Fan­tasy flats to in­spire buy­ers

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Interiors -

Les­ley Gillilan vis­its the show homes that aren’t afraid to in­dulge your imag­i­na­tion

In the kitchen there are slen­der bot­tles of Car­luc­cio’s bal­samic and ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil. In the bath­room, a pile of folded white tow­els and a tableau of or­ganic toi­letries. By the bed is a copy of Kristin Harmel’s How to Sleep with a Movie Star. Am I be­ing too nosy? No, be­cause this isn’t a real home, but a show home, a fan­tasy apart­ment cre­ated to sat­isfy an imag­i­nary buyer’s life­style crav­ings. And the devil’s in the de­tail: books, gro­ceries, ta­ble set­tings, black and white pho­tos of pre­tend own­ers on side­boards, lots of flow­ers – not all of them real.

“Peo­ple strug­gle to imag­ine an un­fur­nished space,” says es­tate agent Dan Har­ris from Sav­ills who is show­ing me around the mar­ket­ing suite of the Cask Store, part of the Finzels Reach site, a for­mer sugar re­fin­ery and brew­ery on Bris­tol’s city water­front. The show home, a twobed­room apart­ment (circa £475,000) is pre­sented with a “mid- to up­per-end fin­ish” – which turns out to be var­i­ous shades of grey with oc­ca­sional slabs of aubergine or indigo, en­gi­neered wood floor­ing, Co­rian work­tops, porce­lain tiles, smoked-glass wine gob­lets and a Ver­meer print on the bath­room wall.

Ten min­utes later we are in a stu­dio flat at 28 Bald­win Street, a city­cen­tre of­fice block con­verted into 53 com­pact apart­ments by West­coast De­vel­op­ments. With prices start­ing at £104,000, the look is dis­tinctly lower end: retro-Scan­di­na­vian, lean­ing to­wards Ikea with a bit of up­cy­cling Show home alchemy: de­signs by Sarah Woad­den of WN In­te­ri­ors (wn­in­te­ri­, main; a show­room in the Knights Wood de­vel­op­ment in Tun­bridge Wells de­signed by Honky (, above thrown in. There’s a typewriter on a vin­tage red Formica kitchen ta­ble; a pair of white Pri­mark train­ers sit un­der a steel rail of mono­chrome T-shirts. The bed clothes are loose and slightly ruf­fled and there is a can­vas ruck­sack slumped in an old Bri­tish Rail lug­gage rack. No posh wine glasses for our young buy­ers: they get a tin of Col­man’s mus­tard, mugs and bot­tles of Badoit min­eral wa­ter. “When it was launched, buy­ers camped out to be the first in the queue,” says Har­ris. “It was like Black Fri­day all over again.”

This bit of show home alchemy was con­jured up by Sarah Woad­den of de­sign com­pany WN In­te­ri­ors, based in Poole in Dorset. The process, she ex­plains, be­gins with vi­su­al­is­ing the “end user” – in this case, young pro­fes­sion­als, in their late 20s to early 30s, plus buy-to-let or in­vest­ment buy­ers. “We try to get into the mind­set of the tar­get buyer,” says Woad­den. “The idea is to cap­ture a mo­ment in time and give it a bit of en­ergy.”

There is quite a dif­fer­ent at­mos­phere at One Shore Road, a mil­lion­aire pent­house in Sand­banks – same de­vel­oper, same agent, same de­signer but as dif­fer­ent in style as Jimmy Choo is to Pri­mark train­ers. “Buy­ers here would be look­ing at a sec­ond or pos­si­bly third home,” says Woad­den. “It’s all about lux­ury and a high per­for­mance life.” The props in­clude choco­lates by Char­bon­nel et Walker, can­dles by Neom Or­gan­ics.

No messy beds in this £2.4 mil­lion, five-star apart­ment (for sale through Sav­ills), and in­stead of off-the-shelf fur­ni­ture, ev­ery­thing is be­spoke. “At this end of the mar­ket you don’t want a buyer to pick up a cush­ion and see a high street brand,” says Woad­den. “You can al­most smell the lux­ury.”

Show home tourism pro­vides an in­sight into the psy­chol­ogy of prop­erty mar­ket­ing, but for the buyer it’s also a great in­di­ca­tor of cur­rent trends, such as wood-grain fin­ishes, vivid blues, faux fur throws, leggy lamps and rows of Karate-chopped cush­ions on rich vel­vety up­hol­stery. De­sign­ers re­port a move away from chrome, nickel and steel, to­wards “warmer met­als” (bronze, cop­per or rose gold), more sur­face tex­ture in the kitchen and bath­room, black taps, graphic floor tiles and “fumed oak”.

At Key­bridge Lofts – a 37-storey apart­ment block which is part of the rein­ven­tion of a for­mer tele­phone ex­change in Vaux­hall, south Lon­don (for sale from £705,000 through Knight Frank) – the de­signer Honky has cre­ated a two-bed­room show home which mixes “ur­ban and retro in­flu­ences with a bit of mem­bers’ club glam­our”. A mix of in­dus­trial sur­faces with op­u­lent vel­vets and mid­cen­tury vin­tage, the de­tails in­clude a Six­ties record player and a wardrobe of cloth­ing by Monki.

It re­flects a more far-reach­ing trend, con­fi­dence. Ac­cord­ing to Woad­den, “peo­ple are gen­er­ally a bit braver and less fear­ful of stamp­ing their own per­son­al­ity on a space”. Hence, show home de­sign­ers are not afraid of a bit of theatre. £350,000 for a two-bed­room, de­sign by Honky ( From £869,950, de­sign by Tay­lor Howes (tay­lor All sold, de­sign by Sarah Woad­den (wn­in­te­ri­ from £1,229,950, de­sign by Th2 De­signs (th2de­

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