A fascinating piece in Gizmodo reveals how the Chinese capacity to produce fakes extends way beyond Apple and Rolex. How about… Paris, for instance? Complete with fake Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. Read it here.
This one, in Devon, was built with railway sleepers, lorry tyres and scrap metal, by a couple of Londoners fleeing the capital. It wasn’t built with planning permission. After neighbours complained, the local council ruled to have it removed. In an appeal, however, planners praised the couple for their passion and a build that “sits very comfortably” with National Planning Policy rules on sustainability. Lovely.
But it’s hard not to feel bad for the couple who built this rather beautiful house, in Pembrokeshire. It’s built with local wood and straw bales rendered in lime, by a local couple priced out of their own neighbourhood. According to the local council “it represents an unsustainable form of development”, and will have to be removed. An appeal hasn’t helped. Unfathomable.
it’s called the QB2, and it’s not awful-looking either. Lounge, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom… stairs doubling as bookcases… and sub-4m height which means it doesn’t require planning permission, it’s clever. The plan - according to the inventor, interviewed here - isn’t some kind of Ikea experience, with allen keys included. The property will already be built when the owner takes delivery.
Go here for a roundup of this year's 43 RIBA award-winners, including clever "bully-proof" school toilets and - in London - a primary school, nursery, hospice, some Olympics architecture and several residential properties (two of which are private projects…here and here. . More comment here.
The Jane Fonda Kit House… a kinetically-powered micro-home, in which sweat and lycra replace electricity and gas. Nuts? I thought so, until I looked at the photo and realised she's already got to grips with cloning.
Now they're hoping that £6.5m might just compensate for the stress.
The property's on the market with Knight Frank, just six months after the show was aired. There's certainly nothing else quite like it, and the glass-heavy design certainly makes for 360 degree views. But, looking at the photos in the particulars, you've got to wonder about the ratio of eyes looking out to eyes looking in.
Dragon's Den series 11 will feature top interior designer Kelly Hoppen, who likely to bring a bit of (much needed) glamour to the show. Read her tweeted announcement here. Follow the Rat and Mouse here.
The idea is to turn a row of lock-ups/garages on the Lockner Estate into 11.5 square metre mini-homes, a communal area in every fifth garage. The initiative is a clever architect-designed off-site development process - called Pop-up HAWSE - and will involve apprenticeships for on-site assembly. It will be seen as something of an experiment, and - if successful - could be copied elsewhere. Sounds - and looks - fascinating, but not everybody's impressed.
Build or sell, was apparently the message to the Qatari developers currently holding planning permission for the 12.8 acre central London Chelsea Barracks site. In a response to Westminster Council, the developers admitted they were reviewing the project "in the context of the prevailing economic environment". At stake, as well as the controversial "Gucci ghetto", are 120 affordable homes. Full story here.
According to a new report by the Policy Exchange think tank, the days of high-rise living as a solution to urban density are (or should be) well and truly over. The (Conservative) policy unit goes a step further, calling for a wholesale demolition programme, replacing tower blocks with Victorian-style terraced homes, creating more than a million new homes in London and paying for the project by selling off a proportion of the properties. The report blames tower blocks for crime and anti-social behaviour, and even claims that building into the sky doesn't actually create more living space. More here.
Thirty-three entries and the winner is a team made up of Monadnock Development LLC, Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation, and nARCHITECTS, who will build 55 micro-apartments, using a pre-fab system (apparently the first pre-fab in New York), at 335 East 27th Street. It's a mayoral-led project aimed at testing out ways of delivering future housing need. Are you watching, Boris? More here.
It's based on a Mobius strip inspired design, by Dutch architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars, but its main talking point is its mode of delivery… a D-Shape 3D printer. The idea is that it's produced (printed) in hollow sections, which will be reinforced with concrete. More here.
It's an interesting piece, not least the statement that "books don't change anything"… and goes on to describe the motivation for Living Architecture, AdB's not-for-profit organisation promoting modern architecture by funding new-builds and renting them out to holidaymakers.
Go here to see Swedish photographer Mikael Olsson's images of two buildings by architect Bruno Matthson, gradually decaying in their original condition, plus other neglected masterpieces from Denmark and the US, by a number of different photographers.
Zurich-based Peter Vetsche's Earth Houses use nature's own insulation to create a folksy, Teletubby vision of energy-efficiant, subterranean living. Click the link below for a load of extraordinary images.
According to a YouGov poll conducted for the Royal Institute of British Architects 54% of Brits think the current loosening of rules pertaining to extensions, conservatories etc will have a negative effect on the quality of neighbourhoods. More here.
It's an idea by architect Dave Edwards… a tower powered by algae (which can absorb CO2 and produce methane) and waste; the Financial Services Authority at the bottom, people and shops at the top. More details, here.
An interesting piece in the Telegraph, about a perennial (first-world) problem for London homeowners… how to get space, light, contemporary living in a Victorian house. There are some radical solutions, here, some extraordinary staircases, glass ceilings, and some very lovely properties for sale. The question is… will there come a time when originality is the fashion, and buyers will pay a premium for boxy, unmolested period-pieces?
Indulge me, I'm a huge John Lautner fan. Here's the story the restoration of Garcia House… how it was bought from Vincent Gallo a decade ago, how the new owners camped out in a sleeping bag while the house was being renovated, how the added pool is a throwback to the original plans. No excuse… I just think it's interesting. And beautiful.
Strange fact relating to Garcia House… a replica was used in Lethal Weapon 2, which celebrated intellectual Mel Gibson destroyed by pulling away it's "stilts". See here.
Homes & Property looks at new developments in Hackney, Battersea, Richmond, Crystal Palace, Fitzrovia and Acton which put technology and design first, with smart designs and smart technology… including central locking, lighting and heating controls that can all be operated by iPad/smartphone. It's an interesting read and somewhat cheering… eco-conscious, future-proof design using quality materials, many with six-figure guide prices. More here.
The former Crown & Dolphin was built in 1850… a proper corner pub with all the architectural details you'd expect, plus a historic location on the corner of Cable Street and Cannon Street Road. Love the open plan kitchen/reception room with reclaimed Victorian shop counter. The overall effect, bizarre (click on the particulars and check out the bathroom), but beautiful, and the vision of its architect owner. Guide price: £434,999. Particulars here.
It's no surprise that the Rat and Mouse likes the Span aesthetic… Eric Lyons' and Geoffrey Townsend's vision of a post-war architecture for the masses that was modern without being impersonal, stylish without being impractical, affordable on an estate scale without looking like this.
Here we have a three-bedroom "T15" Span house on Blackheath's Brooklands Park, dating back to 1964 and featuring a Cator Estate location (with good access to schools), floor-to-ceiling windows, views of the park and a £595,000 guide price, which isn't a ludicrous figure for an SE3 property with architectural significant. The interior could use some work. An owner with a love of mid-century modern could make this place special. It's with The Modern House Estate Agents, here.
Not as worrying as it sounds... a plan by architect Sir Terry Farrell to save the chimneys and the end towers, to save the fascinating control room, to use the interior for a park, and join the towers with a new colonnade. The idea is to bring the cost of the project down by treating the station more as a monument, surrounded by commercial development, rather than the structure for the commercial development itself. According to this, Farrell's firm has funded the planning application itself.
An interesting piece in the Daily Mail (is this what it's come to?) about designer Tom Dixon's work to turn a 5,000 gallon water tower into a 5,000 square foot living space. It's a fascinating project, perhaps blighted a tiny bit, though, by its position. The photo below, from Google's StreetView, shows just how one side "benefits", as they say, from a view of the canal; but the other looks over a Sainsbury car park. Will it matter?
Another noteworthy detail from the Daily Mail piece is that Tom Dixon's a self-taught designer. Very, very impressive. More here.
There's an interesting piece over at Londonist about "plans" (and we use the word loosely) by writer Alan de Botton and architect Tom Greenall to build a tower devoted to the religion that is atheism. This, from Greenall's website:
They're calling it "East Village". Just so you don't confuse it with Manhattan's historic Beat/hippie/hipster/gentrification neighbourhood east of Greenwich Village (above), this one (below) will be next to The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in E20, and will feature a mixture of new housing, plus an educational campus called Chobham Academy and a medical centre. More here.
RIBA says the average UK three-bedroom new-build is now 8% smaller than the recommended size for a decent quality-of-life, the equivalent of a single bedroom. Furthermore, the most common new-build design was 23% smaller than it should be... the size of two double bedrooms. As a result, the report concludes people can't fit the furniture they need into their homes, they don't have enough room for possessions (43% actually said they didn't have adequate room for food preparation), they don't have enough room to entertain or to enjoy privacy. The study's called "Case for Space" and to read it yourself, click here.
And they say nobody's building... here's a development project with a difference. Homes for 270 people, great sea views and separate country status, meaning it's governed by its own tax (and other) laws. It's the brainchild of Paypal's Peter Thiel, More here. (Note that the image is the product of 3D modelling. The project is still theoretical.)
The Foxtons founder has his eyes on a parcel of land - currently a Texaco garage - which has been the subject of five previous failed planning applications in the last ten years. According to this, he's hired Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners to draw up plans for a tower, which may potentially interfere with views from Peninsula Heights (home to Lord Archer's famous penthouse). More here.
Home Bunch - a fun American interior design blog written by somebody who proves not all bloggers have to look like this - has featured a London property in its "Cool or Fool?" Friday feature (in which readers get to slug it out over an interior design "statement"). It's a remarkable home, and the way lovely Luciane found it leads to another interesting website. First off, the place looks like this:
There are a whole load more pictures over on her blog. Okay, to many of you I'm sure this looks like an unusual room; over at the Rat and Mouse HQ, we're just wondering where the rest of the restrain furniture's kept, because... one sexual ragdoll at a time? That's so 2010.
Luciane discovered the property at 1st-Option, a completely addictive site aimed at location scouts. It's packed with fascinating properties, many of them in London, and I suggest you head there right now if you've some time to waste.
Incidentally, the above property is "Wonderland", and it's in NW3.
If we'd had our wits better about us we'd have brought you some news before the fact of Design Summit 11, a fascinating Design Council production that featured such names as Jonathan Ive and Kevin McCloud, talking about the role the UK design sector can and must play in restoring growth the economy . However what we can do is bring you this link to a rich library of films from the event.
An interesting obituary here for the late Keith Irvine, an extraordinary interior designer who specialised in the so-called "English country house look", a kind of proto-Ralph Lauren for many of the post-war stars of stage and screen both here and in America. Read it here.
Mykea sells customised design panels to fit the popular Ikea furniture. "Say no to naked furniture" is their slogan, apparently, and the designs range for the garish to the, well, less garish. Check out the website, here.
The Guards Chapel - the oldest remaining part of Chelsea Barracks - has just received a Grade II listing. The latest plans for the Chelsea Barracks development didn't include demolishing the building, however its listings may affect plans to develop the building for new uses.
Sponsored by a Louisiana-based US architecture firm, the 2010 Zombie Safe House Competition features four homes designed to be safe from a zombie attack (something which the Home Information Pack never really explored, but if you're concerned you could always ask your surveyor). There are four designs to choose from. Go and vote... your future may (or may not) be at stake.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles' decision to scrap regional housing targets has been ruled unlawful in the High Court. Pickles had written to local councils warning them to sit on local developments in lieu of legislation due next autumn. Developers criticised Pickles for leaving a planning vacuum, and it appears the courts agree. Most agree, however, that this is a delay, rather than a scrapping of the policy. More here.
And I'm not surprised. It's a nasty neo-classical faux-everything monstrosity, designed by Robert Adam for Kuwaiti billionaire Naseer Al-Kharafi for a site where Victorian Athlone House currently stands. Local celebrities are up in arms. Interestingly, Robert Adam is a favourite of Prince Charles, arguably the worst architecture critic in the country and yet one with increasing and worrying influence. So... is this closer to PC's vision of contemporary building in London than the Candies' Chelsea Barracks plans? More, including pictures, here.
Student homes specialists Urbanest UK are behind the plans, backed by Kings Cross Central, and if the building goes ahead it will top out at 100m, making it the tallest in the Kings Cross area. Students from Central Saint Martins (due to relocate) who don't mind living at altitude will be the target residents. Designs are by Glenn Howells Architects. More here.
The judge has agreed with the Candies that, after Prince Charles' intervention, their Qatari partners breached contract terms by withdrawing from the deal. He didn't, however, award damages... although that appears to be on the cards for a later date. More here.
