in an Area of
Outstanding
Natural Beauty
known for its water
meadows, the
Manse has three
bedrooms and two
large receptions.
The kitchen opens
onto a courtyard
garden.
01488 682726,
knightfrank.co.uk
Looking for period
style and wonky
beams? This grade
II listed house in
Hadleigh, Suffolk,
offers history and
a town-centre
location. It has four
bedrooms and
three receptions ?
the new owner may
want to update
the interiors and
extend, subject to
planning consent.
01206 263007,
davidburr.co.uk
�0,000
to the weakness of off-plan
sales of new properties in the
capital to foreign buyers as
a harbinger of further woe.
Such deals have ?cooled
dramatically? over the past
two years.
?The situation at the luxury
end of the London property
market should be closely
watched,? says Kay Daniel
Neufeld, senior economist at
CEBR. ?Activity in this segment
has a knock-on effect on the
wider central London market,
which in turn affects the
outer London boroughs and
the wider southeast.?
�9,950
The Sunday Times March 18, 2018 15
NORTH
Welshmill House,
in Frome ? where
community spirit
made it our Best
Place to Live in the
southwest ? dates
from 1790, but was
divided in two in
the 1920s. The half
for sale has four
bedrooms, a
one-bed annexe, a
conservatory, an
Aga and gardens.
01373 464040,
hunterfrench.
co.uk
For a top address
in York, our overall
Best Place to Live,
look no further
than this house in
Clifton. The family
pad has been
extended, and
now has seven
bedrooms and
more than 4,600
sq ft of living
space. St Peter?s
and Bootham
schools are nearby.
01904 558200,
carterjonas.co.uk
�495M
London
Cambridge
Oxford
Bristol
Portsmouth
Southampton
Leicester
Cardiff
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
Source: Hometrack/ZPG
Richard Donnell, director
of research at the analyst
Hometrack/ZPG, takes this
prediction further. ?I think
London is set for a drawn-out
period of repricing, while I
am optimistic for regional
housing markets,? he says.
?It is a repeat of the last
housing cycle from 1993 to
2007.? He points to a widening
in the gap between asking
prices and sale values in the
capital, particularly inner
London, compared with cities
such as Birmingham and
Manchester, where the divide
is narrowing.
In these and other regional
cities, including Edinburgh,
Hometrack/ZPG expects prices
to rise by between 20% and
30% over the next four years,
closing the gap with the capital
? where prices have risen by
an astonishing 86% since
2009. This process is already
happening: Hometrack?s
January 2018 index shows
that, over the past year, prices
are up 7.7% in Edinburgh,
7.3% in Birmingham and 6.7%
in Manchester.
This is a point taken on by
economists at KPMG. The firm
predicts that London will see
the slowest annual price rises
WHY HOUSE PRICES MATTER
For many of us who are
lucky enough to own our
own homes, this is our
biggest financial asset.
Figures from the ONS
Wealth and Asset Survey
show that net property
wealth ? what?s left after
deducting mortgage debt
? amounted to about
�6 trillion over the period
between July 2014 and
June 2016. That?s equivalent
to about 2� times the UK?s
output in 2016.
Search for your best
place to live at
thesundaytimes.co.uk/
bestplacestolive
of any region in the UK over
the next four years, at just
over 1.5%. The strongest gains
will be in the southwest,
typically 4.25% a year, KPMG
says, followed by the West
Midlands at 3.75%.
?Valuations could play a
bigger role in shaping prices,?
says Yael Selfin, chief
economist at KPMG UK.
?London, where prices relative
to earnings are most stretched
among UK regions compared
to their average level over the
past two decades, is expected
to see values rise by less than
other regions. Yet we expect
the shortage of housing stock
to support growth in the
medium term.
?The stronger-performing
regions in the medium term,
according to our projections,
are driven by a combination
of favourable valuations in
the case of Northern Ireland,
Scotland and, to a lesser
degree, the West Midlands,
positive long-term momentum
in areas such as the southwest,
and continued supply
shortages in the southeast
and pockets of the east of
England. The potential
winners and losers will not
always be the usual suspects.?
SOUTHEAST
LONDON
In the yachtie town
of Lymington,
from where ferries
depart to the Isle
of Wight, this 1,181
sq ft penthouse
has views of the
water from the
south-facing
balcony. The flat
has a cool coastal
feel, with two
bedrooms and an
open-plan living
room/kitchen.
01962 841842,
savills.co.uk
In a prime spot
for Notting Hill
and Bayswater,
and near buzzing
Westbourne Grove,
this maisonette has
three bedrooms
and a terrace
that overlooks a
garden square.
It was recently
refurbished in
Scandi style; the
parquet floors are
particularly chic.
020 7727 1717,
domusnova.com
�65M
A shortage of stock means buyers are resorting
to begging letters. Hugh Graham reports
D
The cities with the highest house-price growth since 2009
0%
PLEASE SIR,
CAN I HAVE
YOUR HOUSE?
esperate times
call for desperate
measures. As
housing stock on
the market falls to
record lows, buyers who want
to find their dream home may
have to take matters into their
own hands ? in the form of a
begging letter.
They seem to be on the rise.
Many are from companies, and
some of these are downright
sneaky. To avoid complaints,
they don?t use the name of
their business, and the phone
number given is a pay-as-you-go
?burner?. Yet among the
mounds of estate agents?
leaflets, you might find more
personal, plaintive missives: the
lovely family with 2.4 children
who adore your neighbourhood
and are desperate to get the
kids into a good state primary.
Streets in the catchment areas
for sought-after schools are
heavily flyered.
There?s an art to writing a
good begging letter: do it wrong
and it will go straight into the
bin or incur someone?s ire. The
key is to make it personal, says
Henry Pryor, a buying agent:
?I find out their name and
address it from my client. Write
the letter by hand and put it in
an envelope. Be desperately
English and apologetic ? ?We
quite understand if you put it
in the bin... with apologies for
disturbing you.? And never,
ever talk about money. This is
about inheriting the owner?s
memories.?
Older empty-nesters seem
particularly susceptible to
personal missives, Pryor says.
?Playing on people?s emotions
is powerful. It?s about
encouraging them to say, if we
have to move, wouldn?t it be
great to sell to someone like us
20 years ago? A lot of people
who have the choice between
someone nice who won?t
rip it apart, or a brash
developer, will sell for
less than market value.?
There are more
brazen tactics. A story
is doing the rounds
about a would-be
buyer shoving �
notes through doors.
Jo Eccles, managing
director of SP
Property Group, has
witnessed emotional
blackmail by parents who
post notes handwritten by
their children. And Richard
Rogerson, chief executive of
RFR Property Private Office,
recalls how a friend received
a KitKat in his letterbox, with
no note attached. He ate it.
?A week later, some bloke
rang him and said, ?Did you
enjoy the KitKat??, then they
had a conversation. It?s a
light-hearted way to get your
foot in the door.?
Rogerson is sceptical about
begging letters ? his firm
won?t do them ? as they might
give vendors ?ridiculous?
expectations of value. But he
does have friends who recently
had some luck. ?They live in
Hampshire and wanted to buy
a place in Earlsfield, southwest
London. They wrote a lovely
letter saying they had
grandchildren in the area.
They flyered five streets and
got five replies out of 200. It
might make sense in an area
with lots of ?For sale? signs.?
Timing is key, too. Ask the
postman when junk mail goes
through the door, then deliver
your letter on a different day,
so it doesn?t get buried. ?We
used to crumple it up, so the
owner had to uncrumple it to
read it,? says Henry Sherwood,
managing director of the
Buying Agents. ?That way,
you get more face time.?
Bear in mind that you may
be surprising someone who
hasn?t been thinking of selling,
so be flexible. ?You could say,
?We don?t need to be in until
next year,?? says Matthew
EVERETT COLLECTION/ALAMY; MARK KIDBY; LOVEDAY POWELL; PAYEN
SOUTHWEST
Turner, director of Astute
Property Search. ??We could
rent it to you for as long as
you need.??
Don?t bother writing a letter
unless you can proceed
quickly, warns Jess Simpson,
founder of Jess Simpson
Property Search, who has
noticed a rise in such tactics in
the rural market. And do your
due diligence on the owner:
for � you can find out their
name from the Land Registry.
Ask about them in the local
pub or shop, check planning
websites for info about their
property and, if they have
used an architect, see if an
introduction can be arranged.
?Give as much information
as possible about your family,
where you live and what you
do,? Simpson says. ?This will
help the owners understand
you and gain their trust. I?ve
even included a family photo.
You must describe your
financial position ? being a
cash buyer, for example, could
be a game-changer.?
The hit rate for begging
letters is about 5%, estimates
James Greenwood, managing
director of Stacks Property
Search. People who have been
contemplating selling up might
be persuaded by a personal
letter, especially if it means
avoiding estate agents and the
hordes traipsing through their
house. Yet there are dangers
in going it alone, too.
?If someone responds to
our letter, we encourage them
to get an agent,? Greenwood
says. ?Private buyer and seller
is a recipe for disaster ? 40%
of all transactions fail before
exchange ? but an agent can
smooth things over. And a
private seller might overvalue
by 20% to 40%.?
There?s the rub when it
comes to begging letters: it
may be an expensive method.
For sellers in a flatlining
market, however, it could
be time to stop binning the
junk mail. ?A friend in
London was approached
through his letterbox via a
buying agent,? says Roarie
Scarisbrick, partner at
Property Vision. ?He
was ambivalent about
selling at the time, but
he responded and
ended up doing so.
?Essentially, he got
yesterday?s price in today?s
market.?
18 March 18, 2018 The Sunday Times
J
acqueline Mercer is one of
those people with the happy
knack of seeing treasure
where others see trash,
whether rescuing a bedroom
chair from the dump or realising the
potential in a house so revolting that
most other buyers barely got past the
front door.
She and her husband, Joe, were
willing to look past damp walls and
alarmingly sagging ceilings, disregard
a complete lack of mod cons and even
brave tanks of spiders and snakes in
order to buy a house in desperate
need of rescue. Their strategy for the
four-month revamp of their north
London home was a simple one. ?We
decided to do everything as well as we
could ? without going crazy,? explains
Mercer, 34, a shoe designer.
When it came to the finishing
touches, they were equally sensible,
avoiding slavishly trendy decor in
favour of a comfortable mix of colours
and objects they love. ?We just wanted
a nice, bright, spacious house to relax
in,? she says. ?We wanted it to be
stylish, but comfortable. I like to look
around and see things that make me
happy. I am really against things that
will date a house.?
Before taking on their project, the
couple had been living in a sweet but
tiny two-bedroom cottage in Noel
Park, near Alexandra Palace, north
London. By 2015, however, they had
begun to get itchy feet. What with
friends staying most weekends, and
Mercer?s family visiting regularly
from her native Northern Ireland ?
she was brought up in a village near
Enniskillen ? the couple felt the need
for more space and began to wonder
if a move to a less expensive location
might allow them to buy a bigger home.
?I didn?t even think we would really
find anywhere we could afford,? she
says. ?But this was the second house
we looked at.?
On the outside, it was a good-looking
three-bedroom Victorian end-of-terrace
property, about a mile south of their
former home; on the inside, however, it
was run-down and slightly macabre. ?It
had belonged to the same family since
about 1910, and they were quite
eccentric,? Mercer recalls. ?They had
owned a pet shop, and had ripped out
all the fireplaces and put in tanks that
were full of reptiles and tarantulas.
There were birds, all sorts. Most of the
windows were blacked out or boarded
up, I guess for the animals.?
The wildlife turned out to be the
least of the house?s issues. ?The ceiling
above the kitchen was falling in because
of the weight of the tanks in the
bedroom above, and there was a leak
from next door into the kitchen. It was
so dark and full to the ceilings that you
couldn?t actually see the size of the
rooms or how light they were ? and
the smell! Other people had seen it and
been really put off.?
