Property: Bin the pot-pourri; buy chrome taps

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Estate agents call it The Look, and they love it. It arrived with the conversion of redundant factories and offices into homes and has been copied relentlessly by developers everywhere. As Rosalind Russell writes, an ultra-modern decor can now determine how quickly that `Sold' board goes up outside your house or flat.

In upmarket areas, it adds thousands to the value. Most important, it sells property fast, even in the most grubby commercial streets that you wouldn't let your mother walk down after dark.

The Look includes pale wood strip floors, minimal white or cream furniture, stainless steel, semi-commercial-size kitchen appliances, and definitely no curtains.

"We can't sell those properties fast enough," says Peter Rollings, of the estate agency Foxtons. "One of the developers, Nigel Wells, paints one wall an earthy colour, using Farrow and Ball National Trust colours, and the rest white.

"It sounds extraordinary, but when you see it, it's brilliant. In another, he painted two doors orange; it's a real wow! factor. One of the other touches is to install cast-iron chunky radiators brought in from eastern Europe. So many people have liked the look, they just buy all the furnishings as well."

Carol Young and George Hodkinson, whose design firm Peacock Interiors fitted out a South Kensington three-bedroom property for Nigel Wells, say the look isn't difficult to achieve if you know where to source the ingredients.

"Lights are terribly important," says Carol. "The one thing we always go for are low voltage halogen lights from James MacFarlane's Designer Light Shop, in south London. They are very crisp.

"We like French chestnut floors, from Woods of Wales. A good tip: they can be pre-finished, so there's no messy sanding or varnishing, and you don't have to worry about the floors turning yellow. It's easy to lay, and extremely hard wearing. It works out no more expensive than a top- of-the-range fitted carpet."

The couple also avoid buying appliances in the UK, where prices are high. "We travel to France and buy Sholte or Miele appliances. We save about 20 per cent buying over there."

The fireplace in the South Kensington property (currently for sale at pounds 565,000) was designed and built by Howard Day, using prefabricated concrete blocks, plasterboard and a stainless steel flue. It looks very Med/Middle East and, at around pounds 1,600, it compares favourably with the traditional marble mantel.

But you've no chance of creating The Look if you've just had the sofa re-covered in tartan. Definitely out, say the agents Knight Frank; beyond the pale for 1998.

IN are:

Double fridges with ice-making machines, imported from the US

Chrome or nickel taps

Wood strip floors

Granite or slate kitchen work tops

Multi-attack showers

Commercial, fast-operating dishwashers

Stainless steel appliances

OUT are:

Dining-rooms (a waste of space)

"Antique" brass and gold-effect bath taps

Fussy paint finishes and stencilling

Mediterranean kitchen wall tiles

Festoon or frilly curtains

Victorian lamps


And - for good measure - stuffed wild animals, unless shot before 1914 by a member of your own family.

To get The Look, you'll need:

The latest Trevi electronic shower, which can be programmed to suit your mood. It can provide a full blast wake-up shower in the morning and a gentle, relaxing shower before bed. It can be programmed with six different settings via a touch panel, and saves the settings to memory. Cost: from pounds 797.25.

The Lacanche semi-professional fridge in stainless steel with brass trim and smoked glass door. Cost: from pounds 2,499. Or the Fourneaux de France under-counter fridge with stainless steel doors. Cost pounds 2499. Or the Smeg Fifties retro fridge FAB28, which comes in five colours including fire engine red. Cost: pounds 899.

Bisque radiators, like the curved Half X-Stream, 6ft 3in high, available in 1,500 colours or plated in nickel, chrome, brass or gold. Cost: from pounds 1,064 plus VAT.

A stainless steel washing-machine by Siemens. Cost: around pounds 1,200, or pounds 1,000 at Buyers and Sellers in Ladbroke Grove, west London.

A curved-front stainless steel oven by Smeg. Cost: pounds 750.

A Junckers solid beech floor, delivery only. Cost: from pounds 40.47 per square metre, plus VAT

Sir Norman Foster designer leather or rubber door handles. Cost: pounds 140 a pair.

A seamless, stainless-steel bath, the "Ursula", designed by the Glaswegian company Submarine and sold by Max Pike Bathrooms. Can be custom-made with either brushed satin or mirror finish, etched with Submarine's marque and hand-numbered. Cost: pounds 9,500 plus VAT, not including taps.

Low-voltage halogen lights, from the Designer Light Shop, pounds 21.80 a point plus around pounds 20 a point electrician's fee.

Foxtons (0171-590 1000); Peacock Interiors (0171-630 1234); Designer Light Shop (0171-928 0097); Trevi Showers (01482 470788); Lacanche & Fourneaux de France (0181-232 8882); Smeg (01235 861090); Bisque (01225 469244); Buyers & Sellers (0171-229 1947); Junckers (01376 534705); Max Pike Bathrooms (0171-730 7216).