Try before you buy: trialling a new-build family home in Stroud Green
PUBLISHED: 07:00 08 January 2015 | UPDATED: 10:30 08 January 2015
It is only at the start of the third episode of Arrested Development, the American sitcom about a California family living in one of their own company’s shoddy model homes, that the irony of watching this programme while ‘test driving’ a show home by developer Solidspace hits us.
Having been invited to trial the unique ‘try before you buy’ service at the company’s latest development in Stroud Green, my boyfriend and I are taking advantage of the fancy projector provided instead of a television and are watching the show after dinner, in order to better imagine how it might be if we actually lived in the house.
In doing so, we couldn’t have hit on a bigger contrast: as we sit on the fashionable sofa in the carefully crafted Douglas Fir living space, it’s hard to imagine a new build that is further from the flimsy McMansion in the show.
The hip, high quality and well thought out ‘townhouse’ is one of two new homes on Stapleton Hall Road, N4, built by developer Solidspace and Stephen Taylor Architects.
Over coffee at the Unto This Last dining table next morning, Roger Zogolovitch chairman of Solidspace, says: “When you buy even a small car you expect to be able to get in and drive it before you buy it, so it seems to us as a developer quite odd that you might buy as important a purchase as a house without testing it out.”
This is a valid point for any property purchase, bearing in mind that, at the height of last year’s boom, prospective buyers were spending on average half an hour viewing a property before making an offer.
It makes even more sense given Solidspace’s somewhat unorthodox approach to layout and design, which has enabled them to create two Tardis-like four-bedroom houses on an awkward brownfield site situated at a busy junction that backs on to a railway cutting.
“Of course the sites are constrained,” says Zogolovitch. “We need to optimise our land. I don’t want to build on greenfield sites. This is showing how you can build in the inner city.
“There’s a lot of demand for family homes and the ultimate aspirational purchase is still the Georgian or Victorian terrace. In a way what we were trying to do is to continue the pattern of that type of house-building, but in a new way.
“Our developments have the qualities of an existing house but with the benefits of a new build: efficiency, but with craftsmanship, and an ingenious way of using space.”
The two buildings are arranged symmetrically in a butterfly plan with seven ‘storeys’ arranged in split-level sections, creating a unique and genuinely enjoyable space – with not a right-angle in sight.
“All our developments use this model of split-level. It’s a unique approach,” says Zogolovitch.
“We believe that modern living is about social space; there’s a relationship, but it’s separate enough that everyone can do their own different activities.”
There are things I love about the house regardless. There is more storage space than I have ever seen in a family house in Zone 2, with a large coat cupboard in the entrance hall, a spacious utility room off the kitchen, and fitted cupboards in all the bedrooms.
The master suite on the top floor has a similar split-level approach to the rest of the house, with a spacious bedroom and en suite bathroom on the lower level, leading up to a mezzanine level which features a study/dressing room, and a large, sheltered terrace.
I can also see that there are benefits to this way of living over both open plan – too distracting, too noisy, too little privacy – and a more traditional room set up – not very sociable, too much wasted space.
Overall, it’s been a fascinating experience testing out the house, and one that any home buyer would benefit from – how better to find out, not so much if you can hear the trains as they go past, but if the noise actually disturbs you?
In a less desperate housing market, perhaps this could be the future of home buying. It’s certainly worth encouraging.