Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lateral Thinking; If Your Dream Apartment Is Too Small, Just Knock through into Next Door, Says David Spittles

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Lateral Thinking; If Your Dream Apartment Is Too Small, Just Knock through into Next Door, Says David Spittles

Article excerpt

WIDTH rather than height is the wish of many modern homebuyers.

Narrow town houses with rooms stacked on top of each other are unsuitable for the sort of relaxed, open-plan living that is now fashionable.

The snag for buyers with bigger budgets who prefer to live in an apartment is that most new flats, even at the top end, are too small for a genuinely impressive one-level interior. This helps to explain why there were more than 3,000 planning applications for lateral conversions in London last year.

Eaton Square is perhaps the best example of where spacious flats have been created behind period facades that still look like individual houses.

Some loft developers give buyers the option to knock two or more units together. Buying off-plan can be a good idea because it limits the amount of structural work that is necessary, which otherwise can be expensive.

Penthouse buyers sometimes purchase a pair and then set about transforming them into a splendid single space, but lateral conversions normally happen lower down a building because apartments are cheaper to buy in the first place, says John Dodwell, director of builder London Town, which has several upmarket riverside schemes where lateral conversions are taking place.

Dodwell adds that lateral conversions cost up to [pounds sterling]80,000 and can take several months to complete. At The Bridge, opposite Battersea Park, one buyer is uniting two adjacent three-bedroom apartments to create one 4,800sq ft four-bedroom home.

London Town claims to have an advantage over some other developers in that it acts as project manager on behalf of investor companies and can therefore handle planning changes and engineering works in-house.

In other words, buyers do not have to employ an independent architect. Most volume housebuilders have stopped offering even limited bespoke design choices - certainly the option to buy shells - because they do not want the hassle. …

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