Tried and tested is not a phrase usually associated with homes for sale, but if it was then Jonathan Wilson’s property, now on the market for £635,000 with The Modern House, would get 10 out of 10 and a gold star to boot.
Development director for pioneering home builder CITU, he went above and beyond the call of duty by selling his Victorian house in North Leeds so he could buy one of the first properties in the firm’s multi-award winning, zero carbon Climate Innovation District, which is in walking distance of Leeds city centre by the River Aire.
The purchase was in pursuit of perfection as Jonathan has used his prototype townhouse in the seductively named Secret Garden as a test bed for a host of design ideas. Many of these ideas are now being carried forward into apartments and houses in the next phases of construction on the revolutionary 15-acre site, which will eventually hold 1,000 eco-friendly homes and six acres of open green space.
When complete by 2030, the Climate Innovation District will be the UK’s biggest sustainable urban development, complete with a primary school, care home, bars, restaurants, cafes and a bakery. Across the river and accessed by a new bridge is CITU Works, the company’s off-site manufacturing facility, and its contemporary HQ, The Place.
The decision to sell the ideal home that Jonathan shares with his partner Millie Duncan, a research fellow specialising in carbon reduction, is in the name of continued innovation. They are moving to do another prototype project in the district’s new apartments, Aire Lofts.
“We will be using it to try new ideas while allowing things to go wrong in pursuit of breaking the rules to make them again,” says Jonathan, who adds: “We have lived in the district for 18 months and have loved it, which is why we are not leaving. I’m not sure we could now. The most noticeable life change for us has been the place itself. Living in a district that is full of biodiversity with usable public and semi-private open spaces while watching the community around me grow, develop and thrive has been a joy.
“As the person ultimately responsible for the design and place creation at Citu, to be able to see first-hand what’s working and what’s not has been invaluable, plus being 15 minutes walk from the station and the city centre has been transformational. We’ve reduced our car miles by 94 per cent.”
Designed with Swedish placemaking experts White Arkitekter, the district banishes vehicles to an undercroft, so the development is car-free. People can meet, relax and chat in the streets and on the communal deck by the river. While the houses have gardens, there are no fences so there is no physical barrier to neighbourliness.
There will be no shortage of buyers for Jonathan’s contemporary, three-storey townhouse, which has been designed to maximise the views, natural light and space. Another big selling point is its energy efficiency.
The timber-framed, Scandi-inspired home with rainscreen cladding, triple glazed doors and windows and a green roof is airtight and has a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system and solar panels. “We reduced the number of heaters to just one and we only used it in winter so the heating bill for a whole year was £200,” says Jonathan.
The property’s interiors bear the hallmark of Jonathan’s design hero Dieter Rams whose philosophy is “less but better”. There are no architraves and no skirting boards and space-saving sliding doors have been used.
The concrete floor on the ground floor and the ply floors on the two upper levels have been left exposed and an extra long kitchen island has proved perfect for entertaining.
“The whole experience has developed both my and CITU Design’s perspective,” says Jonathan, who relishes trial and error and moved walls when things didn’t line up or he didn’t get the view he wanted.
“The design is very contemporary and minimal but even people who aren’t into that fall in love with the house because it is calm. We didn’t want to be surrounded with stuff,” he says.
Visitors have compared the property to an art gallery, which is a compliment he loves, though the biggest talking point is the net, usually used on catamarans, which hangs over the top of the triple height light well at the rear of the house.
It is perfectly safe and features in the new Climate Innovation District showhome as an added extra that buyers can opt for.
“We use it every evening. Lying there, you can see the stars through the skylight and we’ve got a projector up there too, so we often throw some pillows down and watch a film,” says Jonathan.
One of Millie’s favourite spaces is their bedroom with floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the river and trees. “It feels like you could be in the middle of the countryside, even though you’re a 10-minute walk from Leeds city centre,” she says.
The ground floor of the three-storey house has a large dining space and kitchen and a seating area plus a WC and hidden storage. On the first floor, there is a bedroom/sitting room, a work area and shower room. The second floor has two bedrooms, including a main suite with shower room and Juliet balcony. Outside is a seating area, shared river front gardens and a garage in the undercroft car park.
Jonathan concludes: “The learning will never stop but this house has been a catalyst for progressive, fun development.” For details of the sale of the house at the Secret Garden, visit www.themodernhouse.com.
*A new showhome has now opened at CITU’s Climate Innovation District, in Leeds. The super stylish property offers a viewing experience for those interested in buying either a house or one of the new apartments at Aire Lofts. Prices for apartments range from £198,500 to £295,000. Pictured is part of the site with Aire Lofts, right. The showhome features brand, artist and maker collaborations. For more details viist CITU’s website, www.citu.co.uk.
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