She and Joe, 35, a planning engineer,
were made of sterner stuff, so in
August 2015 they paid �3,000 for the
1,400 sq ft house and steeled
themselves to move in with their cat,
Tiny, while they plotted a top-to-bottom
�0,000 renovation. ?It was not
pleasant, but I have really happy
memories of that time ? I was just so
excited,? Mercer says.
By November of that year, the pair
had enlisted a trusted builder who had
done some work for them on their old
house, and were ready to get stuck in.
Their main structural challenge was
simply shoring up the property. All the
basics ? including replacing rotting
windows and installing the house?s
BRICKWORKS/ALYS TOMLINSON; VICKI COUCHMAN
Home Living
PET
READER?S
HOME
PROJECT
A �0,000 makeover turned this north London house from
creepy-crawly to the cat?s whiskers, says Ruth Bloomfield
first-ever central heating system ? also
needed doing.
They made layout changes, too, to
ensure the place was fit for 21st-century
living. They removed the wall between
the living room and dining room to
create a large single space, and removed
the crumbling back wall next to the
garden entirely, replacing it with
fashionable Crittall windows and doors.
Upstairs, they punched skylights in
the hall and bathroom ceilings to bring
much-needed light into the centre of
the house. And when it came to
decorating, they opted for white walls
and bare floorboards ? a combination
that helps to show off their furniture
and eclectic decor.
The kitchen needed replacing, too.
They chose units from British Standard,
the off-the-peg offshoot of the far
more expensive Plain English kitchens.
They painted the units a deep blue
and invested in a concrete work surface
to give the room a tougher edge, while
the open shelves ? cheaper and less
space-guzzling than high cupboards ?
allow Mercer to display crockery,
glasses and cooking ingredients stored
in mason jars.
While keeping the budget under
control was a constant concern during
the project, the couple did splash out
on a few key pieces around the house,
notably the balloon-shaped Czech
blown-glass light fittings above the
kitchen island, which were bought at
Heal?s and cost �000.
In the monochrome hallway, one
of the house?s few lovely period features
? ornate metal balustrades ? has
been preserved and painted a lush
turquoise, while the walls are
smothered in some of the pictures and
paintings Mercer has been buying in
markets and antiques shops for years.
In the living room, furniture is kept
to a minimum ? one grey and one
dusty-orange sofa, and a simple table.
The formerly reptile-filled fireplace
now has a simple period-style grate,
with an art deco mirror above.
A wall of new shelves is stacked with
treasures that have caught Mercer?s eye
over the years: a carnival glass bowl,
ceramic pigs bought on work trips to
the Far East, plus books, vases and
plants. Working on Portobello Road,
in chichi Notting Hill, gives her plenty
of opportunity for stall-scouring, and
she also spends hours browsing the
stalls and shops of Columbia Road and
Broadway Market.
?I never go out deliberately looking
for stuff, because I never find it,?
Mercer says. ?It is really a bit random.
I also think that something with a
few chips in it is OK, as long as it is
still charming.?
The whole effect is perfectly
Instagram-ready, but Mercer insistt
didn?t spend hours curating the dii
?Ha, no! We had friends coming ro
o
and I had to unpack the boxes reall
quickly so I just took everything ou
u
dumped it on the shelves. I?ve nev
v
gone back and changed it.?
Unusual lighting is a constant th
h
in this house, and the distinctly Mi
Havisham fitting above the dining
table is a DIY piece. Mercer bough
h
ring of bent tree bark, and her
electrician was persuaded to wire
lights to make a chandelier, which
h
since been decorated with dried
hydrangea heads. So far the flowerr
picked from the front garden, have
lasted since Christmas 2016, altho
ou
at some point ? ?when I get aroun
n
to it? ? Mercer will replace them.
Upstairs are the three bedroom
m
and a bathroom with a vanity unitt
The Sunday Times March 18, 2018 19
Creature comforts
Far left, the
shoe designer
Jacqueline Mercer
with her cat,
Tiny, in her newly
renovated home.
White walls
and wooden
floorboards set
off junk-shop
and market finds.
See more of
the house on
Instagram:
@tinyandthehouse
GET THE LOOK
There were tanks full of
reptiles and tarantulas,
all sorts of birds. Most
of the windows were
blacked out or boarded
up, I guess for the animals
l Metal-framed Crittall windows
and doors were one of Mercer?s
biggest expenditures, at �500.
The heritage firm?s products are
made to order.
crittall-windows.co.uk
l To set off the concrete worktop,
the kitchen cabinets have been
painted in Farrow & Ball?s deep, dark
Hague Blue (from � for 2.5 litres).
farrow-ball.com
l Mason jars are an inexpensive and
t she
ts
i
isplay.
o
ound
l
lly
u and
ut
v
ver
h
heme
iss
g
h a
ht
in
h has
r
rs,
ve
o
ough
n
nd
m
ms
t
made by the couple?s builders from a
midcentury sideboard snapped up in an
eBay auction, with a hand basin fitted
on top. The black corner bath is from
Burlington, which specialises in
traditional fittings, and the room is set
off with another art deco mirror, this
time with a lemon-yellow surround: a
Portobello Road find.
Although it looks picture-perfect,
Mercer insists the project remains a
work in progress. She has her eyes
peeled for a big old haberdashery unit
to use as a wardrobe, and wants more
foliage to smother her living-room
shelves. ?It might be because I?m from
Ireland, which is so green, but I like
having lots of plants around,? she says.
?I find it calming and restful.?
Although the couple bought the
house as a home, rather than an
investment project, it seems to have
been a savvy buy. Ellie Rees, owner of
Brickworks, a north London estate
agency, reckons that, should they wish
to put it on the market, the property
would be worth between � and
�1m: a rise of just over 30% after taking
into account how much they have
spent on it. ?They would definitely get
a premium,? Rees says. ?It is not
uber-trendy, and buyers really like
things like the Crittall windows, the
parquet floors in the kitchen and those
beautiful banisters.?
Not that they have plans to sell ?
especially when there?s room for
more treasures. So what has
Mercer learnt from her first
foray into interior design?
MERCER?S
?Don?t spend too much time
on decisions about little
TOP TIP
things such as handles,? she
says. ?You can really overthink
things. Go with your gut feeling ?
if you really like something, do it.?
stylish way to store your culinary
basics. Lakeland has a set of four
945ml containers for �.
lakeland.co.uk
l The kitchen shelves are stacked
with simple monochrome crockery
by the Danish company Broste
Copenhagen. Handmade dinner
plates start at � each.
scandinaviandesigncenter.com
l Burlington?s Hampton 1700 shower
bath is a rolltop-style bath with chrome
legs, designed to fit against the wall so
it can incorporate a shower.
�8; burlingtonbathrooms.com
?The huge heads of hydrangeas are
easy to preserve. Cut the flowers in
late summer or early autumn, and
air-dry. Try the subtle shades of
Hydrangea macrophylla ?Endless
Summer ? The Original?.?
From �; thompson-morgan.com
20 March 18, 2018 The Sunday Times
Home Experts
ILLUSTRATOR MICHAEL DRIVER
TOP TIPS
SAVE ON ENERGY BILLS
l When it?s cold, use
extractor fans sparingly:
they draw out the warm
air. Turn it off as soon as
the area is ventilated.
I have a
dual-flush
bathroom
loo, installed five
years ago. Last
summer, after
flushing, it
started refilling the
tank in noisy bursts
? one long burst of
water, then one or two
shorter ones. It doesn?t
always clear the contents of
the bowl, so sometimes has
to be flushed again. Should
I replace the loo? This is a
hard-water area ? could
lime be blocking the pipes?
J Wiesner, Bath
during the day, as the sun
will heat the room. In
winter, close them at night,
before the temperature
drops, so the heat doesn?t
escape through any gaps
in windows.
l Don?t place sofas in front
of radiators, as they will
absorb the heat rather than
let it circulate. Or pull the
sofa away from the wall.
l While some ventilation
is necessary, and there?s
nothing wrong with a few
natural draughts, use
excluders around the
edges of external doors
and the letterbox.
A
l A Chimney Sheep
goodhousekeeping.co.uk/
institute
READERS?
CLINIC
HOME
HELP
Confused about listed building consent or if you
SHOULD I GET A DUCT
can give your tree the chop? Ask our experts
EXTRACTOR FAN OR
CIRCULATION HOOD?
VG, via email
Kathleen, via email
Ducted to outside is the
only way to go.
Kate Hogg, via email
Recirculating hoods get
rid of odours, not moisture.
Lawrence G, via email
Building regs require you to
have a ducted extractor
fan. But if there wasn?t one
there before, they can?t
force you to add one.
NG, via email
I have an extractor fan, but
never remember to use it.
I just leave the window
open, like my mother did.
Future question I spilt
turmeric on the wood
worktop and steel cooker.
How do I remove the stain?
Send your tips, tricks and
questions to homehelp@
sunday-times.co.uk.
Advice is given without
responsibility; readers? tips
should not be considered
professional advice
MY DUAL-FLUSH LOO
ISN?T WORKING
PROPERLY
Q
l Keep curtains open
will keep out draughts
when the fireplace isn?t
in use (from �;
chimneysheep.co.uk).
QUESTION OF
THE WEEK
Q
In October I noticed
two butterflies, wings
folded, hanging from the
ceiling of the under-stairs
cupboard. They haven?t
moved. Are they still alive?
If yes, when should I put
them outside, and how?
They look like red admirals.
Gillian Pattison, via email
A
In Britain, five species of
butterfly overwinter as
adults ? brimstone,
peacock, small tortoiseshell,
comma and, increasingly, red
admirals. They draw their
wings together and hibernate
until roused by longer days
and warmer temperatures.
Other than brimstones, they?re
found in houses/outbuildings,
huddled in groups, and return
year after year to the same
sites. Though not the same
butterflies (they have one-year
life cycles), they?re drawn to
the hiding places of previous
generations, probably by some
chemical scent.
They could wake too early if
disturbed by human activity or
central heating, so leave them
until you see them fluttering.
If you must evict them, use a
beer glass and a sheet of card
to do so, and release them
quickly into an unheated shed
so they can settle down again.
Though red admirals are
mainly southern European,
they come to Britain every
year in large numbers. Until
recently, it was thought they
couldn?t survive the cold here,
but overwintering examples
are now regular.
Richard Jones, author of
House Guests, House Pests
(Bloomsbury �99);
bugmanjones.com
Q
My sister-in-law lives in
a detached property in
Bournemouth. She has
a large copper beech tree
on the boundary between
the front garden and the
pavement. It is subject to a
preservation order and the
council will not allow any
work on it. The roots are
damaging the drive and the
drains, and a builder says it
may affect the foundations.
The boundary wall has had
to be rebuilt due to pressure
from the tree. She is worried
it will be hard to sell in the
future. Can she appeal?
Martin Adams, via email
A
A tree preservation order,
or TPO, does not mean
that no work can be
carried out on the tree, only
that the local authority?s
permission must be obtained
before it is cut down,
uprooted, lopped or topped.
In theory, such consent may
not be required if the tree is
causing a nuisance, but
it would be sensible to
obtain permission before
carrying out such works as
are necessary to prevent
further damage.
If the local authority refuses
to grant consent for any
works and your sister-in-law
suffers loss or damage as a
result (equivalent to more
than �0), she may be
entitled to compensation, as
long as she brings a claim
within 12 months of the
refusal. She would also have
the right to appeal any
decision made by the local
authority by applying to the
planning inspectorate,
provided that she did so within
28 days of receiving notice of
the local authority?s decision.
Annabel Dean, partner, Farrer
& Co solicitors; farrer.co.uk
The filling valve in the
toilet cistern may not be
working correctly.
Without knowing the exact
type, it?s hard to say what is
happening, but you certainly
don?t need a new loo. There
may be debris in the inlet
water pipe leading to the
cistern, blocking the valve
each time it opens to allow
water through. This will then
drop back down the pipe,
letting a bit more water
through: hence the short
bursts. Get a plumber to
disconnect the inlet pipe,
then flush it out, and check
that nothing is stuck inside
the filling valve.
