New apartments: get the whole package

High-end developers are no longer satisfied with selling swanky apartments. Now they package whole lifestyles - cushions and cutlery included. Jonathan Christie reports
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The Independent Online

The high of moving into a new home is always tainted by practical issues. Do you just freshen up the walls and ship in your old, comfy sofa - or start knocking through and buy that Corby chaise you've always wanted? The shell you buy is only the beginning; what you do to it is how it becomes your home.

It's a process that can take a few weeks of intense building work or years of accumulating furniture. Of course, we don't do it consciously to express ourselves; nonetheless our homes say as much about us as almost anything else and offer the casual viewer an index of our thoughts, tastes and temperament.

But for some, the endless decisions that make up their intimate spaces are a chore best left to someone else. Even down to what's in the cutlery drawers.

Take 199 The Knightsbridge, a studio apartment in south-west London. It has been re-modelled by Target Living, a "complete, in-depth life-styling service" that's co-owned by designer and The Wow Factor presenter Tara Bernerd. The property is being sold with its entire contents; this is not just putting a life on a plate - this is a life cut up and chewed for you.

Everything from the linen, kitchen appliances and scatter cushions are included in the price. Just grab the keys, pop the kettle on (also included) and you're ready to go.

Instead of trying to imagine your own possessions in the rooms, you only have to picture yourself reclining in the scene laid out before you. Everything at 199 The Knightsbridge has been well conceived and detailed with the designer's style singing out loud and clear.

But a bargain this is not. The 646sq ft property is being marketed at £1.1m yet, with prime residential space in London averaging around £1,250 per square foot, a crude estimate would price this apartment nearer £800,000. It seems that a fancy makeover and a few choice items of furniture can add a premium of anything up to 30 per cent for the canny speculator.

But The Knightsbridge is not a one-off. Another instant lifestyle is being offered near Park Lane. Paul Davies, a designer-developer whose website describes him as a "Couturier of the Home", has reconfigured a second-floor apartment to create a space full of drama.

It has automated blinds and lighting, a home cinema and multi-room sound system that's controllable from anywhere in the house. And, of course, all the knick-knacks are included - right down to the artwork on the walls. Davies is offering a package that contains every gadget and designer piece you could wish for - so long as they are the ones he has installed.

The price tag for Hereford House is £3.75m for the lot, but you can opt out of these extras and buy the apartment unfurnished for the marginally slimmer £3.5m. As sophisticated and seductive as the interiors are, £250,000 is a hefty furniture budget whichever way you look at it. So who are these buyers that are prepared to foot this bill of convenience?

A mixture it seems, from businessmen looking for a slick city base, to buy-to-let investors with an eye to the future. "Our typical buyer," says Paul Davies, "is a non-UK resident who needs to be here for three or four months a year, but we also sell to foreign heads of state looking for somewhere for their children to live while studying. "The main requirements are location and quality," continues Davies. "We cater for people who don't want to think about details or deal with the effort of employing a designer. Our speciality is creating one-off apartments with all the facilities of a hotel - gyms, mini bars, dry cleaning. When you buy a car or a piece of couture clothing, someone's designed it for you and that's what we do."

There's more than a hint of the hip hotel about these homes - but could it be rather liberating to not have to argue with your stylist about the price of the taps or the colour of the curtains? Maybe getting exactly what you want, right now, is the logical next step in simplifying our hectic, 21st-century lives.

It might feel peculiar the first time you go to find the bread knife in your new home, but by that point the one decision you need to make about your lifestyle will be in the past. Whereas, for DIYers, the years of torture are just beginning.

"People are less emotional than you think about what they live in," states Davies. But how cash-rich, time-poor do you need to be to lose your sense of connection to the stuff that surrounds you? This trend towards living in a house with no personal history is obviously a rich seam for developers and a no-brainer for their buyers, but in the meantime the rest of us can go on trawling the shops for that chance meeting with the next piece of our domestic jigsaws. Maybe we're just too emotional.

199 The Knightsbridge, London SW7, £1.1m, Knight Frank (020-7591 8600, www.knightfrank.co.uk);

23 Hereford House, London W1, £3.75m, Hobart Slater (020-7581 8277, www.hobartslater.co.uk)

Paul Davies: 020-7529 0990, www.pauldavieslondon.co.uk

Target Living: 020-7823 2316, www.targetliving.com

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