Yesterday, the judge in the Chelsea Barracks case released a facsimile of a letter sent by Prince Charles to Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani... part of a behind-the-scenes campaign in which, investors claim, the Prince abused his position and influence to scupper development plans. Lord Rogers couldn't have been under any illusions about the Prince's opinion of his work, nor – presumably – will he have cared. That said, this letter can't have been pleasant reading for him (or anyone with an interest in modern architecture). I wonder whether the Prince regrets apologising, on record, for being "so interfering". I also wonder whether he goes through everything he writes, underlining words with a marker pen. Click the image above for a larger version.
They threw Candy & Candy's super-hyped 1 Hyde Park open to a (very) select few last night... only "the great and the good" of the property world invited (in the words of the anonymous tipster who called into the Rat and Mouse this morning, to tell us he'd been invited). Our exclusive report:
First, the embarrassing shoe episode. White hotel slippers are not the greatest look with a Brioni suit.
Down to the tough questions.
How much? They have just 'got a couple away' for 'north of £6000psf' Cheapest is a 1000 sq ft one bed at circa £6m.
How many sold? 50% - a mixture of Hyde Park views or noisiest road in London. Apparently.
All the early buyers have stuck with it? Yes but the clause in the lease that they can't 'flip' between exchange & completion might possibly have been a factor.
Who is buying? Mixture of Europeans, Brits, Russians and Arabs. All fairly young.
How fab is it? Nice views if you are at the back... bit noisy at the front.
Coolest feature? A chilled ceiling... this seriously confused our secret agent.
Added benefits? Heston's team will pop in to cook tea for you.
So what does our secret agent think overall? He particularly liked the Picasso in the loo. But
Why would you buy the penthouse next door? It may have the same views and is £1800 psf... But, let's face it....it's not as sweet as Candy.
Think again. There's pebbledash, there's "rough-cast rendering", there's a quicklime and sand mix hurled at exterior walls in the Roman era, and it's in demand, even if Nick Clegg has been a little disparaging about it.
Beautiful Britain magazine commissioned a poll to find Britain's biggest eyesores.
Coming second in the list of cringe-worthy landmarks was Battersea Power Station on the south bank of the River Thames. The brick-clad, unused coal-fired building, which has seen numerous failed redevelopments, beat M1 Service Stations – like Watford Gap – into third place.
Is this for real? Hang on, though, a moment, and look at what beat it into first...
Concrete carriageways, like the Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham came top in a poll of structures and buildings that blight the UK landscape.
At the Rat and Mouse, I'm often made to feel like an outsider for my love of everything 20th Century, and particularly post-war 20th Century... but, Jeez, have you ever seen Spaghetti Junction from above? Would it really be any more beautiful if it was just a field... a green pixelation on a Googlemap?
And, wait, wind farms comes in at Number 4... those fabulously futuristically innocent monuments to sustainability and human ingenuity. There's a favourite landmarks list, too. Guess what tops it? Bloody Big Ben, with Buckingham Palace (all the beauty of a Stalinist detention centre) at Number 7, and the White Cliffs of Dover (officially, spare me!) at Number 3. Who are these awful people who voted? Did the polling survey company deliberately seek out the worst of unthinking Middle England? They should all be gathered up and made to live here. (Press release, here.)
Big fish tanks... trendy, by all accounts, and the leading exponents are Aquarium Architecture, who'll take a room and do this:
It's not everybody's cup of tea (my wife reckons "too corporate") but there's just something about watching fish that slows the heartbeat. Mine, anyway. Our friends at Beeston Media have made a great promotional film for the company here. Interesting.
Residents of Bolton are getting het up by Manchester United footballer Gary Neville's plans for a flower shaped eco-home on green belt land. Quotes - here - from a meeting in a Methodist church hall show how the message is in the subtext.
"Why do we have to have this dirty great big house because he has lots of money?"
You don't. You can still keep your little house. He gets to have the great big house. And that's possibly the problem. The use of the word "dirty" is interesting. This, from the architect's website:
The Telegraph looked at chairs for couples. That's two-seater chairs, not tiny sofas, actual two-seaters. One for you. One for me. And a footstool for my overwhelming sense of just how creepy and uncomfortable this is.
A report by the Royal Academy of Engineering slams domestic solar panels and wind turbines as "eco bling", ostentatious green adornments that might, at best, offset a tiny percentage of the energy wasted by a poorly designed property. Instead, the report calls for greater energy efficiency... lower power use, better insulation, and a design ethos that sees new builds make the most of natural light. At last... more here.
The architects, apparently, are turning. Out... steel, glass, height, air-con modernist temples of lucre. In... compost and veg. Out... buildings that try to impress you. In... buildings that appeal to your humanity. Apparently.
The recent history of Batttersea Power Station has been nothing short of shameful. Waste, uncertainty, failure of leadership... it's been treated like a pawn in a politico-architectural game, and - as you can imagine - the recession isn't helping. The latest owners, Real Estate Opportunities, are said to have been dealt a very serious blow by the state of the Irish property market. According to the Guardian:
Do you drool over the pages of glossy interior magazines and wish that your home had a unique, individual style?
Antiques Expert, Mark Hill, and Interior Designer, Kathryn Rayward, present a brand new BBC interior design show that will prove that furnishing your home with vintage items, beautiful antiques and bespoke pieces doesn’t have to cost any more than shopping on the High Street.
If you’ve got a room in your house that you’d love to see transformed and are willing to put in some of your own money, we’ll provide an interior designer and antiques expert to help you hunt out design classics, antiques and one-off items to create a truly original home.
What? I'm a property blogger, I've all the money in the world. What do I do next?
Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 907 3440 for further details of how to be on the programme.
That's handy... an iPhone app that lets you phone home, chat with the tub and instruct it to fill itself to a certain temperature. Of course, not any old tub is capable of picking up the phone, this Tomorrow's World development comes courtesy of the Bath-o-Matic, putting the science into your appliance.
The apparently recession-proof Luxist blog points out that Frank Lloyd Wright's 1924 Ennis House - a cult LA building - is currently for sale. Until now, it's been owned by a non-profit foundation... it apparently needs a wealthier steward. The Ennis House is a proper classic... an early concrete masterpiece studied by architects and loved by anyone who loves 20th Century design.
How will the reserved British public take to Silkstream, Colindale's apartment development aimed at sociable first-time buyers? The flats are reasonably priced... £175,000 for a one-bedroom start home (plus a deferred equity/interest-free loan scheme to get residents in quicker), but it's the development's layout that's most interesting... an outdoor gym, and amenity areas on every floor, including table football, a sewing room, ironing areas (below), message areas with chalkboards aimed at getting the community to, well, commune. We like it. But will it feel a bit too college campus for homebuyers?
Today, Richard Rogers demands a public enquiry into the constitutional issues surrounding Prince Charles' scuppering of his Chelsea Barracks plans. For those who don't know... the site of Kensington's old Chelsea Barracks has been a development battle ground for a number of years - with skirmishes over a listed chapel, finances coming and going as the economic crisis hit. Things have recently looked more positive... a Richard Rogers design, funding by the Qatari royals... until Prince Charles apparently used his influence to persuade his Qatari pals to remove their support for the Rogers plans. Prince Charles famously despises modern architecture; and this is the third time he's intervened in a project by Rogers (Paternoster Square; Royal Opera House). We can forgive Rogers for feeling sore, and we should lend our support in his campaign to stop this unconstitutional architectural bullying. Unless, of course, we want London to look like Trumpton.
A quick reminder... Architect In the House 2009, the scheme that gives you expert architectural advice in return for a £40 donation to Shelter, is open to registration. Each year, the Rat and Mouse bangs on about what a great idea it is... but now you can see for yourself. There are a few examples on the AITH website, here, and check out this interesting piece over at FindaProperty.
Plans by The Fabulous Candy Boys to convert Chelsea Barracks into a complex of 300 luxury apartments, with a giant underground car park below, have run into trouble thanks to a tiny 19th Century chapel, long ago deconsecrated, but of significant architectural value and sitting right in the middle of the site. Representatives of English Heritage, the V&A, the Victorian Society and the Ancient Monuments Society have joined with the specially formed Chelsea Barracks Action Group to demand a listing for the chapel. More here. And you can see the plans for yourself, here.
This is what the expression "crunch time" was invented for. We say... if the buyer has the cash (and that's not inconceivable considering the kind of investor who was eyeing up flip possibilities when the Pan Pensinsula project was launched)... go ahead, finish the deal, live in it or get a tenant, and wait. You've only lost money if you sell at or near the bottom.
"Several months ahead of schedule", though... interesting, isn't it, how falling prices can focus a developer's mind?
It's this weekend, in London... two days in which you're free to wander around some of the capital's architectural wonders. In the Guardian, Jonathan Glancey provides a useful preview. Our highlight? Erno Goldfinger's Trellick Tower, a modern masterpiece, and an important lesson in protecting architectural assets even especially while they're temporarily out of fashion.
We're not what you'd call fans of the average British new-build, and we were less than surprised to discover that ours are the most cramped in Europe. Denmark - for instance - has minimum space standards, meaning that the average Danish house is twice as big as the average British mock-19th Century, thrown-together, identikit mini-home, with views over the nearest A-road.
Seven people - aged 18-25 - have moved into east London apartments that they built themselves, as part of an initiative by Havering Council, Family Mosaic Housing Association and the Community Self Build Agency. The project began at the very beginning, sending the first-time builders to a local college to pick up construction qualifications. More here.
Allow me a moment of nostalgia. Allthistalk of balcony-parking for German penthouse owners in love with their cars reminds me of a recent meeting in which I mentioned Vegas... a late-70s or perhaps early-80s American detective drama that was - let's say - a defining influence on the young Ben's image of what it means to be a man. Nobody else had heard of it. Come off it, I said... Dan Tanna? Vegas? I hummed the music. Still, no takers. So, naturally, I moved onto the property, and in this instance it's significant because it's the best example of open-plan living I've ever seen. Dan's lounge wasn't even separate from his garage. He had a drive-in lounge. So - inspired by the German Topos story - I've just hit Youtube, and I'm pleased to discover that I hadn't imagined the whole Vegas phenomenon. It did exist. Enjoy. And dig that lounge.
The latest? A £4bn mixed-use plan, including homes for 7,000 people, due to start in 2012, ready by 2020. Details include 8m square feet of office space, shops and residential property, plus a six-acre public park, a new, 300 metre glass and steel chimney, and the world's largest solar-powered aircon system. Despite this...
"Once we have planning consent, we will have no shortage of interested parties who will want to come on board,'' said Rob Tincknell, managing director of Real Estate Opportunities' development manager, Treasury Holdings U.K.
... the details have been received with not inconsiderable skepticism, and - taking into account the site's recent history and the current economic climate - the Rat and Mouse isn't surprised. More here.
The Telegraph visits wooden floor specialist Eelke Bles's Spitalfields loft, a genuinely remarkable converted shmatte trade sweat shop, which he used to store wood for a while before converting for domestic use. He now lives there, alongside offices and a furniture showroom. What's so remarkable about the story is his hands on approach, from design, to actually making much of the furniture. He's a talented chap. Read it, here.
According to a survey by Halifax, homeowners are preparing for a long summer of DIY, in the hope that a spot of tarting up will add the value their properties won't gain from a naturally rising market. Forty-four per cent are apparently looking to add an average of £5,000 to the value of their homes; 12% are more ambitious, with a target of £10,000 to £25,000. Exactly how they intend to achieve this is a lot less ambitious... redecorating (71%), garden improvements (35%), new furnishings (33%), new carpets (25%), a new bathroom (21%).
I am immediately conscious of my pink bag and purple skirt, which shout vulgarity in the harmony of grey, black and white. Only a hint of red is allowed in each room, in a cushion or a rug.
The Sunday Telegraph carried this very entertaining tour of some minimalist masterpieces, including a Victorian mansion block flat (pictured) in Battersea... all original features concealed behind white fake walls and a wipe clean floor... and a south London semi which isn't pure minimalism (it has colour) but it works on the principle of hidden storage and is described as "monastic". Visiting the Battersea house, the writer leans how it was designed to cater for a utilitarian principle... carefully measured distances between (stored) appliances in the kitchen that reflect their use. It's Steve Jobs' Apple Mac workflow principle on a domestic scale. It's a theory I've always tried to sell to my wife, when extolling Bauhaus (my own frustrated enthusiasm). But - I don't know - it doesn't sound that convenient:
Even making a cup of tea isn't a simple matter: "I know I am a Minimalist freak," says Tanji. She opens a cupboard, gets out the kettle, fills it, plugs it in, makes the tea, then empties it, unplugs it and puts it back in the cupboard. For there must be no clutter.
