Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Help Me Wayne Hemmingway; You're My Only Hope

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.


hpc fanatic said...

love your work renter grrl!

RenterGirl said...

...why thank you!

Sharon said...

I despise the open plan nonsense - its a ruse to squeeze more flats (I can't bring myself to call them apartments) into the same space. They're doing it with all new builds - including houses - claiming 'that is how people want to live' Erm. No.

I really think they need to bring minimun sizes back for rooms/buildings - they still do it for social housing new builds. It makes me laugh that social housing on mixed tenure estates is larger than the very expensive open market properties.

Nationalist said...

Sorry to say Renter Girl that new build flats are tomorrow's slums and social housing--those that aren't bulldozed of course. Just make sure you don't accidentally buy one; their values are already in freefall.

Alice Cook said...

Time to retrain as an architecture consultant.

It is the size of new builds that bother me, that and the dishonest photos in the adverts.

RenterGirl said...

Yep - you're right about the estate agent newbuild pictures Alice: always taken from a high angle in the corner.
It used to be the other way around; on mixed allocation devlopments, social housing (council housing as was) tended to be half the size of the private homes. Now, it's the other way around. I viewed a newbuild with a bedroom too small for a double bed.
Newbuild flats are unfortunately the slums of today, not tomorrow.
I'd never want to own one. And prices are plummetting. It's a nightmare.
Thanks for reading!

MattW said...

Excellent blog, rentergirl!

Re: the ensuite point you made - a well known developer is redeveloping a site near me. Upon checking the floorplans, the 2 bedroomed houses have ensuites to the master bedroom. So that means 3 WCs: one compulsary on the ground floor, one in the bathroom and one in the ensuite! So that's more WCs then there are bedrooms in these houses, which compromise the sizes of the bedrooms. The developers has a cheek to ask over £157k for these little boxes too. Most of the post 1930s council housing where I live have much better layouts!

RenterGirl said...

Those early council houses were mostly brilliant: so strong, and well designed. Even some of the flats were good examples of thinking about people's needs. In a crowded family home, and in these times of daily bathing (they didn't do that in the thirties!) then two bathrooms make sense. But three loos in a two bed flat? I that in a special development for the incontinent?
Thanks for reading!

the reaper said...

dare I suggest a link to the secret agent?

lovely chap.hear about the coming crash from anotehr angle.it's a proper soap stroy,so much sexual tension in the air.

RenterGirl said...

I am aware of that blog, and will link with it! Thanks!