Cigar terraces and mowing the lawn is out, but scandal and solar windows are in
By India Block
The property and interiors trends we will be taking into 2024, and the ones we will leave firmly behind us.
All sorts of weird and wonderful structures went under the hammer in 2023.
For lovers of abandoned buildings with sea views there were a plethora of properties, including: a Grade II listed post Napoleonic Welsh fortress (guide price £190,000); a mid-19th century gun tower on the Thames off the coast of Kent (hammer price £159,000); a First World War watch tower on Tyneside converted into a three-bedroom home (offers over £500,00); and a beachside Sixties radar training station in Fleetwood (guide price £50,000).
Climate anxiety was a watchword for many this year, with a London Councils survey this in September reporting that 84 per cent of Londoners are concerned about climate change.
Enter eco homes.
Vegan chef Dora Taylor and her community gardener partner Danny Hubbard worked with Cairn Architects to create a Hackney kitchen extension that was the first UK project to use LC3 limestone, which generates up to 40 per cent less CO2 than industry standard Portland Cement.
They also used carbon-sequestering Hempcrete for some of the walls and cork insulation.
Along with a cross-laminated timber frame, its central atrium uses natural stack ventilation to cool the house in summer.
The Maison du Convenience
Scandal was alive and well this year.
The practice of discreetly buying a home to house one’s mistress in lived on among the wealthy in 2023.
“I found myself entangled in a clandestine affair of luxury real estate, cloaked in secrecy by the shadows of a hush-hush NDA,” revealed Yasmin Ulhaq at Glenfield Property Management.
“Picture this: a husband on the hunt for a discreet abode, not for business or leisure, but for his mistress and their little secret.”
It’s a long and storied tradition, as evidenced by a £25 million townhouse that came on the market with Wetherell in Mayfair. In the 18th century, the site was occupied by the house of Maria Fitzherbert, the high society mistress of George IV.
Blowing Hot and Cold:
With spiking interest rates and the attendant mortgage rates rises, Londoners locked out of buying have been renting for longer.
Combined with a lack of rental homes on the market, competition between hopeful tenants has been growing fiercer. Even once you secured that contract, the nightmare wasn’t over.
It’s no wonder that first-time buyers are taking over as the major buying group in many boroughs as people scramble to escape from renting.
Influencer interiors overload
This could be wishful thinking, but perhaps 2023 was the year we reached peak social media interior.
The over-saturation of trends has made scrolling for inspo boring. The ever-tightening trends cycle means it’s mere weeks, if not days, between something gaining popularity and a cheap fast furniture option hitting online shop shelves.
Even the DIY maximalist corner of social media became a self-defeating ouroboros when one mega-popular DIY influencer accused another content creator of stealing her ideas for using her DIY guides to, uh, do it herself.
Full price mega mansions
Discounts of multiple millions were designed to attract buyers during a slow season for prime London property, with sale prices down 2.1 per cent according to Savills.
“Consumer confidence has been incredibly delicate, and it has been hard for owners of prime central London properties to reconcile the difference between their expectations on price and where buyers consider the market to be,” said Cliff Gardiner at BHHS London.
Agents were able to secure discounts on prime locations, such as almost £300,000 knocked off a Marylebone mansion flat with an asking price of over £2 million.
“We made the bid and let it sit there,” said Camilla Dell, founder of Black Brick Property Solutions. “It sometimes takes sellers a long time to get to grips with the realities of the market. Months later the agent called me and accepted the offer.”
Mowing the lawn
A home with outdoor space was the dream during the height of lockdowns, but agents are reporting that would-be buyers are actively put off by gardens.
“The biggest trend I have observed this year,” said director of Tedworth Property Simon Tollit, “is a move away from town houses with outside space, in favour of flats in period blocks and garden squares.”
A property on a garden square would come with access to a communal green space, which suggests it isn’t the greenery so much as the maintenance required.
Mowing the lawn was definitely out, agreed Marc Sheiderman, director of Arlington Residential, who saw “the rise in buyers who don’t want manicured, contrived gardens”.
Instead, people wanted “something more natural and wild”.
As well as a drain on time and resources, grassy lawns are terrible for the environment. They’re rubbish for biodiversity, can leech pesticides into the environment, need a large amount of water to remain green in increasingly hot summers, and mowing them generates way more carbon than is offset by that captured in the turf.
Dreams of acquiring a wreck and turning it into your dream home became more of a nightmare in 2023, as the rising cost of building materials (thanks, pandemic supply chain issues and global conflict) and the scarcity of skilled labour and tradespeople (thanks, Brexit and increasingly hostile immigration policies) made renovations both eye-wateringly expensive and a logistical headache.
“Clients are all looking for a turnkey option,” reports Rihanne McIlroy of Middleton Advisor’s prime central London office. “[Only] one in six are happy to do even basic cosmetic work.”
These costs make doing up on a property in the hope of turning a profit when selling it on dramatically less likely, while those stuck in too-small homes have to take a huge financial hit if they need an extension.
“Properties which need updating or any form of renovation are sticking around for a considerable time unless they are priced to reflect the aggravation and increased costs of a refurbishment project,” said Gardiner.
For the super-wealthy, home renovations are still within budget, but their requests are less flashy.
“Gone are the cigar terraces and the enormous dining rooms,” said Alex Michelin, chief executive of Valouran.
“In are spas, cryotherapy chambers and meditation spaces, and a near obsessional focus on the bedroom, the one space that can deliver the commodity prized by successful people above all others — quality sleep.”