Head over to the link above for the original piece, complete with pictures. Interestingly, all the properties mentioned are for sale. The Battersea flat is with John D Wood, here.
The Evening Standardhas the scoop... and a picture. It looks impressive... not least how the Candys have managed to squeeze 638 housing units, a boutique hotel and spa, a community hall, sports centre and a landscaped public park into less than thirteen acres.
The Telegraphvisits a subject we haven't seen since this back in August, 2005... the shell apartment... the unfinished development waiting for the buyer's own interior design vision. Fred Redwood has found an unfinished development in Hoxton, and he's also found that the shell sale is still for the loaded only. Don't expect a discount.
Love it! According to a survey by LG, more than 66% of British say their TV is vital to the "flow within their home". And so, because it's primarily men who choose TV sets (don't pretend you're surprised), men are having more of an influence on interior design decision, too, since the rest of the house needs to be in keeping with the television, obviously. More here.
The Mirror reports on Kate Moss's interior design makeover, which is said to include life-sized skeletons in the missionary position (and not this missionary position, apparently). [Note to personal assistant... order three skeletons first thing tomorrow, one of them a transsexual. Anything she can do, The Rat and Mouse offices can do better.]
The Telegraph takes a tour of celebrity cake meister Eric Lanlard's modern Battersea home. Lanlard's the man behind Madonna's wedding cake and Brooklyn Beckham's first birthday cake. The apartment, all glass and steel and timber, packs a white grand piano, a specially made deep purple carpet and a hot tub. Go here, for the details, and pictures.
Based in California, but global in scope, Ava Living is a niche social network with the aim of hooking up anyone with an interest in interior design... pros and non-pros alike. There'll be contests for design students, and the chance to post questions to designers, and for designers to post examples of their work.
According to Halifax Home Insurance, more than half a million dining rooms will face conversion in 2008, as Brits pursue their love affair with "knocking through". It's also about food-on-the-move, the extinction of the family meal. More here.
According to this trip around 61/2 Redington Road in Hampstead, it's had half the Arsenal team sniffing around its fingerprint entry system, floor-to-ceiling glazing and Ralph Lauren bed. It's a remarkable place... four bedrooms, John McAslan and Partners design, double garage... with Quintessentially Estates, guide price £6m (although I can't find any sign of it on their website... if you want pictures, go here for the Telegraph slideshow). It's apparently not so remarkable it hasn't been on the market for a while, though. Here's a piece from June, and the Times, welcoming the property to the market.
Interior designer Richard Adams bought it in 2004 for £250,000, and set about scraping the snails off the damp carpet. Now, it's all silk wallpapered, Venetian chandeliered and juxtaposing Baroque with Modern in a way designers pull off and I don't. And it's on the market for £650,000 (the furnishings to be sold separately). Where? Cheyne Court, in Chelsea. Particulars, here. Interesting piece in the New York Times, here.
Vogue reports on Clare Wright Keller's move from cardigans to Cadogan Square (ouch), the Pringle creative director's first foray into interior design. She's apparently given a Brahm apartment the Pringle touch, and it's now being rented out for £4,500 a week. No photos, I'm afraid... although is anyone else can point us in the right direction...
Take a photograph of one of your grotty rooms, then go here to find out how to send it to the suspiciously immaculate Naomi for close scrutiny. Five photographs will be selected (randomly, so don't trash your house in order to get attention), and the lucky winners will be shown the secrets of good taste.
"When Damien Hirst created his diamond-covered skull, one of our clients asked for the doorknobs of their new house to be similarly bejewelled. We used Swarovski crystals – at a cost of £257 for each knob. But for their favourite rooms, the master bedroom and reception, we created two knobs each studded with 4,328 diamonds, and costing £20,000 for each knob."
"Another client requested a bright orange Cinderella pumpkin bed for her daughter. It cost £80,000," continues Russell.
So what? When I was a nipper I slept in a little bed made to look like a hat. Actually, it was a hat. I started in a bowler... got my first real bed when I grew out of the stetson. The real point here is that the top end of the market - the end catered for by these search agents and interior designers - obeys different rules. These properties are so different, and at this £25m+ sector so rare, that they're part art, part property.
"... what they really, really want," says Rosalind Russell, writing in the Telegraph. And it's the basics... with that old chestnut - location - right at the top. Everybody wants to be near a tube, near decent shops, near a decent school, near a useful outdoors space. Fancy shmancy lighting, hot tubs or wet rooms are considered - according to research by Hamptons - a total waste of money. And, interestingly (in the wake of EPCs), energy efficiency measure were ranked the most irrelevant feature of all to buyers.
Ah... wonders the Rat and Mouse... but did Hamptons mention outdoor wallpaper? I bet they didn't, and it's got you intrigued, hasn't it? It's not strictly wallpaper (unless you're prepared to stretch your definition to something made out of metal), but it's decorative, it goes outside, and it takes its design cues from conventional wallpaper. It's by Susan Bradley, costs from £220 per sheet, and it looks intriguing. [via trendir]
Answer: Richard Rogers. At least, here in this fascinating tale of Lucy Musgrave and Zad Rogers' two-storey glass cube in Shoreditch, built on top of a friend's warehouse conversion, and accessed via a bridge from an adjoining building. Quite a project? No shit. But then, Musgrave is a founder of the General Public Agency and Rogers is, well, son of uber-architect Richard Rogers, who apparently helped with the design. Rat and Mouse readers with long memories (or who have discovered the "search" box) may be reminded of the cool Wimbledon Zip-Up House, currently occupied by Zad's brother Ab. Those lucky Rogers' kids. Apart from their names, obviously.
It's called betternest.co.uk, and it might appeal to anybody with second thoughts about moving in the current slightly unstable market. A kind of off-the-peg design service, it investigates any planning issues related to your address, examines photographs and floor plans, and then returns a report suggesting ways to maximise the value of your home - by adding an extra bedroom, or bathroom, or extending the kitchen - without needing planning permission. The report combines local property price information with the cost of suggested works, to come up with an overall profit figure. Obviously, we're talking ball parks... especially in the current market climate. But betternest's both clever and useful.
A survey by kitchen and bedroom supplier Sigma3 suggests that the future of the dining room is extinction. Sixty-four per cent of those polled have no use for them, doing all their entertaining, as you might expect, in the kitchen. Not only is the kitchen the 21st Century home's entertainment hub, it's where we pay our bills and watch our TV, too.
That headline? I - for one - mourn the loss of the Quagga. (The dining room, I'm not so bothered about.)
Tempted by the prospect of a self-build, but worried that the inherent stresses and strains might cause you to argue with your spouse? Help is at hand, courtesy of YourDreamBuild.com and their "project compatibility test". You and your partner will answer a series of questions, and the self-build experts will tell you whether they think you're cut out for the lifestyle. Cool. How do I sign up? Well, for access to the compatibility test, you just need to be a member of YourDreamBuild, an innovative and highly unusual business proposal that involves you giving them a join-up fee of £65 and an annual subscription of £35. Okay, what do I get for being a member of YourDreamBuild? Good question. You get the right to vote on design decisions relating to the luxury self-build project that YourDreamBuild plans to launch with all the loot. Their plan is to prove that you can build one house and use it as collateral to pay for the next, and that in three properties you're living in a lovely self-build with zero mortgage. What you get out of it is the feeling of belonging, of being involved in the process... oh yeah, and there are monthly competitions for best garden design etc. What? I get to pay to design a house for somebody else? You're shitting me? Think of it as a real-time training course. And you also get to take the "project compatibility test". For free. Rat and Mouse advice... don't tell your spouse how much you paid for it.
Remember One Hyde Park... Sheik Hamad and Candy & Candy's über-luxury Knightsbridge development? It's had a bit of a financing history, with some confusing stories relating to where the money's coming from and where it's going. The latest - according to this - is a significant £1bn refinancing courtesy of Eurohypo, the giant European real estate bank, replacing the Bank of Scotland's stake in the business. The project is due to be completed in 2010.
"It would be nice if the old auditorium could be turned into a local theatre," says Tariq Usmani, director of Henley Homes. "Or it might be turned into a health club, but whatever happens to it the period features, including the seats, have to be retained, although these could be hidden or moved. They just cannot be destroyed."
When I read this, the first thing I thought - being naturally facetious - was... hey, why not turn it into a cinema?
And then I read this:
Henley Homes has decided not to clean up the brickwork, but will leave it as it is and, as a nod to its former use, will create a private 12-seater cinema on the second floor of the development for residents' use only.
It's a mad, mad world. The plans for the development are extraordinary... a self-supported glass box (it's to be called "Lumiere") right on the top, containing some of the 59 planned apartments.
For more about the UK's old cinemas, go here. And you can find some before and after pictures of another south London Odeon conversion here and here.
My home is very colourful. I have added vinyl strips to the floors – a cheap solution, as we had taken out the carpet and were at a loss as to how to cover it without any money. Also there is a lot of industrial tape on the walls in striped patterns that acts as wallpaper. The telephone is covered in masking tape. It looked horrible before.
The loo is one of my favourite rooms... I covered the walls in black-and-white photocopies of pictures, mostly from the 1970s, and fashion prints and music pictures, and then I added fluorescent pink. I have unusual art pieces in my house. Some white crutches I made for an exhibition rest against the fireplace in the sitting room, and there is a bear holding a huge industrial whisk in the hallway. And I have a massive trainer from an exhibition at the bottom of the stairs.
Okay, now you're weirding me out. Haven't you heard of Ikea? Two hundred quid and a lift from a friend with an estate car and you could have a normal flat.
Sterling Prize, first; because it's serious. It went to The Museum Of Modern Literature in Marbach am Neckar, north of Stuttgart. Yes, it's about British architecture, and the British link is David Chipperfield Architects, who completed the project, a subtle concrete construction in terraces, in 2006.
That was the sublime, and now the ridiculous. Building Design magazine has been canvassing for the year in architecture's "offal". The Rat and Mouse cast its vote on Tuesday, but not - it appears - for the winner. Ultimate victory went to Opal Court in Leicester, by Stephen George and Partners... student accommodation that can thank its "grim" colours and "pathetic" roofs.
The Rat and Mouse offers its congratulations to both winners.
Courtesy of Building Design magazine, who clearly foster serious ambitions for the award:
Launched for the first time last year, the Carbuncle Cup is to the Stirling Prize what the Golden Raspberries are to the Oscars. So while the Riba searches for architecture's prime cuts, we set out to uncover the offal.
Here's the shortlist of seven:
And, as you can see, Foster, Edward Potter Associates and Allford Hall Monaghan Morris are all proudly representing London. The Rat and Mouse's vote is firmly for Skydec, although we disagree with architect Alan Riley's appraisal that "it looks as though a half deflated balloon has landed on it". It reminds the Rat and Mouse of something altogether different:
Every time a council tenant decided to cash in, my estate agent would give me a call to see if I knew of an architect who might be persuaded to buy.
That's Isabel Allen, on the 4homes blog, writing about her previous home in the Brunswick Centre. But Brunswick's success, she argues, isn't about the architecture, it's about the location. And it's the location - again, not the Brutalist architecture - that's at the heart of Robin Hood Gardens' failure.
The estate (a Utopian streets-in-the-sky dream by husband-and-wife architectural team Alison and Peter Smithson, built in Poplar, east London, at the start of the 1970s) is threatened with demolition, and not everybody's delighted. It's not in a great place (knocking it down won't help), and it's structurally and socially flawed... but once it's gone it will be gone forever, and there'll come a time when a new generation will pour over the photographs and shake their heads in disbelief... they just tore it down? Yes, son, they just tore it down, replaced it with cheap-and-easy apartments for the middle classes, their development chums making small fortunes in the process, and sent the original tenants scattering...
Well, 19 really... you can't count number 20 (believe me, or go and check). The idea is... it's expensive to move, soon you won't be able to find anybody to buy your house anyway, so you might as well make it better and live in it. All the usual suspects are there, but there are some unusual ideas, too, including epoxy-resin bonded gravel resurfacing and multi-generational split-level living for the dependents in your life. Read it here.
You own the original Big Brother chair from the first series.
AD: ...It’s an egg chair, which have been devalued by the fact Foxtons have them in their estate agents, so now they’re just twats’ chairs.
Incidentally, I wonder how many people who grab a laugh from a Foxtons gag have actually had any kind of negative experience with the firm?
Just a reminder... Open House weekend takes place September 15/16 in London. Among the 600 properties opening their doors to the great unwashed is 27A Redington Road in Hampstead... an unconventional eco house designed by Monahan Blythen. The Rat and Mouse was entirely unfamiliar with the property... until we found this informative piece in the Telegraph.