If that doesn?t work, five
years is a good lifespan for
the filling valve, and a new
one won?t cost the earth. I?d
Q
I am thinking of buying
a grade II listed
building, but it needs
renovation. What am I likely
to be allowed to do and
what is off the table?
Bob Williams, via email
A
It is a criminal offence to
make changes to a listed
building without formal
consent. Permanent features
in formal gardens, including
boundaries, cannot be altered
without permission. Even past
alterations, such as an ugly
1960s extension to a period
cottage, can reflect a timeline
of historical changes, so you
should not assume permission
would be granted to replace it.
Conversely, proposals for
?mock? period extensions are
often rejected. A clear
definition between old and
new is often preferred.
Some proposals will be
refused out of hand: installing
plastic windows in place of
timber, for example, or
removing a period fireplace.
Many owners of listed
buildings are caught out by
minor matters such as
replacing rusty iron gutters
with plastic ones.
supply and fit a Fluidmaster
Pro 45 for about �, all in.
Replacing it should solve
the problem. Poor flushing
could be down to the water
level in the cistern being
too low as a result of the
valve problem. There will be
a water line inside the
cistern. If the water is
below that once the
filling has stopped,
the flush will have
less volume.
Your plumber
will check that
the water level is
correct at the end
of the work. They
should also make sure
the mechanism is not just
working in short mode (ie,
less water), as this would
make the flush less effective.
To save water, all modern
cisterns have a reduced
capacity (maximum 6 litres),
so flush efficiency is
paramount. I find those with
handles rarely go wrong, but
push-button ones can fail, as
the button or valve breaks or
seizes. Short flushes save
water if the toilet is well
designed. Some are not:
flushing twice wastes water.
My toilet has a quickrelease, lever-operated,
dual-flush siphon (look for a
Dudley Turbo 88 or Derwent
Macdee Metro 3) and a Pro
45 filling valve, as above. You
hold the handle down for a
short flush. It rarely breaks
and, if it does, it?s easily
repaired. The best flush,
however, comes from the
traditional loo with the
cistern high up on the wall
and a pull chain.
Joe Greaves, owner, Paveway
Plumbing, Leicester;
pavewayplumbing.co.uk
Re-covering a roof usually
requires permission: natural
materials that match the
original are usually required.
New damp-proofing is
frowned on, too, as it often
traps moisture, creating
problems later: traditional
breathable natural lime
plasters and mineral paints
facilitate evaporation, creating
a dry wall that is thermally
efficient compared to a wet
wall with a damp-proofed
dry surface.
If you are planning
alterations or simple repairs,
the golden rule is to liaise with
the local conservation officer.
If you are sympathetic in your
approach, they are more likely
to be pragmatic. If you display
a disregard for the importance
of the building, expect
intransigence and rejection.
Rob Desbruslais, director,
Desbruslais Chartered
Surveyors; desbruslais.co.uk
DO YOU NEED HELP FROM
ONE OF OUR EXPERTS?
Email your questions to
homehelp@sunday-times.
co.uk. Advice is given
without responsibility
HOW TO...
DEAL WITH NOISY
NEIGHBOURS
As the French philosopher
Jean-Paul Sartre once said,
?Hell is other people? ?
particularly if they live next to
you and have noisy children,
barking dogs and/or stonking
sound systems. The �7,397
damages awarded earlier
this month to a woman in
Kensington, west London,
who complained that her life
had been made ?intolerable?
by upstairs neighbours,
shone a light on one of the
great scourges of living in
crowded towns and cities.
This is the most common
source of complaints to
councils, says Lisa Lavia,
managing director of the
Noise Abatement Society.
Yet problems can be resolved
quickly and amicably. ?Often,
the noise-makers are unaware
that they are causing the
problem and only need to be
told in a non-confrontational
way,? she explains.
MAKE FRIENDS
?Issues of noise pollution
can escalate quickly when
people don?t talk to their
neighbours,? Lavia says.
?Complaints tend to be
more frequent in areas of
low social cohesion, where
people don?t know or
understand each other
very well. Things go much
better when the first contact
is non-confrontational.?
She suggests saying hello
to noisy neighbours on the
staircase, at the front gate or
in the corridor. Take the lead
? slip a note under their door,
or invite them in if you?re
having a party and ask them
to let you know if the music
gets too loud. ?That might
make them think about you
when they?re having a party.?
WHEN THAT DOESN?T WORK
If your neighbours continue
to be unreasonably loud,
the next step is to contact
your local authority?s
environmental health
department, which has a
statutory duty to deal with
noise nuisance. (That is,
unless it is deemed to be
antisocial behaviour, such
as aggressively targeted
loud music. In this case, it
becomes a police matter.)
You will be asked to keep
a noise diary so the local
authority can assess how
frequent and disturbing
the sound is. ?If it?s clarinet
GETTY IMAGES
The Sunday Times March 18, 2018 21
practice for four hours
every Sunday, the council
may deem that this is not a
nuisance, and suggest a
more mutually acceptable
time for the practice to take
place,? Lavia says. The
council may also use
recording equipment, but
the neighbour making the
noise needs to be informed
before this takes place.
When you sell your house,
you are required by law to
disclose any complaints to
the council about a noisy
neighbour to potential
buyers, so it?s best to try to
sort the issue out before it
reaches this stage.
IS IT THE BUILDING?
?Very often, the problem is
not difficult neighbours, but
poor building standards,?
says Jim Prior, director of
TP Soundproofing, a
specialist firm based in the
Midlands. ?While older
buildings aren?t too bad,
unless they have been poorly
converted, we find a
disproportionate number
of complaints coming from
post-1995 homes built with
lightweight blocks and
plasterboard.?
Soundproofed walls and
ceilings with acoustic mineral
wool in a ?floating frame? can
help enormously, but they are
expensive. ?It can cost
�000 to �000 for one
room, and we have had
clients who have paid nearly
�,000 to soundproof their
home,? Prior says. ?But for
people who suffer extreme
stress and anxiety because
of their noisy neighbours,
this is a price worth paying.?
Building regs state that
walls and floors in new homes
must provide ?reasonable
resistance to sound? (goo.gl/
q8Kmxu), but there is no
requirement for sound
testing on existing homes
during the selling process
and no regulator overseeing
the effectiveness of
soundproofing materials.
?Buyers should request a
sound certificate so they are
not being condemned to
listening to their neighbours?
barking dogs and sound
systems,? Prior says.
CHECK YOUR LEASE
If you and your neighbour
are both leaseholders in a
block, check the contract.
There may be an obligation
to put carpets in communal
areas on upper floors, or not
to have hardwood flooring.
?When you buy a flat, your
solicitor should check that
there are obligations in the
lease to fully carpet certain
areas, and that the landlord
will enforce this,? says Leon
Golstein, real-estate dispute
resolution partner at Seddons
solicitors. He adds, however,
that a landlord might not
intervene to solve other
sources of noise nuisance,
and may charge you for legal
expenses to do so.
IF ALL ELSE FAILS
Your local authority may
suggest civil mediation,
where a trained arbitrator will
act as an impartial ?referee?
in your dispute. This costs
between � and �5, but
is cheaper than hiring a
solicitor. Find out more at
civilmediation.justice.gov.uk.
You can seek redress
through the courts, but
this can be costly and
time-consuming. ?An initial
consultation may not set you
back too much, but if you
proceed, it will cost you tens
of thousands of pounds,?
Golstein says. ?The expensive
part is the gathering of data
that is usable in court.?
To read the government?s
guidelines on resolving
disputes with neighbours,
visit goo.gl/kbdqCW.
Sarah Lonsdale
22 March 18, 2018 The Sunday Times
BUNNY
SIDE UP
SHUTTERSTOCK; SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT
Home Overseas
Join the queue for digs in Sydney?s Centennial
Park ? as seen in Peter Rabbit. By Emma Wells
L
aughing
kookaburras,
possums, bluetongued lizards and
the odd snake have
all been spotted in Sydney?s
lush, leafy Centennial Park,
but a lovable rabbit in blue
jacket and no trousers, with a
gleeful appetite for forbidden
vegetables? Not so much.
Indeed, living, breathing
rabbits have been eradicated
from the 890-acre Centennial
Parklands, of which the park
forms part, by fumigation,
poisoning and shooting. So it
was a surprise to residents
when a patch in the northern
corner, up by the Federation
Pavilion, was taken over by a
film crew for several months
last year to make a movie
version of Peter Rabbit. The
bunny blockbuster brings the
world of Beatrix Potter to life
with animation and live action,
and features James Corden as
the voice of Peter, as well as
Sam Neill, Rose Byrne, Margot
Robbie and Daisy Ridley.
Here, in the heart of the
swanky Eastern Suburbs,
the Oscar-nominated
production designer Roger
Ford (of Babe and The
Chronicles of Narnia fame)
created a bucolic Lake District
vignette, complete with a
timber and slate manor house,
a flower-festooned cottage and
a luxuriant vegetable garden
with a potting shed.
Passers-by were treated
to glimpses of Neill, in an
air-conditioned fat suit, as
Old Mr McGregor, tending
his lettuces and pumpkins;
of Rose Byrne as Bea, his
animal-loving artist neighbour;
and ? spoiler alert ? of the
uptight, bunny-bashing
Young McGregor, played by
Domhnall Gleeson, who
inherits the manor house
and tries to dynamite his furry
foes? burrow.
This tangential tale, with
Corden playing Peter as a
backchatting teenage twerker
and bunnies Flopsy, Mopsy
and Cotton-Tail as ?tweens?,
has outraged Potter purists ?
but cinemagoers won?t be
able to knock the hyper-real
animated rabbits and
extraordinary set.
?It was unbelievable to go
from sitting in our Los Angeles
office, looking at drawings of
British manors and gardens,
to going on location and being
able to see and touch them,?
says Jodi Hildebrand, one of
the film?s executive producers.
?It was everything we had
imagined, and it made me
sad to think it wasn?t going to
be permanent.?
The appearance of the
beloved rabbit has given the
homes bordering the park,
which can sell for Aus$10m
(�6m), even more bang for
their buck. Here, in the mini
suburb also known as
Centennial Park, bordering its
western fringes, rock stars,
politicians and captains of
industry exchange Australian
Federation-era mansions, with
their signature lacy fretwork
and vast outdoor entertaining
decks and infinity pools.
Spread your search out to
the surrounding suburbs,
which include Moore Park
Central
Business
District
Paddington
Moore Park
Kensington
Randwick
Woollahra
Bondi
Junction
Queens Park
Centennial
Park 1 mile
and Queens Park, as well as
Randwick, Woollahra and
Paddington, and you will often
have to fork out $1.5m for a
small apartment.
A 15-minute drive from
Sydney?s holy trinity of the
Central Business District
(CBD), Bondi Beach and the
airport, and a short stroll from
some of the world?s best
cuisine, served in laid-back
surfie style, properties here
are hard won. Savills estate
agency reports that average
prices in the suburbs closest
to the park have risen by
between 55% and 98% over
the past five years ? in large
part fuelled by aggressive
auction campaigns.
Homes on Lang Road and
Martin Road, next to the park
and leading straight up to
Oxford Street (probably the
most vibrant and eclectic
thoroughfare in the city), are
the most sought-after.
Monumental in scale, they can
command waterfront prices
and, according to Randall
Kemp, principal of Ray White
estate agency in Woollahra,
typically sell for $6m.
Last year, a five-bedroom
home on Lang Road, built
in 1910, was sold at auction
for $10.5m. Up for rent on
the same street, at $8,000
a week, is a six-bedroom
period mansion with a huge
pool deck, a Carrara marble
kitchen and a self-contained
one-bedroom staff flat (00 61
414 646476, theagency.
com.au).
