Not unexpectedly, residential house prices in the London boroughs are taking a breather; sales are overall about 0.2 % down on a year ago. Three causes take the blame: Stamp Duty, tougher lending criteria and that pantomime villain, Brexit.
Prime residential properties in Fulham fell by 4.6% in the last year but that is an average; there are still investment bargains to be found, it’s just that the opportunities are less obvious than they were in the past. Some would argue that the heady gold rush days were fuelled by fast-talking estate agents; they are not so fast-talking now and maybe that’s a good thing. People who got onto the property ladder when it was affordable are still climbing but at a more leisurely pace. Neighbourhoods are becoming more and more established and there’s a possibility that residents will have more in common with their neighbours than in the upheaval days of gentrification.
Fulham is settling down. Ambition has been replaced by family needs. Children grow up in a culture of financial literacy that will serve them well in the future. And, they’ll have roots.
One reason for expanding rather than moving is the cost. Stamp duty and professional fees on a £1million property, the average for Fulham, would add around £50,000 to the price; even without a minimal addition to your existing mortgage, you could expand the house up, down or sideways for the same money! And people do.
Nick Skinner and Richard Gifford founded of Element Construction in Fulham ten years ago has not only seen how Fulham property has changed over the years but has been closely involved in the process. “Nearly all the houses in Fulham are solidly-built artisan homes founded on firm ground so, structurally, they can be brought up to the 21stcentury requirements relatively easily,” Nick told us. “for example, we redeveloped a 550sq ft one-bedroom ground floor flat into a spacious 1900sq ft residence near Eel Brook Common.” Element Construction is based in Parsons Green is a high end construction company. Their success is down to bringing together a proven team of tradesmen best suited to the project in hand.
Skyrises and conversions
“We often work with architects. There’s always a mutual trust between us. We do a lot of work with Jo Cowen,” explained Nick.
“Yes, we know Element Construction well. They’re good,” confirmed José Lillo Aleman of Jo Cowen Architects. “They help us deliver high quality homes fit for the new demography of Fulham.”
Jo Cowen and Chris Wilkinson, co-founders of Jo Cowen Architects, broke away from one of London’s stand out architectural practices to make their own contribution to London’s changing skyline. Based in Chelsea, they have attracted much attention with their exciting skyrises and residential conversions. It is an award-winning practice that specialises in high quality deliverable design, offering a complete architectural and interiors service from inception and concept design to on-site management and post-completion.
4,000 Sq Ft makeover
A recent example of their work is an impressive conversion of a big, corner house into a state-of-the-art mansion near Craven Cottage, Fulham Football Club’s home ground.
When the house was put on the market in late 2016, it came with planning permission for expansion but the new owners had bigger and better ideas so they approached Jo Cowen Architects.
Working closely with Katherine, a joint owner, the existing structure was to be expanded to include a new top floor, a side extension to the road, a children-friendly garden with pergola and an excavation to accommodate a spacious basement. The space was almost doubled to 4,000 sq ft. The plans sailed through the Hammersmith planners. Apart from the structural alterations, this was the perfect opportunity to fit the building out with all the new age technologies of a fully automated home.
Both Nick and José were effusive about the client, Katherine. Though she had no formal training in interior design she knew exactly what she wanted. “Her sense of design, colour and textures is amazing,” said José. “She was such a pleasure to work with. There was a moment when it seemed she ceased being the client and became part of the project team. I remember a discussion we had about the staircase; we wanted it to run straight down to the front door. Katherine wanted a right angle turn into the hall. The argument swung this way and that until we conceded she was right. It added an interesting dimension to the hall.”
Snakes and ladders
The staircase, which runs from the top floor down to the basement, is an eye-catching feature of the house. The bannister, in particular, snakes its way all the way down from the top of the house was made by GT Joinery Woodworking Ltd, founded by Tigran Guyumjyan. Said Katherine: “They were true craftsmen – the care and attention they paid to the continuous handrail in particular was something else!”Despite the outstanding workmanship, Katherine wanted the wood to match the silver white oiled oak parquet floor.
The timber for the floors was supplied by The Natural Wood Floor Company from Wandsworth and fitted by HS Wood Flooring, a preferred fitting company whose Managing Director is Tim Hobern. Katherine was delighted with the floors throughout the house so she asked Tim what he could do about matching the bannister rail and the stairs. Tim was reluctant to make any promises other than he would give it his best shot.
Now, Tim is one of those people who instils confidence by feigning ignorance. Katherine explained, “Tim is both charming and clearly demonstrates his understanding of wood and its characteristics. The way he stroked his chin and furrowed his brow while he thought about it told me all I needed to know. He wasn’t going to guess. I told him to get on with it and he didn’t let me down. His team did a fantastic job.”
Tim’s response was, “The floor was pre-finished so finding the right colour was not just a matter of mixing the right colours to a formula. We had to test a great many samples, so many, in fact, I lost count. Finally, we found we got the right one. It was time well spent just to see the delight on Katherine’s face when she saw the result!”
In all, the reconstruction and decoration took 14 months. Was it all worth it? “Absolutely,” said Katherine. “We had the best people doing a wonderful job. I love my new home. My husband loves it. And my children never tire of it. We won’t be moving anywhere for a long, long time!”