It's to be built on Doon Street, by the Coin Street Community Builders - a remarkable social enterprise group set up by local residents in the 1970s in order to buy much of the Coin Street district and save it from a planned blanket coverage by office space. The CSCB's mixed use happy ending now includes the Oxo Tower and Gabriel's Wharf. The new tower (designed by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands) will rise 472 ft, and will - as well as office, educational space and possibly a new home for the Rambert Dance Company - include 329 residential apartments. It's not, however, without controversy. It's been criticised by English National Heritage for potentially ruining views from the St James' Park and Somerset House, and for looming over the South Bank arts buildings.
It's purely theoretical for now, but it's nice to dream. The X-Seed 4000 is a 13,123 ft (4 kilometre) tall skyscraper with a 6 square kilometre footprint, with room for half a million to a million residents. It's based on Mt Fuji, and designed for Tokyo by the Taisei Corporation, the same company who built Japan's first subway in 1927, and who are currently tunneling under the Bosphorus to link the European and Asian sides of Istanbul.
Buyers in the capital would rather pay 63 per cent more, the equivalent of almost £200,000 in real terms, to live in an Edwardian house than settle for something built between the wars.
But that's not because of the build-era, that's because 1930s homes tend to be found further out of the city, in the suburbs. Susan Emmett is spot-on, though, to point out the advantages of a typical 1930s semi... space, a functional layout, a good build quality. Read it here.
[image of 1930s semis in Friary Road, Acton, by David Hawgood, here]
It's Dispatches: Britain's Bad Housing, on Channel 4 at 8pm. Andrew Gilligan - yes, that Andrew Gilligan - apparently demonstrates why the private sector doesn't have the answer to the country's so-called housing shortage. (A trip up the M5 will demonstrate something similar.) But there's more... have a look at this piece by Gilligan himself. The programme promises to reveal some very interesting evidence that lobby group PPS have been forging signatures, bugging council officials, bribing, bullying, writing fictitious letters from fictitious residents in support of planning applications... while working for high-profile builders including Berkeley Homes, Barratt, Taylor Woodrow and others. Interestingly, there appears to be a whiff of unpleasantness surrounding Fulham's Imperial Wharf.
How about some good news to take with us to the weekend? In January, the Rat and Mouse called on its readers to write in protest at plans to demolish Joseph Rykwert's last remaining London building to make way for a luxury residential development by Foster & Partners.
The planning inspectors have moved to save Inner Court (Old Church Street, Chelsea), and criticised the Foster plan as "inward-looking", "monolithic" and potentially resulting in "a poor neighbourly effect".
Relationship to surroundings and neighbourhood.
Response to site constraints and opportunities.
Layout, grouping and landscaping.
Planning of roads and footpaths.
Handling of garages and car parking.
Attention to safety, security and accessibility.
External appearance and internal planning.
Sustainability in construction.
Finishes, detailing and workmanship.
Awards are also made to projects with planning permission but that haven't been built. We're going to look at completed projects.
The Overall Winner is London-based Tabard Square [illustrated], behind London Bridge Station, by architect Rolfe Judd and developer Berkeley Homes. At it's heart: a 22-story tower with a clever built-in barometer... LEDs that change with the weather. There's clever management, too, including a deal with a hotel, resulting in a better, more complete, concierge service for residents. What's more, there are 212 high-quality affordable homes included in the development.
Other London winners are Pimlico's Tachbrook Triangle, by Barratt and Assael Architecture - a hi-tech development that managed to retain and protect an historic and endangered Georgian terrace - and Islington's Melody Lane, by developer London Wharf and architect Julian Cowie - copper-clad townhouses on the site of a former garage.
See the complete list - with illustrations - here.
That's apparently designer Richard Hywel Evans's pet-name for the New Atlas Wharf (Isle of Dogs) penthouse, currently for sale with Knight Frank at a guide price of £1.95m. Details? Polished stainless steel reception room. Top floor hot-tub with views across London. Putting green. Gas fire pit.
The Telegraph runs this interesting piece about how developers are responding to the co-buying trend. Duet Apartments, as St George have dubbed them, feature identically-sized bedrooms (presumably to halt arguments before they begin) with en-suite bathrooms and they're apparently enjoying a lot of success at developments in West Drayton and Colindale.
We're hearing rumbles that Architecture Week - which just recently celebrated its 11th year - is to be scrapped following a withdrawal of funding by the Arts Council. Clearly British architecture has been mended and we can move on. Or perhaps you might want to contact the Arts Council and ask them why?
Compact - around here - is necessary... which is why the Rat and Mouse leaves London, briefly, for an interesting US story. Here's Dirk Dieter (no) and his 250 square feet home in Pacifica, San Francisco. It was a wreck - 70s newspapers stuffed in the walls, a previous owner who crapped in a bucket - but Dieter saw what was happening to Californian property prices and bought it in 1990. It presented a design challenge, which he's met admirably, setting up a design company along the way.
“Can you justify having a completely random mishmash? The answer’s probably no.”
The words of Design for London director Peter Bishop, quoted in Building Design magazine, on his plans to tackle poor design in London's very centre. Three hundred million pounds, he says, would pay for a complete overhaul from Gray's Inn Road to Park Lane.
DfL, launched by London mayor Ken Livingstone in February, is planning an exhibition in 2008, in which it will unveil a joined-up vision of urban design for London, including signage and street furniture. We're hopeful. But we've been hopeful before.
They're called Group 41 Inc., and their offer, to "anyone, anywhere who owns land", is to design "a custom, high-end residential or commercial structure" that will be "sustainable, modern, and comfortable", and to throw in the design ("up to $10,000") gratis. Oh yeah, and the structure has to be made from recycled shipping containers.
Group 41 Inc. look like an interesting and creative outfit, and this is a bold experiment. The small print:
If you yearn for better urban planning as much as the Rat and Mouse does, you might enjoy The Slow Home Movement.
Slow Home is a critical and much needed alternative to the standardised world of cookie cutter houses and instant neighborhoods. Suburban sprawl is like fast food, cheap and easy but also unsatisfying and boring. These places are shallow substitutes for homes and neighborhoods with meaning and depth. They are created by big businesses that are more interested in profits rather than people. Like fast food, they are bad for us, our families, and the environment.
Founder John Brown is an architect and estate agent. The website is interesting and functional, with plenty of video, and a "ten steps" programme for building or choosing your slow home:
1. GO INDEPENDENT
Avoid homes by big developers and large production builders. They are designed for profit not people. Work with independent designers and building contractors instead.
2. GO LOCAL
Avoid home finishing products from big box retailers. The standardized solutions they provide cannot fit the unique conditions of your home. Use local retailers, craftspeople, and manufacturers to get a locally appropriate response and support your community.
3. GO GREEN
Stop the conversion of nature into sprawl. Don’t buy in a new suburb. The environmental cost can no longer be justified. Re-invest in existing communities and use sustainable materials and technologies to reduce your environmental footprint.
4. GO NEAR
Reduce your commute. Driving is a waste of time and the new roads and services required to support low density development is a big contributor to climate change. Live close to where you work and play.
5. GO SMALL
Avoid the real estate game of bigger is always better. A properly designed smaller home can feel larger AND work better than a poorly designed big one. Spend your money on quality instead of quantity.
6. GO OPEN
Stop living in houses filled with little rooms. They are dark, inefficient, and don’t fit the complexity of our daily lives. Live in a flexible and adaptive open plan living space with great light and a connection to outdoors.
7. GO SIMPLE
Don’t buy a home that has space you won’t use and things you don’t need. Good design can reduce the clutter and confusion in your life. Create a home that fits the way you really want to live.
8. GO MODERN
Avoid fake materials and the re-creation of false historical styles. They are like advertising images and have little real depth. Create a home in which character comes from the quality of space, natural light and the careful use of good, sustainable materials.
9. GO HEALTHY
Avoid living in a public health concern. Houses built with cheap materials off gas noxious chemicals. Suburbs promote obesity because driving is the only option. Use natural, healthy home materials and building techniques. Live where you can walk to shop, school and work.
10. GO FOR IT
Stop procrastinating. The most important, and difficult, step in the slow home process is the first one that you take. Get informed and then get involved with your home. Every change, no matter how small, is important.
The site's American Canadian but it's just as relevant to the UK.
Building Design magazine have the results of their Smoking Shed Challenge... a competition to design better spaces for smokers following the ban. The winner - the Smoking Tube, by Russian architect George Sneghkin - is described as a celebration of smoking, and is illustrated below. Go here to see all the other entries.
It's at the OFFSITE2007 future of construction exhibition in Watford, it's by Kingspan, it's called the Lighthouse and it looks like this:
The headlines are that it's the first building to achieve level six of the Code for Sustainable Homes, making it carbon-neutral (and exempt from Stamp Duty). Solar panels and a biomass boiler power it and super-efficient insulation keeps the heat in. That thing on the top? That's a wind-catcher for summer ventilation. Building costs? Apparently 40% higher than the average home. But that should come down were the Lighthouse to be built in any quantity. More here.
The Telegraph visits Polish banker Zbigniew Stradowski in his Montevetro penthouse, and listens to him criticise Richard Rogers. it's a strange attitude... pay a small fortune for an iconic Battersea landmark, then completely gut and re-fit it because Rogers apparently got it wrong. Go here to admire an admittedly impressive job, including... wait for it... a "65in high- definition plasma screen in the living room - the biggest currently on the market, Stradowski proudly points out". Hah... beat that, Rogers.
Brent Hoberman and Martha Lane Fox have teamed up again and are soon to launch MyDeco.com - a "taste validation" site for people having interior design problems. The rumour is that Hoberman's raised £5m in seed capital, and the tone is one of a major launch, with a retail angle. Head over there now if you feel like signing up and winning £1,000 toward a room makeover.
According to a survey by UKTVGardens naff plants - including Laylandii, ivy and pampas grass could knock thousands off the price of your home. (Didn't the 6,000 interviewees know, pampas grass is 70s and cool? Where do they find these stiffs?) Garden gnomes took an inevitable kicking too, so to speak, as did pet cemeteries and water features, despite TV garden makeover shows' obsession with them. More here.
According to a piece in Building Design, Koolhaas thought Foster's plans for a "zero-carbon, zero-waste" city in Abu Dhabi reminded him of something... oh yeah, his own plans for Rak Gateway in the United Emirates. His people spoke to Foster's people, asking them to explain the similarities in scale, shape and systems. Foster's people have denied the similarities. (Apart from the squareness.) Head over to Building Design to see the two layouts.
Just a note to remind readers... this year's Architect in the House scheme is now open. Register here to see if you can get matched up to a RIBA architect who will give you up to an hour of his/her time in return for a £40 donation to Shelter.
Colour and pattern are back. And we're warned, by Home Stagers, not to fall for the keep it simple, paint it magnolia message we get from the TV, if we really want to get a maximum price from a property.
Tina [Jesson] says, "Interior design trends come in and out like high street fashion. For homes and interiors this cycle runs for 5-7 years. Now that we are in 2007, we are on the cusp of a trends change. Colour and pattern are definitely coming back. Thanks to the TV programmes, many home owners think that all they have to do is "clear the clutter and paint it all magnolia" to help them get a sale - but that is NOT what professional home staging is about. I see far too many properties with the wooden floors, leather sofas and neutral walls and all property for sale now looks the same."
"Home Staging is all about deriving the maximum 'perceived' value from your property to help it sell. Estate Agents value property based on actual value; the number of bedrooms, the square footage and the location all help derive at actual value. But it is 'perceived value' which actually sells property. People need to see that the property not only meets their needs but creates a lifestyle better than the one they are leaving behind. If your property doesn't deliver this aspirational lifestyle, you'll just not sell."
Feature walls with bold colours or large print wallpapers are recommended.
A new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation - called The Social Value of Public Space - criticises architects for foisting fancy-schmancy 21st Century designs on the dowdy and banal people of England.
"Most public spaces that people use are local spaces they visit regularly, often quite banal in design, or untidy in their activities or functions, such as street markets and car boot sales," the report said.
The point the report makes is - if disappointing - a serious one... that functional community spaces grow organically through use. And if functional design is good design, then draw your own conclusions. The architects are, however, fighting back:
Deborah Fox, head of standards at Cabe Space, rejected the report's view that mundane spaces could work. "We feel that banal spaces are essentially failing people," she said "The report talks about design prescription but I sense that where design fails it is not due to too many design guidelines but because these guidelines have been misinterpreted."