It is a world away from
both Beatrix Potter?s Lake
District and Centennial Park?s
own roots: the traditional
home of the Gadi people,
until the 1880s it was largely
creeks, springs, swamps,
sand dunes and ponds. Its
transformation into a
traditional Victorian park
with formal gardens, grand
avenues, statues and sporting
fields ? much of which was
overseen by Charles Moore,
who trained at Regent?s Park
and Kew Gardens ? has made
it one of the most celebrated
public spaces in Australia.
It was this verdant backdrop
? and, of course, the warm
climate, ideal for intensively
growing about 30 varieties
of fruit and veggies for Old
McGregor?s garden ? that
made the park a perfect
location for the film. As well
The Sunday Times March 18, 2018 23
TIMES +
Subscribers can
enjoy six months?
free delivery on all
wine orders of six or
more bottles, when
signing up to Wine
Club Unlimited. For
details, see
mytimesplus.co.uk
GUIDE PRICE
�7M
PADDINGTON
Many of Paddo?s terraced houses
are positively poky, but this one,
on Underwood Street, is built on a
grand scale, with five bedrooms,
several verandas, a pool and views
across Sydney Harbour. It goes to
auction next Saturday.
00 61 414 646476,
theagency.com.au
GUIDE PRICE
�0,000
Burrow market
Below, Peter
Rabbit and co;
and Bea?s
cottage, which
was built in a
corner of
Centennial Park
as the manor house and
cottage, the crew created a
subterranean warren for Peter
and his posse.
With the parklands?
?entertainment quarter? and
old showgrounds offering
outdoor movies and film
festivals, weekend markets,
concerts, a $4m ?wild play?
area for kids, Easter-egg hunts,
and bush-tucker tours and art
classes with Aboriginal guides,
the activities on offer here
are endless.
?Over the past 30 years,
I have seen how much
Centennial Park has changed,
with the amount of people it
pulls on a weekend, and the
improvement in the park?s
facilities,? says Aaron Vlachos,
a sales consultant at Century
21 Classic estate agency. ?The
park is a huge draw for real
estate, and we have seen many
educated professionals move
into the area to take advantage
of the leisure opportunities.
?As urban consolidation
increases, the community is
becoming aware of the
importance of preserving
Centennial Parklands and of its
necessity in everyday life.?
It?s ever-evolving, too. The
$150m redevelopment of the
Royal Randwick Racecourse,
just beyond the southern gates
of the park, has re-established
it as Aussie?s thoroughbred
racing mecca (Randwick has
a median apartment price of
$995,000, according to
Savills), and the South East
Light Rail route, with three
stops connecting the
parklands to the CBD, should
be up and running next year.
Brits who don?t have Aussie
citizenship ? or at least
permanent residency ? can
buy property, but they will
have to jump through a few
hoops. They?ll need approval
from the Foreign Investment
Review Board and might
encounter restrictions on the
kind of home they can
purchase. Visit firb.gov.au for
more information.
If you have at least $5m,
and want a piece of Australian
rock history, the drummer
Jon Farriss, who was a founder
member of INXS, is selling his
six-bedroom pad on York
Road, in Queens Park. Set
behind a walled garden ? you
could grow
your own
veg, like Mr
McGregor ? it
has views of
Centennial Park
from its upper
floor. ?I was always
amazed by its
perfect location,?
Farriss says. It goes
to auction on
Saturday (theagency.
com.au).
Those without
rock-star budgets
who still want to be
close to the park should head
to nearby Kensington or
Kingsford. ?They are two of
the biggest up-and-coming
areas in the Eastern Suburbs,?
says Ben Collier, a partner at
the Agency. ?You should be
able to buy a three-bedroom
semi-detached house from
about $1.2m.?
Alternatively, if, like Potter?s
fictional characters, you are
content with a bijou bolthole,
you can snap up a studio in
one of the 1970s towers at
the heart of Centennial Park
for less than $400,000. A
one-bedder will cost about
$550,000. They may be
little more than glorified
rabbit hutches, but
at least you can
frolic in one of
Australia?s finest
urban oases.
BONDI JUNCTION
In the past decade, this once grungy
transport hub has been transformed
into a shopping destination, largely
thanks to a Westfield. A one-bedder
on the 10th floor of this block goes to
auction on Wednesday. The owner
can use the shared terrace and pool.
00 61 2 9387 4911,
century21.com.au
The Sunday Times March 18, 2018 27
KATRINA
NA
OUGHS
BURROUGHS
@Kat_Burroughs
Skargaarden?s Reso outdoor
furniture, by Matilda Lindblom,
is inspired by a fishing village
on the west coast of Sweden,
so it should cope with the
British summer. Made from
powder-coated steel, it?s
available in a range of colours.
Bench, �9, lounge table,
�9, lounge chair, �9, and
dining chair, �9.
skargaarden.com; buy it at
houseology.
com
Black dogs don?t do well on
Instagram. They don?t take a
good photo. Bright light turns
dark eyes, nose and fur into a
black blob; a dark background
and moody lighting renders
them undetectable. The
professional advice is to shoot
from above onto a pale or
coloured background in lowish
light, and try to capture those
expressive eyes.
I bring this up because black
designs for the home ? side
tables on skinny black legs,
dark candleholders and
pendants, black rattan seats,
inky terracotta tableware ? are
a highlight of the SS18 ranges,
but are barely making an
appearance in the interiors
magazines. These designs are
charming in real life, just like
their canine equivalents, and
will cohabit harmoniously with
the rest of your decorative
scheme, but their beauty is the
devil?s own job to translate
onto the printed page.
An exception to this rule
is the new breed of
dark-finish faucets
for kitchens and
bathrooms, which
have solved the
decorative
conundrums of
everyone engaged in a
kitchen or bathroom project.
(Is copper over? Is chrome
back? Can I mix the two?)
Here are three taps to
consider. Crosswater?s simple
two-hole basin set from the
MPRO range, top, is soon to
be released in a matt-black
finish (�9; crosswater.
co.uk). Coming to Ikea
in April, the Gamlesjon
kitchen tap, middle,
is an industrial-style
dual-control mixer in brushed
black metal (�; ikea.co.uk).
Finally, this loopy design
in dark bronze is
from THG Paris?s
new O Collection,
a collaboration
between Studio
Putman and
Christofle (from �204
for a three-hole basin
mixer; thg-paris.com).
Linen Stripe tableware
e is
ury?s
made in Julian Sainsbury?s
he
Wiltshire workshop. The
sculptor and designer?ss
brand, John Julian, is
ks
loved by eminent cooks
from Nigella Lawson
to Nigel Slater.
Hand-painted onto
the stoneware, the
pattern comes in
Rose (right), Clover
Green, Grey, Black
and Duck Egg Blue.
The range is
dishwasher- and
microwave-safe.
de
From �.50 for a side
uk
plate; johnjulian.co.uk
THE EDIT
AGENDA
Home Interiors
Plankbridge, which supplied a
shepherd?s hut as a playhouse
for Prince George, reports that
orders for blue cabins are
booming. ?Customers often want
their huts to be more than just
garden rooms,? says Richard Lee,
its founder. Recent commissions
include a turquoise mini yoga
studio and an indigo garden
cinema club. George uses his for
tea parties with grandad.
Snug hut in Palace Blue, from
�,000; plankbridge.com
Save and
splurge
The interior-design firm
Salvesen Graham is running a
series of home renovation
workshops, with tips on budget,
decorating and working with
builders. The session on April 25
is Where to Spend and Where
to Save (�0; eventbrite.co.uk/
o/16578433337).
Pictured above is Nicole
Salvesen?s London kitchen,
where she has dressed up basic
units from Magnet (kitchens
from �276; magnet.co.uk)
with smart handles and brass
splashbacks (metalsheets.
co.uk) ? ?much less expensive
than tiles to purchase and to
fit, and they give a warm and
reflective feel?. Mirror Polished
Brass costs �2 a sq metre.
Salvesen added inexpensive
art found in a brocante in
Normandy, but splashed out
on Silestone Iconic White
work surfaces (from �0 a
sq metre; silestone.co.uk).
28 March 18, 2018 The Sunday Times
Home Interiors
PLAIN, NOT SIM
JAMES MERRELL; ADAM CARTER; ANDY GORE; LEWIS GILLINGHAM
T
he rooms on this
page are the
interiors equivalent
of a minibreak in
the Cotswolds or a
walk on the beach in Cornwall.
They?re decompression
chambers, designed to soothe
with harmonious colours and
natural materials. If you?re
craving this type of decor, you
may be leading a stressy life.
Stay away from bold pattern
for a while. Maybe try decaff.
Modern Country, as I am
calling it, is the easy-living
antidote to the drama of
statement decorating. Though
it appears effortless, MC is
tricky to pull off. One bum note
? a gloopily varnished pine
shelf, a too-chintzy wallpaper
or a valance too far ? and the
room can lapse into Laura
Ashley c1985.
The recipe is traditional,
functional furnishings, tactile
surfaces and muted modern
colours ? greys, pinks and
greens. Finishes are refined
rather than rustic; shapes are
elegant; pattern is used
sparingly, but texture added
liberally. The emphasis is on
the Modern, not the Country,
and this look sits as happily in
urban milieux as in the sticks.
And, if you do it right, your MC
scheme will feel as relaxing as
a weekend in Walberswick.
Farrow & Ball?s Atacama wallpaper pattern, in Yeabridge Green and Clunch, is a botanical with
a difference. As the name suggests, it depicts flowering cacti from the South American desert
instead of standard English country-garden flora.
� per roll; farrow-ball.com
This Wiltshire farmhouse kitchen is part of an interior-design
project by Emma Sims Hilditch. It features cabinets by Neptune
painted in Charcoal, with an oak countertop.
Kitchens from �,000; simshilditch.com
A crucial
component of
this look is
handmade china ?
and Studio Blue
stoneware, new
from Denby, ticks
all the boxes. Large
ridged serving
bowls cost �, a
set of four cereal
bowls is � and
a pair of ridged
mugs are �.
johnlewis.com
The classic centrepiece of a country kitchen is a range cooker
such as the Everhot 100+. Choose a dark colour ? this one is
Graphite ? for a more contemporary look. And don?t dawdle:
on April 1, the price will jump to �695. �390; everhot.co.uk
Texture is more
important than
pattern in a
Modern Country
scheme. It?s
supplied here
by woven rattan
lamp bases
from Birdie
Fortescue?s
lifestyle store
in Norfolk.
From �;
birdiefortescue.
co.uk
Trad country style with a modern twist from Ercol. The Teramo
two-door wardrobe, in oak (W113cm x H195cm; �475), is shown
with the Originals Chairmakers chair, in a white finish (�0).
ercol.com
Arriving at Loaf at the end of this month, but available to order
now, the Tucker extendable kitchen table grows from 150cm
to 250cm (�5). Also shown are coloured Natterbox chairs
(�0 for two) and a Kempton mirror (�5). loaf.com
Charles Dedman
is a young designer
from Hampshire
who specialises
in giving traditional
furniture a
contemporary
aesthetic. This
Turner carver
chair, shown in
black ash, is
manufactured by
Sitting Firm.
�0; charles
dedman.co.uk
The Sunday Times March 18, 2018 29
MPLE
The modern country look is all muted colours,
functional furniture and easy-living charm, but it?s
fiendishly tricky to pull off, says Katrina Burroughs
Natural timber is a key material. Here?s a pair of oak Shalstone
dining chairs (�9 each), with an armchair (front; �9) and
a round dining table that extends to seat six (�9). It?s shown
with Secto?s Victo ceiling light, in birch (�5). johnlewis.com
Part of Another Country?s collection of contemporary crafted
designs, the Day Bed One is a solid oak chaise the size of a
single bed. The lambswool mattress is upholstered in Turnberry
Red Bute fabric. �725; anothercountry.com
Modern Country loves a green scheme, and this certainly hits
the brief: Sanderson?s Canopy Green matt emulsion paint is
shown with accents of Green Shoot.
