Wayne Hemmingway was recently appointed Newbuild Design Maestro/Czar/Head Honcho. His brief is sorting the problems that frequently arise when architectural blueprints are lost in translation between desk and building site.
I have written much here about those same faults. Newbuilds are: shoddily built, poorly maintained and badly designed. I don’t know what else I can do. Should I retrain as an architect, spend seven to eight years as a student before qualifying then find a job and while persuading a wealthy patron to commission the home of my dreams? Or somehow contrive to obtain the huge sums of money it would require to become a property developer, and subsequently hire a sympathetic architect? No. All I can do is write about the situation, so I will outline my suggestions, and hope Mr Hemmingway sees them.
My first request would be to end the tyranny of open-plan living. It’s fine when you’re luxuriating in a marvel of construction carved into a hillside or a barn like on ‘Grand Designs.’ But it’s only ever satisfactory and comfortable when your expensive dream home sports a large, airy living space with top end appliances so quiet and still you forget where they are (same with the children; wherever did we put them?) or enough room for different ‘zones,’ with a lovely garden view and plentiful storage. Open-plan does not work when you have up to four people crushed into a shoebox, with cheap noisy washing machines, toddlers, extractor fans and phones roaring like scary monsters. Kitchen/diners are logical, but could we have a separate lounge?
Or could utility rooms be decreed compulsory? Explain to me why two bedroom newbuilds feature two bathrooms (one en suite) when residents must share a tiny lounge/diner/everything room, with a cooker, and a swing-bin with mops and brooms standing to attention? We share our space with the roaring washing machine, with nowhere to stash recyclables, or anything.
A few inbuilt cupboards would change my life and rock my world. We’d be able to store things, and do a weeks shop in advance, and have belongings, like normal people, instead of keeping everything boxed up in the hall. I’m dewy eyed and wistful at the mere idea.
Shelving, or alcoves for shelving, would be so helpful, as I am currently looking at all my books packed up in banana boxes, which is such a waste: I can’t nail in sturdy shelves, as walls are so flimsy I might crash though into next door like Jack Nicholson in The Shining: ‘…heeerrres Rentergirl!’
Balconies are fantastic: the view, the fresh air, the space for plants, laundry and even barbecues is one of the few positive things about living here. But could they not be set above each in one vertical line, so as to allow for some semblance of privacy (it’s like sharing a tiny yard).
Improved soundproofing, an end to communal post-rooms and secure main doors would be splendid, as would a little more space.
An extra ten feet on my lounge and bedroom really would make all the difference; I could even fit in some chairs. I’d love some chairs.
I can do no more. I hope Wayne Hemmingway gets to read all this, and maybe even meet and discuss these issues with those poor people doomed to live in a newbuild. But I doubt anything will change.