According to a survey by Redrow... which purports to demonstrate the advantages enjoyed by people who own three-storey homes:
1. Less conventional family units (what with older people living until they're 120 and younger people unable to afford to leave home) make different demands on houses. Three levels offer more privacy.
2. An extra set of stairs keeps you fit.
3. Homeworkers can easier separate home life from work life.
4. Greater flexibility - three-storey homeowners are more likely to think differently about which room serves which purpose.
5. Oh yeah - from a developer's point-of-view... you can squeeze more skinny homes onto one expensive plot of land.
We're expecting the DCLG to announced plans, today, to reduce red tape surrounding microgeneration installations and (according to Miliband) "make it as easy to install a wind turbine as a satellite dish". The new rules are expected to come into force from October, too late for Cameron.
Westminster Council have awarded Ridgeford Properties consent to build more high-end flats and penthouses at 10 Weymouth Street in Marylebone. Ridgeford will be employing Ken Shuttleworth's Make practice, Work will start as soon as October and is scheduled to end in March 2009. Environmental features were said to be at the fore of the application, and include a "green meadow roof" and a ground source heat pump.
Go to Building Design (subscription might be necessary, but it's free) to enter their match the waffle to the architect competition. Five architects, five passages of "pretensious [sic] twaddle, impenetrable jargon, grammatically-challenged drivel" - match them up to stand a chance of winning a £15 iTunes token. Our favourite?
Growth-simulation processes have been used to develop spatial representations into a set of basic geometries and then superimposed with programmatic diagrams into a series of repeated cycles.
Great stuff. I've entered. And so should you. (Of course, only if you know the answers.)
The London Development Agency have just launched a database - aimed at property developers - listing all the Thames Gateway sites currently available, as part of its scheme to build 100,000 homes in the region. The database includes sites small and large, and details their planning stage and lists the property owners. The idea is apparently to draw foreign investors. If you fancy a nosey... the website's here
There's a massive Louis Vuitton trunk in the hall beside the front door and next to it is a Chanel surfboard - I saw it in a shop in St Tropez and had to have it for the hall. As you walk up the stairs you pass a pink fluorescent light that spells out "bollocks" in curly writing.
Not exactly a "welcome!" mat, is it? Venture up the stairs to find an Acqua di Parma-themed bathroom, with celebrity photos and a celebrity guest book, a black bedroom with skull wallpaper and an Edward Hopper knock-off painted by a Thailand beach artist. Oh yeah, her interior design service is available here or here.
For those with a taste for that kind of thing... Sunday March 4 is Midcentury.Modern day at Christison Hall, Dulwich College. Expect a mix of classic design by the likes of Eames, Jacobsen and Day from the last century and cutting edge offerings from some of today's up-and-coming names. But don't expect bargains. These days Midcentury.Modern is an event... complete with celebrity-spotting and hand-distressed trainers.
1 St. John's Mews didn't last very long in the Telegraph before appearing on the Knight Frank website as under offer (guide price: £12.5m). It's stunning... a RIBA award-winning home, built for the current owners, set right in the heart of Notting Hill and very original and beautiful. So much work went into it, including a computer-led design period that involved measuring light fall over a period of months, how can the current owners leave after less than two years' ownership? The kids have left and it's just too big is the line... but the piece makes it clear that the house took far longer to build than expected. For particulars, head over here.
Take The Knightsbridge. You can drive into your parking space, get into a lift and watch CNN while being whisked directly to your flat, secure in the knowledge that every access point is secure and/or watched 24/7. You could be in a seven-star hotel anywhere in the world – or anywhere in London.
Anywhere in London is his point. The developers have finally cracked luxury, but Mead would like a little originality and flair.
Meanwhile, on the subject of quality and new-builds, nobody should miss this incredible slideshow courtesy of the BBC. Our favourite? Click on number two.
Apparently, suburban identikit executive home builders Redrow have employed the services of interior designers Connections In Design and charged them with a very special mission: monitor the action at London Fashion Week and come back with some ideas about how to incorporate a little sophisticated glamour into Redrow's developments [illustrated]. Hey, no problem:
Dawn Kitchener, managing director for Connections in Design, comments: "There are four directional themes for spring 2007 - which can appeal to people who have just bought a new home who need inspiration for their blank canvas; or to those who are thinking of selling up and need to refresh their home to appeal to particular home buyers. All four will create truly stunning interiors."
Four! Great! That doesn't sound too stupid. What are they?
Well. There's Beyond Mirage ("Soft organic shapes and a variety of fabrics such as washed out linen, floaty sheers like silk/satin, and iridescent polished fabrics that shimmer to create an optical illusion"). Okay, in my Redrow home I'll go for the optical illusion of space and intelligent design.
There's Elegant Exotic ("Why not consider crystal chandeliers with black droplet features and tinted bulbs?") Hell, yeah. In fact, why not make them standard in all Redrow Homes?
There's The Interactive Wall ("Shelving is used decoratively rather than for functionality.") What's that? The small print?
And finally, there's The Call Of The Wild ("Think entwined wines, gnarled wood as seen in the jungle, punctuated with bright tropical flowers. Furniture such as sofas make a style statement with their shape, while wallpapers and fabrics incorporate a reworking of large tropical leaves.") Yes, that classic jungle sofa shape statement.
Building Designreports on the latest chapter in arguably south London planning's longest-running fiasco. Remember how excited we got when we learnt of the ambitious, joined-up plans, developed over 13 years, that Parkview had put together for the Battersea Power Station site? Well, new owners, Treasury, clearly weren't as excited, since they've secretly decided to start afresh, refusing to meet West 8, Ron Arad & Associates or Benson & Forsyth, even though their involvement in the Parkview master plan was well advanced (to the point of planning approval). In the meantime, they've been meeting new architects, but only ones who've agreed to sign a confidentiality agreement:
A source at one leading firm which decided against taking part in the contest said it was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement even before learning it was for Battersea.
Friendly. Battersea Power Station's too important a London landmark for this kind of foolishness. Are Wandsworth Council and English Heritage really as powerless as they seem in the face of private sector muscle?
It's rare a press release leaves me in shock... but B&Q's guide to getting that Wisteria Lane look has created a strange kind of blinking symptom... does it actually say this?
If you like the idea of sexy, but stylish rooms, Gabrielle Solis’s home is more your thing. Pastel coloured rooms speak of a woman who values herself and her feminine side. Couple these colours with luxurious textures give any room a sexy undertone. B&Q stocks a range of soft furnishings, candles and holders perfect for stylish looks.
Ah, if only there was a B&Q near Wisteria Lane, Gabrielle would have had better things to do than bang the gardener. Like shop for flat-pack bookshelves.
If you’re a sophisticated woman, who likes things to be ‘just-so’, then you’ll aspire to being Bree Van De Kamp. You’re house proud and everything fits to a tee. You take military precision in your decor and prefer to paint in safe neutral colours. B&Q’s range of paint offers a wide range of calm, collected colour. Like Bree you’ll enjoy entertaining friends with impressive cooking skills. B&Q’s three-tiered chrome effect spice rack, £16.00 will keep your impressive range of herbs and spices organized.
Right. And if you want that Nip/Tuck look, why not invest in one of their 16-piece tool kits with orbital sander, too?
Well, not really. Writing in the Telegraph, Hannah Nemeth takes the forthcoming Shard as inspiration for a bit of domestic glass wall glamour. She visits a fund manager in Roedean Crescent, Roehampton (what? you like him already?) who bought a plot, knocked down the house and built two: one for him, one for a rich neighbour. Both designs are radically glass-heavy, and - in my opinion, anyway - they seem to work very well (although they look a little close together). Savills are handling the spare one (pictured), and it's priced at £2.9 million, which says to me... fund well-managed.
Remember all the fuss when, last August, Livingstone announced plans to retrofit Will Alsop's Palestra office building on Blackfriars Road with 14 wind turbines (to make it the capital's first combined heat and power plant)? Well, according to an anonymous Rat and Mouse tipster, those said turbines have suddenly, er, vanished. Perhaps they blew away? Anybody know?
Hello, I am a young professional and have long been a fan of R&M. I am in search of a specific type of property to let and have been unsuccessful so far. I am interested in Commercial/Industrial buildings that have a select few designated living quarters for rent. I am unbothered by sketchy areas or low quality finishes; the type of space is the most important. Do you have any advice as to how I can find this sort of place to let?
That's a good question. This kind of living isn't easy to find in London (once a building gets permission for a residential conversion, the developers move in quickly and turn it into expensive loft apartments...) and often they're passed along by word-of-mouth. I sent a couple of emails earlier today, and Urban Spaces have been touch suggesting you have a look at their site. I think that's a good idea... they specialise in lofts and interesting modern conversions, and represent a good range of prices. You might want to register with them. Meanwhile, if anything else comes in, I'll let you know. And if other readers have any tips... feel free to comment.
Building Design reports on a campaign to save Inner Court, Old Church Street (Chelsea) from demolition. The proposal, to make way for a luxury residential development by Foster & Partners, has been turned down twice, but was recently resubmitted. Inner Court dates back to the early 1970s, and is an important modernist example of the period. Architect Joseph Rykwert, a Royal Gold Medal nominee who counts Daniel Libeskind among his former students, still lives in London. The Rat and Mouse values London's 20th Century architecture. If you do, too, you can join a campaign to have the building listed by contacting the 20th Century Society, or you can write directly to Nina Wahlberg, South East Team, English Heritage, 1 Waterhouse Square, 138-142 Holborn, London EC1 2ST.
Intercontinental chef Theo Randalltakes the Independent around his Chalk Farm Victorian and they end up, inevitably, in the kitchen... where stainless steel (good for wiping) and Smeg (good for crackling) come out of it well. Randall likes to cook in his garden too. In fact, in the summer months, there's nothing he likes more than to pop outside and spit roast a chicken.
According to Magnet, it's "Who built and designed the kitchen?". The answer, according to Magnet, is Magnet. The press release I received this morning makes a big fuss about another question, too... "What happens in your kitchen?". It's apparently the question first asked Magnet clients. What happens in the Rat and Mouse kitchen? I can exclusively reveal the answer right now. I cook food and I make coffee.
Research by Yorkshire Bank suggests a quarter of house-hunters could be potentially turned off making an offer by naff Christmas lights. What's more, 40% could be turned off by your neighbour's naff Christmas lights. In a way, though, that's more logical. When you buy a house, you can always sling the trash they leave behind, rip out the dishwasher-safe chandeliers, and paint over the Dulux. But there's nothing you can do about the neighbours.
Sign up so you can read the subscription-only but very fine Building Design online magazine, and enjoy the story of how Adam Richards Architects helped Clerkenwell-based priest The Reverend Richard McLaren write sermons on his roof-terrace without getting blown away. Inspired by paintings of the Annunciation, the architects designed a wind-break comprising Cold War surplus Geiger counter which translates cosmic radiation into a pattern of 384 flashing LED lights. At this point, if anybody can think of a suitably pithy sign-off, email me; because I'm just enjoying my own state of open-mouthed disbelief. Catch the whole story here.
Sustainable transport charity Sustrans is seeking UK residents frustrated by the general user-hostility of their residential street to get in touch. They're planning a DIY Streets campaign, based on a Dutch model, which will see residents becoming actively involved in the creation of more functional, more user-friendly street design.
One of the elements of economist Kate Barker's much-talked about suggested planning law reforms is that it will be much easier for homeowners to make improvements to their properties, as long as they're not changing the footprint. To Londoners, that means one thing... loft conversions. The idea is that - with house prices doing that thing they do - homeowners looking for more space will get a better time. And councils will be able to focus on large developments, not roof gardens and decking. Ah, but trust a ThisIsLondon reader to get all cynical:
So let me get this straight - they're going to remove the need for planning permission and make it easier for us to improve our homes with one hand... and then using their new 'snooping' laws are going to gain access to our properties and charge us for any improvements which add value with the other! Don't be fooled, they wouldn't go out of their way to make our lives easier if there wasn't money in it for them somewhere along the line. Find out how much you'll be taxed each year for your home improvements before you take advantage of not needing planning permission.
Actually, the loft conversion is a subject of which I have a little experience and some crucial advice. Don't be fooled by glossy brochures and a handful of glowing testimonials. I know of one prominent west London conversion specialist who - despite being as crooked as a Russian politician and leaving a trail of angry, dissatisfied and litigious ex-customers in his wake - looks convincing online. Tread carefully... it's an expensive business.