� for 2.5 litres; fabricsandpapers.com
The Hardy collection, new from Another Country, is named in
honour of Dorset?s finest author, who wrote a poem called Old
Furniture. Oak Hardy armchair, �355, and coffee table, �5.
anothercountry.com
Sanderson?s Embleton Bay range has the look covered: Farne
Grasses wallpaper is � a roll, Curlew fabric (on sofa) costs �
a metre, and the armchair is in Arden (� a metre). The cushion
fabrics costs �-� a metre. stylelibrary.com/sanderson
This bedroom at the Cotswold Fish Hotel is by Hannah Lohan
Interiors. The woven lambswool blankets (buy similar from �9)
and cushions (from �) are from Melin Tregwynt. The butterfly
chair costs �0 (nordichouse.co.uk), melintregwynt.co.uk
Joel and Helena
Haran have
perfected the
Modern Country
vibe in sustainable
hardwood
furniture, made at
their studio in
Cornwall. The Lace
bench, in London
plane and English
ash (�0), is
shown with a Lace
bar stool (�0).
studioharan.co.uk
Pretty table linens
from Birdie
Fortescue include
these green
linens in her own
designs. Shaant
Paisley napkins
are �.50 each,
Shaant Lotus
placemats cost
�.50 and plain
Shaant border
napkins are �.50.
birdiefortescue.
co.uk
Subtle colours and
tactile fabrics from
George Spencer
Designs include
the Jewel fabric in
Ruby, shown on the
armchair (�6 a
metre). The curtain
is Fern, in Red
Ochre (�4 a
metre); the stool
is upholstered with
Otto, in Honey
(� a metre).
georgespencer.
com
30 March 18, 2018 The Sunday Times
Home Gardening
IN THE GARDEN
THIS WEEK
l Mulch your borders if you
haven?t had a chance yet. This
is the single most beneficial
bit of work you can do in the
garden, as it will feed the soil
and improve its texture. Bear
in mind that, while it?s mightily
tempting to chuck a load of
muck over the unsightly bits
of your border, you need to
weed first.
to start them into growth ?
by the time all the frost
has gone away, you?ll have
bushy plants to put into
the borders or transfer into
large containers. Place
these initial pots in a bright,
frost-free spot and be sure to
keep the compost moist.
l Ready for the year?s first
serious venture outside? The
most important task (apart
from the obvious weeding) is
to cut back any later-flowering
stuff, such as Russian sage,
so that it grows anew from
near its base and doesn?t lose
too much energy putting on
growth up at the top.
Late-flowering clematis and
wisteria will need pruning
without delay.
cuttings@sunday-times.co.uk
l It?s time to start sowing
your salad crop. A seed mix
or any single leaf will work.
Plant in shallow drills in a
container, or in the ground if
it is warm enough, and sow
successionally for leaves in
abundance.
l If you?re growing dahlias,
plant the tubers in pots of
damp multipurpose compost
The joys of spring
Tulips and
wallflowers
make a colourful
cutting border
in Arthur
Parkinson?s
garden at the
Emma
Bridgewater
pottery in Stoke
T
he cutting garden.
It?s such a soothing
image: orderly
lines of cosmos,
dahlias, marigolds
and zinnias, with wafts of
perfume from sweet williams
and tobacco flower; lacy
heads of white ammi and
orlaya; touches of acid
green-yellow from dill or
ridolfia; a cornucopia of
brilliance from late-summer
sunflowers and dahlias.
Flowers are the icing on the
cake, though. If you?ve ever
watched a brilliant florist at
work ? I?m thinking of Shane
Connolly ? you?ll have seen
that the starting point of a
beautiful bunch is not flowers
but fillers, so don?t forget
these. They can be twigs of
pussy willow or blossom in
season, foliage of rosemary,
apple mint, shrubby hare?s ear
(Bupleurum fruticosum) or the
ever-useful spurge, Euphorbia
oblongata. These give bulk,
structure and texture. Add
catkins to daffodils, spurge to
tulips, alchemilla to old roses,
silvered cerinthe to marigolds,
then enjoy the difference.
A cutting garden can be
combined with a vegetable
garden, with annual flowers
taking their turn between
the beans and the lettuce.
Annuals provide the colour
and profusion ? and, if you
don?t have room for a separate
area, you can grow them in
gaps in your borders.
If you are new to this
business, start with easy
ones such as sweet peas
(grown up a support), English
marigold (calendula),
cornflower and love-in-a-mist.
Add invaluable Ammi visnaga,
which is flower and filler all
in one. Sow from seed or buy
seedlings, which is an
expensive option, but worth
it for flowers that are either
slow or slightly erratic to
grow from seed, such as
snapdragon (antirrhinum) and
larkspur (consolida).
Bulbs, especially tulips,
and tubers (think dahlias)
are another simple way of
providing flowers to cut over a
long season. Bulbs for spring
planting, for flowers to gather
this summer, include
anemones, gladioli, lilies and
nerines. Gorgeous, scented
white Gladiolus murielae is
essential. For alliums,
camassias, narcissus and
tulips, all of which provide
excellent cut flowers, you?ll
have to wait, planting this
autumn for a crop next spring.
The extra bits you need to
make a bunch spectacular will
come from stuff you either
already have in the garden
or can introduce to raid in
future years. I?d not be without
hazel, which makes a good
screen at the bottom of a town
garden. Nor rosemary. Filch
bits of blackthorn or hawthorn
from your boundary hedge
or snip blossom in bud from
an apple tree. Roses, the
snowball tree (Viburnum
opulus ?Roseum?), lilac,
willows such as Salix hastata
?Wehrhahnii? or S gracilistyla
?Melanostachys? (dramatic
black catkins) and the leathery
foliage of shrubby hare?s ear
will all be invaluable.
The rest will come from
perennials in your flowerbeds,
which you can?t raid too often.
But the odd spike of thalictrum
or agapanthus, astrantia or
eryngium, sweet rocket or
Verbena bonariensis, may be
just what you need to add
variety and intrigue.
Here are some favourites
that will give you something
to cut every month. You will
also want stalwarts such as
Bupleurum fruticosum and
Euphorbia oblongata
(essential), plus eucalyptus
and rosemary, which go on
giving all year round.
Gather flowers in the early
morning or evening, picking
directly into a container of
water. This prevents an airlock
forming in the stem, which will
stop the flower drinking.
MARCH
Narcissus ?Angel?s Breath? and
?Elka? are neat, pale, elegant
daffs ? perfect for small
posies. White ?Niveth? is taller
and gorgeous.
APRIL
Tulips, of course, but where
to start? Grow 10 varieties
each season, and don?t miss
GEORGIANNA LANE/FLORA PRESS/THE GARDEN COLLECTION; MARIANNE MAJERUS; ARTHUR PARKINSON
The Sunday Times March 18, 2018 31
MAKE
THE CUT
Anna Pavord picks the best flowers and foliage
to grow to fill your house with blooms from the
start of spring to the last days of winter
the caramel-coloured ?Cairo?
or the stunning ?Black Hero?.
The lily-flowered ?Ballerina?
is scented, which is a bonus.
Wrap in paper and stand up to
their necks in water overnight
before arranging. They will go
on growing in the vase.
MAY
Tulips, particularly the parrot
kinds, such as the gorgeous
?Fantasy?, will flower on into
May, but you could also gather
white lilacs this month, or the
appealing white pompoms of
the snowball bush, Viburnum
opulus ?Roseum?. Cut at an
angle, strip the leaves and
make a slit about half an inch
up each stem.
JUNE-SEPTEMBER
This is the peak season for
annual flowers, sown
specifically for cutting. By
cropping regularly, you will
force the plants to go on
producing, as their imperative
is to set seed.
If you sow in autumn,
stalwarts such as orlaya and
sweet peas may be in bloom by
early June. From a late March
sowing, you can hope that the
annuals of your cutting garden
will be flowering by late June.
Most will then last until the
first frost.
Between ammi and zinnias,
there are at least 20 annuals
that make excellent cut
flowers. Here are my top 10.
All of them are also available as
seedling plants.
1 Ammi visnaga ?Green Mist?:
gorgeous softly domed heads
of greenish-white. Sow in
March or April; germination
14-21 days.
2 Calendula officinalis ?Indian
Prince?: deep orange
marigolds with a rich red
wash on the backs of the
petals. Sow in March or April;
germination 7-14 days.
3 Centaurea cyanus ?Blue
Diadem? (cornflower): classic
summer annual, a clear,
searing blue. Sow in March or
April; germination 14-21 days.
4 Cerinthe major
?Purpurascens?: terrific
pewter-coloured foliage and
complex purplish flowers. Sow
in March or April; germination
8-10 days.
5 Consolida regalis ?Blue Cloud?
(larkspur): like a delphinium,
but on a more manageable
scale. Sow in March or April;
germination 10-14 days. The
seed can be troublesome.
Seedlings of a larkspur mix are
available from Sarah Raven
(� for 20; sarahraven.com).
6 Cosmos bipinnatus: Sarah
Raven offers 16 kinds, in
shades from dazzlingly white
?Purity? to deep red ?Rubenza?.
Sow in March or April;
germination 5-8 days.
7 Lathyrus odoratus ?Nimbus?
(sweet pea): white flowers,
veined elegantly with mauve.
A beauty. Sow in March;
germination 10-14 days.
8 Nigella hispanica: this has
deeper-coloured flowers and
Above, Zinnia
elegans ?Benary?s
Giant Mix?
and a vase of
summer blooms.
Right, Tithonia
rotundifolia
?Torch?
more interesting seedpods
than N damascena. You could
grow both. Sow direct in
September; germinates the
following spring.
9 Tithonia rotundifolia ?Torch?:
a tall, usefully late addition
with brilliant orange flowers.
Sow in March or April;
germination 10-14 days.
10 Zinnia elegans ?Benary?s
Giant Mix?: late-summer
flowers in a salsa mixture of
oranges, purples and reds.
?Benary?s Giant Lime? is more
restrained. Sow from April to
June; germination 7-14 days.
Alliums, lilies, agapanthus
and dahlias will also mark the
progress of summer in your
cutting garden, accompanied
by a froth of pale green from
Alchemilla mollis.
OCTOBER
Hips are at their best this
month, and Rosa moyesii
?Geranium?, which reaches
10ft, provides a useful autumn
harvest after a brilliant
summer display of single red
flowers. These hips are
curvaceous and hang well
from their twigs.
NOVEMBER
Don?t despise our native ivy
(Hedera helix), which comes
into its own this month with
chunky seedheads in dark,
blackish green. It?s sombre
on its own, but you can light it
up with berries of pyracantha
or viburnum.
DECEMBER
Think bowls, not vases, and
fill the house with the scent
of ?Paperwhite? narcissus.
From an October planting
(no dark room needed), you?ll
have flowers eight weeks
later. A miracle.
JANUARY
Galanthus ?S Arnott? is bigger
than the standard G nivalis
snowdrop, increases fast and,
in a warm room, releases a
honeyed scent. Buy it in the
green ? now.
FEBRUARY
Hellebores are a must, and
we are spoilt for choice: pale,
dark, plain, speckled, single,
double. All are beautiful. Pick
them straight into water, then
sear the stems for 10 seconds
in boiling water: this helps to
prevent wilting.
