Never can say goodbye

It's some seal of approval when the architect himself moves in to a development. Cheryl Markosky visits Park Place
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The Independent Online

Remember Victor Kyam? The guy in those commercials who loved his Remington razor so much that he bought the entire company? Well, architect Dieter Gockmann from Tasou Associates is the Victor Kyam of property. Having designed and built Park Place, a small new scheme of 14 homes for Dome Developments and City & Suburban Homes in north London, he has become so attached to it that he cannot bear to leave. So, instead of selling the only penthouse apartment to net a tidy sum, he lives there with his partner Neil.

"I just fell in love with it," admits Gockmann. What really tipped the balance was the huge open-plan living/dining/kitchen area on the second storey, which leads out to an expansive roof terrace with views of the neighbouring park, the Gherkin and the Post Office Tower. "I adore this space. It works a lot better than I thought it would - and even better, I don't have to leave it."

The difference between Kyam's world and Gockmann's is that the conception of Park Place was no doubt somewhat more interesting than a shaving-equipment production line. The zinc-clad, London stock brick and white render apartments and townhouses on the site of an old steam iron factory look brave and modern in an area that is more down-and-waiting than up-and-coming.

But this neglected patch of De Beauvoir Town on the Hoxton and Hackney borders (the selling agent, in a fit of sheer hyperbole, calls it Islington) holds promise. Park Place is in a good spot, overlooking a pleasing municipal park with tennis courts, mature trees, paddling pool and games pitch, and is minutes from the proposed Haggerston stop on the East London line extension.

Serious regeneration is on the cards, with developers moving in to make over crumbling old warehouses and abandoned buildings. Galliard Homes has bought a former pub for its four-storey Trafalgar Point scheme, with residential units above ground floor retail space. And once leading house builders arrive, more development is likely to follow, along with new shops, restaurants and bars.

Gockmann's coveted penthouse is tucked up at the end of the gated project, with its entrance on the second floor. Running over three levels, there are two bedroom suites with roomy en-suite bathrooms, a utility cupboard in the hallway housing the washing machine and drier and, of course, the eye-catching living/ kitchen space that takes up an entire floor.

There is a downside to buying a pad on your own scheme, however. "They experimented on mine," confesses Gockmann, "trying out things like the pre-cast mass concrete kitchen worktops. Once I was in, I thought, 'We should have gone for these in the houses as well.'"

Residents in the new flats and houses - already 10 units have been snapped up, leaving only one house and three flats still for sale - could glean ideas from Gockmann on how to kit out their homes. A vast leather table with detachable legs from Alma ("it was the only way to get it up the spiral staircase") and chairs from Heals complement the oak floors. Gargantuan purple sofas face the 36sqm terrace, integrating the inside with the outside.

Gockmann says they decided to modify the end wall of the living area, swapping a minimalist white space for warmer brick. "My partner said otherwise there would be too much white in here - and he was right."

He also installed electronics for blinds that could be added to the large floor-to-ceiling windows in the units. His hope is that the owners will reject the notion of net curtains. "Ideally, we would like to keep everything as clean and open as possible." Windows are operated electronically, too, although it is a shame the controls can be accessed only from the ground floor.

Wiring is in place for the latest zoned audio systems throughout the homes and so far, owners of three of the houses have taken up this option. And you can choose whether you want ISDN lines, cable or broadband. Another bonus is irrigation and lighting that comes as standard on the rooftop gardens. Nifty prefabricated metal boxes made by a duct company are provided and you can buy a basic planting package, or opt for something more horticulturally challenging.

Often in developments with a mix of flats and houses, the flats lose out. But here, the flooring is cherry wood laminate and the kitchens are bespoke from SC Distributors with MDF doors sprayed in a white high-lacquer finish, similar to the paint used on cars.

The bathrooms are Gockmann's pièce de résistance. They are generously sized, with mosaic tiles and clever recessed spaces so you have somewhere to put shampoo and shower gel when freshening up in the double showers. Critics could argue that the fake copies of Vola taps are a bit of a let down, however, with the real thing costing only £200 extra.

The good news is that prices are this side of affordable - something you don't always hear when sussing out a new development. One-bed apartments start at £225,000 and the most expensive dwellings in the block are the three houses at £625,000. Service charges, which include care of communal parts and monthly window cleaning, range from £600 to £1,500 a year for the flats. If you own a freehold house, you pay only £500.

As both a resident and the designer of Park Place, does Gockmann ever worry that he will be taken to task every time a plant isn't faring well in the courtyard, or a light bulb goes in a stairwell? "People do hassle me, but in a polite fashion. The rule is: when I have my tie on, I am at work. But if it is not, please do not bother me."

The remaining house and three flats at Park Place are available through Stirling Ackroyd: 020-7749 3838. Tasou Associates: 020-7713 7070