According to Paul Haynes, of upmarket removals firm Cadogan Tate:
"Plasma screens and wireless internet are old news. Working in the best-heeled homes in London, we're stunned by the new home gadgets showing up in luxury homes. We always make sure to handle antiques, priceless works of art and exclusive wardrobes with neither shaking nor stirring – but moving high-tech homes is an art in itself. Handling these futuristic moves has meant we've become experts in home gadgets."
So Haynes gives his prediction of top gadgets for 2007. And being, let's face it, a boy, and knowing that at least some of our readers are boys, too, I thought I'd share the highlights with you. They include a smart table by Gorenje, which hides a mini-refrigerator in a centre console, a robot by White Box which does everything a private security guard will do while you're away (except sample your drinks cabinet and go through your wife's underwear draw) and the remarkable Plant Wall, designed to grow, internally, before your very eyes. We won't mention David Linley's faux-18th Century cabinet with built in MP3 player.... damn!
The Telegraph carries the heart-warming story of architect Patrick Hodgkinson's final work on the Brunswick Centre, Bloomsbury's love-it/hate-it (and we, at the Rat and Mouse, entirely love it) 1950s construction, which was abandoned in the 50s, and became home to anybody who couldn't afford anything better. Until now. The middle classes - hell, gay showbiz couples, no less - are coming, and the Brunswick Centre's looking as spruce as it deserves.
For the love of our homes, we agonise over paint and wallpaper choices, furniture, floors and fittings... and the result is never what we plan, but by some accident is - to some kind of degree - what we are. Unless, of course, you just let somebody else do it. Today's Independent looks at the a trend amongst the moneyed, the investors and the frequently absent, for buying off the peg... apartments, furniture, even the artwork.
I hadn't. But, according to the Times, it's a bit like Ikea, but without the queues. Or Matalan, but without the tat. Or TKMaxx, but without the chavs.
Set aside an hour for a decent trolley-filling session and you’ll be hooked. The bedding is laid in room sets, so all the colours are co-ordinated and the bed looks like one you could lie down on for a nice kip. And the lamps! Just like the ones in Laura Ashley, but a fifth of the price.
The store started in the Midlands - from a market stall along from the Lineker family's - and now it's spreading nationwide. (Meanwhile, what have any of the Linekers achieved?) It hasn't spread to London yet, but the website lists Hemel Hempstead, Maidstone and Reading. You can shop online too.
UPDATE - thanks so much to the Rat and Mouse reader (you know who you are) who responded so quickly with this:
There is a Dunhelm Mill on London, in Harrow. Come out of South Harrow tube and go up the hill towards Harrow proper, and it's next to Waitrose 200 yards up on the left. It is listed on their site, but not in the South East section for some reason. (N.B. don't try to drive there right now as they are digging up the road outside the station, and the traffic can back up a long way in either direction).
Today's homes bandwagon has become less about day-to-day living and more about preening. Just as your hair must be glossy, highlighted and cut at Toni & Guy, your home must have recessed spotlights, sectional seating and ensuite bathrooms a-plenty.
I hope Building Design won't mind me quoting at length from architect Andrew Waugh's report on 35 Ramsgate Street in Dalston. It's a mixed use development - some affordable housing, some office space, and the brief demanded that renewable energy should offset 10% of carbon emissions. Waugh set out to beat that target, and take full advantage of the opportunity to build wind energy into the very framework of the building:
We wanted the energy producing/saving mechanics of the building to be an integral part of the design, rather than an afterthought. Wind turbines on the roof or solar panels on the elevations too often look tokenistic and offer a sop to energy generation. Our approach was to integrate the power generation within the building as a first principle of its design, as important as the structure and the weatherproofing.
Waugh built an aerofoil on the edge of the building, on the principle that wind speed increases as it passes around an object.
To capture that energy, our design proposes the use of four helical wind turbines, placed vertically down the spine of the building on the southern side Next, we looked at the surface wind resistance of various forms of cladding. In the end, we opted for glazed terracotta tiles as they will give minimal surface resistance. The tiles also reflect ambient light from the sky, illuminating the north-facing facade.
And does it work?
Dependent on wind speed, the four quietrevolution turbines will generate around 40,000kW hours a year. This is enough to power the lighting, computers, phones, faxes, printers and servers of an 80-person office, or the electrical energy requirement of more than 40 flats. This will save approximately 7 tonnes of CO2 a year.
The Rat and Mouse says congratulations to Mr Waugh. Here's a link to the story, but it's subscription only (hence our extensive quotations). We'd point out, though, that it's free to register, and Building Design is a very fine read.
And it's about time, isn't it? I don't know about you... but the time my cleaners waste cleaning the champagne from my chandeliers. Time which could so easily be better spent spit-polishing my spats. Anyway, the chandelier's by US specialists Schonbek, it's called the Da Vinci and, yes, you bung it in the dishwasher, and, yes, it does look like a giant Christmas tree decoration. I can't find a European dealership right now, but surely something this revolutionary is worth the shipping? (Video, here.)
Property group Minerva - damaged by the bankruptcy of the Allders chain - has dropped plans to build the City's biggest skyscraper at St Botolph's House. The company secured planning permission in April 2004 for a 50-storey, 1 million square feet building. Instead, they'll press ahead with a 14-storey office and retail building. More here.
Building Design (sorry, subscription only) carries the interesting story of how the Architects Registration Board (ARB) is fighting a battle with British newspapers to retract headlines like the following:
And there are others. It appears he wasn't, technically, an architect, but a Wandsworth Council building inspector. ARB appears concerned that people might mistake "architect" and "paedo", and assume this is the kind of thing many architects do in their leisure time. Which is, clearly, a preposterous concern. There's about as much danger of people assuming paedos wear rimless glasses, drive Saabs and design houses in theirs. Meanwhile, tramps are now "very concerned" that the story might lead to suspicion that some of them are building inspectors in disguise.
... Because - let's face it - we're spending more and more time there. Poggenpohn, an upmarket German kitchen brand, have began specialising in kitchen units that... "incorporate not only a dining table, but some soft seating and storage for multi-media equipment, too." The specific range is called +INTEGRATION, and it's said to mix the companies own high gloss kitchen finishes with walnut and Swiss peartree veneers, and widescreen TVs too. The picture below gives an example. The picture below that, I've just included because I like it and it reminds me of having a few friends around to help out... you know, chuck on your own pizza topping... wear any old thing. And the very bottom picture because that reminds me of how my wife reacts, too, when I burn myself in the kitchen.
Kiely gets a visit from the Independent. Compared to some of the homes that get the newspaper visit, it sounds like a nice, unpretentious family home, with some of the quirks you'd expect (and hope for) from a designer. My favourite bit?
I found some unusual paving stones for the garden - they are exactly the same as those you get beside traffic lights in London. Friends had been recommending different designs, but one day, when I was crossing the road, I noticed these stones and thought, "That's it, they're just beautiful and perfect for the garden!" I love their large dots. I ordered them from a civic supplier.
I can't immediately visualise those stones. I'm out most of today in meetings, but I'll try to remember to take a phone-snap, and post the image either tonight or tomorrow morning. I'm intrigued, now. Read the rest of the article here.
In a must-read piece for all fans of the beautiful, Bauhaus Huf design, the Telegraph asks questions about resale value and the cost of building Huf in the first place. It's no surprise... they're expensive. But has any design dated better? And if you love them, you really love them. (Did I mention I really love them?) Read it here.
Other than being slightly surprised how casually girls are prepared to pee in front of each other, nothing about the Big Brother bathroom remains in my memory. But, according to Ideal Standard bathrooms, the semi-recessed oval Kyomi bath was the star of the show. IS fitted out the whole bathroom and for some reason they've waited until now (when the memory of a summer of time-waste TV is fading faster than your tan) to launch a press campaign declaring the bathroom the real winner.
Damn! And I'd been led to believe the Rat and Mouse was a dead cert for that particular award. According to the press release, Geberit's Balena Shower Toilet - an ever so slightly frightening combination of toilet, power-bidet and hot-air arse-dryer, is "at the forefront of a new trend... the solution for the bathroom of today and tomorrow". It pulsates, oscillates, wall-hangs, and features a four-person memory, so it'll catch, pitch and blow you just the way you like it. It's available from West One Bathrooms in Battersea, and Empress Building Centre in Finchley, but although you can take the design out of Germany, I'm not sure you can take the particularly German fixation out of its design.
The Times carries the fascinating story of Graham Hudson's house of trash. Hudson - an artist - had been renting in Hackney, but thought he could do better. So he blurred the distinction between domestic and work life in order to get permission to build within the grounds of the new Chelsea College of Art & Design buildings, and set to work building a house out of old rubbish and the odd piece of wood paneling, a stone's throw from the Commons. The Times's Adam Barnard brings a couple of estate agents from Douglas & Gordon, and asks them to value the £1,500 home. They like it, and value it at a quarter of a million... assuming he can meet building regs. Which he probably can't. Great piece, though. Read it here.
Or at least, that's what Simon Osborne, Managing Director of Residential Moves at specialist removals firm Cadogan Tate, says. And, let's face it, he'd know:
"Relocations that used to require three vehicles now require five – for homes of the same size!"
According to Osborne, minimalism - at least in the prime sector - is truly a thing of the past:
"Home owners are now displaying items that represent their families and people are rediscovering collecting! They are also pulling decorative items out of our storage facilities and back into their living rooms. Minimalism sacrificed luxury for style. Maximalism means not compromising one for the other."
See how he does that?! Maximalism He's even invented a new word. We'll forgive him that lapse in taste for the intriguing story, and the very interesting facts and figures that accompany it. For instance, the typical sofa has grown in depth, since 1978, from 50cm to 65cm. I bet you didn't know that.
The Telegraph' s Catherine Moye looks at the trend for attaching celebrity architects to major city developments, and asks, is the glamour enough to compensate for high prices and doors that open the wrong way? Read it here.
Thou shalt not exercise thine own in thine own home unless it has been vetted by a qualified professional, and preferably on national television. When it comes to interior design, there is but one God and her name is Naomi Cleaver. It is wrong - spiritually, morally, objectively - to depart from her teachings, unless it is to supplement them with the Ann "House Doctor" Maurice catechism ("Who made cream walls?" "Sensible people." "Why did they make them?" "To reflect light, hold value and not alienate buyers").
Lucy Mangan, writing in the Guardian, takes a look at matters of taste, in an entertaining look at contemporary morality. Funny. But depressing.
Mr Blair is wrong about cul-de-sacs and he should think again. I love mine. It is along a narrow street in west London with a communal garden at one end and a church at the other. My loop is not packed with fatties. Mothers get their exercise by running up and down the quiet street teaching their children to ride their bicycles while fathers show off their footballing skills at the weekend.
In today's Telegraph, Alice Thomson writes in defense of the cul-de-sac. More community. Less traffic. Nice piece.
The result of six years' work by Dutch architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars, this bed hangs in the air, suspended by magnets. It also costs one and half million dollars. But there's apparently a miniature version, not exactly a bed, more a perch, that's available for a tenth of that figure.
Almost 20,000 new flats were completed this spring, making up 44 per cent of all new housing. Six years ago, only 7,000 flats were built over the equivalent period. Flats then accounted for less than 20 per cent of the total output, while detached houses made up 53 per cent of new-builds.
Today's Times reports on a crisis of more and more tinier and tinier flats, built for a market that's crying out for houses. The piece quotes interesting research from the Halifax, which suggests the two-tier property market might not be about North and South, or London and The Rest, or The Rest and Prime, but flats and houses:
Figures from the Halifax show that the price of a new flat fell by almost 5 per cent over the past year while the cost of a semidetached house rose by nearly 6 per cent, slightly higher than the market average.
They'll all be performing at the Architecture Rocks party on Saturday, part of the London Architecture Biennale. And you can go here to vote for your favourite band, and a chance to win tickets to the gig, courtesy of the brilliant Building Design website (if you don't know it, check it out now). But we've no doubt about who should win... Famous In Japan are our new heroes, Chrysler Building the new Rat and Mouse theme tune.
News reaches us that expensive retro-style fridge maker Smeg have just introduced a second hand-finished limited edition of its FAB28. The stripy one, which looks a bit like a City Boy's shirt, joins the nationalistic one, which looks a bit like a UKIP voter's smalls.
Those Design For Manufacture £60,000 homes look all well and good - but isn't that partly down to the way they've been kitted out? And what if the interior design departments have spent another £100,000 furnishing them? Over at The Move Channel, interior design company Roomservice gets a little well-earned publicity for furnishing a two-bedroom home from the floor up for just £6,000. And the results look great in just the kind of contemporary-inoffensive way that makes me think developers and landlords are going to be paying very close attention.