For more inspiration, read
The Pottery Gardener: Flowers
and Hens at the Emma
Bridgewater Factory by Arthur
Parkinson, published tomorrow
(The History Press �)
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Book your advertisement now at:
thesundaytimes.co.uk/advertise
34 March 18, 2018 The Sunday Times
Home
PETER TARRY; ALEX SEGRE/JOHN POWELL/ALAMY
TIME AND
SPACE
PIERRE
KOFFMANN
Koffmann likes the produce
at Borough Market ? even
though it?s expensive
The chef on how his wife rules
their kitchen, shopping at Lidl
and why France
F
is off the menu
SERIOUS
DOUGH
I
A favourite Staub
pot, hand-turned
wooden bowl and
ceramic conker
The kitchen in
Koffmann?s west
London flat
TIMES +
One lucky subscriber
will win a luxury
holiday for two to
Montpellier. To enter
this competition,
simply visit
mytimesplus.co.uk
live with my wife, Claire, a potato
specialist, in a two-bedroom
apartment in Maida Vale, west
London. We downsized from a
large family home in Bayswater as
we didn?t need the space any more ? the
five children we have between us are now
grown up ? and we walk whenever we can
to Hyde Park and Regent?s Park. Our light
and airy sitting room has lovely high
ceilings and is filled with cookery books.
Claire is the chef at home; she
occasionally asks me for advice, and gets
cross when I give it. One of my favourites
in her repertoire is roast pork. In fact, I
love it so much, I passed the recipe on to
the Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin, in
Edinburgh. I know I need to lose a bit of
weight, but I am, as you say, a yo-yo
dieter. I just can?t stick to it.
Do you have a daily routine?
As I am not doing gruelling hours in a
restaurant at the moment, my time is
more my own. I can?t do anything without
a cappuccino, so that is how I start my
day. Claire and I wake up at about 7am
and always go to the same cafe, the
independent D1. It?s a small place and we
know all the regulars. As a Frenchman,
I have to eat lunch at 12 o?clock, and we
enjoy going to restaurants a few times a
week. Lorne and A Wong, in Pimlico, La
Petite Maison, in Mayfair, and Bentley?s,
off Piccadilly, are particular favourites. We
go to the gym two or three times a week. I
don?t watch a lot of cookery programmes,
but I am a fan of Rick Stein. I also like
Simon Reeve and Ray Mears.
What are your kitchen cupboard
essentials?
Eggs, butter, dijon mustard and dark
chocolate. And we always have cheese,
usually roquefort.
to look at the food. You will often find me
at Church Street Market, Marylebone.
I buy lambs? offal from a butcher?s there,
and all my vegetables. For cheese, I like La
Fromagerie, on Moxon Street. We rarely
go to supermarkets, but for our basics we
go to Lidl ? it sometimes has the most
fantastic flavoursome chickens or snails.
And I enjoy mushroom-hunting on
Wimbledon Common and in Hampshire.
I have a special knife.
Do you garden?
We have a small one, but don?t really use it
that much. I am not green-fingered.
What should you cook for a first date?
For a first date, he should take you to a
very good restaurant. Then, perhaps,
on the second, try cooking something
uncomplicated ? a simple omelette, say,
with truffles if you can afford them, and
a light salad. And the English are so good
at puddings. Maybe try a fruit crumble.
Anyone can learn to cook ? where there is
a will, there is a way ? but not everybody
has the potential to become a great chef.
My kitchen cupboard
essentials are eggs,
butter, dijon mustard
and dark chocolate. And
we always have cheese,
usually roquefort
What did you keep when you
downsized?
I used to collect artworks and ceramics,
but when we moved, I had lots of things
in storage, then eventually sold them.
I have a treasured Staub pot from my
days at La Tante Claire [Koffmann?s
three-Michelin-starred restaurant in
Chelsea, open between 1977 and 2004],
and a wooden bowl that I turned myself.
I have also kept a ceramic horse chestnut,
but you know, there is nothing that would
really break my heart to part with.
Where do you do your grocery
shopping?
Borough Market is fantastic ? it is
expensive, but I love going there just
The chef enjoys
hunting for
mushrooms on
Wimbledon
Common
SERVING
SUGGESTION
You worked with the Roux brothers
and now have a roll call of famous
proteg閟, including Marco Pierre
White, Gordon Ramsay and Marcus
Wareing. How did you do it?
They did it themselves. They had the
talent and the determination, and they
worked incredibly hard. They were
passionate about what they did and put
in a lot of time. To follow your dream
and have your own restaurant means
making a lot of sacrifices, and your family
suffers. It is important to pass on your
knowledge where you can and let the
young chefs have their time. The problem
for so many trainees now in London is
that housing and transport costs are so
high, it?s difficult to survive.
What does the future hold?
At nearly 70, I am only just beginning
to consider retiring. But I am thinking
about opening another restaurant,
probably in central London, where I can
try out new dishes. And yes, my place
would be in the kitchen again. Then my
dream is to go to Australia, where it is
always sunny, the food and wine are good,
and the people are nice. We recently
spent some time in Margaret River,
visiting the wineries: the Wills Domain
and Gralyn Estate were favourites. I have
no intention at all of retiring to France
and living a rural idyll.
Interview by Emma Wells
Classic Koffmann by Pierre Koffmann is out
now (Jacqui Small �)
igures from the ONS
Wealth and Asset Survey
show that net property
wealth ? what?s left after
deducting mortgage debt
? amounted to about
�6 trillion over the period
between July 2014 and
June 2016. That?s equivalent
to about 2� times the UK?s
output in 2016.
Search for your best
place to live at
thesundaytimes.co.uk/
bestplacestolive
of any region in the UK over
the next four years, at just
over 1.5%. The strongest gains
will be in the southwest,
typically 4.25% a year, KPMG
says, followed by the West
Midlands at 3.75%.
?Valuations could play a
bigger role in shaping prices,?
says Yael Selfin, chief
economist at KPMG UK.
?London, where prices relative
to earnings are most stretched
among UK regions compared
to their average level over the
past two decades, is expected
to see values rise by less than
other regions. Yet we expect
the shortage of housing stock
to support growth in the
medium term.
?The stronger-performing
regions in the medium term,
according to our projections,
are driven by a combination
of favourable valuations in
the case of Northern Ireland,
Scotland and, to a lesser
degree, the West Midlands,
positive long-term momentum
in areas such as the southwest,
and continued supply
shortages in the southeast
and pockets of the east of
England. The potential
winners and losers will not
always be the usual suspects.?
SOUTHEAST
LONDON
In the yachtie town
of Lymington,
from where ferries
depart to the Isle
of Wight, this 1,181
sq ft penthouse
has views of the
water from the
south-facing
balcony. The flat
has a cool coastal
feel, with two
bedrooms and an
open-plan living
room/kitchen.
01962 841842,
savills.co.uk
In a prime spot
for Notting Hill
and Bayswater,
and near buzzing
Westbourne Grove,
this maisonette has
three bedrooms
and a terrace
that overlooks a
garden square.
It was recently
refurbished in
Scandi style; the
parquet floors are
particularly chic.
020 7727 1717,
domusnova.com
�65M
A shortage of stock means buyers are resorting
to begging letters. Hugh Graham reports
D
The cities with the highest house-price growth since 2009
0%
PLEASE SIR,
CAN I HAVE
YOUR HOUSE?
esperate times
call for desperate
measures. As
housing stock on
the market falls to
record lows, buyers who want
to find their dream home may
have to take matters into their
own hands ? in the form of a
begging letter.
They seem to be on the rise.
Many are from companies, and
some of these are downright
sneaky. To avoid complaints,
they don?t use the name of
their business, and the phone
number given is a pay-as-you-go
?burner?. Yet among the
mounds of estate agents?
leaflets, you might find more
personal, plaintive missives: the
lovely family with 2.4 children
who adore your neighbourhood
and are desperate to get the
kids into a good state primary.
Streets in the catchment areas
for sought-after schools are
heavily flyered.
There?s an art to writing a
good begging letter: do it wrong
and it will go straight into the
bin or incur someone?s ire. The
key is to make it personal, says
Henry Pryor, a buying agent:
?I find out their name and
address it from my client. Write
the letter by hand and put it in
an envelope. Be desperately
English and apologetic ? ?We
quite understand if you put it
in the bin... with apologies for
disturbing you.? And never,
ever talk about money. This is
about inheriting the owner?s
memories.?
Older empty-nesters seem
particularly susceptible to
personal missives, Pryor says.
?Playing on people?s emotions
is powerful. It?s about
encouraging them to say, if we
have to move, wouldn?t it be
great to sell to someone like us
20 years ago? A lot of people
who have the choice between
someone nice who won?t
rip it apart, or a brash
developer, will sell for
less than market value.?
There are more
brazen tactics. A story
is doing the rounds
about a would-be
buyer shoving �
notes through doors.
Jo Eccles, managing
director of SP
Property Group, has
witnessed emotional
blackmail by parents who
post notes handwritten by
their children. And Richard
Rogerson, chief executive of
RFR Property Private Office,
recalls how a friend received
a KitKat in his letterbox, with
no note attached. He ate it.
?A week later, some bloke
rang him and said, ?Did you
enjoy the KitKat??, then they
had a conversation. It?s a
light-hearted way to get your
foot in the door.?
Rogerson is sceptical about
begging letters ? his firm
won?t do them ? as they might
give vendors ?ridiculous?
expectations of value. But he
does have friends who recently
had some luck. ?They live in
Hampshire and wanted to buy
a place in Earlsfield, southwest
London. They wrote a lovely
letter saying they had
grandchildren in the area.
They flyered five streets and
got five replies out of 200. It
might make sense in an area
with lots of ?For sale? signs.?
Timing is key, too. Ask the
postman when junk mail goes
through the door, then deliver
your letter on a different day,
so it doesn?t get buried. ?We
used to crumple it up, so the
owner had to uncrumple it to
read it,? says Henry Sherwood,
managing director of the
Buying Agents. ?That way,
you get more face time.?
Bear in mind that you may
be surprising someone who
hasn?t been thinking of selling,
so be flexible. ?You could say,
?We don?t need to be in until
next year,?? says Matthew
EVERETT COLLECTION/ALAMY; MARK KIDBY; LOVEDAY POWELL; PAYEN
SOUTHWEST
Turner, director of Astute
Property Search. ??We could
rent it to you for as long as
you need.??
Don?t bother writing a letter
unless you can proceed
quickly, warns Jess Simpson,
founder of Jess Simpson
Property Search, who has
noticed a rise in such tactics in
the rural market. And do your
due diligence on the owner:
for � you can find out their
name from the Land Registry.
Ask about them in the local
pub or shop, check planning
websites for info about their
property and, if they have
used an architect, see if an
introduction can be arranged.
?Give as much information
as possible about your family,
where you live and what you
do,? Simpson says. ?This will
help the owners understand
you and gain their trust. I?ve
even included a family photo.
You must describe your
financial position ? being a
cash buyer, for example, could
be a game-changer.?
The hit rate for begging
letters is about 5%, estimates
James Greenwood, managing
director of Stacks Property
Search. People who have been
contemplating selling up might
be persuaded by a personal
letter, especially if it means
avoiding estate agents and the
hordes traipsing through their
house. Yet there are dangers
in going it alone, too.
?If someone responds to
our letter, we encourage them
to get an agent,? Greenwood
says. ?Private buyer and seller
is a recipe for disaster ? 40%
of all transactions fail before
exchange ? but an agent can
smooth things over. And a
private seller might overvalue
by 20% to 40%.?
There?s the rub when it
comes to begging letters: it
may be an expensive method.
For sellers in a flatlining
market, however, it could
be time to stop binning the
junk mail. ?A friend in
London was approached
through his letterbox via a
buying agent,? says Roarie
Scarisbrick, partner at
Property Vision. ?He
was ambivalent about
selling at the time, but
he responded and
ended up doing so.
?Essentially, he got
yesterday?s price in today?s
market.?
18 March 18, 2018 The Sunday Times
J
acqueline Mercer is one of
those people with the happy
knack of seeing treasure
where others see trash,
whether rescuing a bedroom
chair from the dump or realising the
potential in a house so revolting that
most other buyers barely got past the
front door.
