De­sign­ing a re­tire­ment home for ever-younger down­siz­ers

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

Step­ping into a show apart­ment at a re­tire­ment vil­lage used to be like walk­ing into a rather tired ho­tel room with bro­cade so­fas, up­right arm­chairs and flo­ral cur­tains. To­day, the more en­light­ened re­tire­ment de­vel­op­ers have re­alised that their res­i­dents are be­com­ing younger (at heart) and are re­spond­ing by mov­ing the de­sign bar for­ward. Rich­mond Vil­lages has em­ployed in­te­rior de­sign­ers Jus­tine Vod­nik and Sarah Bea­z­ley to jazz up their homes to ap­peal to this new gen­er­a­tion of buy­ers.

“We de­sign the in­te­ri­ors of the com­mu­nal ar­eas and apart­ments to look crisp and con­tem­po­rary,” Vod­nik says. “They still in­clude fea­tures to make the retired per­son’s life eas­ier and more com­fort­able, but not in such a way that it is im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous.”

The in­te­ri­ors of each vil­lage are in­di­vid­u­ally de­signed in dif­fer­ent colour­ways. In As­ton-on-Trent, Der­byshire, there will be blues and teals, whereas cream and beige pre­dom­i­nate in Wit­ney, Ox­ford­shire, punc­tu­ated with a touch of burnt orange. “We con­tin­u­ally up­date the style and colour of the tiles in the bath­rooms and kitchens, and we now put in gran­ite work­tops, the lat­est fit­ted ovens with doors that neatly slide away un­der the oven, and white mar­ble fire­place sur­rounds,” she says.

There’s a prac­ti­cal el­e­ment to these up­grades, too: rais­ing the height of the chairs and cof­fee ta­bles in the com­mu­nal ar­eas, us­ing com­fort­able pres­sure re­lease cush­ions (in good-quality fabric so no one would know) and easy­grip fur­ni­ture and win­dow han­dles that still look stylish. “We buy de­signer pieces to add the wow fac­tor. We’ve used Ju­lian Chich­ester chairs, which are de­signed espe­cially for us to be three cen­time­tres higher than usual,” says Vod­nik.

Jenny and Si­mon Hall, 78 and 79, bought a two-bed­room apart­ment at Rich­mond Vil­lage Wit­ney a year ago. “When you go into the main en­trance of the de­vel­op­ment, you don’t feel you are go­ing into a care home, it’s more like go­ing into a ho­tel,” says Jenny.

Pe­ga­susLife is also con­cen­trat­ing on chang­ing the look and feel of its apart­ments. “It’s taken a while for com­pa­nies to un­der­stand cus­tomers, their as­pi­ra­tions and where they want to be,” says John Nor­don, the de­sign di­rec­tor at Pe­ga­susLife. Homes are decked out with wooden floors and floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows, there are white gloss work­tops with glass splash­backs in the kitchens and bath­rooms have large walk-in show­ers and towel rails that look good but can sup­port a per­son’s weight should they fall.

“We also want to en­sure the prod­uct is at­trac­tive se­cond time round,” says Nor­don. “It’s easy to make a show flat look amaz­ing, but we want to cre­ate some­thing that a se­cond buyer will also find ap­peal­ing.”

Beechcroft’s view is that space is the new lux­ury for af­flu­ent re­tirees, so the de­vel­oper has made de­sign changes to the lay­out of its prop­er­ties to cre­ate flex­i­ble rooms with more liv­ing space.

“The en­trance hall used to be a dead space, some­where peo­ple put their tele­phones, but over the past decade it has un­der­gone a trans­for­ma­tion and many of our prop­er­ties now pro­vide large din­ing halls, spacious enough for fam­ily gath­er­ings and par­ties,” says An­gela South, the sales and mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor. In flats with sep­a­rate din­ing rooms, dou­ble doors be­tween the draw­ing room, din­ing room and sun room fold back to cre­ate an adapt­able space.

As well as these fresh tricks from seasoned de­vel­op­ers, new com­pa­nies with al­ter­na­tive ideas are en­ter­ing the mar­ket. Plat­inum Skies, a new re­tire­ment de­vel­oper, is mar­ket­ing part-buy, part-rent apart­ments, which re­duces the amount of eq­uity needed when down­siz­ing and falls into a lower band of stamp duty.

“Gone are the days of heav­ily cur­tained rooms filled with the same or­thopaedic-look­ing arm­chairs and din­ing ta­bles, suf­fo­cat­ing in a sea of peach flo­ral soft fur­nish­ings with no in­di­vid­u­al­ity,” says Suzanne Wright, its head of sales and mar­ket­ing. “We have em­braced con­tem­po­rary de­sign, bold ar­chi­tec­ture and light-filled open-plan liv­ing spa­ces.”

At the first de­vel­op­ment to be launched – Mon­terey in Christchurch, Dorset – the flats have Shaker-style kitchens and smart bath­rooms. Com­mu­nal ar­eas have neu­tral pal­ettes with touches of vivid colour, con­tem­po­rary fur­ni­ture and state­ment light­ing. There are 34 one and twobed­room flats and one house, with prices start­ing at £140,000 for a 50 per cent share; the homes can be bought out­right if pre­ferred.

“Non-slip floor sur­faces, wide shower en­clo­sures or wet rooms, and gen­er­ously pro­por­tioned hall­ways are also part of the mix,” says Wright. It’s im­por­tant to fu­ture­proof the prop­er­ties, “so as one grows older, their homes keep pace.”

The stylish lobby at Pe­ga­susLife’s Chapel­wood vil­lage in Cheshire, main; Beechcroft is fill­ing ‘dead space’ with large din­ing halls, be­low; Plat­inum Skies prop­er­ties have open-plan, light-filled liv­ing spa­ces, above

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