There's been some confusion about the £60,000 home... with some people believing that the figure represents a magic number for affordable housing. If it costs £60,000... hey, I'll have two. Just a reminder - the £60,000 is how much it costs to build. Which just could end up meaning happier developers, not happier ftbs.
*Construction costs can be tamed without sacrificing quality - developers that closely linked their design, suppliers and delivery teams into a single process found savings. *Although the homes are built for just £60,000 it's not clear what they will be sold for. A government spokesman admitted: "There is no mechanism to regulate the final sale price of these homes." Developer Crest Nicholson said that it would be offering some of its £60,000 homes at near full market prices.
Sounds like a great day for the developers, courtesy of the government, doesn't it?
The Telegraph celebrates the coming-of-age of the boudoir-style bathroom. Apparently, in posh houses from this side of Belgravia to the other, spare rooms are being turned into giant Parisian brothel-style luxury wash rooms, with long double-ended baths, twin basins and heavy mirrors... places where the well-heeled can kick back naked after a long day at the trading screen, and soak until their skin goes all wrinkly. The macho wet room is so over.
Urban living is noisy - we all know that and it's largely a price we're prepared to pay. But during the last summer I spent at my previous house, in W6, one of my neighbours brought home a new girlfriend who'd obviously learnt everything she knew about sex from the entertainment industry. She was a howler. And our neighbour's bedroom was in the loft conversion of their terraced house - across the road. She was a howler in a loft conversion. And it was hot. So they opened the Velux. Which was above the bed. So she was a howler in a loft conversion with her head stuck out the roof. So I'd pull down our rattly sash window, which would cut out a bit of the howling - but it also meant the sound of our nextdoor neighbour, whose lounge was next to our bedroom, somehow seemed amplified. She had one of those strangulated finishing school accents that I can't listen to without getting a sympathetic sore throat... and she used to drink late into the night and bawl down the phone about her latest love lost. It was like living between Bridget Jones and Brittney Skye. So where's this heading? At the time, I looked into sound insulation techniques. But I was always too tired to do a thorough job. Here's ace Manhattan design blog ApartmentTherapy with some up-to-date ideas for muting the sound of outside.
Thanks to Widowspankie for this link to the Top 10 Strange Home Gadgets, as chosen by TechEBlog. Widowspankie's own favourite? The Pong Clock illustrated below. It features a constant random game of pong, while the score tells you the time. Nice.
The Rat and Mouse fave? The Washing, Drying, Ironing Machine. But how about a mansized one that can give you a shave, too?
Top food artist Prudence Emma Staite brings a surreal element to The Home Show this year, with a room made completely of chocolate. That's right - walls, furniture, fireplace, paintings... chocolate. I know what you're thinking... it won't last 60 seconds before a herd of women and children charge it to the ground and lay down amongst it, like big cats, licking up its dark, hot entrails. (Or maybe you weren't thinking that.) Anyway, the story goes that the public are being invited to break bits off and eat them... or just lick them in situ (an idea I personally find completely revolting). Staite will replace all missing pieces by the next morning. More here. Amazingly, if you want your own chocolate room all to yourself... it's yours, for £2,500.
Without the tireless detective work of design*sponge it's unlikely we would have discovered Istanbul-based design house Autoban - and our lives would have been signficantly poorer for two reasons: their architectural wooden chairs that are currently on my desktop longer than my screensaver; their very cool website. Click where it says "link" to find some UK names under their list of exhibitors.
What with water being precious and expensive and everything, Londoners might find the toilet lid sink an interesting innovation:
With each flush of your commode, clean water that would otherwise go straight down the toilet is first routed up through a chrome gooseneck spigot to dispense pure water for hand washing. The Toilet Lid Sink installs easily without tools, is attractive for any bathroom and is a great space saver. Shuts off automatically. Porcelain-like white plastic replaces your existing tank top and adjusts to fit standard toilets up to 8in wide and 18-22in long. Built-in soap dish.
It's American - sold by a very interesting company, called Read Goods, that was formed to meet the needs of the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s. I've dropped them a line to see if they ever ship to the UK and I'll update this post when/if I get a response. But somebody ought to make this innovative catalogue available over here.
Ben, We can ship to the UK, but it is not terribly easy. Due to credit card fraud throughout the world, we will only accept international shipments via payment through wire transfers into our account. Once we verify the funds are there, we will release the goods for shipping. Any customs and duties are to be paid by the customer. There is a 20US dollar charge for the transfer plus shipping costs. Orders must be placed through the retail store only. The catalog and internet divisions do not accept international orders. Hope this helps.
Design*sponge - a fine American interior design blog - is appealing for Londoners who might be able to recommend the best places to do a bit of interior design shopping while in the city. Head over, and post to comments if you want to help out.
A while ago, I posted a picture of some curtains that caught my eye on an American design blog. I wasn't sure I actually liked them - but they were like nothing I'd ever seen before. Avant-garde? Ironic? Old-fashioned bad taste? Who knew? But they were certainly impressive. My wife didn't see it that way - she read the post and withdrew all decorating decision privileges for the foreseeable future. I've also had the occasional email from Rat and Mouse readers, casting aspersions on my taste. Nobody understood, I wasn't saying: this is cool, buy it. I was saying something more like: Blimey, look at this. So from now, I'm going to be absolutely clear - and I'm going to provide Rat and Mouse readers with the opportunity to express themselves without insulting me. Blimey, look at these Lefroy Brooks taps.
If Barratt had called their new affordable home project The New Affordable Home Project or Mini Home or Mini Pad - what are the chances that they'd have received the acres of property section column space they've enjoyed in the last ten days? The iPad (above) - cool name, contains a joke which the target consumers of first-time buyers will appreciate, a marketing dream. But it's taken until now for a property journalist to be invited to visit one. The Telegraph's David Hoppit likes what he sees. And it turns out Barratt aren't the only iBuilders on the block. Here's James Wilson, of David Wilson Homes, and his own snug, design-heavy New Affordable Home Project. David Hoppit visits that, too... and likes what he sees. Has James Wilson also been so canny with the marketing? Possible first mistake:
James and a team of designers that included the Changing Rooms presenter Lawrence[sic] Llewelyn-Bowen, spent months agonising over every square inch of their new range of low-cost, starter homes.
You see the difference. Made by Jonathan Ive out of ultratough polycarbonate plastic... cool. Made by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen out of old woman's curtains and an '80s Athena print... not cool. See how that happens? But what about the name? Has James Wilson also bagged some of that Apple brand goodness? Well, his New Affordable Home Project is called the i-Life. And the problem with that is that Apple already own something called the iLife. Okay, there's no dash connecting i to life in Apple's (groundbreaking) collection of everyday software... but I'm not so sure the Apple lawyers - who aren't exactly celebrated for their hands-off approach - are going to let that wash.
Building Design [free subscription required] praises designers Gustafson Porter for their landscaping vision for Swiss Cottage. And after the Diana Memorial debacle, a bit of a stroke is presumably just what the Anglo-American firm need the most. The plan - announced tomorrow - is said to be an ambitious exercise in planting. Oh yeah - plus a granite water feature.
Before you go condemning the Siemens liftMatic as the Stannah stairlift of cooking - a contraption for people too idle to extract their own pizzas from their own ovens... it's about conservation. What does heat do? It rises. So, open the door and it escapes. But what if you were to gently lower the food from the bottom? Ahh...
They're by Beearo and they're just about the first stick-on wall decorations I've ever found tempting. They come courtesy of a young American design team made up of two brothers. You can buy online - or else you can just fiddle around for hours with the entertaining website.
Straight men, even. That's News International's target, when they launch Inside Out, a new monthly supplement with the Sunday Times. The magazine will apparently feature design and DIY (sorry, renovation), and address the fact that men are obsessed with property, too. It should go without saying that this is a development the Rat and Mouse will be following closely. More here.
Hidden Wires, the online magazine for the terminally tedious, posts this story of a total hi-tech refit, by TechniQuest, of a Grade II-listed, four-storey Victorian home. If you like your security high, your sound surround and your wires hidden, you might want to read the article. If you're just interested in how much a young family's willing to spend on this kind of thing, skip to the end and check out the spec. Send us your guestimates for the total and we'll forward them to TechniQuest and try to come up with a winner. The Rat and Mouse reader who comes closest will receive a special congratulations post featuring their photograph, and the perverse excitement of knowing they'll be looked at first thing in the morning by a big bunch of Egg McMuffin-eating London estate agents.
What is it? It's a dumbbell, dummy, and it appears to be aimed at design-conscious fitness fans more interested in aerobics than body-building. In other words, it's light. Looks cool though. It's by Menu, who have a list of UK outlets here.
There are large LCD screens, each worth £1900, in both reception rooms, a small £400 television in the kitchen and TVs concealed in cupboards in the main, guest and children's bedrooms. Even the ensuite bathrooms have tellies built into the ends of the baths; the remote controls are designed to float, of course.
The flat, described here in the Telegraph, is in South Kensington's Onslow Square, and it's owned by property developer Anton Truter. And, apparently, he's not so freaky. A recent report reveals that the average UK home contains 4.7 televisions. The figures on either side of that mean are interesting too, and appear to confirm our secret snobbery. The highest UK ownership rate was in Ballymacbrennan in Northern Ireland (6.2 sets, several of which are probably hot); in Belgravia, the figure's just 3.1 sets. And what of the people without televisions? Have you noticed how desperate they are to portray themselves as "above" tv, and to make sure that you know they don't have room for such a contraption in their homes or their lives? Until you're so sick of hearing it that some internal irritation-inhibitor reminds you to stop asking them "hey did you see...?" An example? Here's television-free Libby, talking to the Telegraph... pay attention to how much information she manages to pack into her penultimate sentence:
"I'm almost embarrassed to admit it," says Libby. "People are always astonished when they find out. I feel such a luddite. But I've always got my art to do in the evenings and Ollie has his academic work. We don't have time to watch television.
Almost embarrassed to admit it... but... go on then.
With a children's slide shooting down from the attic, a pair of beds that look like space pods, blue rubber floors and pink walls -- not to mention a museum's worth of contemporary art and design -- one easily could mistake the London home of Kenny Schachter and Ilona Rich for an avant-garde playground.
The Schachters' Chelsea townhouse - celebrated here in the Chicago Tribune - was designed by Ab Rogers, whose own home the Rat and Mouse looked at recently. Ab clearly believes children should sleep in pods (his own kids do; so why not the Schachters, for Christ's sake?). The Rat and Mouse isn't going to generalise about that kind of thing, but we've got nothing against pods per se. Or children. Or architects. In this instance, however, it appears the Schachter children themselves have had the last say regarding the pod arrangements. They apparently prefer to sleep on a large mattress on the floor. Ah, "Shanty Town Chic", know it well. Wimbledon Zip Up [January 11]
The Times carries an interesting piece about South Kensington's Ornamenta, a company that can take one of your photographs and turn it into a giant, wall-sized, wallpaper mural. Clients have apparently used the company to brighten up small rooms with extravagant skyscapes, fill a room with memories of a safari taken 40 years ago, and one man asked for a replica of the Journey of the Magi, from Florence's Medici chapel, on the walls and ceiling of his London dining room. (Think about that last one for a moment and then immediately forget it.) Read more, here.
Because there's more to Denmark than race-hate cartoons and burning embassies. They make totally radical furniture, too. Here's Danish design house Skagerak, exemplifying a northern European clarity of line and empathy with wood... available in the UK, but you might have to go to Leeds.
The average central London property costs about £4,000 per square metre to buy, but the cost of extending in the city is only around £3,000 per square metre. So an extension could save both cash and stress.
Yes, you know you're at a middle-class London dinner party when you hear the words side return. Here's FindAProperty celebrating the Capital's must-have kitchen extension.
The company is founded on a vision: to pioneer and create unparalleled design solutions for our furry friends. By combining the best craftsmanship, animal husbandry and a unique personal service, WOWBOW sets the standard for a new class in pet furniture.
Have you ever tried shopping for high-end pet furniture solutions? I didn't think so. Well, no matter - that was then. This is now.
There's 20% off stock at Chelsea's well-regarded MPauw chair and sofa specialists. MPauw make great new furniture, but their speciality is in reupholstering the old stuff in the best possible taste. Apparently, you can get an extra 10% off by telling them you read the Bargain Britain column in the Telegraph, even if you really read the Rat and Mouse.
It's art. And it radiates heat. Cinier's stone sculptures offer a daring alternative to the chunky old-school look and modernist excess. They won't be love-at-first-sight for everybody, but they're certainly different. They list Radiating Style (I almost couldn't bring myself to type that) as a UK outlet.