She and her husband, Joe, were
willing to look past damp walls and
alarmingly sagging ceilings, disregard
a complete lack of mod cons and even
brave tanks of spiders and snakes in
order to buy a house in desperate
need of rescue. Their strategy for the
four-month revamp of their north
London home was a simple one. ?We
decided to do everything as well as we
could ? without going crazy,? explains
Mercer, 34, a shoe designer.
When it came to the finishing
touches, they were equally sensible,
avoiding slavishly trendy decor in
favour of a comfortable mix of colours
and objects they love. ?We just wanted
a nice, bright, spacious house to relax
in,? she says. ?We wanted it to be
stylish, but comfortable. I like to look
around and see things that make me
happy. I am really against things that
will date a house.?
Before taking on their project, the
couple had been living in a sweet but
tiny two-bedroom cottage in Noel
Park, near Alexandra Palace, north
London. By 2015, however, they had
begun to get itchy feet. What with
friends staying most weekends, and
Mercer?s family visiting regularly
from her native Northern Ireland ?
she was brought up in a village near
Enniskillen ? the couple felt the need
for more space and began to wonder
if a move to a less expensive location
might allow them to buy a bigger home.
?I didn?t even think we would really
find anywhere we could afford,? she
says. ?But this was the second house
we looked at.?
On the outside, it was a good-looking
three-bedroom Victorian end-of-terrace
property, about a mile south of their
former home; on the inside, however, it
was run-down and slightly macabre. ?It
had belonged to the same family since
about 1910, and they were quite
eccentric,? Mercer recalls. ?They had
owned a pet shop, and had ripped out
all the fireplaces and put in tanks that
were full of reptiles and tarantulas.
There were birds, all sorts. Most of the
windows were blacked out or boarded
up, I guess for the animals.?
The wildlife turned out to be the
least of the house?s issues. ?The ceiling
above the kitchen was falling in because
of the weight of the tanks in the
bedroom above, and there was a leak
from next door into the kitchen. It was
so dark and full to the ceilings that you
couldn?t actually see the size of the
rooms or how light they were ? and
the smell! Other people had seen it and
been really put off.?
She and Joe, 35, a planning engineer,
were made of sterner stuff, so in
August 2015 they paid �3,000 for the
1,400 sq ft house and steeled
themselves to move in with their cat,
Tiny, while they plotted a top-to-bottom
�0,000 renovation. ?It was not
pleasant, but I have really happy
memories of that time ? I was just so
excited,? Mercer says.
By November of that year, the pair
had enlisted a trusted builder who had
done some work for them on their old
house, and were ready to get stuck in.
Their main structural challenge was
simply shoring up the property. All the
basics ? including replacing rotting
windows and installing the house?s
BRICKWORKS/ALYS TOMLINSON; VICKI COUCHMAN
Home Living
PET
READER?S
HOME
PROJECT
A �0,000 makeover turned this north London house from
creepy-crawly to the cat?s whiskers, says Ruth Bloomfield
first-ever central heating system ? also
needed doing.
They made layout changes, too, to
ensure the place was fit for 21st-century
living. They removed the wall between
the living room and dining room to
create a large single space, and removed
the crumbling back wall next to the
garden entirely, replacing it with
fashionable Crittall windows and doors.
Upstairs, they punched skylights in
the hall and bathroom ceilings to bring
much-needed light into the centre of
the house. And when it came to
decorating, they opted for white walls
and bare floorboards ? a combination
that helps to show off their furniture
and eclectic decor.
The kitchen needed replacing, too.
They chose units from British Standard,
the off-the-peg offshoot of the far
more expensive Plain English kitchens.
They painted the units a deep blue
and invested in a concrete work surface
to give the room a tougher edge, while
the open shelves ? cheaper and less
space-guzzling than high cupboards ?
allow Mercer to display crockery,
glasses and cooking ingredients stored
in mason jars.
While keeping the budget under
control was a constant concern during
the project, the couple did splash out
on a few key pieces around the house,
notably the balloon-shaped Czech
blown-glass light fittings above the
kitchen island, which were bought at
Heal?s and cost �000.
In the monochrome hallway, one
of the house?s few lovely period features
? ornate metal balustrades ? has
been preserved and painted a lush
turquoise, while the walls are
smothered in some of the pictures and
paintings Mercer has been buying in
markets and antiques shops for years.
In the living room, furniture is kept
to a minimum ? one grey and one
dusty-orange sofa, and a simple table.
The formerly reptile-filled fireplace
now has a simple period-style grate,
with an art deco mirror above.
A wall of new shelves is stacked with
treasures that have caught Mercer?s eye
over the years: a carnival glass bowl,
ceramic pigs bought on work trips to
the Far East, plus books, vases and
plants. Working on Portobello Road,
in chichi Notting Hill, gives her plenty
of opportunity for stall-scouring, and
she also spends hours browsing the
stalls and shops of Columbia Road and
Broadway Market.
?I never go out deliberately looking
for stuff, because I never find it,?
Mercer says. ?It is really a bit random.
I also think that something with a
few chips in it is OK, as long as it is
still charming.?
The whole effect is perfectly
Instagram-ready, but Mercer insistt
didn?t spend hours curating the dii
?Ha, no! We had friends coming ro
o
and I had to unpack the boxes reall
quickly so I just took everything ou
u
dumped it on the shelves. I?ve nev
v
gone back and changed it.?
Unusual lighting is a constant th
h
in this house, and the distinctly Mi
Havisham fitting above the dining
table is a DIY piece. Mercer bough
h
ring of bent tree bark, and her
electrician was persuaded to wire
lights to make a chandelier, which
h
since been decorated with dried
hydrangea heads. So far the flowerr
picked from the front garden, have
lasted since Christmas 2016, altho
ou
at some point ? ?when I get aroun
n
to it? ? Mercer will replace them.
Upstairs are the three bedroom
m
and a bathroom with a vanity unitt
The Sunday Times March 18, 2018 19
Creature comforts
Far left, the
shoe designer
Jacqueline Mercer
with her cat,
Tiny, in her newly
renovated home.
White walls
and wooden
floorboards set
off junk-shop
and market finds.
See more of
the house on
Instagram:
@tinyandthehouse
GET THE LOOK
There were tanks full of
reptiles and tarantulas,
all sorts of birds. Most
of the windows were
blacked out or boarded
up, I guess for the animals
l Metal-framed Crittall windows
and doors were one of Mercer?s
biggest expenditures, at �500.
The heritage firm?s products are
made to order.
crittall-windows.co.uk
l To set off the concrete worktop,
the kitchen cabinets have been
painted in Farrow & Ball?s deep, dark
Hague Blue (from � for 2.5 litres).
farrow-ball.com
l Mason jars are an inexpensive and
t she
ts
i
isplay.
o
ound
l
lly
u and
ut
v
ver
h
heme
iss
g
h a
ht
in
h has
r
rs,
ve
o
ough
n
nd
m
ms
t
made by the couple?s builders from a
midcentury sideboard snapped up in an
eBay auction, with a hand basin fitted
on top. The black corner bath is from
Burlington, which specialises in
traditional fittings, and the room is set
off with another art deco mirror, this
time with a lemon-yellow surround: a
Portobello Road find.
Although it looks picture-perfect,
Mercer insists the project remains a
work in progress. She has her eyes
peeled for a big old haberdashery unit
to use as a wardrobe, and wants more
foliage to smother her living-room
shelves. ?It might be because I?m from
Ireland, which is so green, but I like
having lots of plants around,? she says.
?I find it calming and restful.?
Although the couple bought the
house as a home, rather than an
investment project, it seems to have
been a savvy buy. Ellie Rees, owner of
Brickworks, a north London estate
agency, reckons that, should they wish
to put it on the market, the property
would be worth between � and
�1m: a rise of just over 30% after taking
into account how much they have
spent on it. ?They would definitely get
a premium,? Rees says. ?It is not
uber-trendy, and buyers really like
things like the Crittall windows, the
parquet floors in the kitchen and those
beautiful banisters.?
Not that they have plans to sell ?
especially when there?s room for
more treasures. So what has
Mercer learnt from her first
foray into interior design?
MERCER?S
?Don?t spend too much time
on decisions about little
TOP TIP
things such as handles,? she
says. ?You can really overthink
things. Go with your gut feeling ?
if you really like something, do it.?
stylish way to store your culinary
basics. Lakeland has a set of four
945ml containers for �.
lakeland.co.uk
l The kitchen shelves are stacked
with simple monochrome crockery
by the Danish company Broste
Copenhagen. Handmade dinner
plates start at � each.
scandinaviandesigncenter.com
l Burlington?s Hampton 1700 shower
bath is a rolltop-style bath with chrome
legs, designed to fit against the wall so
it can incorporate a shower.
�8; burlingtonbathrooms.com
?The huge heads of hydrangeas are
easy to preserve. Cut the flowers in
late summer or early autumn, and
air-dry. Try the subtle shades of
Hydrangea macrophylla ?Endless
Summer ? The Original?.?
From �; thompson-morgan.com
20 March 18, 2018 The Sunday Times
Home Experts
ILLUSTRATOR MICHAEL DRIVER
TOP TIPS
SAVE ON ENERGY BILLS
l When it?s cold, use
extractor fans sparingly:
they draw out the warm
air. Turn it off as soon as
the area is ventilated.
I have a
dual-flush
bathroom
loo, installed five
years ago. Last
summer, after
flushing, it
started refilling the
tank in noisy bursts
? one long burst of
water, then one or two
shorter ones. It doesn?t
always clear the contents of
the bowl, so sometimes has
to be flushed again. Should
I replace the loo? This is a
hard-water area ? could
lime be blocking the pipes?
J Wiesner, Bath
during the day, as the sun
will heat the room. In
winter, close them at night,
before the temperature
drops, so the heat doesn?t
escape through any gaps
in windows.
l Don?t place sofas in front
of radiators, as they will
absorb the heat rather than
let it circulate. Or pull the
sofa away from the wall.
l While some ventilation
is necessary, and there?s
nothing wrong with a few
natural draughts, use
excluders around the
edges of external doors
and the letterbox.
A
l A Chimney Sheep
goodhousekeeping.co.uk/
institute
READERS?
CLINIC
HOME
HELP
Confused about listed building consent or if you
SHOULD I GET A DUCT
can give your tree the chop? Ask our experts
EXTRACTOR FAN OR
CIRCULATION HOOD?
VG, via email
Kathleen, via email
Ducted to outside is the
only way to go.
Kate Hogg, via email
Recirculating hoods get
rid of odours, not moisture.
Lawrence G, via email
Building regs require you to
have a ducted extractor
fan. But if there wasn?t one
there before, they can?t
force you to add one.
NG, via email
I have an extractor fan, but
never remember to use it.
I just leave the window
open, like my mother did.
Future question I spilt
turmeric on the wood
worktop and steel cooker.
How do I remove the stain?
Send your tips, tricks and
questions to homehelp@
sunday-times.co.uk.
Advice is given without
responsibility; readers? tips
should not be considered
professional advice
MY DUAL-FLUSH LOO
ISN?T WORKING
PROPERLY
Q
l Keep curtains open
will keep out draughts
when the fireplace isn?t
in use (from �;
chimneysheep.co.uk).
QUESTION OF
THE WEEK
Q
In October I noticed
two butterflies, wings
folded, hanging from the
ceiling of the under-stairs
cupboard. They haven?t
moved. Are they still alive?
If yes, when should I put
them outside, and how?
They look like red admirals.
Gillian Pattison, via email
A
In Britain, five species of
butterfly overwinter as
adults ? brimstone,
peacock, small tortoiseshell,
comma and, increasingly, red
admirals. They draw their
wings together and hibernate
until roused by longer days
and warmer temperatures.
Other than brimstones, they?re
found in houses/outbuildings,
huddled in groups, and return
year after year to the same
sites. Though not the same
butterflies (they have one-year
life cycles), they?re drawn to
the hiding places of previous
generations, probably by some
chemical scent.
They could wake too early if
disturbed by human activity or
central heating, so leave them
until you see them fluttering.
