Why the 1960s are back in fashion when it comes to buying a house
Think about 1960s houses and what comes to mind? Something between the groovy psychedelic interiors of vintage TV show The Avengers, starring the late Diana Rigg, and a bland box with no interesting period features?
However, with a shortage of houses for sale and new ideas from interior designers, such as Ilkley-based Ann Marie Cousins, 1960s homes are back in fashion.
She is up for a prestigious SBID (Society of British and International Interior Design) award in November for her transformation of a four-bedroomed 1960s family house in Middleton, Ilkley, these once unloved ugly ducklings of the property world are turning into stylish swans.
There will always be people who want to live in a quintessential chocolate box stone cottage, says Toby Cockcroft, owner of prime estate agency Croft Residential, however, Yorkshire buyers are coming round to the idea of taking on 1960s homes and making them their own.
“I must admit, I’ve never taken a call from anybody saying they want a big 1960s lump,” he says. “But increasingly, people do like the fact that they can turn an ugly duckling into a swan. I know of one house of that period we sold recently north of Thirsk, the new owners funked it up and put in a big wrap-around extension clad with a mixture of wood and render.”
Cockcroft reckons that buyers are prepared to look again at 1960s properties because, thanks to fears over interest rate rises and the cost of living crisis, there is precious little else coming to the market.
“I’d say 60 per cent of buyers are probably now more amenable, there is very little for sale. Sometimes people’s idea of their dream home isn’t what they first set out to look for.”
Even modest houses built in the 1960s are likely to offer strong architectural elements that can be adapted remarkably well to contemporary trends.
Large picture windows, clerestory glazing situated at height within internal walls, generous open-plan living space and an awareness of the link between internal and external space are typical.
“The last few years have seen an increasing recognition of what 1960s houses can deliver,” says Patrick McCutcheon, head of residential at estate agency Dacre, Son & Hartley, which has 20 offices across North and West Yorkshire.
“In today’s terms, their plots are often generous and allow plenty of scope to extend the main living space and what once might have been seen as quirky design elements can now be enhanced in to stunning and more contemporary design features. Space and adaptability work in their favour.”
McCutcheon says when he drives around estates in mid-Wharfedale and beyond, he is often impressed by how creative homeowners have made their properties stand out from the crowd, “from reimagined exterior finishes such as cladding, to substantial additions”.
He also points out: “In Ilkley, for example, some of the most spacious apartments date from the 1960s, and occupy some of the most desirable plots - perhaps due to less green belt protection at the time they were built.”
Showing just what is possible with a 1960s blank canvas, Ann Marie, founder of AMC Design https://amcinteriordesign.co.uk/ who works across the UK, Yorkshire and the North, including Leeds, Harrogate, Wetherby, York and Ripon, has bagged a spot in the running for an award in the SBID’s Residential Budget up to £50,000 category https://www.sbidawards.com/finalist/owler-park/, to be announced in November.
“The family who live here, who have three children all in their late teens, had owned a Victorian home nearby and when moving decided they wanted a big change,” explains Ann Marie.
“They were looking for a large living space to spend time as a family and to socialise, which a 1960s home offers in abundance.”
The 260 sqm (2,700 sqft) house benefits from wonderful views over the Wharfe Valley, and was bought in December 2020 for approximately £1.25m.
The previous owner had started a reconfiguration of the downstairs area, and already filled in the basement swimming pool.
“We worked on the kitchen, pantry, dining area, hall, sitting room, WC, master ensuite and dressing room,” Ann Marie explains. “The family had already decorated their children’s rooms and the teen hangout space before we got involved.”
With such a large open-plan living space, the main focus was on making the area feel cosy, despite its size.
“We achieved this by zoning,” says Ann Marie, who picked a funky combination of slate grey/blue and sharp orange as a colour palette for the living space.
A large, deep L-shaped sofa determined the size of the lounging area, supplemented by additional seating to allow plenty of scope to enjoy the views.
The kitchen was completely remodelled to become far more in keeping with the house’s streamlined appeal.
“There was an old galley-style kitchen with Victorian-style detailing, which didn’t work for this busy family and wasn’t in keeping with the house’s style,” says Ann Marie. “The owners wanted a clean style that worked for the five of them, but also to provide a sociable space for the children’s friends to drop by and for them to host big parties. We went for a contemporary look with a nod to the 1960s, with plenty of storage and some iconic design pieces like the Tom Dixon Melt pendants and the Karetell stools.”
Some of the design decisions were brave, but have clearly paid off. Ann Marie admits that the biggest problem when coming up with interior schemes for such houses is that owners have pre-conceived ideas. “I feel sometimes people forget to focus on the strengths of a house and instead try to recreate the style of the more common period properties that are around,” she says. “We really wanted to make the most of the cool 1960s bones of this one.”