The RHS's advice is available in a leaflet called Front Gardens, compiled by Leigh Hunt, a horticulture adviser at RHS Wisley, who was influenced by his experiences in West London. "I remember witnessing vast swaths of gardens being turned into hard surfacing. The roads became inhospitable and grey." he said.
And it's not just about inhospitality and greyness, either. It's about house prices, too. (That got your attention.) Here's a list of reasons why it's bad to turn your front garden into a carpark:
- Less rainwater's absorbed. It has to go somewhere, and the drains weren't built to cope. It could back up and flood your house.
- More pavement, less trees means more heat.
- Birds and small animals don't like tarmac.
- A Halifax study showed you gained as much as 23% in property value by living in an area with nice gardens.
And if you must squeeze your car up to your house, the RHS goes so far as to provide some tips about how to do it without totally nuking the nature. There's more over at the Times.
And it's just so damn hard to find the fine stuff. Hive H2 is a shelving system based on the original award-winning Hive system by Chris Ferebee of 521 Design. It's American. But it ships... if you're feeling flush. (Incidentally - if you're investment-minded, some original Hive prototypes are available via the website.)
According to this fabulous piece from the Sunday Telegraph, self-storage units (those warehouses with rentable secure space you see looming at the edge of A-roads) are getting used for all kinds of unlikely things... lunchtime flute practice, secret wine cellar, giant porn stash. And, with space at a premium, it's a booming industry, gaining in demand by something like 30% or 40% a year. Wow. But how's this for a tragedy:
Terence, 56, potters off down a long brightly-lit corridor, takes a key out of his pocket and opens a locked door to his left. Beyond is a room, 250 foot square, containing a battered old armchair and an urn containing his mother's ashes. He will spend the next couple of hours cocooned in this temperature-regulated box to which nobody else in the world has access.
I would never aspire to live in Wimbledon, the shops are too chichi and the houses being built here are hideous, mock-Tudor monstrosities.
Designer Ab Rogers lives in Wimbledon, but in a hyper-cool Zip Up House, designed by his father. HIs children sleep in pods, complete with DVD players and stereos. And Rogers himself has a micro-office - a complete office-in-a-chair. It's a good read, and it's on the other side of this link.
That's according to east Londoners, asked by the Institute for Public Policy Research. New homes were also said to suffer from small rooms and a lack of privacy and outdoor space. It's bad news for the Government, whose Thames Gateway house building plan is intended as an answer to overcrowding and high prices in the Capital, and it's an interesting comment on the state of new-builds in the country. The focus groups suggested they'd only be attracted away from "the second-hand market" by more individual-looking properties, designed around a proper plan that puts community first. More, here. And, below, some of the comments lifted from the focus groups (because they're interesting):
"The number of times I walk to the corner shop because I haven't got any milk! You need one of those."
"You need shops you can walk to. Just for bread or milk. And maybe a takeaway."
"When I go to a house I look at the street. Where the shops are located. Bus stops and train stations. Facilities I'm going to need every day."
"We get bigger TVs and bigger stereos, but they keep the walls really thin so you can hear everything."
"I'm paranoid about new build houses - a lot of them are lifeless."
"They are all made out of the same sort of shiny brick. They look like plastic houses"
"We don't want to feel like we are living as just one more in a series. We want our home to be a bit different."
I love that picture. In my heart, I know life on one of these new Double Decker Living buses won't be all about semi-naked women lounging around in high heels (my guess is it'll be more like this)... but a property nut has to have a dream too.
Over at Londonist, there's considerable enthusiasm at news that Southwark's Shard project is expanding, with a kind of "Baby Shard" announced by Renzo Piano. Well, he says "Baby", but we're talking about a £400 million shopping and office development, about the height of 1 Canada Square... the kind of baby that at one time would be destined for a career in the circus, really. But head over to Londonist for a picture of what the towers are replacing, and share in our mutual excitement.
A survey by Privilege Home Insurance finds that UK homeowners believe they have increased the value of their properties' by 51 billion pounds after being inspired by TV makeover shows. But the key word in that sentence appears to be believe. It looks as if these figures are reached by asking said homeowners for estimates, and even for experts this kind of valuation is a totally inexact science. Top telly-inspired projects are said to include garden water-features. Does a water-feature add value? Call me a snob, but aren't water-features the new gnomes?
And are we excited about these glamorous twin towers, designed by the team who brought you Chicago's Sears Tower? Damn right, we are. Fifty storeys, a resident's cocktail bar on the top, floor-to-ceiling glass walls, and a tiered structure that borrows from the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings ... I know, to many the towers will represent evil icons to filthy lucre; and to most Londoners they'll remain entirely irrelevant. But - one of two self-confessed capitalist pigs stirred enough by London property to launch this website in the first place - I just can't help getting turned on by the idea of something so ambitious... a reaching for the sky that will reference the coolest structures from the home of the skyscraper, and inject some style into the Docklands' Germanic, corporate landscape. Some more details, here.
According to reports from those who were there, the judges were left shellshocked by Lynch Associates heavyweight performance at Tuesday's Building Design Young Architect of the Year presentations. Patrick and Claudia Lynch apparently arrived with a builders' van full of models, and peppered their presentation with enough quotations by Oscar Wilde, Joseph Rykwert and Bob Dylan to leave even Alain de Botton scratching his pale head, while fellow judge Graham Morrison was said (by Building Design's Ellis Woodman) to have found the presentation off-putting. Not so off-putting the Lynches didn't win, though. Ironically, their portfolio speaks for itself.
While we await the non-news from the Bank of England, why not cast your eyes over this guide to getting yourself a 50s-style kitchen? They say hi-tech is over, to be replaced by retro-modern-with-a-bit-of-colour-and-proper-shoes. It's a look I like (and so does Mrs Brandt, as you can tell from the artist's representation of a typical scene in the Brandt kitchen).
If you caught the BBC News this lunchtime you'll have enjoyed being shown around the inside of a new bijou, 9x9x9 (ft) pod home designed by Richard Horden of Horden Cherry Lee architects. It's being tested out by German students right now, and the idea is that one day the pod homes might be used as a temporary solution for key workers. Astonishingly - and this was a real testament to intelligent design - they looked comfortable and elegant inside... as long as you don't own lots of stuff. More, here.
It's Suburbia Day in the broadsheets, as the Telegraph and the Independent both celebrate the opening of In Search Of Suburbia, an interesting new exhibition at The Museum Of Domestic Design And Architecture (in, wait for it... Barnet). The exhibition - which runs until March 26, 2006 - reminds us of the spirit of Utopianism in which the suburbs were designed. The Telegraph article is the more interesting of the two, and points to a recent report by the South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA) which is attempting to rekindle that spirit once again:
SEERA suggests that the suburbs of tomorrow could become laboratories for solar and wind power, havens for homeworkers. Residential streets should be designated "home zones" and corrugated with road humps. They could buzz to the tinkle of bicycle bells and delight in foods brought in to farmers' markets. They could create cafes, affordable housing, and, like their rural counterparts, hold local fetes and organise litter-collecting rotas."
That's according to the Times, and it's very good news for me. The backstory is that I want an aquarium, but Mrs Brandt thinks they're naff. I've tried explaining - you don't have to buy the miniature shipwreck and sailor skeleton, but so far it's been no good. Could the Times help me out?
IN CASE YOU had not realised, fish tanks are no longer naff. Far from it. Nowadays they are deeply stylish. Gone are the aquariums that straddle half your living room, housed in a mahogany cabinet case with neon shades of gravel and a castle-motif ornament inside. These days fish tanks are less about the fish and more about design.
Thank you. The piece goes on to single out Designer Aquariums - a business run by forward-looking fishist Matthew Bubear, whose personal bubear is what he calls the "fish anorak" (insert your own joke about tiny stitching here). Designer Aquariums has apparently installed high-end design tanks in the homes of JK, Branson, Hirst and McQueen. Giant fish tank room dividers are the height of fashion, and there are even tanks with plasma screens behind them, so you can tune into When Sharks Attack and watch the little fellas stroke.
And I thought the single upside of London yobbery was that Americans would finally realise we don't all live like Ted and Ralph. Well, most of us don't. So what's all this - discovered today in a North Carolina interior design article - about?
Large and dramatic, the headboard of this bed is covered in sumptuous chocolate brown microfiber that looks and feels like suede for added tactile interest. Layer on a beautiful bedspread and add a collection of throw pillows in tweed and herringbone and you'll feel like you've been transported to a London flat.
With Open House London next weekend, the Observer casts a useful glance over the eco-friendlier addresses taking part, including John Broome's (author of "The Self-Build Book") Lewisham home, built on Walter Segal post-and-beam principles. In Hackney, you'll be able to look round the RIBA award-winning In-Between House, built by architects Annalie Riches, Silvia Ullmayer and Barti Garibaldo - glass-fronted, timber-framed, and insulated with wool and paper. It's a good read, especially if you're planning your weekend. More, here.
According to a survey by the London Assembly Environment Committee, we've gone and paved over two thirds of London's front gardens... an area 22 times the size of Hyde Park. Not only is the result ugly, it's also putting dangerous pressure on the Victorian sewer system. It could all end badly. More, here.
Are you cool enough for shell and core? According to Lisa Freedman, writing in today's Times, the opportunity to buy a property in a totally unfinished state is becoming a thing of the past for anybody except the ultra-rich. Us scruffy ordinary people... first of all, we're confused by the space... we tend to underestimate the square footage when it's still just a shell... we don't have the vision to see it complete, and the lenders just don't trust us. If you're rolling in money, however, shell and core is a cool alternative to being told what to like by a developer. The piece mentions a semi-detached shell in Hampstead, presented by Regime Development, that sold for £3.5 million; before inevitably getting into Candy & Candy's 21 Manresa Road development in Chelsea, where the specification doesn't extend far beyond license plate recognition (to operate the car park security gates) and air conditioning. Speaking of Manresa Road... anybody got the inside scoop on who's set to move in?
It's a real story. Despite the fact that floor- and wall-coverings are very much back in fashion, Britain's biggest carpet retailer announced a 7% slump in sales. Apparently, it's terrorism that's to blame.
Tonight's Streets Ahead (8pm, Channel 4) features "a street of drab, grey 1930s houses in Bexleyheath". And then the Rat and Mouse's favourite property presenter arrives - all confident but polite and quietly seething. See how the residents react to a C4 4homes royal visit, and how Beeny and project manager David Flight manage to recreate the rotten row into something much more acceptable to middle class tastes. More, here. And if you want your own shabby street Beenied, try here. And finally, if you live on that no longer drab, grey street in Bexleyheath and want to send us your pics or describe the Streets Ahead experience, we'd love to hear from you.
Remember us featuring the skinny masterpiece back at the very beginning of June? Well it apparently takes more than first prize in the RIBA Future Homes competition (2004), a listing as one of the Independent's Top Ten Modern Buildings (2004) and a Best Building prize in the London Architecture Bienalle (2004) to shift a house so thin you need a crane to hoist in your furniture. So it gets this big feature in the Sunday Times (just posted on the Internet), which tacitly suggests the owner has just decided to let it go. At £1.15 million, there's no mention of a reduction either. That's because there hasn't been one. You can still find the particulars here.
Also lost in yesterday's news... property group Liberty International were given the green light to redevelop Stamford Street's King's Reach, on the south bank of the Thames in Southwark. The Milroy Walk arcade will come down, and be replaced by new shops, offices, cafes... in fact, according to the press release, a veritable office village. IPC (who publish everything that EMAP doesn't, including Country Life and Nuts) will leave the King's Reach Tower. The Tower, however, will remain, and gain an extra four floors and some external cladding which we hope won't look anything like the illustration.
Over at Londonist, they're carrying the story of a potentially very dramatic addition to the London skyline. DIFA Tower (I know... too boring, it'll have to change) will be up to 40 metres higher than the Gherkin. The architect has been named as Kohn Pederson Fox, and the location... 6-8 Bishopsgate. Which means, from certain angles, it may well detract from the Swiss Re. What do you think? Good idea? Or not?
There's some new research by the Federation of Master Builders that reveals that, of the third of us who opt to pay builders cash to avoid VAT, 80% are left unsatisfied with the work. The point - apparently - is that cash-payment is a shortcut to cowboy builders. The survey doesn't, however, reveal the satisfaction-level of those of us who pay by cheque or credit card. No matter. The FMB are starting a campaign to have the VAT level reduced to 5.5%. After the French government did something similar, there was a significant shift in employment from the dodgy to the legit. More, here.