If you must evict them, use a
beer glass and a sheet of card
to do so, and release them
quickly into an unheated shed
so they can settle down again.
Though red admirals are
mainly southern European,
they come to Britain every
year in large numbers. Until
recently, it was thought they
couldn?t survive the cold here,
but overwintering examples
are now regular.
Richard Jones, author of
House Guests, House Pests
(Bloomsbury �99);
bugmanjones.com
Q
My sister-in-law lives in
a detached property in
Bournemouth. She has
a large copper beech tree
on the boundary between
the front garden and the
pavement. It is subject to a
preservation order and the
council will not allow any
work on it. The roots are
damaging the drive and the
drains, and a builder says it
may affect the foundations.
The boundary wall has had
to be rebuilt due to pressure
from the tree. She is worried
it will be hard to sell in the
future. Can she appeal?
Martin Adams, via email
A
A tree preservation order,
or TPO, does not mean
that no work can be
carried out on the tree, only
that the local authority?s
permission must be obtained
before it is cut down,
uprooted, lopped or topped.
In theory, such consent may
not be required if the tree is
causing a nuisance, but
it would be sensible to
obtain permission before
carrying out such works as
are necessary to prevent
further damage.
If the local authority refuses
to grant consent for any
works and your sister-in-law
suffers loss or damage as a
result (equivalent to more
than �0), she may be
entitled to compensation, as
long as she brings a claim
within 12 months of the
refusal. She would also have
the right to appeal any
decision made by the local
authority by applying to the
planning inspectorate,
provided that she did so within
28 days of receiving notice of
the local authority?s decision.
Annabel Dean, partner, Farrer
& Co solicitors; farrer.co.uk
The filling valve in the
toilet cistern may not be
working correctly.
Without knowing the exact
type, it?s hard to say what is
happening, but you certainly
don?t need a new loo. There
may be debris in the inlet
water pipe leading to the
cistern, blocking the valve
each time it opens to allow
water through. This will then
drop back down the pipe,
letting a bit more water
through: hence the short
bursts. Get a plumber to
disconnect the inlet pipe,
then flush it out, and check
that nothing is stuck inside
the filling valve.
If that doesn?t work, five
years is a good lifespan for
the filling valve, and a new
one won?t cost the earth. I?d
Q
I am thinking of buying
a grade II listed
building, but it needs
renovation. What am I likely
to be allowed to do and
what is off the table?
Bob Williams, via email
A
It is a criminal offence to
make changes to a listed
building without formal
consent. Permanent features
in formal gardens, including
boundaries, cannot be altered
without permission. Even past
alterations, such as an ugly
1960s extension to a period
cottage, can reflect a timeline
of historical changes, so you
should not assume permission
would be granted to replace it.
Conversely, proposals for
?mock? period extensions are
often rejected. A clear
definition between old and
new is often preferred.
Some proposals will be
refused out of hand: installing
plastic windows in place of
timber, for example, or
removing a period fireplace.
Many owners of listed
buildings are caught out by
minor matters such as
replacing rusty iron gutters
with plastic ones.
supply and fit a Fluidmaster
Pro 45 for about �, all in.
Replacing it should solve
the problem. Poor flushing
could be down to the water
level in the cistern being
too low as a result of the
valve problem. There will be
a water line inside the
cistern. If the water is
below that once the
filling has stopped,
the flush will have
less volume.
Your plumber
will check that
the water level is
correct at the end
of the work. They
should also make sure
the mechanism is not just
working in short mode (ie,
less water), as this would
make the flush less effective.
To save water, all modern
cisterns have a reduced
capacity (maximum 6 litres),
so flush efficiency is
paramount. I find those with
handles rarely go wrong, but
push-button ones can fail, as
the button or valve breaks or
seizes. Short flushes save
water if the toilet is well
designed. Some are not:
flushing twice wastes water.
My toilet has a quickrelease, lever-operated,
dual-flush siphon (look for a
Dudley Turbo 88 or Derwent
Macdee Metro 3) and a Pro
45 filling valve, as above. You
hold the handle down for a
short flush. It rarely breaks
and, if it does, it?s easily
repaired. The best flush,
however, comes from the
traditional loo with the
cistern high up on the wall
and a pull chain.
Joe Greaves, owner, Paveway
Plumbing, Leicester;
pavewayplumbing.co.uk
Re-covering a roof usually
requires permission: natural
materials that match the
original are usually required.
New damp-proofing is
frowned on, too, as it often
traps moisture, creating
problems later: traditional
breathable natural lime
plasters and mineral paints
facilitate evaporation, creating
a dry wall that is thermally
efficient compared to a wet
wall with a damp-proofed
dry surface.
If you are planning
alterations or simple repairs,
the golden rule is to liaise with
the local conservation officer.
If you are sympathetic in your
approach, they are more likely
to be pragmatic. If you display
a disregard for the importance
of the building, expect
intransigence and rejection.
Rob Desbruslais, director,
Desbruslais Chartered
Surveyors; desbruslais.co.uk
DO YOU NEED HELP FROM
ONE OF OUR EXPERTS?
Email your questions to
homehelp@sunday-times.
co.uk. Advice is given
without responsibility
HOW TO...
DEAL WITH NOISY
NEIGHBOURS
As the French philosopher
Jean-Paul Sartre once said,
?Hell is other people? ?
particularly if they live next to
you and have noisy children,
barking dogs and/or stonking
sound systems. The �7,397
damages awarded earlier
this month to a woman in
Kensington, west London,
who complained that her life
had been made ?intolerable?
by upstairs neighbours,
shone a light on one of the
great scourges of living in
crowded towns and cities.
This is the most common
source of complaints to
councils, says Lisa Lavia,
managing director of the
Noise Abatement Society.
Yet problems can be resolved
quickly and amicably. ?Often,
the noise-makers are unaware
that they are causing the
problem and only need to be
told in a non-confrontational
way,? she explains.
MAKE FRIENDS
?Issues of noise pollution
can escalate quickly when
people don?t talk to their
neighbours,? Lavia says.
?Complaints tend to be
more frequent in areas of
low social cohesion, where
people don?t know or
understand each other
very well. Things go much
better when the first contact
is non-confrontational.?
She suggests saying hello
to noisy neighbours on the
staircase, at the front gate or
in the corridor. Take the lead
? slip a note under their door,
or invite them in if you?re
having a party and ask them
to let you know if the music
gets too loud. ?That might
make them think about you
when they?re having a party.?
WHEN THAT DOESN?T WORK
If your neighbours continue
to be unreasonably loud,
the next step is to contact
your local authority?s
environmental health
department, which has a
statutory duty to deal with
noise nuisance. (That is,
unless it is deemed to be
antisocial behaviour, such
as aggressively targeted
loud music. In this case, it
becomes a police matter.)
You will be asked to keep
a noise diary so the local
authority can assess how
frequent and disturbing
the sound is. ?If it?s clarinet
GETTY IMAGES
The Sunday Times March 18, 2018 21
practice for four hours
every Sunday, the council
may deem that this is not a
nuisance, and suggest a
more mutually acceptable
time for the practice to take
place,? Lavia says. The
council may also use
recording equipment, but
the neighbour making the
noise needs to be informed
before this takes place.
When you sell your house,
you are required by law to
disclose any complaints to
the council about a noisy
neighbour to potential
buyers, so it?s best to try to
sort the issue out before it
reaches this stage.
IS IT THE BUILDING?
?Very often, the problem is
not difficult neighbours, but
poor building standards,?
says Jim Prior, director of
TP Soundproofing, a
specialist firm based in the
Midlands. ?While older
buildings aren?t too bad,
unless they have been poorly
converted, we find a
disproportionate number
of complaints coming from
post-1995 homes built with
lightweight blocks and
plasterboard.?
Soundproofed walls and
ceilings with acoustic mineral
wool in a ?floating frame? can
help enormously, but they are
expensive. ?It can cost
�000 to �000 for one
room, and we have had
clients who have paid nearly
�,000 to soundproof their
home,? Prior says. ?But for
people who suffer extreme
stress and anxiety because
of their noisy neighbours,
this is a price worth paying.?
Building regs state that
walls and floors in new homes
must provide ?reasonable
resistance to sound? (goo.gl/
q8Kmxu), but there is no
requirement for sound
testing on existing homes
during the selling process
and no regulator overseeing
the effectiveness of
soundproofing materials.
?Buyers should request a
sound certificate so they are
not being condemned to
listening to their neighbours?
barking dogs and sound
systems,? Prior says.
CHECK YOUR LEASE
If you and your neighbour
are both leaseholders in a
block, check the contract.
There may be an obligation
to put carpets in communal
areas on upper floors, or not
to have hardwood flooring.
?When you buy a flat, your
solicitor should check that
there are obligations in the
lease to fully carpet certain
areas, and that the landlord
will enforce this,? says Leon
Golstein, real-estate dispute
resolution partner at Seddons
solicitors. He adds, however,
that a landlord might not
intervene to solve other
sources of noise nuisance,
and may charge you for legal
expenses to do so.
IF ALL ELSE FAILS
Your local authority may
suggest civil mediation,
where a trained arbitrator will
act as an impartial ?referee?
in your dispute. This costs
between � and �5, but
is cheaper than hiring a
solicitor. Find out more at
civilmediation.justice.gov.uk.
You can seek redress
through the courts, but
this can be costly and
time-consuming. ?An initial
consultation may not set you
back too much, but if you
proceed, it will cost you tens
of thousands of pounds,?
Golstein says. ?The expensive
part is the gathering of data
that is usable in court.?
To read the government?s
guidelines on resolving
disputes with neighbours,
visit goo.gl/kbdqCW.
Sarah Lonsdale
22 March 18, 2018 The Sunday Times
BUNNY
SIDE UP
SHUTTERSTOCK; SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT
Home Overseas
Join the queue for digs in Sydney?s Centennial
Park ? as seen in Peter Rabbit. By Emma Wells
L
aughing
kookaburras,
possums, bluetongued lizards and
the odd snake have
all been spotted in Sydney?s
lush, leafy Centennial Park,
but a lovable rabbit in blue
jacket and no trousers, with a
gleeful appetite for forbidden
vegetables? Not so much.
Indeed, living, breathing
rabbits have been eradicated
from the 890-acre Centennial
Parklands, of which the park
forms part, by fumigation,
poisoning and shooting. So it
was a surprise to residents
when a patch in the northern
corner, up by the Federation
Pavilion, was taken over by a
film crew for several months
last year to make a movie
version of Peter Rabbit. The
bunny blockbuster brings the
world of Beatrix Potter to life
with animation and live action,
and features James Corden as
the voice of Peter, as well as
Sam Neill, Rose Byrne, Margot
Robbie and Daisy Ridley.
Here, in the heart of the
swanky Eastern Suburbs,
the Oscar-nominated
production designer Roger
Ford (of Babe and The
Chronicles of Narnia fame)
created a bucolic Lake District
vignette, complete with a
timber and slate manor house,
a flower-festooned cottage and
a luxuriant vegetable garden
with a potting shed.
Passers-by were treated
to glimpses of Neill, in an
air-conditioned fat suit, as
Old Mr McGregor, tending
his lettuces and pumpkins;
of Rose Byrne as Bea, his
animal-loving artist neighbour;
and ? spoiler alert ? of the
uptight, bunny-bashing
Young McGregor, played by
Domhnall Gleeson, who
inherits the manor house
and tries to dynamite his furry
foes? burrow.
This tangential tale, with
Corden playing Peter as a
backchatting teenage twerker
and bunnies Flopsy, Mopsy
and Cotton-Tail as ?tweens?,
has outraged Potter purists ?
but cinemagoers won?t be
able to knock the hyper-real
animated rabbits and
extraordinary set.
?It was unbelievable to go
from sitting in our Los Angeles
office, looking at drawings of
British manors and gardens,
to going on location and being
able to see and touch them,?
says Jo
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