It’s not often you view a show home and feel like you’ve stumbled into an episode of Grand Designs.
Even Kevin McCloud, who has seen it all, would be drooling over the internal windows, the natural light, the high decorative ceilings, stepped levels, the finish and the millimetre perfect symmetry at number 8 Delamere Gardens.
It’s clear that the architects have been given free rein here. They’ve been let loose without constraint and the result is astounding.
Yet this case of architectural omnipotence is rare in new housing developments, where design is compromised by cost and indifference. It was only made possible when the architects from One 17 in Huddersfield decided to turn developers.
Mark Lee, a director at One 17, says: “If we work for developers our job is just to do the basic permission plans, then they take over. We wanted to bring good design to speculative housing and we think what we have done here is somewhere between a speculative build and a one-off house.”
They bought the land in Fixby, Huddersfield, in 2010 and got planning permission for 13 detached homes, whose exteriors are surprisingly traditional.
“The interiors are contemporary and that’s what people want but I think it would’ve been too risky to make the exterior contemporary. What we find is that people glance at the outside then walk in so it is far less important to them than we thought it would be,” says Mark.
The £1.285m show home has five double bedrooms, all with en-suite, and you enter through a double height hallway. To the left is a breakfast kitchen, utility room and a sitting room. It’s a semi open-plan arrangement although spaces are clearly defined thanks to partial walls and stepped levels.
“It would’ve been cheaper to have everything on one level but that would have destroyed everything we are about,” says Mark.
There are also steps down from the hall into a second sitting room with a raised library area at the back. Building regulations stipulated a balustrade for the stairs which “would not have looked good”, so the One 17 team has created a £2,500 bespoke wood screen that incorporates a bench.
Along with furniture from Redbrick Mill in Batley and from Samuel Cham in London, there is an abundance of bespoke pieces. These include the built-in cabinets, a coffee table, vanity units and a four-poster bed, all designed by the architects who thought carefully about how families might use the space.
There are also numerous internal windows designed to grab natural light and create views, like the one from the hall where you can see right through to the back garden.
The en-suite bathrooms are mostly internal, rather than adjoining exterior walls.
“There’s no reason why not. You don’t need a window in them as long as you have big mirrors to bounce the light around,” says Mark.
Thanks to a light gauge steel roof by U-Roof, there is plenty of space in the loft area, which has a large storage room and a huge master bedroom suite. This 800 sq ft open-plan area boasts a bath in the middle, followed by the bedroom space and there’s a shower with a glass screen at the end, although the toilet is tucked away.
Mark admits the room divides opinion. “Some people say ‘wow’ and the rest say ‘no way.’”
Everyone agrees on the décor. It is fabulous and no expense has been spared. Most developers would not have splashed out on Sangiacamo wardrobes in a children’s room or on the Ordnance Survey map mural above the bed, which cost £500.
There were, however, times when the One 17 team had to rein in or risk blowing the budget.
“We didn’t realise how difficult it can be to deliver this level of quality and still make a profit but that has helped us become better architects. It’s given us a proper understanding of value and will help us to advise clients,” says Mark.
Thanks to stricter mortgage conditions and the fact there are no other properties like those at Delamere Gardens, the main issue was with valuers who simply looked at square footage and location, rather than the spec.
“Undervaluing was incredibly frustrating because surveyors didn’t take account of the design details, quality or the bespoke elements, which are all expensive. It is such an outdated approach. One valuer didn’t even bother going upstairs when he came round, which really upset me. We lost three or four sales in the first two years because of undervaluing because people couldn’t get the mortgage they needed. Now we have sold more houses that isn’t an issue and we have set a new a benchmark for Huddersfield,” says Mark.
He adds: “We knew the price was right and so did the buyers. As soon as they come in here they see it and feel it. The symmetry and the amount of natural light has a lot to do with the success of these houses, people don’t realise it is there but they sense it. What we have learned is that people will pay for good design... Yes we have spent more on these houses but we have got more back in return.”
There are now four homes left for sale including number 8. So with recent awards for build quality and design under its belt for Delamere Gardens, the practice is now looking for more land and is discussing the possibility of building low-cost starter homes. It is also branching out again.
“We designed a lot of the furniture for the show house at Delamere because we couldn’t find what we wanted, so we’re planning to set up a One 17 online shop selling our own range along with some other carefully chosen pieces,” says Mark. “It’s all good fun and it ensures that we never get bored.”
• Properties at Delamere Gardens start at £600,000,www.delameregardens.co.uk